Short Story Sunday: Two Stories – “Maybe” and “The Offer”

A new story for 2020

Maybe

My phone dinged with another text message. I really needed to mute the sound.

Jay: I am so sorry about Ryan.

Me: Thank you.

Jay: I saw your photo. Your still hot.

Me: You still can’t spell.

Another old boyfriend I’d have to block. They came out of the woodwork like rats, only they were middle aged men, all divorced, widowed, never married, and looking for any excuse to get laid.

The messages ranged from sappy memories of times that never meant much to me, dick pics, apologies, propositions, apologies for past bad behavior, and whiney threads of what could have been. I blocked them all.

Mike: If you need anything call me.

Me: Who is this?

Mike: Mike Johnson

Me: What are you doing now?

Mike: Thinking about you.

Me: I mean, are you working? Retired? Married? Single?

Mike: Semi retired. Semi single. Rich. Still have my hair. Still in the area. Still thinking of your hot body next to mine. I never forgot. Never.

Me: OK. Remember, you dumped me.

Mike: I was young and stupid. If you need anything, and I mean anything.

Me: OK.

I blocked him. That made nine. There were more out there and I hoped they’d all keep their thoughts to themselves. I’d dated a lot before I met Ryan.

Them: I think about you all the time.

Me: Stop.

Ryan and I had thirty one years together, two wonderful children, and now I had to figure out what was next. Or maybe not.

It had been five months since Ryan passed. I wasn’t so numb anymore. The kids were grown and handling it ok. I couldn’t sit around feeling sorry for myself for breaking down. I had to be there for them and my grand kids. I didn’t have the luxury of feeling sorry for myself, and Ryan wouldn’t have wanted me to.

Then I received an email from someone I used to know.

Dear Colette,
I was saddened to hear the news of Ryan’s passing. We had worked together on research projects for years and become friends. He spoke often of you and your children.

I didn’t get back to you because I also had Covid-19 and survived it.

It took a while for me to realize that Ryan’s Colette was you. I never told him I knew you.


I sat looking at the computer screen growing numb. The email was from Ian Locke, the one who got away. At least sort of got away. We parted ways because due to the old “wrong time, wrong place” type of situation.

Ian continued with sweet thoughts and good memories of my husband. It was exceptionally touching and weird. I never made the connection when Ryan spoke of Ian. They were never in the same city, and usually they were out in the field or in the lab, so we never met.

Then my phone vibrated and I answered the call. It was Ian.

His voice immediately brought me back to a time forty years ago when we were in college. We were just babies, or at least adults who didn’t know how to be adults yet. It was a time to experiment and flounder.

We talked a bit about Ryan and our children. We both had two. I had two girls. He had two boys. They were all doing great and in college. We spoke of our careers.

Then Ryan said, “I’m getting a divorce. I’ll sign the final papers next week.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“She had been cheating on me for years. When he passed away she wanted to patch things up but it was too late.”

Suddenly I wanted to throw up. I wasn’t so stupid that I didn’t know where this was going. I had no idea, but I wasn’t stupid.

“She gave Ryan Covid-19. She gave it to me. She and I survived it. I’m sorry. I am so angry. I lost my friend. I lost all sense of trust. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t even be telling you this.”

He shouldn’t have been telling me that.

I thought of the research trips. I thought of the times he had to stay a few extra days. I thought of him dying in our spare bedroom where he’d quarantined himself.

Ian continued. “Renee lost it when Ryan died. She was hysterical for weeks, then she finally told me about everything. I didn’t want to believe it but then I saw the texts, the emails, the photos. She said she was going to tell you. I told her no. She said she needed to tell you. What a cunt. I didn’t want you to hear it from her. I am so sorry Colette.”

“Ian,” I said. “I want to talk to you more. I want to see you, but I don’t know… could you call me back in a few weeks? Will you call me in a few weeks.”

“Sure. Colette…”

“I’ll talk to you soon. It’s good to hear your voice. Call me later.”

I hung up.

I haven’t heard from Ian. It has only been a week. I did put my house up for sale. I’m looking for a beach house, closer to my kids.

Nobody knows about my conversation with Ian. I don’t plan on telling anyone.

2020 is almost done. Next year should be better. Maybe. Either way it will be a new beginning for me. I tell myself that. Maybe I’ll convince myself. Maybe.

~ end

For those who want something a little more cheerful read the following story. It is an oldie but a goodie. Have fun. Stay safe. WEAR YOUR MASK.

The Offer (a fairy tale with a wizard, a kitten and a mysterious stranger)

Miles was the official Royal Wizard to the Kingdom of the Moonbeam Mountains. What the fuck kind of name was that for a Kingdom?

“I will NEVER be as good as my dad.” he thought brooding in the dark under the night sky on the roof with a bottle of 80 proof Dragon Blood.

Sitting alone in his castle by the sea he thought of her, the princess who’d more or less left him for another man. Hell, he never had her. She’d always been in love with someone else. They’d been together for ten years. In ten years she’d told him a thousand times that she loved him but at the same time she was running a fantasy in her head about another guy.

For the past 6 years they’d lived with each other almost full-time. Their father’s were best friends. Hers was the King of the Northwestern Kingdom, his father was the Royal Wizard there and their mother’s were girlfriends. Everything was perfect, just like it was supposed to be. Every single year he’d proposed to her. Every single year she’d told him that she wanted to wait. Wait for what? Now he knew. She was waiting for another guy.

He called to have his horse ready and took off to the local pub. At least there he could keep his mind off of things.

Half way to the pub he stopped to pull his gloves out of his saddle bag. He heard a noise on the side of the road. A teeny tiny gray and white kitten ran towards him. It couldn’t have been more than six weeks old.

“Oh sweetie,” he whispered to the kitten, “I can’t leave you out here alone.” He tucked the tiny cat under his coat and continued on.

As he entered the village gate he could hear the band playing at the pub and already see friends lingering around the front door. “Deep breath Miles,” he thought to himself knowing everyone would ask about his princess. They knew he’d left her. They didn’t know why or for how long. He didn’t want to talk about it. Maybe he’d just put a spell on the place to make them all shut up about it, but ethics and his own code of decency stopped him from it. There is no crime in being curious.

After dropping his horse off in safe hands he greeted the people outside then went in. He could feel the small body purring inside of his coat. There was something about a cat that could make one forget everything. Cats were so pure and so decadent and so useless and so calming and so everything that made the universe worth living in. Cats represented all that was. Not good or bad just everything.

He caught his reflection in a window. Blonde hair, board shoulders, blue eyes, dimples on his boy-next-door cheeks and a scar across his neck that would tingle every time she kissed him, no matter what violent memories it brought him.

Everyone greeted him. Big points were scored with the ladies when he cradled the purring kitten in the crook of his arm. Damn that kitty was cute. She looked up at him and mewed a purr dripped sound that was absolutely toxic cute. He could never get enough of that feeling of pure joy and love.

After ordering a brew Miles did a few tricks for the patrons. They always asked and he was glad to give them some shows of blue sparks, wispy smoke dragons and fairies flying over their heads and levitating beer steins. It was all good fun. Fun was always good especially with the way he was feeling.

The fact that he’d been alone for a few months hadn’t gone unnoticed. He could hear the gossip behind his back. He could feel the single women watching him and wanting him. There was no reason for him to be alone at night but he wasn’t ready yet for company in his cold bed.

He heard a voice at his shoulder. “Missing your homeland Wizard?”

Miles turned around to see a tall exceptionally thin man standing at his shoulder. He wore a good suit and a sarcastic smile on his face.

The man continued to speak. “Do you miss a warm princess next to you in your cold bed? Do you wish your magic was more powerful? Do you wish you’d get the same respect and power as your father has? I can give you all of that.”

“It isn’t wise to attempt to provoke a wizard, even a piss poor attempt like yours. I don’t know you sir, but I’m here to enjoy an evening with friends. Now if you’ll excuse me and my cat we’ve got others to talk to,” Miles said to the tall thin man.

