Short Story Sunday: Snow Mountain

Snow Mountain

I usually don’t answer my phone when I see a number I don’t recognize but I was expecting a call from a big potential client. If I got this contact it would pay for my daughter’s first year in graduate school with maybe some left over.

Me: Hello this is Astrid.

My caller: Hi Astrid, I met your son Sam the other day at the Disk Bay Observatory. He told me you’d painted the mural in the lobby. Your work is beautiful.

It wasn’t Louanne Freeman, the woman who wanted half a dozen insanely expensive and historic paintings restored. 

Me: Who is this?

My caller: Nevil Simon.

Me: Oh my goodness. goodness. Nev Simon.

He went on a bit about what he’d been doing for the past thirty five years. Just a bit. Astrophysics. Divorce. No kids. Two cats. He’d looked up my online portfolio. 

Nevil Simon wanted to see me. Let’s back up a bit. I’m a 60 year old widow with three kids who are all out of the house, but still in college. Nevil Simon, an old flame from my college days contacted me. Yes, that Nevil. The one I never talked about but never forgot. 

We met in at his cabin in Tahoe. The weather was perfect, but we still ended up spending most of our time inside.

On the last night there, over steaks and a nice bottle of Zinfandel, Nevil smiled and took my hand. I looked into his big brown eyes, with those long lashes, and thought he was going to tell me something horribly romantic. 

“Some friends of mine invited me to go with them to the Snow Mountain Wilderness to find Bigfoot. Come with us. It will be fun,” he said. “A real adventure.”

Maybe at my age I shouldn’t be thinking of romance.

“Are you serious? Bigfoot?”

He laughed. “I don’t want to go alone. I need another sane person there with me.”

“It will be in the 90’s and there will be a million rattle snakes,” I said.

“The nights cool down to the 50’s.”

But my heart fluttered a bit. More than a bit. Damn, at 61 Nevil was still hot. “Fine, I’ll wear my heavy boots,” I said.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go into the wilderness and sleep on the ground in a tent. The Snow Mountain Wilderness is beautiful. I didn’t want to go into the wilderness with a group of die hard cryptozoologists. I didn’t want to go out into the woods at night with night gear goggles and listen for the howls of giant hairy humanoid creatures who might or might not exist.

It all just seemed weird. 

But I was going anyway. I was going because of a boy. A sixty one year old boy.

Nevil told me not to worry about food but I’m a mom, so I packed a few things. Old habits die hard. I packed wine, and cheese, and chocolate. I read that Bigfoots, or Bigfeets, or Sasquatches, or Squatches, or whatever, I heard they liked apples and other gifts, so I brought apples. I like apples so they wouldn’t be wasted. I couldn’t’ believe I was packing apples for am eight foot tall mythical beast. 

I also packed stuff for smores, and Smokehouse almonds, because large hairy creatures in the wilderness might like something that wasn’t squirrel meat or acorns or whatever the hell they eat, if they do indeed exist and eat. I figured if the Bigfoots didn’t want to make smores I’d make them for the humans. Everyone loves smores.

I told my kids where I was going and what I’d be doing. They couldn’t stop laughing. They asked me to take lots of pictures, and told me to have fun and be careful. Sam told me to bring condoms. His siblings, Rachael and Chase laughed out loud. I love my kids.

The drive to the turn off for the Big Foot Camp was a three and a half hour drive. It gave Nevil and I an opportunity to catch up that didn’t involve alcohol or sex. 

“So, why’d you ask me to this Big Foot thing again?” I asked. 

“I thought you’d be up for it. You always liked weird things, so I decided to look you up.”

“Weird things?”

“Maybe weird wasn’t the right word. Fantasy things. Lord of the Rings, Maxfield Parrish posters, fairies, Dracula, gothic things, you know.”

“That was in college.  I liked the art. In fact, I’ve made a lucrative career out of it.”

“I know. Inert foot in mouth Nev. But you like camping.”

“Sure.”

“I don’t believe we’ll see anything but it will be fun. You know, kind of like an old fashioned snipe hunt.”

“Well, now that you put it that way…”

“I wanted to see you again Astrid.”

As I reached to take his hand the car bumped off of the paved road onto dirt and we came to a dusty stop behind a FedEx truck.

The driver waved. Nevil rolled down the window. “What are you doing way out here? Delivering to the ranger station?”

