Short Story Sunday: The Box In Dave’s Basement

The Box In Dave’s Basement

“I was just going out for coffee,” said Austin as he looked at the carnage surrounding him.

Coffee with the crossword puzzle, and a little bit of fresh air sounded good. Then Dave, who lived three houses down called to him as he waked by, “Hey, Austin, there’s something weird in my basement. Take a look.”

Austin was both a history professor and a general contractor specializing in historic restorations, so of course he’d check it out. Dave lived in the oldest house on that street, built in 1888. It was a fantastic small Queen Anne, painted shades of blue and cream.  Dave led the way to the back of the dark space to an oblong box.

“I was measuring the room and moved away some lumber that had been here since I moved in and found this,” said Dave. “It looks like a coffin. Do you think I should call someone?”

“Let me take a look. I’ve found these before,” said Austin, taking out his penknife. He slid the knife around the edges of the box to see if there was a latch or any loose spots.

Then all Hell broke loose. Two men, dressed in long black coats, carrying guns and large knives appeared at the door.

“Hey,” yelled Dave. “Get the fuck outta here. I told you guys to stay away from my house. I’m calling 911. I warned you.” Then he turned to Austin. “The bastards were out last week. I told them…”

The men moved closer. Dave continued, “Out NOW.” Dave was a medium sized silver haired average family guy his mid fifties, with some sort of upper management job with the Department of Water Resources. His wife was wife away on a girl’s weekend. His kids were away at college. He’d been working on making the basement into the ultimate man cave over the past few weekends. He wasn’t in the mood for Vampire Hunters.

“Damn it. I said GET OUT you crazies,” Dave yelled.

“Just let us have the box,” said one of the men, a tall shaggy haired guy with some sort of unidentifiable accent.

Austin took a step forward, getting between Dave and the vampire hunters. “No can do guys. You have to go.”

The other man, a bald guy with huge shoulders pointed a gun at Austin and Dave. “Move aside gentlemen.” He then shoved them out of the way and with a swift kick popped open the box.

Inside was the perfectly preserved body of a woman in an old fashioned lace dress. She looked as though she was made of fine leather. A bunch of dried roses were in her hand.

The shaggy haired man lifted a huge wooden stake. Dave and Austin both yelled, “NO.”

Dave jumped on the back of the bald man. Austin knocked the shaggy haired man out of the way.

Suddenly a blinding flash of light and a blast of cold air knocked them to the wall. Two more men appeared at the door, also in black but without the coats. One carried a knife, and the other a whip. The smiled, showing fangs.

“Holy shit,” whispered Dave.

The vampires grabbed the men in the black coats by the scruff of their necks, like small children, and threw them back out into the sunlight. One of the vampires uttered a string of long strange sounding words, and the vampire hunters ran down the street.

The woman in the coffin sat up, and moved her head around.

“Stiff neck?” Austin asked.

She looked at him, surprised. Then she smiled with a slight show of her own fangs. “Yes, thanks for the concern. How long did I sleep?”

“From the looks of your dress, maybe ninety years,” said Austin.

“I guess I missed that party then,” she said with a slight laugh.

“This is too weird,” said Dave as he got up, and crossed the room. He turned on the overhead shop lights and got a good look at his company. “You mean to tell me you’ve been in that box for ninety years?”

The woman just blinked against the light. The two Vampires stood out of the shadows.

“Hey, Austin,” said one of them. “I thought that was you.”

“Pierce,” said Austin. “I had no idea you were a vampire. Small world. Dave, this is Pierce, he guest lectures for me sometimes on nineteenth California government issues.”

“And this is Max, he…”

“Max,” said Austin as he held out his hand. “Good to see you. Thanks for helping out.”

“Austin,” said Max.

Dave looked at the Vampires then laughed. “Pierce. I know you. You were teaching American History at UC Berkley in the late 70’s. I took a couple of classes from you. You look like you haven’t aged a day. How old are you?”

Pierce smiled and shook Dave’s hand. “I’m 171, but who’s counting.”

“I was just going out for coffee,” said Austin as he looked at the carnage surrounding him. “You’re all welcome to come.”

The woman’s name is Lily. She had a lot of catching up to do so Dave gave her a pair of jeans and a shirt out of his wife’s closet, and they all headed out for coffee.

That’s all.

 

Tangled Tales

Yes, some of you might have seen this one before. I know we’re on lock down but things are weird, even for Vampires. But I’m writing new material. I’m writing. Stay safe. Stay safe. Stay safe. Do all of your social distancing. Keep your sense of humor. Keep in touch with friends, family, and anyone who needs a little long distance company. xoxox

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman.

Short Story Sunday: Motorhome

Motorhome
An Austin and Elizabeth Story

Austin grew up knowing that Grammy didn’t have many filters. She’d say anything she wanted to anyone. Austin’s mother said Grammy had always been rude. Grammy said she was giving out good advice that might make people want to do something about their situations. Everyone was in a situation so everyone was told what they needed to do.

Grammy’s caretaker, a lovely woman named Kayla, had texted Austin the following:

“Just a warning, Grammy is in a mood today. Completely speaking with no filter. We talked to Tom across the street. Grammy asked how they were doing and before he could say anything she said, “well it looks like you and your wife have completely given up on loosing weight.” I nudged her in hopes she would stop but it didn’t work. She then went on to say, “I thought you guys were dieting. Looked like you’ve completely given up on losing weight. Tom was so red embarrassed. I said he is healthy and happy and always smiling, so I told him to have a nice day and closed the door before Grammy could say anything else. I then said “OMG Grammy u can’t ever tell people that they are overweight. Ever. Men or women. It is not to be discussed. Don’t tell women they look pregnant. None of it. She said “Well maybe if I say something that will make them want to lose weight.” I said, “NO. NO. NO. Nothing you say will change them. You’re just being terrible at that point. No more ever.” Grammy’s mind is in it’s own place sometimes. Tomorrow is a new day. I told her she is the cutest sweetest little Grammy in the world. She has to stop thinking and saying such negative things.”

Austin was mortified. Tom had been a good friend for years, and would do anything for Grammy. But sweet little Grammy had a dark suspicious side. She’d grown up in the Deep South where people generally have fewer filters than those from other regions of the country. She’d also grown up in a family of Vampire Hunters. It was in their blood, no pun intended.

When Austin arrived at Grammy’s house he wondered who the old motor home in the driveway belonged to.

Kayla, a rail thin brown haired, blue eyed woman in her forties came out to meet him. She and her college student son Colt live with Grammy and took care of her in her great big family home. At one time Austin had tried to get Grammy to sell her house and move into a smaller house in his neighborhood, just three houses down from him, but she’d have none of it. She’d rather complain about money and upkeep than move out of the house she’d lived in for sixty-two years.

“Is someone visiting?” Austin looked toward the motor home.

“I bought that last week. I’m going to take Grammy on a road trip.”

It was a small 1981 motor home complete with faded orange and red stripes on the outside.

“Wow, look at this thing,” said Austin.

“Come inside. Take a look,” said Kayla inviting him in through the back door.

Grammy was sitting on an orange couch that could fold out into a double bed. There was a table, a small kitchen, four captain’s chairs, and a tiny bathroom complete with a toilet, sink, and a shower.

“Hey, Grammy,” Austin said bending down to kiss her.