“Give me that kitten and I’ll grant you three wishes,” the stranger said in a voice so smooth it made Miles cringe.

“I don’t want your wishes and I’m sure as Hell not giving you my cat.”

At a large table he sat with friends, joking and listening to their stories, but his senses were wide open to any evil that lurked in the building. The tall thin stranger occupied himself with another group, but Miles could feel his presence.

The kitten purred and played with everyone at the table. There was nothing special or magic about her except that she was a cat. “Just a cat,” thought Miles, “nothing more.”

Hours later, after he’d had a successful evening with friends who’d done more than a good job of cheering him up and getting him out of his gloomy mood, Miles arrived home. His staff would be in bed so he put the horse to bed for the night, gathered the kitten back under his coat and headed for the front door. The moonlight made the dark pathway easy. He took a deep breath of the salt air and listened to the waves crashing on the beach below.

“Welcome to my castle by the sea dear kitten,” he told his small purring friend. “You look like a Lizzie to me. How about it? Do you like that name my dear?” The kitten meowed and purred.

Looking up he saw a figure on the cliff. It was the annoying thin stranger from the pub.

“Wizard, give me the cat and I will give you everything you desire. I can make your princess love you. I can make you famous. I can bring you riches.”

“Get off my property or I’ll…” he thought a moment for the bad things he could do then spoke. “What’s so special about the cat?”

“Your princess for the cat Miles. Say the word and you’ll have what your heart desires.”

“I don’t know who you are but I don’t want a woman who loves me because of a spell. I want her to love me for the right reason. I want her to fall for me in a nice long romantic way of her own accord. Love spells are bull shit. Every wizard with any talent knows that. And any man who knows what his heart desires and knows what true love feels like knows that.”

“Give me the cat.”

“Is she yours? Don’t lie to me man. I’ll know if you’re telling me a lie.”

The stranger halted a bit. “Well, no.”

“Then what is it? I don’t want any wishes and I don’t trust you with a helpless kitten. What do you really want? Is this some sort of test? Or are you just a creepy stalker? What is it? Tell me.”

“Do you love your princess?” The man asked him as if he was accusing Miles of cheating.

“Sure I do but, it’s none of your business.” None of anyone’s business that she was in love with someone else. “Get the Hell off of my property.” Miles blasted the ground in front of the man with a bolt of orange lightning. The man jumped back. “Go or the next one will hit you.”

The man was gone. Miles was alone in the kitchen with the kitten. “What was that about? Do you know?”

The kitten just purred.

Three wishes. He laughed out loud a bitter laugh. What would he need with three wishes. He’d worked hard for everything he had. He was proud of what he’d accomplished. Being a wizard, much less one in a foreign country, wasn’t always easy. People depended on him.

He thought of calling her, his princess, but he decided to let it go, at least for tonight. She had left him letters and messages but he couldn’t get past the pain of betrayal.

He wondered who the skinny guy was and why he wanted the cat. Three wishes. It wasn’t worth it. He’d never trade his soul or the tiny stray he’d found on the side of the road. After all, wasn’t it the same thing? He had shown compassion to a small beast. He’d shown his soul.

The kitten didn’t start to talk. He kissed the top of her tiny head but she didn’t turn into a princess.

Taking out a piece of paper and a pen he started to write.

Tonight a strange skinny man offered me three wishes in exchange for a small kitten I found on the side of the road. The man said he could make you love me. I wasn’t tempted by the offer. If you love me I want it to be honest and true for me. No magic. No games. No more lies. 

He wadded up the letter and made it vanish with a flash of blue smoke.  It was no use.  Heading up the stairs with the kitten in his arms he stopped at the sound of someone knocking on the door. “Damn you, I do not want your wishes.”

Jerking open the door Miles yelled, “I’m not giving you my kitten.”

But standing at the door wasn’t the tall skinny man, it was his princess. He brought her in and told her the story of the strange skinny man and the kitten. She listened in wonder and then they both went upstairs.

And did they live happily ever after? Maybe. Only time, or maybe the cat will tell.

~ end

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Cousin Rachael

My cousin Rachael died last week. Her house was burning. She and her dog were found dead in her swimming pool. Her body was wracked with the effects of an advanced case of Covid-19.

The weird thing about is wasn’t the house burning, or the Covid-19, or even the fact that her hands were bound behind her back. The weirdest thing was that her dog was in the pool with her.

The fire wasn’t part of the wild fires that are blazing all over California. It was arson. Someone had poured gasoline all over her garage, lit a match, and left her alone coughing and barely able to function.

Rachael refused to go to a hospital. She’d rather be in her own bed in her own mansion. If she was going to die alone she said she wanted to be with her nasty little dog Chatsworth.

Chatsworth was a beautiful fluffy brown and white spotted animal of unknown heritage. He hated everyone except Rachael. He loved Rachael.

After Rachael died her attorney came to my house with a box. The box had holes in it. Inside of it was a cat with singed fur and whiskers. He was a large gray tabby with a white mask on his face and chest, and white paws. He’d belonged to Rachael’s ex who’d broken both of his legs in a car accident one night after they’d had a huge fight over Rachael’s callus attitudes over his place in her life. He never spoke to her again and moved out of the country.

The cat’s name was Zoomie. As soon as I let him out of the carrier he started to purr. I wondered how that cat could be so mellow and happy considering who he’d lived with.

Rachael wasn’t a nice person. In fact she was a first class raging bitch. The short list of words to describe Rachael were mean spirited, narcissistic, disingenuous, a first class liar, and a control freak. She hadn’t always been like that, well maybe she had, but it just got worse as she grew older, especially the past sixteen years.

Despite her faults (though she saw none) she was incredibly successful. Rachael lived one of those charmed lives where everything seemed to come easy. Fabulous opportunities seemed to come out of the blue. Men went crazy over her no matter how badly she treated them. People were fascinated by her. She rubbed shoulders (and more) with the rich, famous, and powerful. Rachael had done well and was fabulously rich herself. When she died she owned the home she’d died in, plus three vacation homes all free and clear. She was worth millions.

At one time Rachael and I were close. She thought so until the day she died. I’d been done with her for years.

So, back to Zoomie and my household.

I had no reason to ever be jealous of Rachael or her success. I had my own sort of charmed life. Sure it wasn’t perfect by we’d done very well. I was married to a rock star – yes a real rock star. Ben and I had met when I designed his first album cover. His band became a world wide success with hit after hit. My design career took off. After being friends for years, it turned into more than friends, then marriage, then two children.

Now the kids were in college and Ben was making cute “at home” videos with the kids and his band members. I was just hanging out and working on some illustrations projects. We were good. We had work. We had love.

We also had a new cat. Zoomie got along with the two cats and two dogs we already had. He was a wonderful animal.

So far so good, until my brother Jackie called in hysterics. He missed Rachael. He couldn’t get over the fact she was gone. The police had been by to question him to find out if he knew anyone who’d want her dead. He didn’t know anyone. He was freaked out. Completely freaked out.

I thought of a lot of people who would have wanted Rachael dead, starting with my husband.

At one time Rachael had tried to seduce Ben, then when he resisted her charms she moved on to his band members. Eventually the drummer Scotty spent a sex and drug laden weekend with Rachael. When it got too weird he went home. She spread dirt in the media about him and threatened to say she was raped. Then the nude photos started to show up. Yes, Rachael had hidden cameras in her bedroom. Of course she did.

But that was mild compared to her other bad deeds. She had a long trail of carnage she’d caused including broken marriages, ruined careers, public shame, and a list of horrible things that nobody would every want in their lives.

I told my brother that he’d be fine and decided to ignore him next time he called. I had three other siblings and a dozen cousins. All of them agreed with my take on things. She’d hurt all of them over the years in one way or the other. The only good thing about the pandemic is that nobody had to go to a funeral and tell lies about what a wonderful woman she was.

Ben was sitting at his piano working on a song with Zoomie sitting on the bench next to him. Suddenly Ben stopped and called me into the room.

He had such an odd look on his face. Then he said, “Zoomie talks.”

“Of course you do sweet boy,” I said to the cat and rubbed it under the chin.