“I’m not sure who it is. I’ve never seen them. They have a bear proof box about a hundred feet up this drive. I drop off packages every few weeks. Sometimes I pick up. Living off the grid I guess. The names are always funny like Alba Tross, or Harry Balls. Hey, changing the subject, there’s been some trouble up the road. Missing college students or something like that. Be careful.”

He waved us on, and we continued for another half hour down the road. We made jokes about the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine Van showing up any minute now.

The camp was set up when we arrived. 

A big guy with a round face named Bill greeted us with hugs. The other Bigfoot Hunters, Janice, Mike, and Drew welcomed us as well. We were told they’d heard a lot of howling the night before and heard something large in the woods. According to Bill we were in for the adventure of a lifetime. Oh boy.

Just as we settled down for beer, chips, and salsa with the group a couple of vehicles drove up. One was a truck from the National Forest Service. The other was a Glenn County Sherriff’s SUV. The officer from Glenn County explained to us that three college students had gone missing. It wasn’t the first time this year. Foul play was expected. Blood had been found on their car along bullet holes. 

Two male suspects were at large and considered armed and dangerous. If we saw a couple of white men in their 40’s with shaved heads and racists neck tattoos we were told to call the sheriff’s office or 911 right away. They handed us flyers with pictures of the men. 

The two National Forest Service Rangers told us to stay off the trails at night, as if that was going to stop a group of seasoned Bigfoot hunters.

I asked Nevil about it. He said we’d be fine. That was small comfort to me. My husband had been murdered. When I heard of events like this it was never fine in my mind.

At dusk I walked to the nearby creek to watch the sunset and maybe see some wildlife. Nevil was catching up with his friends. Honestly, I had no idea what they were talking about and just needed a few minutes by myself.  By the water I met a couple of young men, who were out birdwatching. They were maybe in their early 20’s. The one who introduced himself as Josh was a ghostly pale skinny kid with blue eyes and blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. The other, Daniel, was dark with curly black hair and brown eyes behind round wire rimmed glasses. I thought about my kids, then I thought about the killers with swastikas tattooed on their necks. 

“Hey, guys,” I said. “Be careful out here.”

Daniel promised me they would. 

Then out of the blue Josh and Daniel said they knew where the Bigfoot camp was. Josh gave me directions that I wrote down in the small sketchbook I always carry with me. When I looked up from the paper and they were gone. Maybe it was the mosquitos, or they were bored of a gray haired woman old enough to be their mother.

Later that night I got up for my own call of nature. On the way back to the tent I saw Josh and Daniel again. They waved. I waved. Nevil came out to find me, and Daniel recognized him as one of their former professors. He recognized the kid and they talked for a bit. He’d gotten into graduate school at UCLA. They’d talk later. They were camping nearby. Then Josh reminded us of the map. Then the young friends started down the trail, but not before they turned off their lantern. I could hear them talking softly to each other, then Nevil and I headed back to our own tent.

Nevil stopped me before we entered our camp. “Look up. What do you see?”

“A zillion stars. Oh my god it is beautiful. I don’t remember that last time I saw this many stars.”

“Do you see it up there?” He pointed.

“The big dipper and little dipper.”

“Also known as the big and little bears. See that bright star below the big dipper? That is Arcartus. It is on the end of the constellations Boötes the Herdsman. The herdsman can be seen driving his great plow, in a great circle around Polaris, the north star.  With his two trusted hunting dogs, which are represented by the constellation Canes Venatici on his right. Asterion is the northern dog and Chara is the southern dog. I always imagined them to be huge wolfhounds or retrievers of some sort. Boötes also resides next to three constellations: Hercules and Corona Borealis are on his left. Below him, Virgo in all her glory shines bright, perhaps waiting for him to seduce her along their trip across the Milky Way.

As he spoke, he stood behind me with his arms around my waist, holding me tight. 

“Was Arcartus anyone?” I asked.

“It means Guardian of the Bear. It keeps the big and little bear safe. Arcartus would look orange if we had a telescope. I’ll bring one next time, or better yet you can come spend a weekend with me.” He turned me around and kissed me. “A weekend without Bigfoot.”

“That would be awesome.”

“Astrid,” he whispered. “Shining bright.”

“My name doesn’t mean star.” I said, then felt stupid.

“It means divinely beautiful.”

“How’d you know that?”

“I looked it up.”