Grammy was small, and still quite pretty for an eighty eight year old lady. Her white hair had been done up the day before with pink foam curlers. She wore bright pink lipstick, a pink flowered shirt, and matching pink pants.

Grammy took his hands, “Austin. What do you think of our new castle on wheels?”

“Great,” said Austin. “The orange and red carpet is pretty ugly, but otherwise it’s great.”

“I don’t see any problems with the carpet. It looks almost new to me,” said Grammy. “Now, Austin, are you still seeing that Vampire girl?”

Austin was in love with a woman who just happened to be a Vampire. He knew it wasn’t exactly the right thing to do but…

“But,” he said, “Grammy, Elizabeth isn’t a shadow creeper, or one of those ghoulish undead types. She lives a pretty normal life. You know the kinds of Vampires I help get rid of, and Elizabeth isn’t one of them.”

“You know those Vampires aren’t right. They do nothing but cause problems. Austin you’re an idiot for getting involved with one.”

“Grammy, Elizabeth isn’t that different from us.”

“That’s what you say. But the next thing you know they’ll be coming out of the shadows. I bet you the first thing they’ll do is call the ACLU and get a bunch of lawsuits in place against us normal people asking for rights and then some. Then they call AARP because they’re all older than dirt. You can’t trust them Austin. Listen to me. You are going to have nothing but trouble ahead of you. Nothing but trouble.”

“OK Grammy, I get your point.”

“I hope so. I don’t want you marrying one of those things. You haven’t have sexual intercourse with that Vampire of yours yet have you?”

“Grammy, I’m not going to talk about this anymore.”

“Are you still killing Vampires?”

“Only the ones without souls.”

“Well, how do you know if they have souls? They’re all a bunch of fanged faced liars.”

“Grammy, I know. I’m a Vampire Hunter. I can tell. It’s in my blood.”

“Well, your blood will be their blood if you don’t watch out.”

Kayla, who’d gone inside to make iced tea, came back out with three tall cold glasses full of iced tea with fresh mint. This wasn’t the popular sweet tea, but strong freshly brewed black tea with just a hint of lemon and mint. Grammy wouldn’t allow anyone to ruin her good tea with the addition of sugar.

Grammy took a sip of her tea and said, “I don’t know why your mom and dad had to name you after a city.”

Kayla smiled. “Be nice Grammy. You know Austin was where they fell in love.”

“Well, maybe. But it sounds like a character out of a trashy cheap romance novel,” said Grammy.

And she wasn’t kidding.

Austin had dinner with Kayla, her son Colt, and Grammy. They’d dined on garlic coated shrimp in a pasta, along with mushrooms and more garlic. Grammy always made sure she had garlic in all of her food to keep the Vampires away now that she had retired. Austin knew for a fact that garlic didn’t keep Vampires away.

Conversation became pleasant and without any caustic remarks. Grammy was charming and full of joy. Kayla looked relieved.

As Austin left his Grammy gave him a hug and a kiss. Then she said, “I wish you’d find a normal girl.”

Austin smiled and said, “Normal girl? Grammy, you of all people should know there is no such thing.”

Grammy just said, “pasha,” and closed the door in her grandson’s face.

 

~ End

 

Tangled Tales

Read all of the Austin and Elizabeth Stories (The Hunter Series) from the start.  Click here for the full set.

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Short Story Sunday: Romance of the Needles

Featured in the WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) Anthology Weirder Tales.  

 

Romance of the Needles

Tiffany packed up her laptop and decided and left the coffeehouse at 5:00. Her bag was packed with a hundred hypodermic needles, red lipstick, a few limes and a couple of condoms.

In the restroom she’s shook the ponytail out of her hair, donned a black cocktail dress, red lipstick and black stiletto heels.

He told her he had something for her. She didn’t know what it could be. Flowers maybe? A gift certificate to a spa perhaps? He wasn’t the type to give anything inappropriate; after all, she had worked for him.

After the accident she’d worked around the clock helping with public relations work and anything else that was needed to keep his business going. Sure he had a huge staff and she was the outsider, but she knew she had to mean more.

Driving to his estate she knew what she was doing the wrong thing. In the hospital he’d taken her hand and murmured over and over that all he wanted was clean needles.

Her reaction was so wrong, but she wanted him in such a wrong way. Hers was a sick, twisted, obsessive love. In turn she was addicted to him the same way he was addicted to whatever it was he needed to inject himself with.

She would rescue him from his habit. In gratitude he’d give her his love, his body, his life. She’d be the angel who’d be with him when the drugs called to his soul and the addiction sang its serene song to him. She’d be the chains on the rock that held him safe. His addiction would switch from the opiates that held his will, and she’d become the fire that consumed his soul.

On the other hand, he could be looking for clean needles for disease prevention in local addicts. He could be one of those good souls who bring bag lunches and blankets to homeless people. No, it couldn’t be that. She needed to rescue him, not help him rescue a bunch of stinky strangers.

He answered the door, dressed in a long sleeve tee shirt showing off his muscular form, well fitting jeans, with a lock of hair falling over his forehead, almost begging for her to brush it out of his eyes, wrap her hand around his neck and pull him into a kiss.

“Tiffany, what a surprise” he exclaimed. “You look lovely.”

Leading her to a room in the back of the house he spoke of his recovery and how he was ready to live a fulfilling life of enlightenment and joy. His smile was dazzling as he looked at her for affirmation.

“My dear Tiffany, I have something special for you,” he said, causing her heart to flip. On the tables were baskets. Exquisite baskets of brown, amber and tan. Tiffany watched him push up his sleeves, and pick up a basket with clean, track free arms.

“You’re all dressed up.” He said to her, delighted, yet somewhat puzzled to see her in the seductive black dress.

She lied “I was going to meet some friends at a club but they canceled out. Um, these are lovely. Very unusual.” she said looking at the baskets. She felt like an idiot.

He handed her a reddish brown basket. “This is one of my favorites. It took me almost 60 hours to make it. I’d like you to have it, as a thank you. You know, darling Tiffany, my business wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for you.”

Tiffany’s heart pounded. Her head was light. She studied the intricately woven patterns, amazed by the construction, sick to her stomach. “You made it out of pine needles.” She said, feeling her face go flush, trying not to cry. “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.”

A tall strikingly beautiful auburn haired woman came into the room. “I’m sorry Daniel, but you need to wrap up business and send your little friend home. Dinner is ready.”

Daniel flashed Tiffany his dazzling smile once more. “It’s so hard to find clean needles this time of year.”

 

~ end

Weirder Tales

Weirder Tales – Now Available on Amazon and other fine online bookstores. Proceeds to to MS Research.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Mutations

Sam Judge

 

Part 1: The Apocalypse

My grandparent’s crazy is the new normal.

Normal is still pretty crazy, well, because it isn’t normal. We don’t want it to be normal, but unfortunately that is what normal is to me.

Does any of that make sense?

My grandmother and I talk a lot about that. I’m so glad she’s still around. She’s the one who encouraged me to go into reporting and photojournalism.  She is also the one who encouraged me never to color my hair. But enough about me.

The crazy stuff started to happen when my parents were in college. First were the pandemics in China that spread through most of Asia wiping out millions of people in most of the large urban centers. To this day most people of Chinese descent live outside of China.