Then Zoomie looked up and me and said in a high kind of strained whispery voice, “I can talk. If you sit down next to us I’ll tell you what happened to Rachael.”

I had to catch my breath. The cat talked. Zoomie REALLY talked.

“Sit down. I have to tell my story. Talking isn’t that easy for me so I’m not going to say it all twice. I mean, I love you guys and all more than I can say, but talking isn’t my thing. OK, where were we… sit… Rachael. I’m going to tell you about Rachael.

Rachael was doing good. She had a nice life but she wanted more. It was like she was tired of being at base camp forever and wanted to make it to the top. She’d do anything to get there.

When I met her was when her then live-in man Ian adopted me. I liked Ian. He was a great guy. Rachael had him around because he had this great English accent, a great body, and the sex was good. Ian was also successful so he didn’t expect anything material from her. He wasn’t no boy toy if you know what I mean. Anyway, Ian started to ask her to be nicer to him and everyone else. Rachael would have none of it. So one night Ian left. He left without me because he was moving to Brazil. Who the hell moves to Brazil? Anyway he couldn’t bring me with him.

Rachael wasn’t bad to me. I was fed. The staff gave me a lot of attention. I would wander around the house looking for a portrait like in that story about the Dorian Gray guy, you know where he stayed young and beautiful while the picture took on all of his ugly shit. Oscar Wilde wrote it. You know it?”

“You can read?” Ben asked.

“Sure I can read. I’m a smart cat. Anyway I never found the picture, but it was still so weird the way good things kept happening to Rachael. I mean, nothing bad ever happened to her. Then one day I was sitting on the balcony watching that fucking nasty little Chatsworth sitting by the pool licking his balls. Then he got up and stretched. These wings, like a leathery bat came out of his back, then his whole body transformed into some gosh awful humanoid demon form.

I’m not skittish so I jumped down by the way of a near by tree and went to investigate. The ugly little demon dog thing was still sitting by the pool scratching his leathery hide and sticking his feet in the water.

“Hey, Chats, what’s going on?” I said causally, just acting like the typical disinterested cat.

He looked shocked. I’d caught him in his real form.

“Don’t tell anyone what you see or I’ll fucking kill you,” he said.

“I’ve got seven lives left asshole,” I told him, “but I’m not going to waste any on you. What’s your story?”

“Rachael is my story. She sold her soul for success. It shocked me she didn’t go into politics, but she just wanted to be on the edge. She wanted a reality TV star life and she has it. Hey, I’m having fun.”

“She sold her soul to you?”

“No, to the Devil. I’m just here to make sure the contract isn’t broken. I’m her keeper.”

“No shit,” I said trying to sound like this thing happened all the time.

“No shit,” said Chatsworth the nasty little dog.

So when Chatsworth turned seventeen his dog days would be over. The contract for Rachael’s soul lasted as long as the life of a dog. When the dog died she’d die.

The wife of some guy Rachael was having a long term affair with came by and tossed her in the pool. She would have survived but the guy kicked Chatsworth and killed him. Threw the damn dog in the pool. With Chatsworth dead the contract was up along with Rachael’s good luck. Chatsworth was only ten but that didn’t matter. He was dead so the contract was over. That’s the story folks of how Rachael lost her soul.”

“Wow,” Ben and I said in unison.

“Hey,” said Zoomie, “mind getting me a drink of water. This taking stuff kind of makes me thirsty and make my throat hurt. It isn’t like meowing or even cat fight yowl. It takes a lot out of a guy.”

“Are you a demon?” Ben asked.

“No, I’m just a cat.”

“But you can talk,” I said.

Zoomie started to purr and make biscuits on Ben’s leg. “All cats can talk,” he said. “We just don’t like to. It isn’t easy. You know our vocal cords and lips aren’t really made for it.”

Then Zoomie said one last thing about it. “When a person sells their soul something is sent to watch them. It might be a dog, or a cat. It might be another person, but it is always something. You never know. You just never know. The good thing about being a cat is that nobody can buy our souls or steal them. That is the bad part of being a human. We feel sorry for you. We still love you for the most part because most of you are good. Most.”

I got Zoomie some water and cat treats, then looked over to my two other cats who were curled up on the big arm chair at the other end of the room.

After a few weeks Ian announced he was going to write a tell all book about Rachael. A lot of less than wonderful stories came out about her. I tried to ignore it all.

I did wonder about everyone else in the news these days, in politics, in the media, famous and rich for no real reason. How many of them had sold their souls? How many of them had a an animal or a close friend, a spouse, or advisor who was really a demon watching to make sure the contract wasn’t broken.

I guess we’ll never know, and I know now the cats won’t be talking.

~ end

As We Were: Winding River, a Rocky Mountain Mystery… and a Cat

While going through a pile of old artwork I found this large format photo. It is about 16 x 18 inches and printed on heavy paper. It was printed in the 19th – early 20th Century. I don’t know who the photographer was, or who printed the photo. It is an original photograph.

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About two years ago I saw a photo of a painting of the exact same scene. The photo was from the late 19th Century. The scene is in the Rocky Mountains, maybe in Colorado. I don’t remember the what/where/who of that painting, yet the image of the winding river stuck in my memory. Then I saw the photograph. It was the same scene, somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

I’m putting the following questions out to my readers, and art/photo/Western historians. I don’t know the answers to these questions so any help would be WONDERFUL and I’d be grateful to you forever:

Who was the photographer?

What is the painting I saw of this scene and where is it located? Is it in a museum?

If you know any of the answers let me know. Yes, this is a mystery. Let’s solve it together.

 

Portraits

For those of you who came here looking for people, costumes, wonderful faces, character, and cats, below is one of my favorite cabinet cards. I have no idea who these people are or have any background information on the cat. I love how wonderfully casual and loving this portrait is.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Couple with cat. Cabinet Card. 1890’s

 For more As We Were posts Click Here.

Vlad’s Vampire Diary: Cat Walk

Dear Diary,

With the advent of the pandemic I have had to be creative about my food sources. I must admit that I had become lazy due to the fact that I did not need to be overly resourceful.

Only months ago I could go out in the night and find people everywhere. Now the streets are empty. No long am I allowed to sit at a bar shoulder to shoulder with potential blood donors.

As with everyone else in my neighborhood I have taken to the ritual of the morning walk before the summer heat puts us all into comas. My cats follow me when it is cool, for when it is cool their paws do not burn on what is called Ass Fault. That is something that is somewhat confusing, the dark roads in a climate that turns so hot in the summer months. I would like it if the roads were perhaps a pale blue or maybe a dove gray with just a hint of silver sparkles. I do not know why it was the fault of the ass or whatever fool was building the road or why it is called such a slightly vulgar name.

Back when I was the King of Vampires, before I was locked in a crypt for three hundred years, only to be liberated a few years ago, most roads were dirt, or made of natural stones. Animals need not worry about the pads of their feet being seared off when they needed to travel. But I digress. I am not an expert in road construction and I fear I never shall be. According to my Vampire lover Gillian, the people who are supposed to build and maintain the public roads are also not experts in road construction but that is a story for another time. Ass Fault.

~ Vlad

 

Dear Diary,

Without much for dinner last night I again went walking in the small hours of the morning. My two cats followed along as the air was still cool as yet not seared by the morning sun. My stomach was growling and my head growing light. I had to find food without being too obvious.

Two women stood talking, one on the sidewalk, the other on the porch of her house. I smiled and waved politely from the other side of the street. I could hear them talking, for I am a Vampire and I can hear quiet conversations from a long distance.

“He has been walking with his cats almost every single day. They’re so cute.”

“Oh my he is hot.”

“Blazing hot.”

I thought that was odd since it was still quite cool outside. I did not feel hot. I did not feel cute either. Cats are cute. Babies are cute. From what I understand, otters are cute. I am a grown man. I do not understand this word “cute”.

As I walked along I came across a younger man attempting to remove large pieces of lumber from the back end of his truck.

“Do you need help?” I called to him from across the street.

