Short Story Sunday: Lighthouse

Today is Sunday and time for another Tangled Tale. Last night my husband and I saw the 2019 movie The Lighthouse. The movie is about two lighthouse keepers, Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson), left on an isolated lighthouse on a rock in the 1800’s. It is part art house film beauty, part horror, and a lot of twisted weirdness.

For today I’m rerunning my own Lighthouse story. I posted it back in July but that’s ok. I’ll post it again today.

Lighthouse

A story I’ve told before. I will tell it again tonight.

1880

He’d been found in the ocean, wearing a formal jacket with tails and clinging to the top of a grand piano. Underneath the man was a large gray wolfhound.

The captain of the ship that had picked him up said that he didn’t seem to remember much, or maybe did not want to remember. The dog, named Delilah, wouldn’t leave the side of her master.

At first they thought it was a ship wreck but it ended up being a complicated and strange mystery. The ship, a 200 ton brigantine had left Port of Talcahuano, in Chile three months before the mysterious man had been found in the Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco. Not a soul was on the ship, except the Captain who’d been found with a gun in his hand and what looked like a fatal self-inflicted bullet wound in his head. The life boats were still on the ship, as well as a cargo of wine and explosives, and the personal belongings of the few passengers and crew.

A break in an unusually strong and violent series of storms allowed them to dock and drop the man on the piano lid and his wolfhound off at the home of the lighthouse keeper’s family.

The lighthouse keeper checked in on the man who was sleeping in his guest room, dog curled by the bed. He could tell the stranger was wealthy by the quality of his clothing, the expensive watch and ring, and the formal refined way he’d spoken. His locked trunk had been recovered from the abandoned ship and now was at the foot of the bed.

The stranger said his name was Maxwell. He told them to call him Max. The first night there he’d drawn exquisite pictures for the light keeper’s wife of palm trees, and of beautiful women in fashionable dresses, and native women of South America with unusual hats and full colorful skirts. Over brandy he told them that he was 31 years old, born in 1849 when his pregnant mother had come out with his father for the California Gold Rush. Now he resided in San Francisco.

“What is your occupation? “The lighthouse keeper’s daughter Jayne asked the stranger,  fully well expecting him to say he was involved in a rich family business, or lived off of the wealth of his forebears.

He looked at her with hazel eyes, that she would have sworn were dark brown earlier that evening. “I am in law enforcement of a sorts, like detective, or a marshal. I seek out those who are particularly evil. I had apprehended a ruthless and violent fiend in South America and was on my way home. Unfortunately on the ship…” he paused and glanced up for a second, then back at the family of the lighthouse keeper. “On the ship I found myself taken by surprise and overwhelmed. It is a story I will tell you later, but now I must sleep, or I’ll end up under the table here.”

So he retired for the night. That was two days ago. He still slept as quiet and cold as death, but not dead. The dog lay by the foot of the bed thumping her tail whenever anyone came near.

A storm raged outside. The weather didn’t allow anyone to go get a doctor. His wife assured him that the man called Max just needed to rest. It made sense considering the man had been clinging to a piano lid and floating in the freezing ocean for days before he was picked up.

Despite the storm Lighthouse Keeper’s wife climbed up a ladder to fix a shutter that was almost ready to fly away with the wind. As she reached the window the ladder fell and she crashed to the ground below. All went black except the feeling of being carried inside.

Max put her down in a large chair by the fire and took her broken arm in his icy hands. “Close your eyes,” he whispered. She could feel his hands heat up and warm her wrist. The pain turned to numbness. She opened her eyes and could see a look of pain on his face, then he smiled and kissed her forehead.

“You’re arm is still broken, but the bones have started to mend enough for you not to need a splint.”

“You? You healed me,” she said.

“Yes. It is a gift. Keep the knowledge to yourself or people will think we are both insane.” He then touched a forming bruise on her forehead, making that pain, along with the bruise go away as well.

During the night the storm broke up. Sunshine came out between the clouds. Jayne convinced Max to walk down to the docks to pick up some fish for the night’s dinner.