If he’d been anyone else I would have called him out, but tonight I didn’t care.

The next morning over coffee and bacon we were called love birds by the other Bigfoot hunters who all made kissy noises. 

So the big foot hunt was on. 

We trooped around for hours covered in layers of sweat, sunscreen, and dirt. Then, after dinner, as it grew dark, we heard knocking.

The knocking could have been caused by people. I bet pot growers in the National Forests did it all the time to freak people out. There was a howl, but it could have been anything or anyone. Still, I had chills up my spine. I couldn’t stop thinking about the young people who were missing. It could have been my kids and their friends. It could have been Nevil and I if we’d taken the wrong turn or showed up a few days earlier. 

As it grew darker, Nevil and I went down the narrow trail. The knocking became louder with the knocks closer together, almost in a rough rhythm. Sort of like toddlers banging on pans.

I shrugged off my pack and dug out a couple of flashlights. When I turned towards Nevil he was gone. 

Knock knock knock, in front of me. Then knock knock knock, behind me. 

I called for Nevil. 

“Astrid. I’m here.”

I turned around.

In front of me stood my husband. Yes, the same husband who’d been dead for eighteen years. I suddenly realized, the same husband whose murder had never been solved.

“Phil.” I could barely get my voice to work.

“You’ll see two young men. You’ve met them before. You will also see third stranger. The stranger will be wearing a yellow neon hunting vest and a bandana. Follow them.”

“What?”

“Do as I say?”

I stepped towards Phil. I was going to turn on my flashlight, but I didn’t have to. He sort of glowed, kind of like one of those old fashioned Santas, or a jellyfish in an aquarium, or a million other ways my overly visual brain started to fill my head with.

“I’m not exactly a ghost Astrid. I can’t stay long.”

“Phil.”

“I’m here to help.”

“What? How? Why? Why haven’t I seen you before now?”

“I can’t say.”

“The kids…”

“You’ve done a great job rising them. I am so proud of them all grown up and in school, on their own.”

“You know?”

“Of course I do.”

I stepped forward. “Phil, I’ve missed you so much.”

“I love you baby, always and forever. On the other hand, I’m not here and you’re still in the world of the living. Follow the boys. Give Nevil a chance. He’s a good man. Tonight follow the boys.”

“I love you,” I said.

Then he smiled at me and vanished. 

I turned around and there stood Nevil.

“There you are,” he said. “I thought I’d lost you. Are you alright?”

“Why?”

“You look like you’re about to cry.”

“I’m fine.”

He took me in his arms and hugged me tight. I closed my eyes and hugged back. 

When I opened my eyes, I saw a strange pair of eyes over Nevil’s shoulder. The largest person I’d ever seen in my entire life stood there glaring at me with a bandana over his face, a cap on his head, and a neon yellow vest. His eyes were a weird yellowish brown that looked like uranium glass under an ultraviolet light. He must have been almost seven feet tall with the build of a professional offensive lineman. 

“Come. The camp is this way,” he said. I tried to catch his accent but couldn’t make it out. Scottish maybe? 

“Who are you?” Nevil asked.

“Doctor Nev, you know stars. Come with me.”

Daniel and Josh stood smiling behind the large stranger.

“There you are Astrid, Dr. Nev,” said Josh. “Come on. We gotta go.”

Nevil wasn’t so sure. He pulled me aside.

“We don’t know anything about these guys.”

“I trust them.”

“Are you nuts? Why?”

“Stop acting like I’m some stupid silly college girl. I have a successful business. I’ve raised three wonderful children, mostly on my own. My husband was murdered. The killer was never found. I’ve been dealing with shit for years…on my own, so don’t question me. I don’t have to explain anything. If you want to stay behind that is your choice, but I’m going with these guys.”

“That guy is huge, dressed like he’s out of some weird survivalist cult.”

“Says the man who too me to a Bigfoot hunting expedition. Trust me Nev. Trust me.”

We hiked for another twenty minutes down a narrow trail lit by a small flashlight carried by the big man up front. The two young men walking behind us talked about something we couldn’t hear and laughed the way only young men do, with that sort of joyful raspy kind of unapologetic way. 

Then, our large guide stopped. The boys were quiet. The clearing in front of us lit up with lanterns and torches.

There stood fifteen large extremely hairy people in various styles of clothing, or no clothing. Only they weren’t people. They were Bigfoots. Our guide took off his bandana.