“Oh wow, that would be great,” he said. “I don’t have a mask on, but I can get one out of the house.”

“You are fine,” I said. “We will not stand close together.”

I could see that he noticed the muscles on my arms. Yes, I would be of help and not a problem.  The two cats sat under a tree in his front yard and started to groom themselves.

A task that would have taken the man hours alone only took a few minutes with my help. Vampires are always good for such work as we are both strong and fast. When we were finished a woman came out into the yard. She had a cast on her arm which I assumed was broken. Now I know why the man had no help.

“Thank you so much for helping,” she said. “Would you like to join us for breakfast?”

And so I did.

They were quite delicious.

~ Vlad

 

Dear Diary,

My Vampire love Gillian and I, in a successful plan to stay out of the heat did was is called binge watching Netflix. We watched many shows in which people attempt to find killers in an entertaining and emotional filled manner filled with conflicts and unimaginable twists. These towns in which these stories take place are incredibly dangerous places. We also saw a show in which people try not to fall into lava.

These are things I could not have imagined in a million years, much less my 676 years.

The cats were sleeping, curled up together in a chair. I leaned towards Gillian and kissed her neck.

“Let us stop binge watching murderers and go upstairs. I wish to binge on you my love.”

Gillian laughed with the voice of an angel, then took me upstairs where she was definitely not an angel.

Sometime staying at home and indoors is not a bad thing. Not at all.

~ Vlad

 

 

Kissed by a Vampire

Kissed by a Vampire

This has been the 6oth installment of Vlad’s Vampire Diary. To read all of the posts and to start from the beginning of Vlad’s story CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

Juliette’s Book Club: Cool Cats for Hot Summer Reading

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Oscar the Tuxedo Cat and Gloria the Calico Cat. It is too hot to go out and play today so they’re going to stay in and read.

 

I’ve always been slightly suspicious about people who say they don’t like cats. Three of my closest friends are allergic to cats but they still don’t hate them. My weirder than weird cat Angus used to visit a neighbor who was allergic to cats. When we weren’t home he’d scratch at her front door then go sleep on a corner of her couch for a few hours. Angus hated everyone except my husband and his friend across the street. Cats rock. I have two. They’re assholes and they’re completely devoted to me. I love them. I think I love almost every cat in the world. Today for your reading pleasure I’m suggesting THREE options for those who love cats, or just love a GREAT stories from master story tellers.

As a bonus I’ve included a short cat story at the end of this post.

Spence and Nameless

by

Dave Henderson

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I recently had the pleasure of meeting author Dave Henderson (online but hey, we’re still social distancing).

His stories about Spence are such a delight and so original. If you want to smile and like something a little different, a little odd, and exceptionally entertaining and well written check out his work.

The official description: Nameless is just a fella who values his solitude. His only companion is a big ol’ orange and white tabby cat named Spence. They are just livin’ the life, out in their shack outside town, ‘Close enough so it ain’t so bad to get supplies, and far enough out soz no one bothers much, and the sky is open at night.’ Until one day, when Spence disappears … and things get really fecked up.

Whatever you do, never get between a man and his cat.

cat eyes

 

One of my favorite books of 2019. It is still one of my favorite new books. I can’t wait for the next one. It is a wild, crazy, and unexpected ride, AND there is a CAT.

Red Darkling

by L.A. Guttler

“Red Darkling”, is a runaway Science Fiction, Fantasy, Smart Thriller, Comedy, HIT. If you haven’t read it already you need to NOW.

I loved this book and can’t wait for the next one to come out.

RedDarkling

I’m a BIG FAN of Red and her cat and of course her Granny. For several years now I’ve been following Red’s adventures through L.A. Guettler’s short stories about Red. OMG you’ll fall in love with her.

Here is the official description:

Red Darkling’s ship is a weevil-infested piece of junk. Her smuggling business barely brings in enough credits to buy cheap beer. Alien creeps think a blaster can get them favors when their charm fails. Her only company is a glitchy cat and the occasional hook-up. Her life is dirty, dangerous, and lonely: just how she likes it.It all takes a turn for the worse when things start going well. A little too well. Partying with movie stars, weekends in paradise, troublesome people turning up dead-it’s maddening. Who is this anonymous benefactor, and why does he think she needs protecting?

Also check out the great cover by artist Jason Kemp. Nice.

HnswGO6d

cat eyes

Gloria give this book 5 out of 5 stars

Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe

WPaD Science Fiction Anthology

Looking for some Science Fiction AND cats? This is the book for you. I also have to add that this is another great cover from Jason Kemp.

I recommend all of the stories but especially these cat stories:

Rocket Cats are Go by David Hunter

and

Bonk by Lea Anne Guettler

cat eyes

 

Now do you need a quick cat story fix? Well, here you go.

The Offer (a fairy tale with a wizard, a kitten and a mysterious stranger)

A Short Story by Juliette Kings

Miles was the official Royal Wizard to the Kingdom of the Moonbeam Mountains. What the fuck kind of name was that for a Kingdom?

“I will NEVER be as good as my dad.” he thought brooding in the dark under the night sky on the roof with a bottle of 80 proof Dragon Blood.

Sitting alone in his castle by the sea he thought of her, the princess who’d more or less left him for another man. Hell, he never had her. She’d always been in love with someone else. They’d been together for ten years. In ten years she’d told him a thousand times that she loved him but at the same time she was running a fantasy in her head about another guy.

For the past 6 years they’d lived with each other almost full-time. Their father’s were best friends. Hers was the King of the Northwestern Kingdom, his father was the Royal Wizard there and their mother’s were girlfriends. Everything was perfect, just like it was supposed to be. Every single year he’d proposed to her. Every single year she’d told him that she wanted to wait. Wait for what? Now he knew. She was waiting for another guy.

He called to have his horse ready and took off to the local pub. At least there he could keep his mind off of things.

Half way to the pub he stopped to pull his gloves out of his saddle bag. He heard a noise on the side of the road. A teeny tiny gray and white kitten ran towards him. It couldn’t have been more than six weeks old.

“Oh sweetie,” he whispered to the kitten, “I can’t leave you out here alone.” He tucked the tiny cat under his coat and continued on.

As he entered the village gate he could hear the band playing at the pub and already see friends lingering around the front door. “Deep breath Miles,” he thought to himself knowing everyone would ask about his princess. They knew he’d left her. They didn’t know why or for how long. He didn’t want to talk about it. Maybe he’d just put a spell on the place to make them all shut up about it, but ethics and his own code of decency stopped him from it. There is no crime in being curious.

After dropping his horse off in safe hands he greeted the people outside then went in. He could feel the small body purring inside of his coat. There was something about a cat that could make one forget everything. Cats were so pure and so decadent and so useless and so calming and so everything that made the universe worth living in. Cats represented all that was. Not good or bad just everything.

He caught his reflection in a window. Blonde hair, board shoulders, blue eyes, dimples on his boy-next-door cheeks and a scar across his neck that would tingle every time she kissed him, no matter what violent memories it brought him.

Everyone greeted him. Big points were scored with the ladies when he cradled the purring kitten in the crook of his arm. Damn that kitty was cute. She looked up at him and mewed a purr dripped sound that was absolutely toxic cute. He could never get enough of that feeling of pure joy and love.

After ordering a brew Miles did a few tricks for the patrons. They always asked and he was glad to give them some shows of blue sparks, wispy smoke dragons and fairies flying over their heads and levitating beer steins. It was all good fun. Fun was always good especially with the way he was feeling.

The fact that he’d been alone for a few months hadn’t gone unnoticed. He could hear the gossip behind his back. He could feel the single women watching him and wanting him. There was no reason for him to be alone at night but he wasn’t ready yet for company in his cold bed.

He heard a voice at his shoulder. “Missing your homeland Wizard?”

Miles turned around to see a tall exceptionally thin man standing at his shoulder. He wore a good suit and a sarcastic smile on his face.

The man continued to speak. “Do you miss a warm princess next to you in your cold bed? Do you wish your magic was more powerful? Do you wish you’d get the same respect and power as your father has? I can give you all of that.”