After that happened, along with a shit load of political fall out, there was another plague of a sorts. Radioactive and other unidentified debris started falling from the sky. The governments of the world claimed they didn’t know where it came from. From the sky was all they could say. From the fucking sky.

Shortly after the first zombies showed up in Australia. They were already dealing with the aftermath of the third big wave of fires when the population started to die, but not die. Roaming packs of shuffling virus infested humans with rotting flesh attacked the normal living. When bullets ran out flamethrowers were used, and even more fires started. Entire cities burned.

From Australia the zombies moved slowly across all continents gnawing and rotting along the way. In the United States the Midwest and the Chicago area were hit especially hard. It is estimated that almost forty percent of the population between the ages of fifteen and seventy became zombies before the epidemic died down. The zombie attacks were compounded by an never ending Midwestern winter.

Governments continued to crumble. Strange deadly disease continued to pop up, and then vanish after massive causalities.

After the first wave of zombies someone in what was once known as North Korea shot off a nuclear warhead claiming the USA had caused most of their population to die of the Black Crow flu. The bomb landed on Tokyo, Japan. That started yet another war and more tolls on the already weak human populations and wild life.

By the time I was born the Southern Hemisphere was for the most part totally uninhabitable. A few brave souls still lived there but not many outside of the research stations and military posts.

After that all hell broke loose againfor a short time, then things got really bazar. Some yahoos from the rogue Canadian Space Frontshot the alien research station out of the sky thinking it was a Chinese space station shooting zombie virus bombs down over rural Alberta.

The alien space station landed in the middle of Nevada. Seriously, as if Nevada didn’t already have their share of alien based urban legends and whack jobs crawling all over the desert. Unfortunately all but two of the twenty-four aliens on board were killed. The two who survived managed to say that they’d been watching us for a while and were frankly shocked at what they’d seen. Then they too died. We never did find out where they were from. The funny thing is that they looked like us except their skin was kind of a baby blue, and their eyes were slightly larger like anime characters. When I was a kid I wanted to go visit the site but my parents would never take me.

After the proof of life outside of our planet was proved, religious groups and cults started to pop up preaching the end of days, and other crazy ass biblical prophecies. I remember my mom telling me that she didn’t think things could get any stranger, but she was wrong. Things did get stranger, right in her own home. In her own womb in fact.

Around the time of my birth another new and unique phenomenon began to happen. PAM otherwise known asPost Apocolypitic Mutations. I know all about that one personally because I’m a PAM baby.

I was born with dark hair, but by the time I was a year old my hair had turned steel gray. By the time I was in college white and silver highlights grew in.  My eyes are the same steel gray color as my hair. My most unique feature, one that I rarely share with others, is the ability to conceal lies from others, including PAM babies who have the ability to catch lies. And if you’re asking, why yes, it does come in handy.

Other PAM cases were more extreme than mine. There were kids with seven fingers, tails, and odd multicolored eyes, but those weren’t the really interesting cases. Some children displayed traits that came right out of the old super hero comics. There were people with extrodinary hearing, or could see miles away. Every kind of physical strength and endurance you could think of was showing up with PAM kids.

One girl known as Emily Seventeen could read minds. Every government and nut job religious organization wanted her. She died of a brain hemorrhage the day she turned twenty-one. Her brain was studied but nobody could ever figure out how it worked.

After much study it was discovered that all of these people with extraordinary strengths had their weakness that would make then “normal.” They all had their proverbial kryptonite. The most famous example of this was my friend HarrietO’Malley who could disjoint her entire body, every single bone, and creep around like a giant ameba, as flat as a pancake. She was tired of the mess, the sloppy rejointing, and the general discomfort of her particular skill set.

After a lot of trial and error Harrietaccidentally found a fix to put an end to being ameba girl. When her younger brother died in a car accident Harriet had a large memorial tattoo in his honor put on her upper back and across her shoulders. It was a play on words because when she we feeling depressed he always told her “I have your back Harriet.”  The ink on her back was absolutely beautiful and in full color. When the tattoo was done and completely healed she was asked to go flat. She couldn’t do it. The tattoo held her together. Her brother did indeed have her back. A simple tattoo was her kryptonite. Who would have guessed? Or maybe it was simply giving over to grief and love. It always seemed far-fetched to me, but she was my friend so I believed her.

 

Part 2: The Assignment

So that brings us to now. I’m a science and political reporter for TCN, I might add, the largest and most prestigious news agency around. TCN is unique in that it is not associated with any political party, religion, or even region. It is completely neutral (like Switzerland before the zombies ate everyone there.)

One day I was sitting in my home office in Laguna Beach, drinking coffee, and working on the possibilities of more alien visitations, when I received an assignment to interview Sam Judge. Yes, the over the top ultra famous famous Sam Judge.

Like me, Sam Judge is also a PAM baby. Unlike me, his unique features were more along the lines of my friend Harriet O’Malley – high on the super hero scale.

I caught a flight out the next morning with Harriet, who by the way is my photographer, and our sound/camera guy Phil Steen. At security our I.D.s were checked showing Harriet and I were PAMs.

“Do you have any special powers we should know about?” I was asked by the security woman.

“No,” I told her. “Just my funny hair color.” What I didn’t tell her is that I can lie and nobody, not even a PAM with special lie detecting powers, can detect my lies.

Harriet told the security officer that she could liquefy at one time but wouldn’t do it on the plane. Phil isn’t a PAM so he went right through despite his shaggy un-kept beard, tacky pink and green plaid pants, and orange jacket.

On the flight to Chicago Harriet and Phil talked about taking making some side trips to interview famous zombie hunters old, and slept. I read up on Sam Judge.

At the time Sam Judge was a twenty eight year old PAM. His birthday was three days before mine. That was interesting.

His powers are extraordinary physical strength, and the ability to read lies. He also possesses well-honed leadership skills.

People love Sam Judge. As a war hero he’d single handedly slain entire armies of remaining zombies, unsavory cannibalistic humans, and took on monster mutant lizards, dogs, and elk. Sam Judge never lost a battle. That didn’t mean that he never lost at love.

Same Judge was left at the alter when his bride ran off with his best man. He didn’t take it to well and exacted revenge upon everyone she knew by digging into their rather unsavory business practices. Both of her parents, her brothers, and the ex best friend were now in prison. That was interesting.

He mentioned later that she never told him that she loved him. He would have known it was a lie. Nobody can keep a lie from Sam Judge if he wants to hear it. If Sam Judge doesn’t like what he hears he will be one badass vindictive bastard. I know if he’d known me than I could have told him she was trouble and saved him a lot of grief.

Since then woman had captured Sam’s heart. He was not dating anyone seriously. There were no prospects for serious relationships. Handsome Sam Judge does not give his heart away.

Sam was born into what I would consider a cult, called Chosen Followers. They are a hybrid of Catholic and fundamental evangelical beliefs mixed with doomsday prophesy weirdness. Just for kicks and grins add in some crazy stories about visions of the Virgin Mary.

Sam Judge’s mother, Isabelle McCarthy Judge, said that Sam was chosen by God, and that it was God who gave Sam his powers. She refused to call him a PAM or use the termPost Apocalyptic Mutations when describing her son. Mrs. Judge went all the way to the Supreme Court of the Untied States to get the title removed from all of her precious Sam’s paperwork.