She held his arm as they strolled along the road.

“Your glasses are so dark. I noticed your eyes turned from hazel to brown when we went outside,” said Jayne.

“My eyes are sensitive to the sun. I have three younger brothers, and a younger sister. Two of them have eyes that do the same as mine, that is change color,” he said, then changed the subject. “Do you like living here Jayne.”

“I love my family. I love the ocean. I don’t being in a small town with nothing but fish and lumber. I’d like to see more of the world before I’m expected to find a husband.”

“Do you want to be married Jayne?”

“Maybe,” said Jayne, “I can move to Utah and take two husbands. Women can vote in Utah and Wyoming. Why not here?”

“Because men are ignorant and barbaric my dear Jayne. They’re afraid that if you vote you’ll be smarter and more just than they are. The don’t want to give up their power to someone who might do a better job. By the way, men of a certain faith may have more than one wife but I do not believe a woman is allowed two husbands in Utah. You would have to go to Tibet for that.”

Jayne laughed. “To be truthful, even one husband would be too many for me right now. I don’t need anyone to own me right now.” She tugged on his arm. “You’re so different.”

“How am I different? I’m just like any other man.”

“You healed my mother’s arm. You survived almost a week in the icy ocean’s water hanging onto a piano top with nothing but the clothes on your back and a dog. Your eyes change color. Your skin feels like ice. You are unbelievably attractive. I am stating a fact about your looks. But I only want your friendship. Even with the oddness I like you. I feel as if we have been friends for a long long time. Where are you really from Maxwell? Who are your people?”

He smiled and took off his glasses. His eyes were hazel again. “Where I come from men and women are equal. We live quietly. We live honestly among each other. What I am about to tell you will sound strange, but we live on the edge between life and death. We walk in the world of sunlight, but also walk in the land of the shadows and do not fear death or God.”

“I would like to go there with you. I would earn my way. I could be a lady detective.”

“It is not easy to live in my world Jayne.”

“No world is easy Max,” she said then smiled and pulled the comb out of her hair letting it blow in the wind. “Do you have a sweetheart at home?”

Max hesitated then spoke. “There is a woman I have a strong connection with, but I will never love her.”

“Is she married?”

“No. It isn’t like that. We met when I was at the University. So was she, which is odd unto itself. She knows my thoughts. She knows my desires. But she is not the one. What about you Jayne?”

“I was engaged to a man who knew neither my thoughts or desires, and had no intention on learning either. He thought I belonged to him body and soul, not in the way of love, but as property to be owned and controlled. He was jealous to the point of rage if I would speak with another man. He was even jealous of the boys I teach at the school and demanded I quit my teaching job. I would rather die than live a life where someone else controlled my body, my thoughts, my job, and my every whim. That is why I am no longer engaged to him.” Then laughed and ran to the end of the pier and let the wind blow through her hair and laughed some more.

Max marveled at the way she was so free thinking and full of life. He saw so much death and sorrow in his line of work that now with Jayne he felt renewed. She was sunshine in his dark world of shadows and night.

Hours later in the quiet of the night, the wind died own, and the moon hung in a thin crescent in the sky. Max walked along the beach with his dog Delilah. The taste of fresh blood and wine was in his mouth and the cold comfort of the night had settled into his soul. Delilah ran ahead, then the dog started to bark. Ahead of him Max saw a bloody figure crumpled on the rocks. His heart sank. It was Jayne.

Max picked her up and carried her home. He knew what had happened. She’d gone out to look at the stars and was attacked by a man she’d jilted. She’d spoken briefly about it when they’d walked earlier in the day. She had turned away the advances of a hot headed man who wanted her as his own. In the afternoon the man had walked past them, giving Jayne a look like a mad dog when he saw her holding Max’s arm.

He put her on her bed as her parents and brothers gathered around. As still as death, and as cold as the sea, they watched life drained out of her.

Jayne’s mother put her hand on Max’s arm. “Can you heal her, like you healed me?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “If I do she will never be the same, not like she was before. She won’t be crippled or lose herself, she will be… she will be like me.”