“Welcome,” he said. “Take these children home. Do what you will with the other two.”

By a fire Josh and Daniel lay underneath sleeping bags. A young woman sat by them. She looked up. What the…they were just standing next to us.

“Oh my god, help us. My friends need to get to the hospital,” she said.

I looked just beyond them and saw two men hanging by their feet from a tree. They were alive and trying to wiggle. They were the killers.

“How?” asked Nevil looking at me, then at the girl, and on to the Bigfoot group.

“Their spirits sought you out,” said our guide in a gruff voice, taking off her hat. Reddish brown hair tumbled out in a complex mass of curls and braids. Yes, our guide was female. “If you take our your phone and call 911 someone will come help. We have coverage up here. Don’t look surprised. We have a lot of things. Remember the FedEx truck?”

“They saved us,” said the girl who was named Katie. “They hung up the men who shot Daniel and Josh.” Katie turned to the Bigfoot group. “I will never forget your kindness. You will always be in my heart.”

The group of large people, because they were people of their own kind, gave Katie hugs, then they turned and walked into the woods.

About an hour later a rescue helicopter came for the three missing college students. Law enforcement came for the killers. Nevil and I walked back to the camp in silence.

We never told anyone about the Bigfoot community. Katie told law enforcement that she wasn’t sure who hung up the men who’d shot her friends. It was dark, she told them.

Nevil and I talked about the weirdness a little, well, a lot. We saw it. We experienced it. We couldn’t explain any of it. We never told his Bigfoot seeking friends about our experiences. I never told Nevil about my visit from Phil.

Later I told my children about it, as they listened in awe and wonder. As an empty nester I can still make them think I’m the cool mom. 

A few months later Nevil and I traveled down to Death Valley to see the weird geology and amazing stargazing. He’d brought a telescope.

“Look to the empty spot. That is Fomalhaut. It is a bit isolated. Some call it the solitary one. Look down the length of Pegasus and you’ll see it.”

The solitary one, I thought. That could have been me a few months ago, before I’d gone on a Bigfoot hunt. 

Nevil put his arm around my shoulder and we watched the shooting stars, just the two of us. Then again, I never knew, after the weekend in the Snow Mountain Wilderness if we’d ever really be alone again.

~ end

Lost Keys and Lies

Every have one of those days when getting out of the house seems nearly impossible?

I couldn’t find my keys this morning and of course I was running late. And no I can’t just change myself into a bat.  That only happens in fiction.

I’m scouring the house but nothing. Then I heard a throat clearing.  I turned around and behind me is the Ghost, damn him, with my keys.

“I believe I have something of yours.” He said that with a nasty curl of his lip then flicked a lock of black hair out of his eyes.

I reached for the keys and they vanished, along with the Ghost.

I let out a string of not so nice words (the kind moms pretend not to know) and then tried to sense where he could have gone.

Off of the bookshelf I grabbed the box with all of the spare keys. Does anyone else have keys to cars, doors, and safe boxes they don’t even remember?

Anyway I grabbed the spare keys to my car and yelled, “If you don’t give me my keys back I’ll pour a bottle of Pinesol on your grave. I’ll pour a gallon on it.”

Nothing.

“I know where your grave is Nigel. I looked you up. I know all about you.”

I heard a clang as the keys dropped on the tile floor of the kitchen. I picked them up and headed for the front door.

He stood there waiting for me. “How’d you find out where my grave is?”

“I don’t even know your last name. How would I know where your grave is?” I looked at him with such calm as his eyes narrowed and threatened to turn me to ice.

“You’re a Vampire and a liar,” he snarled at me.

“And I’m really good at being both.” Then I smiled and headed out the door.

Anyway, tell your kids that lies and bad words are not acceptable…of course unless you’re dealing with a Ghost.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

keys

Note: This was first posted in 2013. Today is a busy day for me so I thought you’d like more fun and a blast from the past from Nigel and me. Sure he’ll hate me for it but the guy is a Ghost. What do you expect? On the other hand being a Ghost has nothing to do with it. I bet he was an asshole when he was alive.

Short Story Sunday: The Hunter

The Hunter

“We pumped quite a bit of blood out of your stomach. We’re not sure where it came from.”

She heard the words but was the noise in her head was still loud…

“Your heart had stopped beating. You weren’t breathing. You were cold.”

A hospital bed. She was in a bed hooked up to equipment. Her throat hurt.