Most interesting of all was that with all of the attention on Sam Judge over the past ten years nobody had ever figured out what his kryptonite was. Nobody. Well, nobody so far. I intended to find out exactly what made Sam Judge tick.

 

Part Three: The Interview

As usual Chicago was freezing. I’m surprised the plane was able to land due to the current snowstorm. Current snowstorm is an understatement. They had below zero winters that lasted for nine months out of the year.

I wanted to be professional but in no way frumpy. A black skirt, pared with a bright sapphire blue sweater, black tights and flat black boots. I didn’t put any clips in my chin length gray hair. Because this would be filmed I had on the full face make-up.

Gabrielle dressed similar in a forest green wool wrap dress, tights and flat over the knee boots. Phil showed up in all black save for a purple and yellow tie. He’d shaved off his shaggy beard that night and showed of a handsome face that I’d never seen before. He’d also pulled his shoulder length hair up into a neat man bun. Phil actually looked really good for a change. I had to compliment him on making the effort.

It took us about a year, ok maybe an hour, to go though security at the Judge mansion. Not only were we patted down, and all of our belongings checked, we were also asked detailed questions that we’d already answered in a preliminary email.

A pale young man who introduced himself as Timothy Ryan led us to a large living room filled with artwork, comfortable furniture and flowers. One side of the wall was all windows overlooking the new Chicago skyline. Harriet made a beeline to the huge stone fireplace and thawed out her hands. Timothy showed us where an antique sterling silver coffee, tea and water service had been set up, then left the room.

“Modern Prairie mansion overkill,” said Phil looking around.

“I like it,” I said. “I could live in a place like this, you know, if it was back home. I wonder when Sam is going to show up?”

“Right now,” said a voice, followed by a laugh.

There he was, Sam Judge in all his glory, looking better in person than in any video or photograph. Despite his impressive body builder physique, the first thing I noticed was his eyes. Bright hazel, the color of the winter waves, with genuine happiness showing through. Those eyes were in a gorgeous, handsome, beautiful male face. His famous hair, a glossy caramel color, fell down his back and to his waist.

“Welcome. I’m so glad you made it. I’m Sam Judge.” He approached me and held out his hand.

As I took his right hand he put his left hand over it in almost a protective way. I looked right up into those beautiful hazel eyes. “I’m Lilah Wolfe. Good to meet you Mr. Judge.”

“Call me Sam.”

I introduced Harriet and Phil, and then noticed nobody else had joined us. Usually men like Sam Judge had an entourage or at least a few minions hanging about, but it was just Sam.

“You’re known for your strength and speed. What else do you want people to know about you?” I asked.

Sam gave me the answer I was looking for. “I never enjoyed the things I had to do. Dealing with zombies, violence, mutant insects, isn’t fun for anyone.”

“You dug a classroom of children and their teachers out of the rubble of a building. You got to them faster than any machinery could have.”

“Lilah, I just went on auto pilot. When I found them.” He paused to compose himself. “The children were so small. The only thing I could think of was getting them back to their parents. When I saw the teachers all I could think of was getting them back to their own children.”

We talked a while longer about Sam Judge’s heroic achievements. Then I asked the question that nobody dared ask before.

“Your mother claims you’re not a PAM baby.  She even went so far to have a hint of post apocalyptic mutations removed from all of your medical records. How do you explain your strength and speed? How do you explain the fact that nothing injures you?”

He turned on the charm all the sudden and almost threw me off of my game. “I’m not immune heartbreak.”

“You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t immune to the entanglements of romantic love. You also can detect whether someone is telling a lie or the truth. You’re 100% correct all of the time. Sam, how do you explain that?”

“I can’t. My mother always said my gifts are from God. She had a vision when she was pregnant that said I would be infallible and a seeker of the truth.”

“She was also in Las Vegas at she got pregnant with you, the same weekend the alien research vessel was shot down. She was exposed to cosmic fall out when she was pregnant with you.”

“A lot of women were exposed to fall out from space, and nuclear fall out from wars, and more toxic crap than we can count. Their children all turned out fine. Let me ask you something Lilah. You’re a PAM baby. Where was your mother when she became pregnant with you?”

“San Francisco. Safe in San Francisco. You have a point. So you honestly believe your powers are from God?”

“I don’t even speculate on where my unique abilities come from. I accept who I am and what I can do. I try to make the world a better place with my gifts.”

“What’s your kryptonite?”

Sam smiled another dazzling smile that made my heart skip a beat. This was so unexpected. Was there something he wasn’t telling me?

He laughed and put his hand on mine. “I don’t know. I don’t even know if there is something that will break my spell.”

“A kiss maybe?”

“Is that an offer?”

“No. I was just kidding. So tell me about your work with the arts?”

The interview went on as expected. I asked a lot of questions. Sam was charming and engaging. I knew he’d capture every single heart of every single person who saw the interview. I’d done my job.

 

Part Four: Off the Record

Harriet and Phil went shopping on the Miracle Mile. Sam and I went to lunch at O’Joys, the best deep dish pizza in New Chicago.

Over a bottle of Chianti and pizza we talked off the record.

“I know you’re a PAM baby. Sam you can’t believe that you’re part of a biblical prophecy like your mother tells everyone.”

He smiled and took my hand, “I have to keep her happy. Frankly the belief has become more of a detriment. I’m starting to look like a fool.”

“What about your dad?”

“He goes along with whatever my mother says.”

The proliferation of religious extremists since the big break down of society due to wars, pandemics and the existence of aliens, had always disturbed me. The very idea that the man sitting across from me seemed totally immune to what was going on seemed the height of hypocrisy. Phil had once told me Sam’s kryptonite was probably women. What I saw in Sam was a man who, contrary to his own worldly views and sophistication, was letting himself be used as a symbol of strength by a group that many considered to be a religious cult.

I changed the subject and we talked about other things. After lunch Sam’s driver took us to the Art Institute of Chicago where we wandered the halls getting to know each other better. I couldn’t believe how much Sam Judge and I had in common. We both loved the same art and music. We both loved dogs but neither one of us had time for one right now. We both wanted to have families one day but worried about being PAM kids. We both had our secrets that we never told anyone else. I found myself telling him things that I don’t share with other people. And he shared with me. I promised him I wouldn’t put any of it in the press. He believed me. I didn’t exactly tell the truth. I kept the idea of using some of his secrets in the back of my mind.

From a wonderful lunch, to a somewhat romantic afternoon in the museum, we ended up back at Sam’s house. From there we had dinner in his kitchen. Aside from security on the parameter of the building, no other staff was present. Sam cooked. I drank wine and listened to him tell funny stories about growing up with a mother who thought she was in charge of the strong boy who saw right through her. I told him stories of my work, and my life in California, growing up as a PAM child. Sure we talked about ourselves but we talked about everything else too. We discovered we both liked the same books, the same music, and laughed at the same silly jokes. Our lives were so different but we clicked as if we’d been friends for years.

As we finished cleaning up Sam put his arm around my waist and gently pulled me close.

“Lilah,” he said. Just my name. That was all it took. I kissed Sam Judge before he could kiss me. But oh how he kissed back.

The next morning I woke in Sam’s bed wondering if I’d done the right thing. It felt so right in my heart, and with every cell in my body (OMG did it ever) but logically I knew it was wrong. I’d crossed the professional line.