“It isn’t wise to attempt to provoke a wizard, even a piss poor attempt like yours. I don’t know you sir, but I’m here to enjoy an evening with friends. Now if you’ll excuse me and my cat we’ve got others to talk to,” Miles said to the tall thin man.

“Give me that kitten and I’ll grant you three wishes,” the stranger said in a voice so smooth it made Miles cringe.

“I don’t want your wishes and I’m sure as Hell not giving you my cat.”

At a large table he sat with friends, joking and listening to their stories, but his senses were wide open to any evil that lurked in the building. The tall thin stranger occupied himself with another group, but Miles could feel his presence.

The kitten purred and played with everyone at the table. There was nothing special or magic about her except that she was a cat. “Just a cat,” thought Miles, “nothing more.”

Hours later, after he’d had a successful evening with friends who’d done more than a good job of cheering him up and getting him out of his gloomy mood, Miles arrived home. His staff would be in bed so he put the horse to bed for the night, gathered the kitten back under his coat and headed for the front door. The moonlight made the dark pathway easy. He took a deep breath of the salt air and listened to the waves crashing on the beach below.

“Welcome to my castle by the sea dear kitten,” he told his small purring friend. “You look like a Lizzie to me. How about it? Do you like that name my dear?” The kitten meowed and purred.

Looking up he saw a figure on the cliff. It was the annoying thin stranger from the pub.

“Wizard, give me the cat and I will give you everything you desire. I can make your princess love you. I can make you famous. I can bring you riches.”

“Get off my property or I’ll…” he thought a moment for the bad things he could do then spoke. “What’s so special about the cat?”

“Your princess for the cat Miles. Say the word and you’ll have what your heart desires.”

“I don’t know who you are but I don’t want a woman who loves me because of a spell. I want her to love me for the right reason. I want her to fall for me in a nice long romantic way of her own accord. Love spells are bull shit. Every wizard with any talent knows that. And any man who knows what his heart desires and knows what true love feels like knows that.”

“Give me the cat.”

“Is she yours? Don’t lie to me man. I’ll know if you’re telling me a lie.”

The stranger halted a bit. “Well, no.”

“Then what is it? I don’t want any wishes and I don’t trust you with a helpless kitten. What do you really want? Is this some sort of test? Or are you just a creepy stalker? What is it? Tell me.”

“Do you love your princess?” The man asked him as if he was accusing Miles of cheating.

“Sure I do but, it’s none of your business.” None of anyone’s business that she was in love with someone else. “Get the Hell off of my property.” Miles blasted the ground in front of the man with a bolt of orange lightning. The man jumped back. “Go or the next one will hit you.”

The man was gone. Miles was alone in the kitchen with the kitten. “What was that about? Do you know?”

The kitten just purred.

Three wishes. He laughed out loud a bitter laugh. What would he need with three wishes. He’d worked hard for everything he had. He was proud of what he’d accomplished. Being a wizard, much less one in a foreign country, wasn’t always easy. People depended on him.

He thought of calling her, his princess, but he decided to let it go, at least for tonight. She had left him letters and messages but he couldn’t get past the pain of betrayal.

He wondered who the skinny guy was and why he wanted the cat. Three wishes. It wasn’t worth it. He’d never trade his soul or the tiny stray he’d found on the side of the road. After all, wasn’t it the same thing? He had shown compassion to a small beast. He’d shown his soul.

The kitten didn’t start to talk. He kissed the top of her tiny head but she didn’t turn into a princess.

Taking out a piece of paper and a pen he started to write.

Tonight a strange skinny man offered me three wishes in exchange for a small kitten I found on the side of the road. The man said he could make you love me. I wasn’t tempted by the offer. If you love me I want it to be honest and true for me. No magic. No games. No more lies. 

He wadded up the letter and made it vanish with a flash of blue smoke.  It was no use.  Heading up the stairs with the kitten in his arms he stopped at the sound of someone knocking on the door. “Damn you, I do not want your wishes.”

Jerking open the door Miles yelled, “I’m not giving you my kitten.”

But standing at the door wasn’t the tall skinny man, it was his princess. He brought her in and told her the story of the strange skinny man and the kitten. She listened in wonder and then they both went upstairs.

And did they live happily ever after? Maybe. Only time, or maybe the cat will tell.

~ end

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Noz ~ a story by Mike Cooley

Noz

By Mike Cooley

The thump woke me up. Noz looked at me, blood dripping from his fangs. The body was on the floor in the kitchen; she looked young. The cigarette between my stained fingers was still lit and my hair was matted against the side of my face. I was lying on the ratty couch and an empty bottle of something cheap was on the carpet between me and the dark glass table. The cabin smelled ashes, spilled red wine, and fate.

“Noz. What have I told you about bringing home strangers?” I nodded toward the young lady, who was lying on her back, motionless and pale. Her hair was sandy blonde, and she was wearing a jade necklace, a turquoise blouse, and black shorts. The smell of her perfume wafted toward me, floral and ephemeral.

Nozfuratu’s satisfied grin morphed into a look of apology. He licked his left paw and smoothed his ebony hair back, trying to act nonchalant. “Mrow?” Other than the inverted white cross on his forehead, he was pitch black. It wasn’t immediately obvious how a feline of his relatively small size was able to take down a human and drag her all the way home, but I had long since given up trying to figure that part out.

I sat up with a groan, the inside of my skull pounding like a kodo drum, grabbed the kit off the table, and then beaconed Noz with a curled finger. “Come here. You know the drill.”

He sheepishly approached, after looking over his shoulder to make sure his prize was still there. Then he stopped in front of me and bared his teeth, holding still. The aura around him flickered with power.

I moved the test strip close and took a crimson drop off his incisor, then I inserted it into the tester and waited. “AB Negative? What have I told you about that, Noz?”

His ears flattened and he looked at me with apprehension. Then he gave me his best sad eyes.

“Can’t you smell the difference? I know we discussed this. If you have to hunt, you need to stick to O Positive or A Positive. I’m running out of everything else.” I wagged a finger at him. “You know how dangerous it is for me to leave.” I gestured at the walls of my cabin, nestled deep in the woods west of Duluth. There were piles of books and magazines all over and it looked like a small windstorm had just blown through. Shelves fastened to the walls contained a strange assortment of artifacts including silver rocket ships, moon rocks, and particle detectors.

Noz nodded with understanding, but his eyes were defiant and wise. His long tail twitched back and forth hypnotically.

The girl on the floor was still motionless. I stood and stretched, then rubbed the sand out of my eyes. Noz followed me into the kitchen, around the girl, and to the fridge. I opened the door, exposing row after row of blood bags, hanging from metal rods. I pushed them to the left, looking for the rare AB. There was one bag of it, near the back, so I grabbed it and then shut the door. There were dusty photos of crop circles taped to the front of the refrigerator and a few pictures of people that used to admit they knew me.

Noz trotted over to a ceramic bowl on the floor and lapped up some water.

I hooked the bag onto a metal stand near the broken television, then picked up the girl and laid her down gently on the couch. Then I wheeled the stand closer, and propped the girl’s head up on a pillow that was closer to clean than the rest of my place. Noz watched with great interest as I sterilized the needle with my lighter, let it cool, and then eased it into her arm.

Noz crept up to the side of the couch and peered up at her, his long black hair making him look bigger than he actually was. He sniffed her skin and then licked her pale face.

“Give her some space, Noz. You almost killed her. Why does a little guy like you need so much blood, anyway? You got a hollow leg?” I dodged the stack of Ancient Aliens magazines and pulled another bottle of cabernet out of a cardboard box on the floor. The cabin was a mess and smelled of damp cigarette butts, booze, and loneliness. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a real visitor.  Not many people knew where I was—and that’s how I liked it.

I sat down in my padded leather chair near a stained glass floor lamp, on the other side of the glass table from the girl. She looked like she was in her twenties, slight of build and a bit scuffed up from being dragged by Noz. I pulled the cork and poured a glass of dark red, then lit a Marlboro and took a drag. The ashtray on the night stand next to my chair was full of  filters and ash. There were empty beer cans on every horizontal surface.