“Save her, then find the man who did this to her,” said the Lighthouse Keeper.

“You do not know what you ask,” said Max.

“You put a spark back in her eyes I have not seen in ages. Please save her if you can.”

“Let me be alone with her and she will not die.”

In the morning a man’s body washed up on the beach. It looked as if dogs had torn out his throat. His face was a mask of fear.

Two weeks later Jayne kissed her family good-by and went with Max on the next ship to San Francisco.

2017

Max stood in his living room with a glass of wine in his hand as he looked at the view of the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. He couldn’t imagine getting tired of it. He glanced over to see Jayne, wearing a short black dress and looking gorgeous as always, coming towards him. He kissed her cool cheek. She smiled with just a touch of fang showing.

“Are you staying with Pierce tonight?” Max asked.

“Of course I am. I take it Mehitabel is staying here,” said Jayne.

Max glanced at a small pretty woman across the room. He suddenly thought of what he’d told Jayne about her so many years ago on the walk to the docks. Odd that when he was out in the ocean, clinging onto a piano top of all things, he had thought of Mehitabel. He might ask but he was never sure what she would say. No, he wouldn’t ask, he’d just wait to see what would happen, but he was sure she’d stay.

“I’m sure she’ll stay,” he told Jayne.

They talked for a while longer, about work, about friends, and about how the sunset sparkled on the ocean. Max wasn’t always one for words, but he knew that Jayne knew that they’d always be friends. Maybe even before they had ever met.

Then Jayne laughed. “I still can’t believe you were clinging to a piano lid.”

And Max had to laugh along.

~ End

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Tangled Tales

2019 Summer Reading: Poe

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This summer read at least one short story by Edgar Allan Poe.

Just one. You’ll want to read more, but at least read one.

You can read a well known story like The Black Cat, or The Cask of Amonrillado, or The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

Or read one of the lesser known stories (those not made into Vincent Price movies) such as A Tale of the Ragged Mountains, or The Balloon-Hoax.

Then read some of Poe’s poetry.

Poe is the master of mystery and horror, the inventor of the modern detective story, and a true romantic. To put it bluntly, he tells a damn good story.

We’ve all seen the Vincent Price movie versions. Who doesn’t love Vincent Price?

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That said, I urge you all to find a quiet corner and READ at least one of Poe’s stories. Just one.

Let me know what you think.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

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It’s ALIVE!

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CREEPIES 3: NIGHTMARES ON DEVIANT STREET

Writers, Poets, and Deviants (WPaD) have come out with their 11th Short Story Anthology and I AM DOING THE HAPPY DANCE.

A bloodthirsty refrigerator…
A murderous pothole…
Legends of mysterious monsters…
Ghosts and magic…
And much more!

A chilling collection of stories from the twisted minds of Writers, Poets and Deviants:
Volume 3 of WPaD’s popular Creepies series.

by WPaD (Author), Mandy White (Author), Diana Garcia (Author), Marla Todd (Author), Michael Haberfelner (Author), David Hunter (Author), Mike Cooley (Author), Soleil Daniels(Author), Lea Anne Guettler (Author), Debra Lamb (Author), and more!

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This anthology includes stories that will scare you silly, make you think, maybe even make you laugh.

And as with all WPaD anthologies, proceeds go to MS charities.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

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Strange Strangers on a Full Moon Night

Strange Strangers on a Full Moon Night

Mars was exceptionally bright in the sky last night. The moon was less than full but still exceptionally bright.

This morning I dropped the kids off to school. Garret’s car is in the shop so mom gets to drive. Anyway, I drop them off behind some temporary classrooms (that have been there for 45 years) because Clara doesn’t want to have to walk by the large group of “Stoners” who hang out every morning at the logical drop off point. So this morning she tells me she over heard one of the Stoners saying “That woman stops and turns around every morning. Weird. I guess she doesn’t want to stay here.” They had no idea I was dropping off kids. Sigh.