“We still can’t get your body temperature up to normal and your heart beat is extremely slow.”

She’d been found in a room of an abandoned house wearing nothing but a black silk cocktail dress and black high heeled sandals. The nails on her hands and feet were painted silver. Aside from that there was no jewelry, no purse, no identification. The man she’d been with had received minor injuries and would be in soon to see her. He said he was her boyfriend. Panic started to set in but she didn’t show it.

“Do you remember anything?”

“Not a lot.” She lied. She had remembered almost everything, despite the headache. The man called Austin had wanted to show her a house he was remodeling. He specialized in renovating Victorians and older historic homes. It was charming. It was haunted. “Is Austin alright?”

“He had a few stitches in his forehead, but yes, he is doing fine.”

“We left the club where we met. I mean, it wasn’t a hook up, we’d been seeing each other for a while. We’re friends. He told me about his work restoring old homes. I own some property I was thinking of having restored…He took me to a house he owns. It’s old, nobody lives there. A Queen Ann style Victorian. Beautiful. He showed me around and we ended up in an upstairs room.” She didn’t tell him of the phantoms and the screams that nearly burst her ear drums. She paused, and glanced at the needle in her arm. “Alright, we did fool around some. But we both started to feel really sick. He passed out first. I tried to wake him. I think we were drugged at the bar. Is he ok?”

“I’m fine sweetheart.” In the door stood a man with a bandage on his forehead. His brown eyes met her blue with almost a spark of both passion and hate. He smiled at the doctor.

“She’s a vampire and I’m a vampire hunter. I had no idea the house was haunted when I took her there. Sorry, it’s along running joke between us. Isn’t it Elizabeth?”

Her eyes met his again. A hunter hunting the huntress. “Is that all I am to you?”

He sat next on the edge of the bed and took her cold hand. “You need to warm up dear or they’ll never let you out of here. I know, it takes a lot of effort to keep your heart beating for those machines. You don’t want them thinking you’re dead.”

To think she was starting to fall in love with this man.

“I thought you were going to kill me last night but you saved my life. Why’d you do that Elizabeth?

Doctor Davis spoke up. “What is going on here?”

Austin smiled and spoke in a quiet calming voice. “I’m sorry for the confusion. We have our own language. We had a fight. She wasn’t going to kill me. Just an expression. She was angry. You know, I’m a typical guy. I did typical stupid guy stuff. We went to the house and like she said, we were both feeling sick. Then someone came in and mugged us. She saved me. I don’t know how, but she defended me. It was too dark to tell what was going on. We had a tumultuous relationship but we’re not violent, just a little dramatic.”

“He’d never touch me.” Elizabeth looked back at Austin. “The ones who attacked us… I had no idea. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

“I thought you’d know.”

“I don’t.”

“Huh. Interesting.”

They both talked to the police about what had happened. Their story was the same. They’d gone to a house he owned, it was unoccupied, they were attacked. They both had traces of an airborne toxin in their systems.

Elizabeth was released into Austin’s care. She’d told him she’d call a taxi but he insisted on bringing her home.

On the way he talked. She sat still, feeling sick, trying to regain her energy. The morning sun burned her eyes even through the fog.

“So my building, the house we were in last night is haunted. Those were ghosts.”

Elizabeth glanced over at him, then looked away. “Yes, they were ghosts. I know someone who can get rid of them for you. He’s good and his prices are reasonable.”

“You know Elizabeth, I’ve found at least a dozen of your kind, vampires, in the basements of abandoned old buildings I’ve purchased for restoration. They weren’t like you. They were like rats.”

“I’m not like them. I don’t live in the shadows or in a crypt. I don’t sleep in a coffin. Most of us aren’t like your rats. We live normal lives.”

“When were you born?”

“1834. I’ve been a vampire since 1853. How did you know?”

He gave her a mean smile. “Call it a 6th sense. My grandfather hunted vampires. It’s in my blood, no pun intended.”

They arrived at her house. He was impressed. A beautiful craftsman style, maybe 2,500 square feet, nice old neighborhood. Inside the woodwork was beautiful. Her decorating was a combination of period and modern. Nice.

“You can go,” she told him.

“Show me around. This place is great.”

“I’m the original owner. 1905.”

As she showed him around Austin noticed a diploma in her office. “You didn’t tell me you were an attorney. Go figure.”