Noz sniffed the girl’s hair one more time, then walked over, jumped into my lap, and curled up in a ball. His eyes closed and he began to purr. He smelled of power, like he did every time he brought someone back, and he felt heavier than he looked, like he was made of warm granite or lead.

I lifted the red, inhaled the aroma, and swirled it. Then I tilted it up, finishing my glass and pouring another. I looked around the inside of the cabin for signs that anyone had been there while I was passed out, but the haphazard clutter seemed the same as the night before. I didn’t remember when the voices had dimmed and let me fall asleep, but it had to have been hours ago.

The girl’s eyes fluttered open. They were blue and filled with confusion, which changed to awareness, and then panic as she scanned the room and stopped on me. “Where? Where am I? Who are you?”

“Noz dragged you home.” I gestured toward his sleeping form in my lap. “But he took too much blood, so I gave you back a pint.” I pointed at the metal stand and the hanging crimson bag, which was half empty.

She looked around the dirty, cluttered living room until her eyes fixed on the front door. Then she looked back at me. Her eyes shone with defiance, rather than fear. She tried to sit up and then slumped back down, closing her eyes for a moment.

“You’re not afraid.” I took the last drag from my cigarette, ashing it out in the octagonal glass ashtray to my left, then I exhaled slowly toward the front door. The window to the right of the door revealed only darkness beyond.

“Should I be?” She sat up on the couch again and groaned, reaching toward the bite mark on her throat. “Are you trying to tell me that little thing brought me here?” She pointed at Noz.

I nodded. “He’s a vampire.”

“Your cat is a vampire?”

“Would you like some wine? You lost a lot of blood.” I slid Noz off my lap onto the chair and stood slowly, then reached down into the crate for the last bottle. The girl didn’t flinch or try to scramble off the couch. “Normally they try to run when they wake up.”

“I’m not a runner.” She looked at the blood bag hanging from the metal stand, and then down at the tape on her arm.

“My cat bit you, sucked your blood, and then dragged you home; I’m a black man, somewhat disheveled, and you don’t know where you are.” I pulled the cork, poured my glass full and then poured half a glass and set it down on the table within reach of the girl.

Noz woke up and jumped down onto the dirty, wooden floor. Then he walked over to the couch and looked up at the girl as if apologizing.

“Somewhat?” She reached down and petted him. “I’m Nalia. Noz is cute. What if I leave and tell the police what happened?”

“You won’t remember me when you leave. No one does.” I rubbed my unshaven chin and took a gulp of wine. I looked down at my stained t-shirt and grungy pants. I couldn’t remember the last time I had showered.

Nalia reached for her glass, then lifted it to her lips and took a small, experimental sip.

“It’s safe. Same bottle.” I raised my glass. “Sorry about the bite and the scratches… Noz gets hungry.”

“This happens a lot? Where are the other girls?” Nalia patted the couch next to her and Noz jumped up.

“They left after I gave them some blood back. Halfway through the woods they forgot all about us.”

“So you’re magic?”

“Noz is. I’m just a man with a troubled mind.”

“Troubled, dangerous?”

“Not to you.”

“Can he turn into a bat?” Nalia scratched Noz behind the ears.

“No. But he doesn’t show up in mirrors, and rarely goes out before dark. Garlic doesn’t bother him and silver bullets can’t kill him.”

“You look a little rough. You all right?” Nalia leaned forward and looked me up and down.

“It’s been a rough couple of lifetimes. It gets a bit noisy up here.” I tapped my temple. “Why didn’t you run when you woke up?”

“My Mom says I’m different. That I embrace risk.” She took a bigger sip of cabernet and looked at the bookshelf full of Alchemy tomes against the far wall.

“And that’s what you think?” I let the voices inside wash over me like an ocean wave, and then they receded to a dull murmur. They were trying to tell me something about Nalia, but I couldn’t make it out. It was all static.

“No. Well, yes—I am different. But it’s not about risk. What about you?”

“I believe I was born under a pyramid. And I’m a patchwork of ghosts.”

“How’s that possible?”

“Sometimes when people die, and I’m close enough, their ghost passes through me—and sticks. Then I have another voice up here.” I pointed at my forehead. “I have attracted the attention of the wrong beings.”

Noz galloped across the room and jumped to the top of the bookcase, peering down at us like a gargoyle; then he closed his amber eyes.

“Is this a kidnapping?” Nalia watched Noz on his perch. She brushed her pale hair back behind her ears and continued absorbing the details around her as if cataloguing them so she could describe everything to the authorities. She sniffed the air experimentally and then her nose wrinkled.

“More of a cat napping.” I pointed to Noz, who remained still. “You are free to leave at any time. But the GeoSat rays are strong right now, so you might wanna wait…”

“Rays?” Nalia leaned forward and raised an eyebrow. Her blouse was covered with butterflies and the jade stone was fastened to her necklace with silver wire. Her fingernails were painted dark purple, matching her lips. She was wearing tennis shoes.

Noz vaulted from the top of the bookcase, stretched out to catch the air, and glided down to Nalia, landing on her shoulder.

“He’s yours now.” I took a drag of filtered death and then turned my head and exhaled away from Nalia toward the back room. The cabin had one main room with a kitchen, a bathroom, and one bedroom.

“You can’t just give me your cat.”

“Noz is allowed to have pets. But only one at a time.” I smiled. “Wanna test your legs and get me a beer?”

Nalia pulled the needle out of her arm with a grimace and then reapplied the tape to her arm where it had been pierced. The bag on the stand was nearly empty. Then she stood up, her stance belying the fact that she was ready to bolt. She wavered a bit, like a palm tree in an ocean breeze, and then stabilized. “Why did you say the rays are strong?” She turned toward the fridge.

Noz remained on her shoulder, enjoying the ride. He nuzzled against her left ear and began to purr.

“You’re an anomaly. They’ve noticed.” I pointed up toward the sky.

Nalia opened the fridge and gasped at the rows of hanging bags. “That’s a lotta blood.”

“Nozfuratu is a good hunter. Beer’s in the bottom drawer.”

Nalia grabbed two Castle Danger’s and tossed one my way. “Catch!”

I caught it and popped open the can. “Thanks.”

She nodded, walked back over to the couch, and sat down, cracking her beer open and taking a gulp. “What do you mean I’m an anomaly? What did I do?”

“It’s not what you did… it’s what you are. You’re an energy channeler.”

“A what?”

“You might be more familiar with the term, witch.”

“My parents are normal. I was born through the woods and down the hill, on the shore of Lake Superior.” Nalia pointed.

“One or both of your parents is not. One thing abnormals are really good at… is hiding it. Outsiders are in constant danger on this world.”

“How can you tell what I am?”

“The glow around your left ring finger.”

Nalia held up her hand. “I don’t see anything.”

“I see a lot of things.” I drank half the ale and lit another cigarette. “Are you feeling better?”

“A little weak. Last thing I remember is the little bastard leaping for my throat.” Nalia grabbed Noz by the scruff of the neck and shook him gently. “I was out for a walk. Getting some air. Trying to leave my troubles behind.”

“I know a thing or three about trouble.”

“What are you doing hiding in the woods?”

“Iron Ore.” I drank the rest of the beer, crumpled the can, and tossed it across the room into a basket full of empties.

“Pardon?” Nalia took another sip then set her beer down on the table. “Those things will kill ya.”

I looked down at the Marlboro, then rubbed the stubble on my chin. “It’s not that easy. The iron helps disburse the rays—from up there—so I can sleep.” I pointed at the ceiling, which was dusty and festooned with cobwebs.

“Are you one of those Flat Earthers?” Nalia laughed.

“I’m a Multiple Earther. That which you think you know is nothing more than a thin veil over what actually exists.”

“I’m not a witch.” Nalia tilted her can up and emptied it, then set it down on the table.

Noz jumped onto her lap and curled up.

“But you have powers. ”

“Not useful ones, like dodging flying vampire cats.”