Sam brought in coffee, but it went cold as we made love again.

As we lay in the afterglow I whispered, “What makes you so strong Sam Judge?”

Sam laughed. “Don’t tell a soul, but my mother always said it was my hair.”

I knew he was telling the truth.

“I can’t imagine anything so crazy,” I said, knowing he wouldn’t catch my lie. I could imagine it was his hair. Damn, it I needed to know, and the story would make me millions. On the other hand, how could I even think of harming this beautiful man who was so sweet and trusting?

 

Chapter 5: The Attack

I had lunch in the famous Olde Pope’s Bar and Grill with Harriet and Phil. We talked over stuffed potatoes and beer. They teased me about spending the night with Sam. I told them that I could easily fall in love with him, them I laughed it off. I didn’t want them to know that I was falling hard for Sam Judge.

“Did you find out what would take his strength away?” Harriet asked.

I should have said anything, but these were my two best friends. “He said his mother told him that it was his hair. That’s why he won’t cut it. I doubt that but you never know.” As soon as the words came out of my mouth I regretted it. Harriet and Phil glanced at each and smiled. That wasn’t a good sign. “Don’t even think about it,” I said, but I knew they already were.

That night the sky had cleared. Sam took me out to his roof to see a sky full of trillions of stars, more than I’d ever seen. While I gaped in wonder, he pointed out constellations and galaxies.

“Sam, where do you think the blue aliens came from?”

“I’ve always thought they were from the heart of the Milky Way,” he said. “I’ve imagined they sent research ships out to the far ends of the spirals of the galaxy to find like minded civilizations. When you think about it, they must have had families and friends they left behind. You have to wonder if they fell in love, or suffered heartbreak.”

“You’re such a romantic.”

“Maybe. To be honest, and don’t tell me I’m crazy, but Lilah I think I’m falling in love with you. This is more than an infatuation. I don’t mean to sound like a cliché but…” He held me close. “Do you believe in love at first sight?”

I rested my head on his chest. “Yes, I do. Sam, I absolutely believe it,” and that was no lie.

Savor those perfect moments in life, because in today’s world they never seem to last, especially in the freezing war torn Midwest.

Later that night, as we finished dinner at one of Sam’s favorite places on the edge of Lake Michigan we held hands and talked. I told Sam that the lake looked like a frozen ocean. The only difference was that I couldn’t smell the salt in the air.

Just as Sam was about to speak, a loud voice shouted “WHORE WHORE. Stay away from him. She’s nothing but a harlot sent here to seduce you and take you from us.”

Obviously they must have seen the interview that had been aired the day before.

“Ladies,” said Sam, as he stood. “Please stop.”

“Whore, whore, whore,” a group of a dozen women yelled as they ran towards us.

Then the unthinkable happened. Hell, it seems like everything is unthinkable these days, but this was personal. One of the women came at me with a knife. Sam stepped in her way and I can still hear myself screaming as she plunged it into his heart.

The poisoned tipped knife that was meant for me went into Sam’s chest. The women continued to scream at me. They pushed me down and started kicking me and clawing at me. Suddenly I was pulled up by Sam’s strong arm. The knife wound barely fazed him. I’d never seen anything like it.

“Leave her alone,” he growled at the women. “Be gone.”

Sam indeed did have super strength. The press showed up and he told them how he’d saved the woman he loved, and gave a stern warning to anyone who would come between us. I was in in a world of hurt, but overwhelmed with emotion when I heard his words. I started to cry, not because of the pain but because my heart was breaking. I didn’t know what to think. I was falling in love but there was no way I could stay in crazy land with Sam Judge.

Medical crews on the scene put a butterfly bandage on a cut on my forehead. Sam’s wound was stitched up. They said the knife had been tipped with Zom-bee poison. It would have killed me, but it didn’t even seem to faze Sam.

The women were arrested. Sure I thought my nightmare was over, but it had just started.

Sam took me back to his house where, after a few strong painkillers, we fell asleep in each other’s arms.

I woke to a sound of something like water sloshing. I looked over to see a glint of metal by Sam’s head. There in her ameba form, slithering up the side of the bed was Harriet with a pair of scissors. Phil was by the door. Before I could say WTF Harriet had cut off Sam’s hair right at the bottom of his neck. I screamed. Phil screamed. Harriet dropped the hair on the floor and took her own shape.

Sam sat up in the bed. “I feel sick. Lilah, I can’t see. I feel so weak.” Then he passed out.

I’ve never been so angry in my life. All I can remember is screaming at Harriet and Phil.

“You told me you couldn’t transformed anymore,” I screamed Harriet.

“I lied, and you didn’t even catch it,” she said to me her eyes smoldering red. “You’re not even a real mutant you gray haired freak.” Then she grabbed up Sam’s hair off the floor, and ran from the room. That was the last time I ever spoke to Harriet.

After the paramedics showed up I kissed Sam and told him that I loved him. He opened his eyes and said, “I love you Lilah. Oh shit, what happened to my hair?”

Like the coward I am, I left Chicago leaving Sam and any romantic thoughts behind. His mother said I took his strength. I was branded as a whore and a horrible person. Screw them. I didn’t care. My only concern was about Sam.

Sam told everyone it wasn’t my fault. But it was. I knew it was all my fault. I should have never been involved with him. I should have never had told his secret to Harriet and Phil.

 

Chapter 6. Revelations

About a month later, as I was sitting on the beach drinking coffee and feeling sorry for myself Phil came up and sat next to me. I hadn’t seen him since that night in Chicago.

“What are you doing here Phil?”

He gave me a weak smile. “I’m sorry. I tried to stop her, Harriet. She just liquefied and I couldn’t stop her. I am so sorry.”

“Screw you Phil,” I knew he was telling me the truth but I was still angry with him. “Harriet sold Sam’s hair on eBay. Can you believe that? I will NEVER forgive her. Never.”

“Listen, Lilah, I have some news about Sam.”

“I know, he is doing better. Sam is better than ever. Blah blah blah. But he’ll never trust me again.”

“You’re wrong. It wasn’t his hair. What took his strength and eyesight was the Zom-bee poison on the knife. With your kiss you gave him the enzymes he needed to survive.”

“But Phil, I’d kissed him before that.”

“Your enzymes your body produced were activated by fear. When you thought Sam was going to die your body chemistry kicked in. There are others like you who also created these healing enzymes. Scientists are calling the enzymes the love bugs.”

I went home and tried to process the information Phil had told me. I didn’t know if I’d ever forgive Harriet. People were still calling me a whore and blaming me for taking away their hero. I didn’t take anything away from anyone. I saved Sam but the truth never mattered. Jeeze, if the truth ever mattered mankind wouldn’t be in such a fucked up mess.

Sam contacted me about once every week or so just to see how I was doing. I was cordial but embarrassed. He was friendly but never romantic. I couldn’t bring myself to even think of going out to see him. I wasn’t part of his weird culture. The thought of seeing his mother terrified me. My heart broke every time I saw one of texts or emails.

Everything seemed to be a mess, but I pulled myself up, ignored the hate mail and moved on. I landed a new job as the Host for the 62ndseason of The Bachelor. As far as I was concerned, personally I was done with love, but at least I could help some other poor fool try their hand at it. The good reviews knocked me off my feet. They were THAT GOOD. Fans loved me.