“I told you I consulted for the Justice Department. There is no shame in what I do.”

The house was impressive as was the vampire who lived in it. “Was that my blood they pumped out of your stomach?”

“Most of it. Don’t worry, you won’t turn into a Vampire. I just took maybe a pint.”

Austin noticed a mirror on the wall. He took Elizabeth by the shoulders and turned her around to face it. He could see his own reflection but hers was just a dim shadow.

“Look at my eyes, in the mirror. Look at my eyes,” she told him.

Their eyes locked in the glass. Her image became clear. He laughed. It wasn’t the sarcastic bitter laugh she’d heard all morning. This was joy.

“Elizabeth, will you be alright if I leave you?”

“You aren’t going to kill me?”

“Not today.”

“Then when? When will you be back to cut out my heart and cut off my head.”

“Do you want to go out sometime on a real date?”

“You’re scaring me Austin.”

“I know. I’ll pick you up tomorrow around 8:00. It should be dark by then. Wear something nice.”

She watched through the window as he drove away. Her heart had stopped beating. She wasn’t breathing. In the refrigerator was a bottle of blood. She was starving. Her head was light but that was because of him.

Austin drove away with a smile on his face. What a rush. He wasn’t sure what tomorrow would bring. Either he’d kill her or he’d marry her. That is, if she didn’t kill him first.

This was the first story in the Austin and Elizabeth series. For their continuing adventures click here.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

A Faint Smile

He turned to her

A faint smile

With depth

And sharpness

Yet when he turned

It was as if

He was only

An image

In a daguerreotype

A ghost within

The confines

Of a photograph

A metal plate

Yet there

He sat in

My big wingback chair

A ghost

Just a ghost

With a faint smile

Then a wink

That knew

What I was thinking.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Desert Winds

On the edge of the Sandia Mountains, My friends Amelia her husband Raul and I drove down the gravel road to the home of Ximena, an ancient woman who mostly lived in solitude with the company of the birds and the wind.

Ximena’s home was a large old adobe structure rimmed with bells and bushes of purple flowers. She greeted us at the door, as always wearing a long colorful skirt. Her black hair flowed down her back almost to her knees. Dark eyes smiled at us in a welcome greeting, as did her fangs. She is almost as ancient as Tellias and Eleora, and like them Ximena looks like a young college girl.

We came into the main room. Walls lined with books and crystals flanked part of the room with windows on the other side looking towards the mountains. We could smell the dried chiles rastas hanging in the kitchen. A red shouldered hawk perched on a wooden chair. It called out when it saw us.

“Maria, you still sing so sweetly,” I said to the bird. She gave me a cold stair then allowed me to pet her feathered head.

Maria the hawk had been around since I was a young woman, more than a hundred years. I wondered at times how she could live so long, then I stopped wondering and chalked it up to magic, love or pure mystery. It is what it is. That is how things work here in the land of magic.

A youngish man with dark hair and eyes like Ximena, but pale skin, came into the room. He was introduced to us as Kyle. But he wasn’t like us. I could feel his warmth as soon as he walked into the room.

Kyle was a man of many talents. He was a photographer, a teacher, a writer, an engineer and apparently a lover. After talking over wine and a light diner we also discovered Ximena’s young friend was also extremely opened minded.

He was also a young widow. One night left him alone with his dreams dead, but he kept going and kept at least a portion of the dreams and spark alive.

While Raul, Amelia and Ximena went to a back room to examine some old maps or something, Kyle and I went out to the porch. Bats flew about as the sounds of the bells filled the air.

Kyle asks me about my husband Teddy. I smiled shyly and told him how we’d met as kids and fallen in love a hundred years later. I think I’d always been in love with my husband on some level.

Then Kyle spoke of his lost love. “After Kayla, my wife, passed away everyone kept asking me if I’d go back. Over and over they’d ask the old what if question. You know, you can’t go back. I can’t bring her back. I will never forget her. She is part of me, but I live in the world of the living.”

“No ghost?” I had to ask (always thinking of obnoxious Nigel)

“Only a Vampire in the Southwest would ask that,” Kyle answered with a knowing smile.

“A Vampire anywhere would ask that. Don’t get me started on the ghosts I see all the time.”

“No ghost. Kayla moved on the night she died. That is a good thing.”

“Yes it is. You’re a wise man with a loving heart. In some circles that is a rare thing.”

He leaned against the rail. “I don’t know you except by reputation but I want to ask you a few thing, or at least see how you feel about a few things.”

“Okay,” I said.

“I’m in love with Ximena. I know what she is. I know how old she is. It doesn’t matter.”

I shrugged and laughed. “My 500 or so year old Grandmama is in love with a 35 year old. What are you, about 38?”

He smiled. I was correct. He was 38 and absolutely a delight – young, yet years ahead of most men his age.

“Dear Kyle, you also want me to tell you if I think it would be wise if you became a Vampire? Right?”

He smiled an uncomfortable hot blooded smile.

I said to him, “Kyle, you are in love with the cold wind under the moon and the sprint of night. She is an amazing being. I’ve always admired her. If you feel you can make a life out here with her then do it. But don’t lose yourself in her. Always be who you are, even after you become a Vampire. That is the only way it will work. If you try to be too much like her she will leave you, because she fell in love with you, not with herself.”

Raul and Ximena came out to join us with wine for Ryan and spiced blood for the rest of us.

Ximena whistled and Maria the red shouldered hawk came and landed on a table next to her hand. Ximena gave the bird a piece of meat she took from a bag in her pocket.

Into the night we talked until the sun came up and created unbelievably beautiful light and shadows on the mountains.

I could hear the wind whispering to the lovers:

The light

in dark eyes

promises kept

forever and

again

in our hearts

we love

we laugh

and we learn

to do it 

all

over 

again.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Storm

Storm

I never realized that the high rise downtown held the Federal Courthouse, art, poetry, and historic displays. There are also incredible views, even in the storm. Yes, I was there yesterday afternoon.

Even with the Federal Government shutdown there is still almost no parking to be found on the downtown streets. I finally found a spot near the old rail yards. The old rail yards is a yet to be developed area that used to be, well, rail yards. Old brick building still stand waiting to become trendy and useful again. Acres and acres of land waits for something, or maybe nothing. I’d like to see just a big park. Tracks still go out in all directions.

The active rail station is also near by taking commuters to the Bay Area and to far off places. I’d say exotic but only because it sounds more fun. Right now taking the train from Sacramento to Reno is the only way to go. I think the highways are closed this morning due to snow. If they aren’t closed it is painfully cold and slow. Over the past 24 hours the snow has come down not in inches but in feet. Dozens of feet.

Anyway, the only parking I could find was about five, maybe six blocks away, over an overpass that went across the old rail yard and tracks. On the wide sidewalks of the cheerfully designed urban bridge were homeless structures made of shopping carts, blankets, tarps, and bicycles. Across the way, and below, under more underpasses, and along walls were more homeless staked out in small groups of two or three, waiting out the storm. They’re just waiting out life. Just waiting.

I walked over the bridge, bundled up in my wool coat with my big blue umbrella. Within about a half minute I was soaked. My pants were soaked. My feet, through my boots, were soaked. Granted my boots are Doc Marten’s but they’re a heavy canvas. I should have worn my leather boots. My coat was soaked.

Ghosts stood on the bridge, on the side with the two homeless forts. They looked at me with blank eyes that stared out of gray holes in their heads. Two wore baggy suits and looks contempt. A woman in a long dirty blue dress with a bustle stood alone. Three Chinese ghosts huddled with quilted coats and  long pigtails.

I walked on. I hate ghosts. A gust of cold wind hit my face along with about a gallon of water. A ghost stood in front of me. She wore a sort coat, open with a short orange dress underneath. Her feet were bare. Long dark bangs skimmed the top of her eyes.

“Are you here to feast on the almost dead below?” She pointed down to the homeless camps. “Will you take them?” She pointed to the blanket and tarp fort across the street by the bus stop.

I tried to walk on but she followed me making hissing noises. I stopped despite the storm.

“There are already Vampires down there but I am not like them. Let me be,” I said.

“They will be found dead and cold, and nobody will know,” said the Ghost.

“Not because of Vampires,” I said and walked past the Ghost.

I know the kind of Vampires who are down there. They too live on the streets, or roam the streets then after feeding go back to the cold dark places they call home. They take what they need – blood and nightmares.

I am not one of them.

This morning I’m watching my cat, his fur wet, drinking fresh water from a bowl. My dog is curled in her bed. There are no Ghosts in sight, not yet.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

This was first published here in 2017 but it applies to 2021 – maybe even more.