“I know this is a lot to ask, but would you consider helping me?”

“How often do you have strange girls in your house?”

“Ladies.”

“Don’t change the subject.” Nalia pointed at me and her aura grew larger. There was a blue glow around her hands that crept up her arms toward her shoulders.

“It’s not polite to point.”

“Considering the circumstances, I don’t believe that you are occupying the high ground here. Right, Noz?” Nalia looked down at the dark fluff.

Noz opened one eye, then nodded and smiled.

“Could you help me transfer my energy signature to Eagle Mountain? It will be dangerous.”

“Hold on. You want me to carry your energy away from here?”

“No. I will walk there, with you. And then we will perform the ceremony. It’s the only way to break the GeoSat link. Noz will come with us, for protection.”

Noz stretched and then looked from Nalia toward the front door.

“What if he gets hungry again?”

“He won’t be hungry again for a few days. But he might bite some things.”

Nalia picked up a magazine and looked at the cover. “Why do you have all these Alien Artifact ‘Zines?” She opened it up and scanned all the handwritten notes in the margins and then the circled phrases and images.

“Research.”

“So, you’re nuts because of these GeoSat beams?” Nalia closed the magazine and set it down on the table.

“I was always nuts. But once they found me here, they’ve redoubled their efforts and I’m pinned down like a bug on a needle under a magnifying glass. They know my frequency.”

Nalia looked at the front window and then at her watch. “It’s eleven. What if we take too long and the sun comes up while we are hiking in the woods with Noz?”

I stood up, walked down the hall to the bedroom door, opened it, and grabbed the carved wooden box from the night stand. Then I turned, walked back into the living room, and held it up. “I’ll bring his nest. We can put him in it before sunrise.” I set the box down on the glass table in front of her.

“You have a coffin for your cat?” Nalia smirked.

“Your cat. Although he doesn’t much care for the idea of a human owning him. As far as Noz is concerned, you are his.”

Nalia scratched Noz under the chin. “One bite and you think you own me?”

Noz bared his teeth and pretended he was going to bite Nalia again but instead lightly nibbled.

“So you will help me? It’s not too much of an imposition? You’re not afraid… of me?” I sat down in my chair and closed my eyes, feeling the rays outside searching for me while the ghosts inside tried to escape through my breath.

“It appears that you are only a danger to yourself. And I wasn’t going anywhere when Noz bit me and drained my blood. I was just walking in the trees, trying to absorb some positive thoughts from the old ones.”

I opened my grey eyes and leaned forward. “Oh, I’m dangerous. But not to women. Right, Noz?”

Noz perked up and looked from me to Nalia, then dipped his chin.

“Why me?” Nalia held up her left hand and examined her fingers. “I don’t see any glow.”

“You have become accustomed to your power. It lies beneath the surface like a smooth lake under ice. But I am lucky Noz found you. He is wise beyond his years.”

Nalia went to the fridge and grabbed two more beers, tossing me one. Then she cracked hers open. “I’m in. But no funny stuff.”

“Hiking up a mountain with an old man and a vampire cat while being scanned by GeoSats doesn’t count as funny stuff?” I opened my eyes wide and then grinned.

“How far is it?” Nalia drank half of her Castle Danger, then set the can down. “I better use your bathroom first.”

I pointed down the hallway to the left. “It’s about four hours to the top from here. If we don’t get attacked.”

Noz ran ahead of Nalia and popped into the bathroom. There was a thump and then the light clicked on.

Nalia laughed and followed him.

I sipped my beer and smoked another death stick while Nalia took care of business. Then I slipped the remainder of the Marlboro pack into my shirt pocket along with a lighter, grabbed a knife and slid it inside my boot sheath, and then packed Noz’s carved wooden nest into a backpack.

Nalia and Noz emerged from the bathroom and came back into the living room.

Noz looked excited. He knew we were going somewhere.

“Ready?” I stood up and slung the backpack over my shoulders.

Nalia nodded.

I opened the front door and headed outside.

Nalia and Noz followed. She closed the door behind her.

Thetrees towered above us and the faint glow of the moon shone through a layer of clouds. The forest smelled of pine. I followed the winding dirt trail and scanned the thick underbrush. Nalia and Noz were close behind me. I pulled a cigarette from my front shirt pocket and lit it, then took a puff.

“What’s your name anyway? And what are you looking for in the woods?” Nalia looked over at me.

Noz hung close to her legs, his ears perked and his eyes wide. He was watching the woods, too, and smelling the air.

“Isaac. I’m watching for manifestations. Noz can smell them.”

“Manifest what?”

“The GeoSat beams know where I am. And they can produce… creatures.”

“So we are in danger? I thought it would just be bears or cougars.” Nalia looked down at Noz who was peering up at the tree tops.

“The Manifests are deadly. But I have a knife.” I pointed at my boot. “And Noz.”

“And me.” Nalia smiled. “So these ‘Sats are aliens that want to kill you?”

“In a way. But not flying saucer aliens. They know I can expose them, so they want to keep me isolated. I know where they’re from, and that they’re trying to change the future.” I walked faster. There was a smell that I recognized wafting through the air. It was like burnt cinnamon mixed with rotten leaves.

Noz growled and then shot ahead of us.

“There’re here.” I crouched, then reached into my left boot and pulled out the hunting knife.

Nalia’s eyes grew wide. She stopped in the middle of the winding trail and took a defensive stance. “I don’t see anything.”

“Open your mind.”

Three blue beams erupted from the midnight sky, piercing the darkness. There was a crackle of energy and then the creatures were upon us. They were misshaped and hairy, like melted gorillas from a different world. Their hands had too many fingers and their eyes were scattered around on their faces, asymmetrically.

“Jesus.” Nalia extended her left hand and a green glow sprang up around her, shimmering like a translucent egg.

Noz flew through the air and hit the first manifestation in the head, fangs extended. His momentum knocked the creature down and they both rolled down the hill to our left.

“Feel your energy. It springs from within. Shield us and I will take these two on.” I lunged forward and stabbed the closest creature. The steel blade pierced its cold skin. It screamed with a voice that sounded like metal ripping, and raked me with obsidian talons, tearing my shirt and drawing blood. An acrid smell filled my nostrils.

Nalia went to one knee, and the green aura extended around her like a bubble.

The second creature dashed itself against the bubble in anger, but the shield held.

“I don’t know how to do this.” Naila’s face showed fear and she was trembling; sweat ran down her forehead.

“It’s not necessary to know. It’s not something you learn; it’s something you are. Feel the flow and stay in it. You are a conduit.” I spun to my right and the second creature barreled into me, pinning me to the ground. The knife dropped out of my hand, slick with the blue blood of the creature I had stabbed.

Noz popped out of the bushes, his muzzle and head covered with the blood of the creature he had wrestled down the hill. He pounced on the back of the one that had me pinned and started biting it.

The manifest on top of me screamed like a rusty hangar door and rolled off, scrabbling at its back with both arms, trying to dislodge Nozfuratu.

The third creature battered against Nalia’s shield over and over, trying to reach her. Each time it hit the barrier, it drove her back and the shield weakened. The green glow of her power crackled and sputtered. Nalia was on both knees, sweat drenching her body. “I can’t hold it. I can’t.”

“One more minute. You can do it.” I rolled to my left, grabbed the knife, and plunged it into the creature Noz was biting. It shimmered and then dissolved into dark azure smoke, which drifted away on the night’s breeze leaving nothing but the echo of its last scream.

Noz screeched and turned toward Nalia as her shield collapsed and the last manifestation knocked her to the ground.

Nalia screamed and raised her arms, trying to knock the creature off.

The creature wrapped both of its powerful hands around her neck and squeezed. It was making a gibbering noise and its many eyes were wide open and staring.

Nalia’s screams stopped and she went limp.

Noz bit the creature, draining blood while pulling it off of her.

I stabbed it in the head and it turned to smoke like the others.

“Nalia?” I examined her neck, which was bruised but not broken. She was breathing.

Noz rubbed against her anxiously, his face near hers. Then he licked her lips.