I also redecorated my house and adopted a medium-sized six-legged rescue dog named Muffin. My mom, who’d been my rock through this whole ordeal, told me that happiness would be mine to have. I hoped she was right. Oh, and she took in Muffin’s five legged, three tailed sister Cookie.

On morning, of my 30thbirthday I heard that Sam Judge was starting a foundation for the advancement of research on PAM babies. He had also donated millions of dollars to research into combatting harmful and deadly viruses and poisons that proliferated after the last biological warfare cluster right before Sam and I were born.  There was something else I found out. Sam Judge had a PhD in Biochemistry. Who would have known? I sure didn’t and it wasn’t anything he advertised.

Sam Judge was strong without his superpowers. He was strong with his compassion and his mind. And here I was hosting a dating show. Hey, I guess somebody had to do it.

I heard a knock on the door. I almost didn’t get it. Seriously, I never answered my door these days. Half the time it was a bag of dog shit, or something equally nasty. To my surprise Sam stood on my front porch.

His hair had grown out to his shoulders. The addition of glasses made him look even sexier than he already was.

I hardly got the words out, “Sam what are you doing here?”

“I got tired of the cold. Are you going to invite me in?”

It turns out The PAM Center for Biological Research was being built just down the road from me at University of California, Irvine. Sam was also going to be teaching there.

We got married six months later and I’m expecting our baby. Yes, we had all the tests done and the baby has no mutations.

Yesterday as we walked along the beach a giant fireball came from the sky and landed about a quarter mile from us. We ran to see what it was. Another alien spacecraft. Yes, I finally got to see the aliens. I hugged Sam and told him I loved him more than all the stars in the sky. Yes, my grandparent’s crazy was the new normal, but life is good, and I know it will only get better.

~ end

Short Story Sunday Romance Marathon: Perfection

This is a story about my brother Max, first posted in 2013. A lot has happened between now and then. But more than that it is a story about trust, and frustration, and friendship, expectations, relationships, and love. Sort of. Nothing much is ever clean cut or easy.

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Perfection

Maxwell drove down the coastal highway, roof open under the stars and the cool night air, thinking about his life as a top of the heap alpha male Vampire. It was a good time to ponder.

He didn’t have personal friendships with humans, the way some other Vampires did. He would protect them when necessary but he wouldn’t be their friend – at least not a close friend, not for a long time.

Of course he had human lovers, but that was pure physical need for their touch and their blood.

Vampire woman were another matter. He tended to be a freak magnet when it came to them. The normal ones were out there but they were always involved or off-limits in some way or another.  Or they were too strong and independent. Or in rare moments, years ago, he’d used bad judgement and not seen the big picture. Screw the big picture, he’d grown up and moved on. He was different now.

There were always other men, but right now he had the need for a female of his own kind. Someone safe and easy. Someone who would be there for him after a job that often involved violence and other unpleasantries.

He’d had plenty of friends with benefits.

Camel by the Sea. The beautiful village on the California coast. A place full of artists and rich people and those just wanting some peace and quiet. His Grandmama had lived here when the artist colony was thriving at the turn of the 20th century. He used to visit her and fall in love with the place and everyone in it.

This weekend was the Concourse de Elegance the most prestigious car show in the universe. Everyone who was anyone would be here, including Vampire Hunters. And since Max was the world’s foremost hunter of Vampire Hunters he was looking forward to it. A weekend of perfect cars, perfect women and perfect hunting.

It had been a long day and a long drive. He took his bags out of the car and walked to the door of the cottage he’d rented with 3 of his colleagues. He wasn’t sure who’d be here as it was last notice for him. He’d hoped it would be Pierce and David, two of the best and total car guys. He figured as long as they were there they might as well have some fun.

He used his key and as he opened the door cheers came up. Female cheers.

Elizabeth, Janye and Mehitabel. Vampire women who were also Hunter/Enforcers of the highest order and all GIRLS.

This was not what he was expecting. Not at all.

They exchanged warm greetings (he didn’t show his true feelings about the situation) and he left to shower off the weariness of the road. As he was drying off he could hear the girls talking. He stopped rubbing his hair to listen.

Janye: I can’t believe the choices Max makes. His last girlfriend was one of those types who always looks perfect and helpless. A total control freak.

Elizabeth: Total bitch. She just used him and he was too stupid to know it. Oh my God she had fangs like a saber tooth tiger, no it was more like a rabbit. And she was always telling everyone how attractive she was. I wish she’d done us all a favor and gone down with the Titanic.

Mehitabel: She used him. Most of them just used him. He wouldn’t know his perfect match if she slapped him across the face.

The women went on talking about his physical attributes (excellent), his professional attributes (excellent), his qualities as a Vampire (outstanding) and his relationships with woman (pathetic.) Great, this was going to be a wonderful weekend.

He’d known all three of them for years, over 100 but he’d never heard this side of the story. Damn. Was he that ridiculous? No, it had to be them. Women were so skewed.

He’d always been friends with Elizabeth and Jayne. It wasn’t like the movies or books where Vampire women drop their clothes and crawl naked all over their dominant male counterparts. Besides, these two were like sisters.

Then there was Mehitabel. Beautiful and strange, at least to him. He couldn’t stay away from her at one time, but he couldn’t be with her, not in his heart. She was too easy for him to use. He’d never love her, but he’d never met a woman so sexy, who could drive him so insane with desire. But she wasn’t the one. He made that clear from the start. It would never be.

The women helped him bring in the weapons and they sat around the table with bottles of wine, Bourbon and blood. They laughed over old times, new times and everything in between.

Despite his first impression he knew these three Vampire women were at the top of their game and would be loyal and true with him. And in turn he would do anything to protect them. They’d be a good team. They’d get the job done.

Beside that, he knew they’d like the cars.

They were excited to show him their dresses. Elizabeth, the most outgoing, a California blonde of the first order, had a red-flowered strapless sundress of silk with a wide skirt and strappy red heels. Jayne had a royal blue halter dress that looked like it had come right out of Grace Kelly’s closet. A redhead with an attitude, Jayne had a fierce sence of humor and a fierce sence of the fight. Mehitabel had a black sheath dress with a pattern of leaves woven into the fabric. It was form fitting, which was good since she had an extraordinary form. She’d wear it with a long strand of real black pears and matching earrings. She’d wear her brown hair sleek and long.

Mehitabel was as odd and unusual as her name, but he had always liked her. He was drawn to her humor and her matter of fact ways with a touch of something sad that he could never quite figure out.

He’d also had a history with Mehitabel. She knew his every move. And in turn he knew every move she made, every inch of her body, everything she had to give him and then some.  But she wasn’t the one. She wasn’t the girl of his dreams. She was different. Max wasn’t looking for different. He was looking for perfection. But that was a long time ago, at least 90 years, maybe more like 100.

As the night went on he thought maybe he’d relive some of the magic of days gone by. It would be a way to get off some of the tension before a week of dangerous work.

“I’m going to go to the beach. Anyone want to join me?” He asked that as he looked at the women.

“Sure,” said Mehitabel, “I’ll go.”

They walked along making small talk. It seems so comfortable and so right. Old friends forever, just like old time. As they came to the beach on the edge of the Pacific Ocean Mehitabel became silent.

“You’re quiet tonight,” Max said, ready to make a move on her. One kiss and she’d be his for the week. The others wouldn’t care, unless it was pure envy.

Mehitabel stepped away. “It was never friends with benefits or fuck buddies or whatever you want to call it with me Max. I loved you but you never wanted it. You just threw it away and treated me like some common girl that needed to be slut shamed. I loved you for so long and now I don’t know. I’m not perfect enough for you. You want a woman who will break your heart into a thousand shards and I can’t do that for you. If you had spent some time with me, some real-time and looked past the imperfections…”

“I never said that…” Max protested.

“You didn’t have to. You used me Max. You used me so I had to let you go. Don’t you understand?” Mehitabel was now angry, something he’d never seen.

He tried to take her hand, “The last time we saw each other, I mean romantically, you were the one who turned me away. You told me to go.”

She stepped away again. “To go back to your girlfriend. I wasn’t going to be with a man who was cheating on another girl, especially another Vampire. I told you that. Remember?”

Max remembered too well. She’d always been so friendly and compliment about his relationship rules.

Mehitabel continued her rant. “And there had been no romance. Sure we’d talked into the night. Sure we had some sort of weird connection where we could read each other’s thoughts, excuse me, I could read your thoughts, or at least I know when you’re thinking about ME, but it was never romance. Not with you it wasn’t. You did everything you could to talk yourself out of caring about me.”

“I’ve been thinking about you a lot,” Max said gently, trying to calm her.

“I know that.”

She was right. She always knew. There was some sort of strong connection where she always knew when he was thinking about her. It was spooky.

“Why didn’t you contact me?” Max was almost feeling hurt that she’d think of ignoring him after all of their history.

“Why didn’t you love me Max?”

“It wasn’t like that Mehitabel. I was just looking for something else.”

“What? Oh right, perfection. Well Max, I might be among the most elite hunters on the planet but I’ll never be anything but an imperfect slut to you.  I’m never going to let you break my heart again. Do you understand that Max?”

“I’m sorry.”

“So am I.”

She walked down the beach alone. He wondered if she was crying. He’d find out later.

Over the years he’d taken down Werewolves, Vampire Hunters with fire blowers, Ghosts, Rogue Vampires and Zombies. He’d seen it all. He was Maxwell August Todd, one of the greatest Enforcer/Hunters of all time, but this was one battle he couldn’t win.

“Mehitabel, I’m sorry,” he called after her.

Then he remembered something his mother had told him, one of those things that he wished he’d remembered earlier. “Max, my darling boy, remember, if we were all perfect then life would be so boring you’d hardly be able to stand it.”

Looking down the beach at the woman walking along the edge of the night surf, he suddenly realized he was in love and this would be the most difficult fight of his life.

He called her name again. She turned and yelled “Go to Hell.”

“Yes,” he said to himself out loud, “to hell and back.”

Short Story Sunday Romance Marathon: Sunsets and Ginger Ale

The Romance Marathon Continues…

I love this story from Jade M. Phillips, my friend and fellow WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) writer. Make sure you read all of it. You’ll thank me for it later.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Sunsets and Ginger Ale

“What do you miss most about life, June?”

I turned to look at Harold, his face an exact replica of how I’d always remembered him: kind, loyal, trusting. I played with the hem of my dress in thought.

“I’m not sure. That was so long ago. I hardly remember what it was like to be alive. But I guess I’d have to say the sunsets.”

Harold nodded.

“I remember sitting on the veranda and watching the sun sink below the mountains. How the clouds would turn into soft vermillion and rose-petal pink and the air would become still. I miss the calm and the purity of that moment. I guess I’d have to say sunsets is what I miss most about life.”

I turned again to my husband. He was perched on his favorite stuffed chair in our living room staring out into the darkness. His wrinkled hand laid lax on the arm rest.

“Why is it that we cannot see the sun anymore Harold? Like we only exist in perpetual darkness? It is as if we just cease to exist during the daylight hours. I find myself sitting in this same spot as though I’d always been here. But I know that cannot be. I know that day turns to night and night to day. Why do you think that is Harold?”

“I don’t know June. Probably because we are dead.”

“Mmm,” I mused.

I tried my hardest to think of how it used to be. I knew that there was more than the omnipresent blackness. I knew that we used to have a life, children, and friends. I knew that I used to cook and clean and do other common household duties. But the harder I strained to recall those details, the harder it was to remember. I sighed and looked to my love. “You?”

“What?” Harold asked.

“What do you miss about life?”

“Ginger ale,” he answered without hesitation.

I snorted. “Ginger ale?”

“Yes,” he replied. “I miss the first sip of a cold Ginger ale over ice. The way the bubbles would tingle my tongue and the fizz would make my eyes water.”

“Yes. That was lovely,” I agreed. “I miss that too.”

“Harold?”

“Yes, my love.”

“Would you mind turning on the light? I get so sick of the darkness sometimes.”

Harold weighed my request and stretched his neck. “You know I cannot always do it. But I can try.”

“Please?” I asked.

“Of course.”

I watched Harold’s face. I could tell he was concentrating very hard, his eyes burning straight into the brass lamp that sat on the side table. The light flickered but did not fully turn on. Harold dropped his head.

“I’m too tired tonight honey,” he said as he glanced my way. I knew he could see the disappointment in my face.

“Why don’t you give it a try, June?”

I flinched. Wow. I’d never thought of that. I just always assumed that I could not turn it on. I wondered why that was.

“Okay,” I agreed. “But… how?”

Harold crossed one leg over the other and adjusted himself in the seat next to mine. “I suppose it has something to do with energy,” he replied. “Just try to direct yourself into the light. Focus all of your thoughts, memories, everything straight into the lamp. That’s what I do.”

“Oh. Okay.”

I leaned forward a bit and locked my eyes on the lamp. I took everything that was in my mind and imagined all of my thoughts, dreams and memories combining into a white ball. It took all I had to keep them there together. I strained to focus, my body tense. Once I felt confident enough I gave one, hard, mental shove and sent that ball to the lamp. To my wonderment the light flickered on and stayed that way.

“Righto!” Harold exclaimed. “Great job! See. I knew you could do it my June bug.”

I giggled with excitement and gazed around the room, enjoying my accomplishment.

“Harold?” I asked, my nose wrinkled in confusion.

“Yes, my love.”

“Where did my mother’s chaise lounge go? I don’t see it anywhere.”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“And that piano? It has moved places. It used to be against that wall over there.” I pointed across the room.

I could feel myself getting upset. I loved that chaise longue. My mother would turn in her grave if she knew it had gone missing. And the piano. It looked much better where it had originally been.

“Probably the living,” Harold guessed.

I leaned back in my chair and rested my head against the back. “I suppose.”

“Honey!”

Harold and I froze at the deep male voice that echoed down the hall.

“That darned lamp has turned itself on again.”

A tall man entered the room in a long grey robe. Harold and I exchanged glances as the man leaned over and clicked off the light.

“We’ve got to get rid of that thing,” he mumbled as he exited the room, leaving us in pitch black again.

Harold leaned over his chair and grabbed my hand, sensing my sadness.

“It’s okay. You can try again tomorrow night.”

“I suppose,” I sighed. “I suppose.”

***

“What do you miss most about living, June?”

Harold was sitting in his same favorite chair that he always sat. His eyes wide in thought.

“Gosh, I’m not sure, Harold. That was so long ago, I hardly remember a thing. But I guess I’d have to say sunsets. I miss the way the sky would turn to different shades of orange and golden yellow. The way the pastel clouds would dust the tops of the mountains. That’s what I miss most.”

Harold humphed in agreement.

“Harold, why is it that we cannot see those sunsets anymore? Why have we been in darkness for so long?”

“Probably because we are dead my June bug.”

“Yes,” I nodded. “I guess that would be it.”

I tried to recall anything other than the darkness and Harold and sunsets, but it was like a long forgotten memory that I could not grasp. I sighed and let it go.

“What do you miss most about being alive, Harold?”

“Ginger ale,” he replied.

“Ginger ale?”

“Yes. I miss how the bubbles burn my tongue with the first sip and the fizz that goes down my throat. Delicious.”

“Yes. Ginger ale was nice,” I agreed.

“Harold?”

“Yes?”

“Could you open the window? It gets so stuffy in here sometimes.”

Harold adjusted himself in his seat and uncrossed his legs. “I can try. But you know it does not always work.”

“Thank you, darling.”

I watched Harold concentrate his eyes across the room to the window. His face was strained and focused. The wooden window panes creaked but it did not budge. Harold collapsed against the back of his chair. “I’m sorry June. I’m too tired tonight. Why don’t you give it a try?”

“Really?” I looked at Harold in surprise. I’d never thought of doing it myself. I guess I’d always just assumed that I wouldn’t be able to. “But… how?” I queried.

Harold shrugged. “I just focus myself, everything that is in my mind and soul and I direct it at the window.”

“Okay…” I wriggled my toes and leaned forward, directing my eyes to the window. I pulled every thought and memory from my mind, all of my emotions and dreams and pushed them together. I mentally shoved them towards the window, hard. To my astonishment, the panes creaked and the glass slid open just a few inches.

“Good one, June! I knew you could do it!” Harold smiled.

I leaned back, pleased, and watched the curtains ruffle in the breeze coming through the now opened window.

I sighed. “That’s better.”

“Yes,” Harold agreed. “Very nice.”

“Honey?”

Harold and I froze at the male voice that rang down the hall. “Did you open the window?”

“No!” A female voice replied from what sounded to be upstairs.

A tall man in a robe trudged through the room and closed the window. “If I wasn’t mistaken, I’d think we weren’t alone in this house,” he muttered and then left the room in haste.

I huffed my annoyance, but Harold reached over and squeezed my hand.

“It’s okay, my love,” he soothed. “We’ll try again tomorrow night.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “We will.”

***

“Harold?”

“Yes, darling.”

“What do you miss most about life?” I asked my lovely husband.

“Ginger ale,” he replied without missing a beat.

“Ginger ale?” I asked.

Harold was staring out into space, a concerned look upon his face.

“What is it Harold? Are you alright?”

“Yes, my love. It’s just… I heard the living talking the other night.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. They want us to leave.”

“Now why would they want to do that?” I scoffed. “This is our house!”

“Probably because we are dead.”

“Oh yes. I must’ve forgotten.”

“They said they will be sending in a priest.”

“A priest?”

“To exorcise us.”

“Now what in the world does that mean?”

“From my understanding it means that the priest will set us free.”

“Oh,” I mused. “But where will we go Harold? This is our home. The only place I’ve ever known.”

Harold sighed and shook his head. “I don’t know, June. I don’t know.”

“What will they do with all of our things? Our furniture?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Don’t you think we should’ve been acknowledged in this decision? They can’t just kick us out. Why wouldn’t they ask us first?”

“Probably because we are dead,” Harold replied dryly.

“Yes. I suppose.”

“When do you think it will happen?”

Harold shrugged again.

Just then the tall man entered the room and Harold and I froze. But he was not wearing his grey robe as usual. He was dressed in a sweater and slacks. A man in a black robe followed closely behind him.

“The priest,” I whispered in horror. Harold nodded.

“This is the room,” the tall man said, gesturing around to all four walls.

“Yes, I can sense it,” the priest said. “Now if you and the misses will please leave me with the house, I will make sure everything is right before the time you get back.”

“Thank you.” The tall man left.

“Harold, what is going on?”

“I believe this would be our exorcism,” Harold said.

The priest opened a fat book that he had been holding in his hand. The bible, I assumed.

He withdrew a folded piece of paper, cleared his throat, and began speaking.

“In the name of Jesus Christ by His blood, I declare His dominion over all base entities. I humbly request that you appoint sacred angels to keep me from any tactics of the adversary created to oppose this petition for release.”

At the priest’s words, I began to feel numb, my transparent body tingling and buzzing.

“Harold,” I rasped. “I don’t like this.”

I watched the holy man pace the floor. He now held a small vial and sprinkled the wet contents about the room.

I looked to my love for reassurance. The place where my heart would’ve been thumped wildly with panic. “Harold. Where will we go? Will we be together always? I don’t know what I would do without you.”

But Harold could not reply before the priest began again.

“I ask you to order all those demons and diabolical angels appointed in opposition to me to vacate the premise.”

“But Harold. We are not demons, nor diabolical.”

Harold locked eyes with mine.

“No June. No we are not.”

I studied my husband’s kind face. He looked tired. So very tired. But he smiled at me reassuringly. Just like Harold. He was always calm and soothing in the face of the unknown.

I gasped as the priest raised his voice to a higher pitch, his words ringing out through the room loudly. “Dear God, I request that you erect a prohibition to all loitering spirits to end their duties and be banished.”

I looked down at my hand on the arm rest of my chair. And where it used to be pure white, I could see the quilting of the chair through it. I was fading. And Harold was fading.

“Harold. I cannot lose you,” I moaned, feeling my words drawl more slowly than usual from my mouth.

The priest was preaching and flinging his hands up in the air excitedly. It made me all the more nervous.

“Harold. Hold my hand. Please. I’m scared.”

Harold reached over and grasped my hand in his cold one. It was not like holding hands with the living, but more of a dim sensation, an unseen connection between the two of us. We sat there, holding each other, watching the priest pace and shout as though being at a movie theatre unable to control the actors on the film. I whimpered helplessly.

“I’m here, my love,” Harold cooed. “It’s going to be alright.”

My mind became foggy and I could hardly remember my own name as the priest continued his ritual.

“Jesus Christ, I beg you to banish them where they cannot vex me. I submit to all of the plans you have in this spiritual warfare I am surrounded by.”

“Harold!” I cried out. I could feel my husband fading from my side, my heart breaking to pieces and floating away with him. If I had been alive enough to form tears, they would’ve been pouring down my face.

Harold’s voice echoed out from far away. It was as if he was at the end of a long dark tunnel. “It’s alright June bug. I love you. Always.”

“Through Jesus Christ I pray, who was crucified for us so that we may have an opportunity to live. Amen.”

Darkness again. Always darkness.

I closed my eyes and was blinded by the bright lights behind my lids. My body felt soft and light and calm. Nonexistent. I was floating. I drifted into the pastel clouds dusting the mountain. I became golden yellow and rose-petal pink. I became vermillion. I became the sunset.

And I supposed, just for a moment, that Harold was out there somewhere sipping happily at his cold, fizzy Ginger ale, the bubbles tickling his tongue.