So the moon, teens, clueless thoughts… what does that all lead to? It made me think of a distant memory of when my brothers Val, Aaron and I were teens.

Go back to 1873. We lived in a city that had regulairly flooded, burned down, flooded again and survived illness and lawlessness and all sorts of disasters (Sacramento of course.) It was enough to make anyone want to leave, but instead people thrived and it grew. Railroads made kings. Agriculture was starting to boom. It was a city with growing art and culture and the new capitol building was almost finished. But to us it was home and our concerns were not those of adults or even most people. We were teens, comfortable in our own skin, a little less Victorian than most our age, a little more independent than most. My brothers and I lived in a tight knit community of Vampires, part of the Modern Vampire Movement. But you already know that.

One night, under a full moon, my brothers Aaron (age 17), Valentine (age 14) and I (age 13) were taking a stroll along the Sacramento River. We were always out looking for vagrants and activity from any riverboats. We were on the prowl, three well heeled Vampire kids who could use our innocence and charm to get in and out of any situation before our prey ever knew we were there.

With our stomachs full and our dark little souls throughly amused we walked home through a grove of trees on the edge of the riverbank. There we came upon a camp. Two figures were hunched over half a dozen large fish, I believe stripers or maybe steelhead. They grunted and tore at the fish. At first glance we thought they were coyotes or large dogs, but then we realized they were something else.

“Werewolves,” whispered Aaron holding his hand out to signal us to stay still.

We watched in fascination, with a bit of disgust, as the two turned back into their human form – a young man and a young woman. They were about our age and completely naked. He was skinny, unlike my muscular brothers. His skin was pale under the moonlight like the bellies of the fish he’d just devoured. She was also thin with ribs sticking out and knobby joints. Her grayish unhealthy looking skin was covered with red welts. Long dark hair hung below her waist. But what surprised us most was the hairless tail that hung down about 6 inches on the end of her spine.

I elbowed Aaron and he gave me a quick look that said “don’t move.”

“She has a tail,” Val whispered a little too loud. Aaron put his hand over his younger brother’s mouth.

The Werewolves put on their clothes, plain and worn compared to our fashionable togs. We had a home and parents. These two were obviously strays just trying to survive their miserable condition.

Val and I wanted to approach the Werewolves but Aaron was against it. He said we should just let them be and they’d be dead more sooner than later. There was a prominent pack of well-heeled Werewolves in town but we had little to do with them and it was obvious that these strays were not part of their pack.

Occasionally my parents would deal with the Werewolves, but always held them at a distance and with considerable contempt. One thing that stood out about the well to do Werewolves was their fondness for velvet. No kidding. Those Werewolves loved their velvet.

This isn’t going to be a moral story where we went back and helped the young Werewolves. We went back and they were gone. None of our friends had ever seen them. We told our parents about them. In turn they mentioned the strays to the pack leader in town and he had never heard of the young Werewolves.

It was just one of those weird things. Ships that pass in the night.

I asked my friend Adam, who is a Werewolf, about the pair when I stopped by his studio this morning (he is a photographer by trade.) He’d never heard of them. The tail on the girl turned out to be something extremely rare, just like a tail on anyone who is remotely human like.

“Why didn’t you help them?” Of course he had to ask.

“I don’t know. We were just kids. We thought they were dangerous. Beside that, maybe they didn’t need or want help. My parents asked around. Nobody knew anything, or if they did they weren’t telling us about it. I’m talking both Werewolves and Vampires. Nobody knew anything.”

I knew there would be nothing online about them but I after I left Adam I checked anyway. There was nothing.

This story has no moral or reason behind it. Just a story of something that happened a long time ago that I’ll tell my kids about and maybe they can find a moral in it.

It might be a mystery forever. But I have a knack for finding people and things so you never know. You never know about anything, not really.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

I’m out of town for a few days and recycling tales worth telling again. First posted in 2014.

Short Story Sunday: Prisoner of Love

Prisoner of Love

It wasn’t as if Andy had planned on being locked in a basement. No windows. It wasn’t like he’d turn into a bat because he couldn’t do that, but he could make them think he wasn’t there. Or at least he hoped that was true, considering he had no idea who had locked him away.

He thought about the Count of Monte Cristo.

How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure.

But unlike Edmond Dantes, Andy didn’t have a mad priest to show him the way to treasure so that he could get revenge on his captor and win back the woman he loved.

Andy thought about the woman he loved for a bit. Did she love him? Or was she rejecting him simply because he was a Vampire and she was not? Or was he just thinking about it way too much.

It would have been nice to be back in his own comfortable home, playing the piano, entertaining friends or curled up in a chair with a good book and a nice goblet of wine or blood or…

A sudden noise brought him out of he reverie. A brick popped out of the wall and a pale hand came through. What could this sudden event of fate mean? Was he to be rescued?

He reached for the hand. It pulled back at his touch.

“You’re like ice,” hissed a quiet voice.

“I run a little cold. Who are you?”

“I am but a prisoner of love.”

Andy took a deep breath, at least a deep one for a Vampire. Why did he always find himself in situations like this with someone who was bat shit crazy?

“Where are we and why? No stupid answers.”

He was answered with silence. That wouldn’t do. Andy went to the hole in the wall and looked through. It was dark but he could see a slight shadow. “Answer me. Where are we? Do you know?”

Something jumped on his lap and shook him awake. Andy let his book (The Count of Monte Cristo) drop and nearly tipped over the goblet on the table next to his favorite reading chair. A small black kitten curled up and started to purr. What a crazy dream. What a strange and bizarre dream he’d had. But he didn’t have a black kitten.

Sitting still and quiet Andy listened for noise of a visitor. He’d hear the slightest breath or an excited heart beat. If they were close enough he’d smell blood.

There was no other living thing in the room except Andy and the kitten.

“Where did you come from dear kitty?”

The kitten only purred. She was tiny, maybe 8 weeks old at the most. A sense of unease overcame him. Someone was in the house. Making his fangs ready he stood and turned around. Standing behind him was a pale form – a woman in a long silken dress and platinum blonde hair. She held out her hand.

“I am but a prisoner of love,” she whispered.

“Is this your cat?”

But Andy never got his answer. She vanished in a wisp of smoke with the smell of sulphur.

The next morning he walked the exclusive old neighborhood and asked if anyone knew who the kitten belonged to. He even put up posters. Nobody had lost a kitten. Nobody had an answer for him.

What is it with Vampires and cats and love? He laughed then said aloud, “If you’re going to haunt my dreams and my house you might as well tell me who you are.”

He felt a cold blast of air then heard a soft laugh then the soft sound of a woman’s voice “When you compare the sorrows of real life to the pleasures of the imaginary one, you will never want to live again, only to dream forever.”

It was a quote from The Count of Monte Cristo.

A prisoner of love. “Not me,” thought Andy, “not me.”

 

Good Intentions (Children of the Earth)

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From the VM archives from 2013. A Thanksgiving story from long ago.

Stay with me on this one…

After skate practice (roller) my daughter grabbed my purse for me and said “WHAT DO YOU HAVE IN THAT THING?”

I said “River rocks.”

She said, “I will never carry a purse and fill it full of crap.”

I told her that it was none of her business what I had in my purse or how much it weights.

And by the time we got to the car she said a gun in my purse would be heavy. Then I told her I didn’t have a carry permit and she said I didn’t need one. Yes, this is the 14 year old, but we have hypothetical conversations like this all the time so don’t worry about it. Anyway, she asked if she had a needle, like a knitting needle would that be considered a concealed weapon. I told her it was a matter of intent. Does she intend to knit a scarf or stab someone with her knitting needle? Intent is everything.

The the conversation moved on to bear spray. I could have bear spray without a carry permit, or at least I think I could, but hey, who is checking my bottomless bag of mystery and fear (what the kids call my purse.)

Clara said that bear spray would come in handy for the upcoming bear apocalypse. I wondered if bear spray would keep zombies away.

I’ve been up close and personal with a lot of black bears. They have run across paths I’ve hiked (with and without fish in their mouths). They’ve walked along beside me on trails (I kid you not, it was weird.) They have sniffed around my tent.

Grizzlies on the other hand are another matter. I’ve never seen one in the wild but I’ve come across their fresh prints. That even puts fear into the heart of the most hardened Vampire. Grizzlies CAN bite your head off. Really. No amount of bear spray is going to do the trick on a Grizzly. Yikes.

So the point of this, aside from the fact that we have a lot of silly conversations just for fun around here…is that a bear once lead my brother Val and I to an unusual place. It wasn’t our intent but it was where we were supposed to be, even though we were not supposed to be there.

It was 1932 and my brother Val and I were driving home for the holidays. We decided to drive rather than take the train. It provided us with more freedom and a chance to see some of the back roads of America. In 1932 almost everything was a back road compared to now.

Anyway, we packed up and took our Packard Dualcowl Pheaton on the road. What possessed me to wear silk and fur is beyond me now, but that is just how we did it in those days. Val as always looked dapper and totally relaxed. Val and I are less than two years apart in age and act and look too much alike to be taken as anything other than brother and sister.

So there we were driving on a dirt and gravel road with no name, through hills that are older than Vampires when something in our beautiful car blew and sputtered and stopped.

It was night, which is no big deal for us. We could see the eyes in the woods. No big deal. Woodland creatures respect as they respect all predators. Except there were bears who came cautiously close, black bears. We started to sing and the animals left. No need for bear spray, if we’d had bear spray.

“Now what?” I asked my brother. I was absolutely starving and needed food badly. Sure in a pinch an animal would do but human company would be nice. More than nice.

We walked down the road for a mile or two when we could smell the scent of human kind in the air and saw lights through the trees.

Then sounds. Mournful singing. Singing in weird monotone voices, pitched high and ancient sounding.

Country folk with age old songs that they handed down from generation to generation without benefit of written music or any written word. I was sure most of the singers couldn’t even write their own names.

A we came to the meeting house the door opened and an arm motioned for us to come in.

The room was full of folk, plain folk of all ages, singing with unified voices songs of the hills. They sang of life. They sang of lust and greed. They sang of love. They sang of God and the spirit that is deep in us all. They sang of all that they knew.

Then they looked at us in their poor clothing. We were rich city folk, but more than that.

“Don’t be afraid,” said a man who was obviously one of their leaders. “We know what you are. You’re people of the night. Show us your fangs.”

Val and I froze as they gathered around us. Then when our fear built up they started to sing.

We are all different
Children of the earth
God’s blessing
On us all
God’s blessing
On us all
There is no evil
Only fear
There is no evil
No evil here.

Then they sat us down and offered us their wrists. They told us stories of Vampires and spirits and Werewolves and ghosts. They told us of all creatures and of living in unity.

They said they’d welcomed us because we were lost. They invited us to join them at their Thanksgiving table. There would be fresh turkey and greens, cornbread and black eyed peas. There would be pie and root vegetables found in the forest. There would be kinship and understanding.

We stayed for the feast. And we talked of their kin and traditions. We also told them of our family.

They all wanted to touch us. They all wanted to share their blood with us. We sang the songs with them into the night. We learned their songs and they learned a few of ours – or at least some popular songs of the day.

Val and I slept through the day, and when night came again they walked us back to our car, which started just fine.

I think about those people with their bare feet and drab clothing. Their odd twangy voices that sang in unison like an unearthly wind or a chorus of lost angels.

And to this day Val and I are thankful. We never could find that road again and nobody we ever talked to knew of these folk we spent our Thanksgiving with. I’m sure they were real and not just ghosts in the woods. I’m sure this Thanksgiving one of their great grandchildren is listening to the story about the time those rich Vampires came to visit.

Thanksgiving isn’t just about who you want to be with, but maybe who you need to be with. We’re thankful for all of them. And thankful for the haunting memories of music and fellowship. Most of all we’re thankful for good intentions.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

1929 Packard