“Wha? Christ!” Nalia’s eyes fluttered open and then she coughed and sat up, clutching her throat. “That was close.”

“Now you see why I don’t leave my cabin.”

“Thanks for saving me, Noz.” Nalia rubbed under his chin.

Noz purred like a tiny chainsaw and then licked his paw trying to clean his face of the creature’s blood.

I wiped the viscous blue off my knife and then sheathed it in my boot. “You feel well enough to keep walking?”

Nalia nodded and stood up. She rubbed her neck and moved her head around in a circle carefully, checking for pain.

I started walking along the dirt trail again. It was getting steeper as we passed the base of the mountain.

“How far to the cave? Are we going to run into any more manifestations?”

“We are getting close.” I reached for another cigarette, but the pack was empty. “The creatures don’t usually manifest again, right after an attack.”

We walked for another twenty minutes before I held up a hand. I could see beams scanning the woods all around us, and the glow of eyes watching from the trees. “We’re here. It’s off to the right, behind that outcropping.” I pointed.

“I don’t know what to do. I’m not really a witch, you know.” Nalia reached down and grabbed Noz, then put him on her shoulder.

“I know you don’t think you are. You’ve been conditioned by humans. They’ve taught you to suppress it. They’ve made you forget what you really are.”

I led the way off the trail and into the mouth of the cave.

“Now what?” Nalia pulled a flashlight out of a pocket on the backpack and illuminated the hollow.

The cave was twenty feet high and deep enough we couldn’t see the end. The rock walls were covered with moss, and the dirt floor was littered with pebbles and small bones.

“You are going to extract my essence and coat the cave walls with it. That will trick the GeoSats into thinking I’m here. You will have to nearly kill me, or it won’t work.”

“But I don’t know how.”

“Noz will help.” I laid down on the cave floor and stretched out my arms. “Reach down to my chest and find the edge of my essence.”

Nalia knelt down beside me and placed her hands on my chest. “But what—what if you die?”

“There are worse ways to die than looking at beauty.”

Noz leapt down from Nalia’s shoulder, and took up a position to my right. He looked up at Nalia expectantly.

“Close your eyes and feel the essence within me. It will feel like warm gelatin. And it will pulse with fire. It will burn.”

“I think. I think I can feel it.” Nalia spread her hands and began to pull them upward.

Noz gave a worried meep, placing his face close to mine.

I felt the warm rush of my life force draining, as if my blood was evaporating, and I grew faint. “Take my essence, and paint the walls with it.”

Nalia crouched over me, fear in her eyes.

Everything began to spin in a dreamlike spiral. I could smell freshly turned earth and pine trees. The ghosts within me sprang free and hung in the air like paper lanterns.

She spread her fingers and a pulsing glow sprang from her hands. She reached into my chest and pulled on my heart. Then she pulled her hands back and my energy flowed upward and out of me.

My eyes closed.

Nalia flung her hands upward and outward, spraying bits of my essence over the inside of the cave like spatters of gold.

Noz nuzzled my cheek. “Mrrow.”

A sigh escaped my lips and I exhaled. I felt no need to inhale anymore. The weight of the world rose off of me like a shimmer of light. There was a vibration within my chest like the rumble of faraway thunder. I could smell coffee. Memories flickered by like moths.

Nalia’s eyes widened. “Oh, no you don’t!” She pounded my chest with her fists.

“I’m not leaving you.” My voice was no more than a whisper. “But I’m too weak to walk. Noz will have to drag me far away from here before my essence is detectable again.”

Noz bit down on my pant leg and dragged me from the cave as if I weighed nothing. Above the rocky opening in the side of the mountain the GeoSat beams danced, scanning the area. They played across the cave opening while dreams of the ancients flickered into life behind my eyelids. Ghosts danced and swirled through my consciousness like flickering fireflies.

“Isaac? Are you alive?” Nalia crouched over me. Her voice sounded far away.

My eyes opened. Noz was perched on my chest and I was lying on my back. Trees rose above me and it was nearing dawn. I could hear the chirping of birds as the forest began to wake. “I am. Where are we?”

“About halfway back. Noz dragged you.” Nalia’s blue eyes showed concern and her lips were a tight line.

“And the beams?”

“They didn’t follow. They were scanning the top of the mountain behind us.”

“We need to get Noz in his nest.” I sat up and the forest swirled around me. I fought the urge to black out and squeezed my temples.

Nalia pulled Noz’s coffin out of the backpack and set it on the ground, then opened it. The outside was carved walnut while the inside was red velvet. The hinges and clasps were golden. “Time for your nap, Noz.”

A warm, red glow sprang up from the eastern horizon, filtering through the brush like blood.

I grabbed Nozfuratu and held him to my chest, grasping him tight. Then I looked into his eyes. “You take care of her.”

Noz rested his head on my shoulder for a moment, then jumped off of me and into his nest, curling into a ball. He looked up at Nalia expectantly then lifted a paw in my direction.

I held up a hand, palm open and let a wash of feelings swirl through me like an undercurrent in a fierce river.

She closed the lid and latched it. “He’s in. Can you walk?”

I struggled to my feet. “As long as I can lean on you a little. We need to get back to my cabin before my strength comes back, or the GeoSats will detect me.”

“They were scanning the cave when we dragged you out of there.”

“I think you did it, Nalia. They will believe I’m still there.” I leaned against her and walked as fast as I could. Each step was harder than the next and I was barely able to lift my feet. My bones were weary, but I wasn’t going to waste the chance.

The sun was kissing the ground to the east, red turning to golden, rays cascading through the leaves when we got back to the cabin.

Nalia pulled open the front door and dragged me to the couch where I collapsed as everything went black.

Shewas sitting on the leather chair keeping an eye on me when I woke up, a beer in each hand. Her aura was bright and undulated around her like a ghostly shell.

“Feeling better?” Nalia leaned forward. “You look dazed.”

I sat up and looked around the room, spotting Noz’s wooden nest on the glass table in front of me. “I’m feeling free. I can’t hear the beams.” I looked up at the ceiling. “Best sleep I’ve had in years. How long was I out?”

Nalia smiled. “It’s dusk. You slept all day.” She held a beer up in the direction of the front window, where daylight was beginning to fade. “What now?”

“You are free to go. I owe you my life. Take Noz with you.” I leaned forward, unlatched the coffin, and opened the lid.

Noz opened one amber eye, then the other, then vaulted out of his coffin in one swift motion. He stretched and preened, his face lighting up when he saw Nalia.

Nalia walked to the fridge, grabbed a handful of blood bags, and jammed them into the backpack. Then she pulled the pack onto her shoulders and reached down to pet Noz’s head. “You sure you’ll be okay without us?”

I nodded. “They won’t know where I am for awhile. Perhaps long enough for me to escape them.”

“I believe in you.” Nalia walked over, placed a hand on my shoulder, then leaned down and kissed my cheek.

“Be careful, Nalia. They know who you are now.”

Nalia smiled. “I will, Isaac. I will.”

Noz ran across the room, leapt up to the door handle, and turned it with his weight. He locked eyes with me and raised his chin with pride.

Emotion welled up in Nalia’s eyes. She touched a finger to her lips and looked away before her face could betray her.

The front door swung open, and then they were gone.

* * *

From Mike Cooley:

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I am a science fiction and fantasy writer by night, and a software engineer by day. I have written many science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories. I grew up in Washington State, went to college in New Mexico, and ended up in Minnesota. My top influences are Phillip K. Dick and James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon). I could name another hundred writers that have influenced me and my work, but that would be a bit excessive.

~ Mike Cooley

Tangled Tales

From Juliette:

I love this story so much.

I can’t even express how honored I am to feature this story from my friend and  author Mike Cooley. Thank you Mike.

Mike’s blog Last Writes Fantastical Tales of Madness and Mayhem can be found HERE (click here.) There you’ll find his blog, his books, contact information, and some of the best new science fiction, fantasy, and horror available today.

His work is also featured in several WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) Anthologies.

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Over the next few months I’ll be featuring other talented guest authors.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman