Just One Kiss

Just One Kiss

A Story By Mandy White

The day her brother tore his own head off and didn’t die, was the day Johanna first suspected that all was not right with the world.

Charlie seemed to be experiencing some sort of inner struggle: muttering to himself and pacing in circles, stopping from time to time to cover his ears and shake his head vigorously. They were in the kitchen, and Johanna had just finished brewing a pot of coffee. Charlie reached toward the cupboard above, like he was going to take out a mug. Instead of opening the cupboard, he placed his hand on the back of his neck, then turned to face Johanna.“Must feed,” he said. He grabbed his head and pulled, bending his neck forward at an impossible angle. “Must… feeeed!” he grunted, twisting and pulling until Johanna swore his neck had stretched an extra six inches.

“Charlie! Stop that! What are you doing?”

“UNGH!” Charlie replied, and with a mighty tug, he pulled his head from his body. Instead of spurting blood the way a recently decapitated body should, his neck began to heal before her eyes, transforming from torn flesh into some kind of elongated sucking appendage. The ‘lips’ of the sucker smacked together toward Johanna as if blowing her a sloppy kiss, then it gurgled,

“Fleebb.”

The Charlie-thing turned its head upside down. The sucker groped around, lips opening and closing until it found the severed end of the neck. The sucker attached itself to the neck and made a sound like a Shop-Vac cleaning up vomit as it slurped the contents out of the skull. Charlie’s face sagged like a deflated balloon.

Johanna screamed.

The sucker detached from the withered head and reached toward the sound of Johanna’s voice, smacking the empty air in front of it.

“Mup. Grackle. Pleebbb. Fleeg,” the monster said, dropping the head on the floor and taking a step in Johanna’s direction.

She stumbled backward, tripping over a chair. Charlie’s body turned toward the sound, tentacle searching, lips opening and closing. Johanna fled out the front door and ran down the street without looking back.

When she finally stopped to catch her breath, she dared to look over her shoulder and saw with relief that nothing was chasing her. Panting, she leaned against a nearby fence.

Now what? Where to go?

Mom!

She needed to tell her mother what had happened. Salon La Vie, where her mother was a stylist, was about six blocks away. Johanna checked the time on her cell phone. It was 2:00. Mom was on shift for another two hours. There was plenty of time to get there and warn her, and then they could pick up her younger sister Zoe from school together. She had lost one sibling already; she intended to make sure the rest of her family was safe.

Johanna broke into a jog, grateful for the gym membership she had gotten as a Christmas gift. She covered the six blocks easily and before long she dashed through the glass doors of Salon La Vie. The neon lights, gleaming chrome and mirrors and pounding techno music – it was like entering an ammonia-scented nightclub.

Johanna looked down the long line of stylist’s stations and did not see her mother.

“Can I help y’all?” the redhead behind the counter chirped. A nametag pinned to her overstuffed leopard print blouse identified her as Trixie.

“I’m Jillian Sykes’ daughter. Is she here?”

“Oh, hi, honey! You’re Jillie’s girl! So nice to meet y’all.” Trixie flashed Johanna a too-wide grin that made her look like a horse wearing purple lip-gloss. “I’m so sorry, sweetpea, but y’all missed your Mama. She left during her lunch hour.”

“She did? I thought she was working until four.”

“Naw, not today, sugar. She booked a half-day today. Had to pick her daughter up from school early. Somethin’ ‘bout the kid havin’ a karate tournament.” Red looked up at the ceiling and batted her false, mascara-caked eyelashes. Johanna suspected this was the woman’s ‘thoughtful’ look. “Can y’all imagine that?” she mused. “A lil-ol gal like that goin’ all Jackie Chan-like?”

“Sure,” Johanna said. “Zoe enjoys it, and she’s damn good at it.”

“Oh! I’m so sorry sugar! I didn’t mean nothin’ by it! It’s just, y’know, where I come from, little girls are raised to be ladies, and let the men do the ass-kicking.”

Trixie was still muttering something about fine Southern ladies when Johanna dashed out the door.

“Thank you,” she called over her shoulder, but was pretty sure Trixie from Dixie hadn’t heard.

Eleven-year-old Zoe usually took the school bus home, but today was Friday. Zoe had a karate meet at another school. Zoe was excused for the afternoon so they’d have time to make the half-hour drive to Palsson Middle School.

She fished her cell phone out of her pocket and called her mother.

Mom answered her phone on the second ring.

“Mom?”

“Oh, there you are. I was wondering where you’d gotten to.”

“Mom, listen! Stay where you are! Whatever you do, don’t go home! Tell me where you are and I’ll come and meet you.”

“But I’m already home, silly. We just got here.”

“What? Where’s Zoe?”

“She’s right here. Is something wrong?”

“Yes! Listen, Mom, you and Zoe need to get out of there right now. Charlie is… not himself. He’s dangerous.”

“He seemed fine to me a few minutes ago. Did you two have an argument or something? Why don’t you come home and we’ll talk about it?”

Johanna hung up.

Her mother was home, and so was Zoe. What did it mean? She paced back and forth, undecided. Should she go home? Her mother had said Charlie was fine. That couldn’t be true – the horror Johanna had seen in her kitchen was no hallucination. Or was it? No! she knew what she had seen. This was no hallucination… right?

What would she find if she went home? Would Charlie behave like his normal nineteen-year-old self? If she went home, would she see what she saw on any normal day? Her mother would be checking email before making dinner and Zoe would be playing Call of Duty on her Xbox, shouting curses at her friends through her headset. Or would she walk back into the same horror show she had left, with headless Charlie waiting to suck her brains out? Maybe Charlie had already killed Mom and Zoe and then set a trap for her.

But that sounded like Mom! I was talking to Mom! Wasn’t I?

Trap or not, she had to find out for sure. Gritting her teeth, Johanna set off in the direction of home.

* * *

Johanna slipped in through the back door, listening for signs of anything unusual. The kitchen was spotless and filled with the delicious aroma of something – pork chops, or perhaps her mother? – roasting in the oven. Charlie’s head was nowhere in sight, and neither was Charlie. The chair she had knocked over when she tripped sat neatly in its place at the kitchen table. She took a step forward and the floor creaked under her feet.

“Is that you, Jo?” her mom called from the other room.

“Y-yeah, Mom. It’s me. Everything all right?”

Her mother appeared in the doorway.

“Of course. Why wouldn’t it be? Everything’s fine. Where have you been?”

“I just went for a run.”

“In that?” Her mother frowned.

Johanna looked down at herself, remembering for the first time that she was still wearing her waitress uniform. She had just finished her shift at Maddy’s Diner when the Charlie incident occurred and she hadn’t gotten around to changing clothes yet.

“I ran back to work because I forgot my phone there.” She congratulated herself silently for her quick thinking. “That’s why I called you on the way home,” Johanna added.

“Called me?”

Panic coursed through Johanna’s body.

“Yes, I called you.”

“Oh.” Her mother laughed lightly. “Of course you did. How silly of me.”

“Do you remember what we were talking about?”

“Why?” Her mother’s eyes narrowed.

“Um, just… because I wanted to continue the conversation where we left off. Do you recall where that was? There was a lot of traffic nearby, and I’m not sure I heard everything you said.”

Her mother turned her back, reaching toward the oven. “I don’t have time right now. We’ll talk later. I need to feed…”

“W-what?” Johanna began to back away.

“I need to feed you all so I have time to get ready. I have a date tonight. Be a dear and call your brother and sister for dinner.”

Johanna found Zoe in her room, submerged in the world of virtual war games. Her karate gi was tossed in a corner, orange belt crumpled on top. Zoe couldn’t hear Johanna with the headset on, so she tapped her on the shoulder.

“What?” she shouted. Zoe always shouted when she had the headset on because she had no idea how loud she sounded.

Dinnertime.”

“’Kay!”

Heart thumping, she crept down the hall toward Charlie’s bedroom. The door was slightly ajar. The eerie absence of Charlie’s music was unnerving. The family members were so used to his ear-splitting playlist that it had become a natural part of their home environment.

She could hear the sound of Charlie’s TV, which he rarely watched.

She tapped lightly on the door.

“Charlie?” she whispered.

“Yes?”

“Um… it’s time to eat.”

“Eat.” His voice sounded cold and distant, but nothing like the garbling freak-show she had run from earlier.

Johanna pushed the door open slightly, just to have a peek. Charlie was seated on the end of his bed, head intact, back straight and arms at his sides. He was just… sitting. Staring straight ahead at the TV. It looked like he was watching old black-and-white movie with a lot of sappy romantic stuff. So totally un-Charlie, yet he seemed fixated on the screen.

“Charlie?” she asked timidly.

“Yes?”

Johanna couldn’t remember Charlie ever saying, ‘yes’. It was always, ‘yeah’, or ‘yep’, or ‘what’. He was the informal type.

“What are you doing?”

“Doing,” he repeated. He seemed to think for a moment, then said, “Watching TV.”

“Right.”

“Here’s looking at you, kid,” he said.

“Um… okay,” she said, backing away from the door.

This was not Charlie. It looked like him. It sounded like him, but didn’t act like him. This was some kind of replica. It was as she had feared. Her brother was gone.

What about her mother? And Zoe? They seemed normal, but for how long?

Dinner was unremarkable. Baked pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy from a can. Their mother had hastily served the food before rushing off to get ready for her date. Apparently her mystery man had made dinner reservations at someplace fancy.

Charlie ate in silence, the fork in his hand transferring the food from plate to mouth with a jerky, mechanical motion, like a robot arm in a factory. His eyes never left his plate.

Zoe was her usual boisterous self, chattering about her karate meet, her friends and the afternoon’s most memorable moments in the world of virtual war on Xbox. Charlie fixed his youngest sister with a blank look as she prattled on. Zoe asked him to pass the salt and pepper, then asked a second time and he ignored her request.

“Charlie? Hey, Earth to Charlie! Can you pass me the salt and pepper sometime this century? What’s wrong, you stoned or something?”

Johanna forced a mouthful of potatoes down, heart thudding in her throat, expecting Charlie to rip Zoe’s head off.

Charlie didn’t answer. He just continued to eat.

He must feed, Johanna thought.

“What do you think, Jo?” Zoe asked, reaching across the table to retrieve the salt and pepper herself.

“About what?”

“You think Charlie’s been smoking the wacky tobacky, or what?”

“Oh, you don’t wanna know what I think,” Johanna said truthfully.

Their mother hurried into the kitchen, high heels click-clicking on the tiles. She looked gorgeous – made up like a magazine model, in true beautician form, without a hair out of place. She wore a sexy black cocktail dress with spaghetti straps and a fringed hem that fell at an angle just past her knees.

Zoe whistled. “Whoa, Mom! Looking hot!”

“Who’s your date, Mom?” Johanna asked, relieved for the distraction from Charlie’s creepy silence.

“Mr. Kramer, Ashley’s father, remember him?”

“Yeah, kind of.”

“Well anyway, he asked me out today and I simply couldn’t say no.”

“So, what… you like him?”

“Well, yes, I suppose I do. I mean, I never gave him a second look before. He just wasn’t my type. Plus, he’s divorced with partial custody, so you know what a can of worms that can be. It’s not like he’s super good looking or anything, you know… typical accountant, geek-type. Today at the karate meet he was different. He wasn’t wearing his glasses – must’ve gotten contacts or something, but wow, it was like I never really saw him before. And he’s never said more than two words to me before. But today…” she sighed and clasped her hands over her chest. “Today, he was sitting next to me and the things he said… wow. Romantic doesn’t even begin to describe it.”

“Really?” Johanna was listening now.

“Yes. Honey, he was like one of those old-time actors from those classic romantic movies, like Clark Gable or someone.”

“Old movies?” That was an odd coincidence.

“Yeah, that’s the only way I can describe the way he spoke. Men just don’t talk that way today. I wonder why his wife left him.”

“Maybe he left her.”

“Yeah,” her mother seemed to brighten at the idea. “I’ll bet that was it. It was probably her fault. Her loss for letting such a gem get away.” She peeked out the window at the sound of a vehicle. “Oh, he’s here! Gotta run!” She blew them a kiss. “Behave yourselves!”

As the door closed, Charlie called after her, “We’ll always have Paris!”

Johanna questioned herself yet again. Maybe what she thought she had seen (and was seeing) was nothing but her imagination. Perhaps the stress of working too many 5am shifts in a row with horny truckers grabbing her ass had finally gotten to her. Sleep deprivation did strange things to the mind. Maybe she would benefit from a little wacky tobacky and a nice long nap.

She reconsidered her original plan of grabbing Zoe and running. Maybe she should wait and see before doing anything rash.

* * *

The next morning, Johanna slipped out the door at 4:30 am to work her breakfast shift at Maddy’s. The house was dark and quiet when she left, and she took extra care not to wake the rest of the family. Mom had gotten home late from her date with What’s-His-Name and would no doubt be sleeping in. Zoe would probably be up early to get her fill of cereal and Saturday morning cartoons before joining her friends in another online bloodbath. Charlie… well, who knew what Charlie would do anymore, but typically he never surfaced before noon unless he had to work. Today was Saturday, so normally Charlie would be at work by the time Johanna returned home. With any luck, she wouldn’t see him at all that day.

Customers were already assembling in the parking lot, waiting for the diner to open when Johanna arrived. She brewed two pots of coffee, checked with the cook to make sure he was ready, then opened the doors a few minutes early. Mornings were their busiest time, with truck drivers making up most of the clientele. Opening those few minutes early often resulted in extra tips for Johanna; most of their customers were on tight schedules.

Tables filled and a hint of oil and diesel tickled the nostrils beneath the morning’s warm aromas of bacon and coffee. Johanna flitted from table to table, a stack of menus under one arm, coffee pot in the other and order pad in her apron pocket. She chatted and joked with the customers as she worked, most of whom were middle-aged, barrel-bellied men dressed in plaid. The customers were pleasant and polite, but as the morning wore on, Johanna couldn’t shake a niggling feeling that something wasn’t right. Something was missing.

When Tammy, the other waitress came on shift, Johanna took the opportunity for a short break before the second breakfast rush began. She poured herself a cup of coffee and leaned back against the waitress station to rest. She scanned the room, trying to pinpoint what was missing. All of the regulars were there. Joe Senior and Joe Junior, a father/son trucker team known to the diner community as Joe and Junior. There were Smitty, Billy and Fungus occupying their usual corner booth. A businessman-type Johanna didn’t recognize sat alone, reading the newspaper while he ate. Two of her least favorite customers, Merle and Ed, had positioned themselves at a table in the center of the room, in the optimal location for maximum waitress-groping, but no attempt at groping had been made yet. In fact, Merle had even attempted to recite poetry to her as she refilled his coffee cup.

Bingo!

She hadn’t been grabbed, spanked or propositioned once all morning. The off-color jokes and curse words that normally punctuated the mumble of morning chatter were absent. Johanna found the men’s uncharacteristic good behavior unsettling, to say the least.

Fungus, a.k.a. “The Growth”, vacated the corner booth when his companions left and moved to sit at the counter. His tendency to linger for hours drinking copious amounts of coffee had earned him his nickname, which he happened to like.

He often joked, “They call me Fungus because I’ll grow on you and make you sick.”

Tammy leaned over the counter, smiling and giving Fungus a nice view of the two growths inside her blouse. Tammy normally avoided the small bearded diner fixture, making no effort to hide her distaste. Watching her flirt with him was even more disturbing to Johanna than truck drivers not cussing.

Coffee break over, Johanna picked up a menu and made her way to a new customer seated in her section. He was overweight, balding and sweating profusely. He declined her offer of coffee and stared down at the table in front of him, dripping beads of sweat on the unopened menu she had placed in front of him. She wondered if he was on the verge of a heart attack or something.

“Can I get you something to drink?” she offered.

He shook his head. “No. Hungry.”

“I’ll give you a few minutes to decide, then. Our special is a three-cheese omelette.”

“Must… feed.” He groaned and held his head in his hands as if experiencing a migraine.

Johanna backed slowly away. “No. No. Not this again,” she whimpered.

She ducked behind the counter and grabbed Tammy’s arm, yanking her away from Fungus, who was spouting some bullshit about a woman like her needing to be kissed by someone who knew how.

“Sorry to interrupt your – whatever that was – but Tammy, look! Have you ever seen anything like this before?” She pointed at the sweaty guy.

“Sure. Seen it lots of times. Guy with a hangover.” She snapped her chewing gum. “What’s the big deal?”

“Just watch for a second. I think he’s going to do something… crazy.”

Tammy sighed and stood with her arms crossed, waiting for something spectacular to happen.

“He looks like he’s gonna barf,” she observed. “If he does, it’s your mess. Not my section.

Oh great! Johanna thought. That was just what she needed – a puker. Tammy was right; they saw a lot of hung over people on the morning shift. Pukers weren’t uncommon.

“FEED!” the man shouted suddenly.

To Johanna’s surprise, none of the male customers so much as blinked at the outburst.

Tammy laughed. “I’d say that’s your cue. Sounds like he’s ready to order.”

“No!” Johanna grabbed her co-worker’s arm. “Watch!”

Seeing a man remove his own head and suck out the skull was no less shocking the second time, though for Tammy it was a first. She ran and locked herself in the restroom, where she screamed and screamed.

Johanna ducked down and hid behind the counter where only Fungus could see her. He seemed unaffected by her behavior.

“Did it hurt when you fell from Heaven?” he asked her. “’Cause you’re an angel.”

“Fungus, what the hell?

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine,” Fungus said.

“Are you seeing this?” Johanna pointed toward the man, who was busy draining the contents of his skull with his alien appendage.

Fungus glanced at the skull-sucker. “Oh, him?” he laughed, with a wave of dismissal. “He’s just lost his head a little. Don’t worry, he’ll pull himself together.”

“Have I gone insane?” Johanna wondered aloud. She surveyed the room. “Have you all gone insane?” she shouted. “What the fuck is going on here?”

The skull-sucker paused for a moment and reached its sucker in Johanna’s direction, probing the air with its lips and making kissing noises at her.

“Fleebie. Fleeble. Mup,” it said.

“See, Jo?” Fungus said. “He just needs a little kiss and he’ll be good as new. Better, even.” He leaned forward over the counter, eyes magnified behind his Coke-bottle glasses. “For that matter,” he added, “why don’t you lay a little sugar on me, sweetheart? Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.”

“Fuck off, Fungus!” Johanna backed away from the counter, distancing herself from the creepy little man, to whom she felt inexplicably drawn all of a sudden.

The skull-sucker resumed sucking. Its loud slurping noises could be heard even over Tammy’s continued screaming.

Johanna ducked into the kitchen, where she found Maddy, the diner’s owner and namesake, making out with Kevin the cook. Maddy’s uniform was unbuttoned and her large belly protruded from the front of her dress.

“Oh! You guys! That is all kinds of wrong!” she blurted. Maddy was in her sixties; literally old enough to be twenty-year-old Kevin’s grandmother!

Johanna grabbed her purse and jacket. “Maddy, I’m leaving. Something important just came up. You might want to find Tammy a Valium or something. She may have lost a nut or two.”

“Mmmnn,” Maddy replied, not taking her lips from Kevin’s acne-pocked face.

Normally the entire scene would have made Johanna vomit in her mouth a little, but as of late, she’d seen things a lot worse. Still, something looked a bit off, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Maddy, already a plump woman, seemed… plumper than usual, as if she had suddenly gained a lot of weight. She shrugged it off as her own lack of attention to such details. After all, she had never seen Maddy nude before.

Ick. She shook her head, unable to unsee what she’d just seen.

When Johanna returned to the dining room, the skull-sucker was wearing his head once again. The tentacle-thing hung from his mouth. She watched, horrified, as the appendage retracted into his now sweat-free head, bearing an absurd resemblance to a softening penis. Johanna dashed out the door without waiting for the tentacle to finish shrinking. She had a hunch what might be causing these men to behave oddly, and wondered what happened to women who were duped into kissing them.

Maddy! Wait – never mind Maddy. What about Mom? Did she kiss that guy last night?

Johanna raced home to find out.

* * *

Dr Renee Garcia sat in her office, poring over a stack of patients’ files, searching for a commonality between all of them. Besides the obvious one, that was. All of the patients were female, and all of them were pregnant. That in itself wasn’t unusual, given that Dr. Garcia was a gynecologist. Nor was the fact that the pregnancies were unexpected; those things happened all the time. It was the fact that all of the patients in the files on her desk should not, could not possibly be pregnant. This went beyond the failure of birth control methods; these women were physically incapable of conceiving, and yet they had. Some were far too old; others lacked the physical means, having had hysterectomies. Some of those surgeries Dr. Garcia had performed herself, so there was no doubt in her mind that the procedures had indeed been performed.

Some were married; some were not. A couple of them were lesbians who had never been intimate with a man.

So, how?

Something her last patient had said stuck in her mind. She hadn’t dated anyone in more than a year, then a man had asked her out, sweeping her off her feet with romantic talk.

Dr. Garcia had heard similar things from other patients. Husbands transformed overnight from drunken sports nuts to sweet-talking Casanovas. Shy men who had never so much as spoken to a woman were suddenly wooing and charming the female sex like Hollywood movie stars.

This case was just like the others. A woman, pregnant, with no logical explanation as to why. Her 46-year-old patient and long time friend had undergone a hysterectomy nine years earlier, after experiencing complications following the birth of her third child. She swore that she hadn’t been intimate with a man in more than a year. As a doctor, Renee had heard that line many times, from pregnant teens still in denial, from married women unwilling to admit that their due dates did not fall within a credible range.

But this patient was different. She had known Jillian since high school and delivered all three of her children. Jill had no reason to lie to her.

Renee studied the ultrasound images she had received that day. Some were from patients in those same files. In all cases, the technicians had been baffled at what they found. The woman looked visibly pregnant – belly distended as if in the second or third trimester, but the ultrasound produced no image. Just an opaque black mass where the uterus should have been. But in many of the cases, no uterus had been present to begin with.

She picked up the phone and pressed the button to connect to her partner’s extension. Maybe Dr. Gupta was still in her office. She was curious as to whether she had noticed anything unusual in her patients.

While she waited for her to pick up, someone knocked on her office door.

“You in there, Renee?”

“Yes. Come in Lila.”

“I was wondering if you’d like to grab some lunch,” Lila said.

“I was just trying to call you, actually.”

“Great minds think alike.”

“No, it wasn’t about that. I wanted to ask you about something.

“And?” Lila queried, sidling up to Renee’s desk to see what she was looking at.

“I was wondering if you’d come across anything unusual lately. With your patients.”

“Like what?”

“Umm. Pregnancies. Where there shouldn’t be any. Unusual ultrasound results.”

“Nothing comes to mind.” She paused to think for a moment, then shook her head. “Everything ok?”

“Sure. Just thinking out loud. Thanks. As a matter of fact, I could use a bite to eat.”

The bell jingled in the reception area.

“That’s odd,” Lila said. “I could’ve sworn Doris locked the front doors.”

The clinic was closed from eleven to twelve for lunch, and their receptionist, Doris, had already left.

“I’ll check it out,” Lila said. She left the room and returned moments later escorted by two burly men in black suits. They held her at gunpoint.

Renee held up her hands. “We don’t have much cash on the premises, but it’s all yours. Please don’t hurt us. We don’t have any drugs here.”

“Dr. Garcia, Dr. Gupta, you’ll need to come with us. Please do not discuss with anyone anything you may have seen, or we’ll be forced to kill you.”

“What?” Renee quavered. “Who are you people?”

“Homeland Security.”

“Renee, I think we’d better go with them.”

“You don’t have a choice, Dr. Gupta.”

Renee and Lila led the way out of the clinic. A long, glossy black vehicle resembling an armored truck was parked at the curb.

“Can I lock up?” Renee asked.

“That won’t be necessary. Get in. And remember. No talking to anyone.”

A door swung open on the side of the vehicle and one of the black-suited goons helped them inside while the other made his way to the driver’s side and took a seat behind the wheel.

Large tinted windows covered the sides and back of the vehicle. Renee realized they were one-way glass; she could see out, but hadn’t been able to see inside the bus. They were on a bus. Rows of seats held other men and women, most of whom they recognized. Doctors, lab technicians, nurses, all of them medical staff to some degree. Even Doris, their receptionist, sat alone in a seat, wide-eyed and terrified.

Goon #2 spoke into his headset. “All sealed up back here. Move out and detonate.”

A loud boom shook the vehicle as it drove away. Renee knew even before she saw the flames and cloud of debris hurtling skyward that her clinic was no more.

* * *

Johanna arrived home to find the house empty. Her mother had to work that day, but not until noon. Johanna’s breakfast shift ended at eleven on weekends – plenty of time for her to take over care of Zoe while her mother worked. It was only 9am, so where were Mom and Zoe? Charlie was presumably at work by now, but Johanna really had no desire to see her brother now that he had transformed into one of those skull-sucking freaks, whatever they were.

On the kitchen table, she found a note from her mother:

Jo,

I had to go to the doctor, and this was the only time Renee could see me. Zoe is at Arlene’s. If you get home before I do, could you please pick her up?

A doctor appointment? On a Saturday morning? Johanna knew the clinic was open Saturdays, but her mother usually made appointments on her days off. She worked afternoons at the salon to coordinate her schedule with Johanna’s.

Was her mother sick? A cold chill gripped Johanna’s guts. Was Mom hiding something from her?

She went next door and rang Arlene’s doorbell. Zoe answered.

“’Bout frickin’ time! Spring me outta this hellhole. It’s boring as shit in here. No Xbox, no internet. She just watches those stupid reality shows all day.

“Zoe! Language!” Johanna scolded.

“Pfft. Like you care. I learned it from you.”

“Thanks Arlene!” Johanna called.

“Anytime, sweetie,” Arlene rasped, a cloud of cigarette smoke billowing around her head. She remained glued to her usual spot on the couch, the cushion of which had probably formed a permanent impression of her ample butt.

“I don’t know why Mom made me stay with her. I can take care of myself just fine. Doesn’t she know cigarette smoke is bad for kids?”

“I guess she had no other choice. Her appointment was before I got home.”

“So? I coulda’ stayed home with Charlie.”

Johanna grabbed Zoe’s arm just before she reached the front door of their house. “What? Charlie’s home?”

“Yeah.”

“But I thought he had to work today. He always works on Saturday.”

“Well, he ain’t working today. Look, his car’s still there.”

Charlie’s green Honda Accord sat in the driveway. Johanna had parked in the alley and gone in the back door, so she hadn’t seen it until now.

“Zoe, have you noticed anything… strange about Charlie lately?”

“Not really. I mean, he’s always been kind of a weirdo, right?”

“I’m not talking about Goth music or facial piercings. I mean, he’s been acting weirder than usual. Like, quiet and polite or something.”

Zoe shrugged. “I dunno, maybe. What’s the big deal?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Whatevs. Can I go play Black Ops now?”

“Sure.”

Zoe ran inside and made a beeline for her bedroom. Johanna cringed when Zoe’s door whammed shut, shaking the entire house.

Johanna tiptoed down the hall to Charlie’s room. The door was ajar. She peeked in. The room was empty.

She searched the rest of the house, room by room. She even checked the basement, attic and closets, but Charlie was nowhere to be found. It appeared Charlie had gone out, presumably to work, and left his car at home. Maybe it had broken down and he’d gotten a ride from someone.

Now that Charlie was part of the tentacle brigade, Johanna half hoped he’d never return. At least not until this mess, whatever it was, was sorted out.

She poured a glass of orange juice and sat down at the kitchen table. She needed to have a long talk with her mother – about Charlie, the men at work, her mother’s date – and she wanted to know the reason for the impromptu doctor appointment.

Johanna’s cell phone buzzed. She picked it up. It was a text message from her mom:

I’m going 2 b late. Renee sent me to the hosp for an ultrasound.

Mom, are u ok?

Yes I’m fine. Just a routine checkup. I’m going to work right after.

You sure?

Yes!

I’m home and got Zoe with me.

Off work early?

Yep.

Problem?

Yes and no. I’ll xplain l8er.

Ok.

Johanna contemplated how she was going to explain to her mother the things she had seen. Men did inexplicable things all the time, but tearing their own heads off and making kissy faces with tentacle-lips was definitely a new one.

A piercing scream from Zoe’s room jolted her out of her reverie.

Johanna jumped up and bolted toward Zoe’s closed door.

“Get off me you fucking freak! What the hell’s wrong with you?” Zoe yelled. A thud followed, then Zoe’s door opened and she burst out of the room, crashing into Johanna.

“What’s wrong?”

Zoe pointed back toward her room. “That fucktard was hiding in my closet! And then he tried to kiss me! Ewwwww!”

Charlie lay sprawled on the floor of Zoe’s room.

“What happened to him?”

“I kicked his ass, that’s what. And he deserved it, that creep!”

“Thank god for karate,” Johanna said, grabbing Zoe’s hand. “Come on, we’re getting out of here.” She pulled her sister out the back door and together they ran to Johanna’s car.

“Where we goin’?”

“I don’t know. I think we need to find Mom.”

“Where’s she?”

“She said she was going to the hospital for some tests. She has to go to work after that, so let’s meet her there. We can hang out in the mall until the salon opens.”

“Can I go to the arcade?”

“Sure. Just don’t kiss any strange men.”

“Don’t be a sicko!” Zoe made a gagging noise.

* * *

Jill drove down the winding road, looking at the sleepy little town below. Like many hospitals, theirs was situated on high ground, atop what in this case, was the only hill in an otherwise flat landscape. Over the years it had become known as ‘Hospital Hill’. Her brow furrowed as she replayed in her mind what the ultrasound technician had told her.

“Your last period was when?”

“2005. Sorry, but I can’t remember the exact month, not that it matters.”

“Yes. Hysterectomy. That’s what it says here.”

The technician turned away to rattle some notes into her keyboard, then continued with the scan, muttering, “Same as before. Strange.” She laid the scanner on her instrument tray and handed Jill a box of tissues to clean the gel from her abdomen.

“Am I done?”

“Yes. You can get dressed now.”

“Is everything okay?”

“I’m not allowed to discuss it with you. You’ll have to see your doctor, but what I can tell you is that she may send you back for another scan. Our equipment has been malfunctioning lately, and I wasn’t able to get the images she wanted.”

Jill was pretty sure it was her own equipment that was malfunctioning, not the hospital’s. It was impossible, yet she had all the symptoms of pregnancy. Judging from the size of her belly, which had literally grown overnight, she appeared six to seven months along.

Having no uterus to support the pregnancy theory, there had to be another explanation, and all of the possibilities terrified Jill. Visions of tumors, massive blood clots, liver disease, kidney failure and other horrors swam in her mind. She needed to talk to Renee, and wondered if her friend and physician was still at the clinic.

A bright flash lit up the sky over the town. The unmistakable mushroom cloud of a large explosion rose directly above the area in which Renee’s clinic was located.

Jill slammed on the brakes. No. It couldn’t be. It had to be a different street. She found the white spire of the church, then counted the streets from there to the explosion site. One. Two. Three. Magnolia Street, where the clinic was located, was three blocks from the church in the direction of the main road leading out of town.

She fished her phone out of her purse and called the clinic. No answer. She tried Renee’s cell phone and got no answer there either. She had to know. She put the car in gear and made her way down the slope toward the cloud of smoke. As she drew nearer the clinic, bits of debris littered the street and she stopped the car to avoid losing a tire to broken glass and twisted metal. She walked the final block feeling as though the shards of glass crunching beneath her shoes were actually eggshells that needed to be delicately tread upon to maintain the illusion that everything was all right. When she reached the site of the explosion, her worst fears were confirmed. Where Renee’s clinic had been not more than an hour ago was a smoking black hole, with dirty red flames licking around the edges.

“No! No, no, no,” she whispered, shaking her head.

Maybe Renee wasn’t there… maybe she had gone to lunch early. Then Jill saw her friend’s car, still parked in her reserved space in front of the clinic. What had been a shiny silver Lexus an hour ago was now a blackened hulk sitting on four flaming tires.

A sob caught in her throat at the realization that her friend was gone. “Renee…”

She needed to go home.

She needed to collect her children and make sure all were accounted for, then gather them close until they found out what was going on. Was it a terrorist attack? An act of war?

She texted Johanna:

I’m coming home. R u there yet?

NO! Whatever you do, don’t go home!

Why?

Zoe and I are at the mall waiting for you. Just get over here and I’ll explain. Do NOT go home!

What about Charlie?

Fuck Charlie. Just get here ASAP!

Jill took a last tearful look at the burning clinic before rushing to her car. Sirens rose around her as she sped away toward the mall, passing the first of the fire trucks to reach the scene.

* * *

Johanna had never been so relieved to see her mother. She gave her a huge hug.

“You didn’t go home, did you?”

“No, I came straight here, like you said. Where’s Zoe?”

Johanna nodded toward the arcade. “About halfway through a roll of quarters, I’d guess.” Her mother looked shaken up. “Are you ok? What’s with the hospital stuff?”

“I-I don’t know. I just don’t know what’s going on.” Jill burst into tears. She opened her jacket to reveal her swollen belly.

Johanna gaped. “Mom, are you… pregnant?”

“Of course not!”

“Then what did the doctor say? Surely Renee has some explanation for… whatever this is.”

“No, that’s what I’m afraid of. Not that I’m sick, or… something. Jo, Renee is dead. Her clinic just blew up. I saw it from Hospital Hill.”

“What? Who blows up a clinic?” Johanna asked, although she knew. Anti-abortionists blew up clinics all the time. Overzealous drug addicts, looking to loot the place, but underestimating the power of a fertilizer bomb was another likely possibility, given the clinic’s rural setting.

Johanna pulled Jill into her arms and let her sob into her shoulder. Mascara smeared all over the shoulder of her pink waitress uniform, but Jo didn’t care. She was about 90% certain she would not be going back to work at Maddy’s again after what she’d witnessed that morning. She led her mother to a bench and sat down with her, wondering how in the blue hell she was going to tell her about Charlie, and the other men.

An explosion rocked the building, accompanied by the sound of shattering glass and the screech of metal on metal.

Terrorist attack! Was the first thought to flash through Johanna’s mind and from the look of alarm on her mother’s face, she could tell that she was thinking the same thing.

“Zoe!” Jill shouted, bolting for the arcade to protect her youngest daughter.

Johanna moved tentatively in the direction of the blast. When she rounded the corner, she saw with relief that it hadn’t been an explosion at all, just an automobile crash. A large shiny black vehicle was wedged into a secondary mall entrance, near the food court. It was stuck tight, like the driver had tried to drive into the mall, then only managed to fit the cab of the vehicle through the opening.

The passenger door opened and a soldier jumped out. Her fatigues were splattered with blood.

Johanna ran to her. “Are you okay?”

“Oh, I’m fine,” she said, “but he’s had better days.” She nodded toward the truck. Through the open door Johanna could see the silhouette of the driver, slumped against the steering wheel.

“What happened?”

“Sonofabitch tried to kiss me, so I blew his brains out.”

“What the fuck?”

“I’ll explain later. Right now I need to get these passengers out.”

The woman slid underneath the vehicle and unlocked something. “Help me with this, will you?”

Johanna crawled on her hands and knees, then flipped onto her back and scooted over to where the soldier was struggling to open a sliding panel.

“Wedge your feet here and push, on three.”

Johanna did as she was told and together they managed to force the panel open. The soldier drew her sidearm and aimed it into the opening.

“Stand down, Agent Stone. It’s Sergeant Wells. I’m entering the rear of the bus now. Everyone okay in there?”

Several voices murmured the affirmative.

“Sergeant Josie Wells, U.S. Army. Please move away from the emergency door. I’m coming in now.”

The soldier stood, then crawled up into the back of what appeared to be a large bus, from Johanna’s point of view.

“Any injuries?” Josie inquired. More murmurs. “Ok, we are going to exit through this panel in an orderly fashion. We have had to make an emergency stop, but you are safe and have nothing to fear. Who’s going first?”

Johanna slid out from under the bus to make way for the passengers. She heard a ripping sound and felt her uniform tear away from one shoulder.

“Shitballs!” she muttered. Maddy made her waitresses pay a deposit for their uniforms, which was as good as gone now that this one was damaged. Then she remembered that she probably wouldn’t be working at the diner anymore, so it didn’t matter.

The men and women emerged from beneath the bus. Johanna offered a hand to help any who looked like they needed it. Most were familiar faces; in a small town like Esther, Oklahoma it was next to impossible not to have seen each resident at least once.

Her mother arrived, dragging Zoe, who looked none too pleased at having been kidnapped from the arcade. When she saw the bus, her eyes widened and she stopped resisting.

“Wow! Cool! How many casualties? Are there like dead bodies and guts everywhere in there?”

“Sorry to disappoint you, but no. Just one. The driver.”

“Oh my! Should we get help for him?” Jill asked.

Johanna shook her head. “He’s beyond help. He came down with a bad case of bullet through the head.”

“Whoa…” Zoe stared in awe, leaning toward the bus in hopes of getting a glimpse of the driver.

A scuffle could be heard inside the bus, then Sergeant Wells spoke again, in a sharp, commanding tone.

“Agent Stone, I need you to stand down now! Step away from the woman! Sir! Stop!”

Three shots rang out in rapid succession, followed by screams from inside the bus and more from the group gathered outside.

“Ladies and gentlemen! Calm down! Please exit the bus one at a time. Do not panic. Move in an orderly fashion!”

The rest of the passengers emerged more quickly than the first group. Sergeant Wells brought up the rear. Johanna noticed more blood on her uniform than before. Some of the passengers had blood on them as well.

Jill let out a small scream, dropping Zoe’s hand to run into the final group of passengers. She threw her arms around a blood-splattered woman.

“Oh my God, Renee! Are you all right? Are you hurt? Jill sobbed, dabbing at her face with the sleeve of her blouse.

Johanna hadn’t even recognized Dr. Garcia underneath the red mess covering her face.

“I’m fine,” Renee said, hugging Jill back. “I’m not injured. It’s not my blood, it’s…” she choked back a sob, unable to finish the sentence.

“I thought you were dead. I thought I saw your clinic blow up.”

“It did.”

“But how?”

Renee shook her head, glancing over at Sergeant Wells. “I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

Johanna marched over to the fountain, where Wells was washing the blood from her face.

“What’s going on? What is all this?”

“It’s top secret.”

“Really.” Johanna crossed her arms defiantly. “Does your secret have anything to do with men eating their own heads?”

Wells sighed. “I guess it doesn’t matter at this point. The mission has been compromised and I’ve just killed two superiors.”

“Let me guess. They tried to get kissy-face?”

“Affirmative.”

“Don’t these people deserve an explanation?”

“And how do you suppose we do that without creating panic?”

“I think we’re long past panic, Sergeant.”

“I guess so.”

A small crowd had begun to form and questions rose around them like the humming of insects. Wells held her hand up, silencing the crowd.

“I’ll tell you what I know, but you must agree to remain calm regardless of what you may hear or see in the next few hours.”

People slumped on benches, leaned against mall furnishings or slid to the floor as Josie began to speak.

* * *

Nobody knew exactly when or where it began, and its origin was still unclear. It was believed to be an alien pathogen, although biological terrorism hadn’t been ruled out yet. Only men were affected, and the method of transmission was also unclear. The only thing certain was what happened afterward.

An estimated 72 hours after coming in contact with the pathogen, the victim would begin to exhibit strange behavior, namely removing his own head and consuming the contents. A tentacle-like appendage grew in place of the head. After the head was empty it was worn as a helmet of sorts, concealing the alien’s identity and allowing it to blend into the population.

The thing was, the aliens didn’t know enough about human civilization to assimilate effectively. To gain information about their enemy, they resorted to humankind’s foremost source of entertainment: movies.

Their mission: To invade Earth.

Their means of invasion: Eliminate the men, who they saw as the primary threat, then take their places and impregnate the females with their own kind. Impregnation was accomplished by implanting an egg in the female’s abdomen, via the tentacle.

A single kiss was all it took.

The aliens mimicked what they saw in movies, quoting Bogart and Gable and other classic leading men in a cheesy attempt to woo the women into relinquishing a kiss and sealing the fate of humankind.

* * *

The small crowd was silent for several minutes after Josie finished speaking.

Finally, Renee spoke.

“Am I to understand that only men are vulnerable to… whatever this is, and women are immune?”

“Provided they don’t kiss any of the men, yes.”

“And so those pregnancies I’ve seen… the unexplained ones. They are a result of that?”

Jill covered her mouth and stifled a sob, tears spilling out of her eyes. Johanna put an arm around her.

“Yes, Doctor.”

Renee waved an arm toward the wrecked bus. “And what is the purpose of this?”

“Homeland Security’s feeble attempt to keep the situation secret. Too many doctors were seeing strange pregnancies and starting to ask questions. They’ve sent out teams to round up medical personnel and destroy medical records.”

“By blowing up clinics? That’s insane!”

“That’s America.” The soldier shrugged. “Other teams are out there right now, collecting all women who are visibly pregnant.” She glanced at Jill. “Once impregnated, the egg, or whatever it is, grows rapidly, becoming visible overnight.”

“What happens when it… hatches?” Jill asked.

Josie looked down at her boots and shook her head.

“No!” Johanna shouted.

“I’m sorry. They have been trying to study it, to find some kind of antidote, but so far none of the female subjects have survived.”

“What about the men?” Johanna asked.

“We are under orders to eliminate any men who exhibit romantic behavior.”

A nervous laugh rippled through the males in the group.

“So guys, what that means is, be sure to act like men and don’t try to get romantic with any women or you might get shot. Sorry.”

* * *

SIX MONTHS LATER

Sentry duty was long and tedious, much like her previous job at Maddy’s Diner. Johanna paced to stave off the numbness creeping into her toes. It wasn’t easy finding footwear that fit anymore, since all the stores had been looted long ago. She’d had to resort to a pair of mismatched high-heeled boots from a display window because they were the only ones left in her size. On the run from a particularly tenacious Fleeb doing a poor imitation of Pepe Le Pew at the time, she’d had no time to shop around. The irony of a shoe shortage in a world ruled by women never escaped her for a moment.

A lot had changed in the past few months, though it seemed like years had passed since the day she witnessed her brother’s self-decapitation in the kitchen. She was still working at Maddy’s, but her job description these days was different, as was the diner itself.

Maddy was long gone, having exploded giving birth to an alien embryo after being impregnated by Kevin the fry cook. On the day Johanna lost her mother in likewise fashion, she swore revenge on the invaders.

Armed with assault rifles, Johanna and Zoe went on a grief-stricken rampage, shooting every man in sight, infected or not. Johanna had to admit, the kid was a good shot. All those hours spent playing Call of Duty had paid off. Zoe was well-equipped to survive in the world in which she would grow up.

A surge of female warriors rose, following Johanna’s lead. An unlikely army of women from all walks of life – bank tellers, beauticians, school teachers and more – history’s most fashionably dressed infantry waged war on mankind. At first they were met with considerable resistance from the real military, but as more women took up arms and more men morphed into kiss-crazy babbling Fleebs, a global shift of power took place.

Maddy’s diner was now an outpost, due to its location on the interstate at the edge of town. The sign inviting travelers to come in and eat lay in a heap of rubble after being blown up with a grenade launched at a fuel truck driven by a Fleeb. ‘Fleeb’ was what they called the infected men, after the sound they made through their proboscis.

Pockets of resistance still remained. The men had gone underground, and for good reason, because males were shot on sight, Fleeb or not. The object was, blast all men, take no prisoners. However, some women were still suckers for… suckers, and pregnancies still occurred from time to time. Some of the men tried cross-dressing as a disguise, but most did a lousy job of it and were easy to pick out. Nonetheless, all who entered Estrogenesis, Oklahoma had to check in at one of the outposts, where they would be transported to the hospital for blood work and a doctor’s examination to confirm their gender.

What would become of the human species once all men were eliminated? That was the question on many minds. Sperm banks held a possible solution. Once the threat was contained, women could become pregnant again in hopes of repopulating the species.

Would male children born into the new world be immune to the Fleeb pathogen, or would they, too become infected? Nobody knew. If the Fleeb was there to stay, the only solution was to eliminate the male offspring and keep the females. As an Amazonian society, humankind’s time on Earth was destined to expire once the last sperm was gone.

Copyright © 2014 Mandy White

This story is featured in the WPaD Anthology Goin’ Extinct. 

Coming Soon...

Who can come up with a dozen different ways to end the world? We can!
This apocalyptic collection of short stories explores numerous ways in which life as we know it could end. From the traditional nuclear apocalypse to cosmic events, zombies, mysterious alien substances, evil corporations and even… coffee. These stories will shock, entertain and tug at your heart strings. For your post-apocalyptic reading list, ‘Goin’ Extinct’ is a must-have.

Including stories and poetry from: Mandy White (Author), David W. Stone (Author), Diana Garcia (Author), Marla Todd (Author), Nathan Tackett (Author), J. Harrison Kemp (Author), David Hunter (Author), Michael Haberfelner (Author), Jade M. Phillips (Author), Gina McKnight (Author), Mike Cooley (Author), , Chris Da Cruz (Author), S.E. Springle (Author)

Table of Contents

  • Existence is No Longer Profitable ~ David Hunter
  • Zoila’s Zombie ~ Jade M. Phillips
  • Battle of the Bean ~ Mandy White
  • ~ His Beating Heart ~ Poetry by Marla Todd
  • Zombie Days ~ Marla Todd
  • Skeet Beecham’s Confessions from the End of the World ~ J. Harrison Kemp
  • ~ The Quell ~ Poetry by Diana Garcia
  • Quietus ~ Diana Garcia
  • Purple ~ David W. Stone
  • It’s All Over on Elm Street ~ David Hunter
  • Dead Matter ~ Mike Cooley
  • ~ Electrical Chaos ~ Poetry by Sara Jane
  • Survival of the Fittest ~ Michael Haberfelner
  • The Last Summer Storm ~ Val Fox
  • Captain Sandy and the Airship at the End of the World ~ Marla Todd
  • Insectisorium ~ David W. Stone
  • ~ Untitled poetry by S.E. Springle
  • Finding Tennesee ~ Gina McKnight
  • Never Mind the Humans, Here’s the Rodents ~ Michael Haberfelner
  • Lullaby ~ Nathan Tackett
  • ~ The Great Flood ~ Poetry by Chris Da Cruz
  • Just One Kiss ~ Mandy White

Enough of the official description…

The first time I read this book I laughed out loud – not because it was funny but because it is SO GOOD.

WPaD is the acronym for Writers, Poets and Deviants. We are a diverse group of writers who came together on the Internet to support and encourage each other.Our collaborative works are charity fundraisers, with a percentage of royalties being donated to Multiple Sclerosis in support of members of our group who live with MS.

WPaD books are available worldwide in paperback and ebook editions.

Find WPaD Publications on Facebook for updates on our upcoming projects Or follow us on Twitter: @wpadpublication

Cover art by Jason Kemp.

To purchase on Amazon CLICK HERE.

To purchase on B&N CLICK HERE.

 

Short Story Sunday: Conversion

Conversion
(An Austin and Elizabeth Story)

“Durant, we found something.”

“What do you mean you found something?”

“Live dead bodies.”

“Vampires?”

“Yes, vampires. Happy fucking Halloween.”

“I’ll be right there.”

Austin Durant had planned on spending the morning grading papers. When he wasn’t teaching history at the local state college he was a contractor specializing in restoring historic buildings. When he wasn’t doing that he was a vampire hunter. The vampire hunter part wasn’t planned. It just happened.

Now a call from his construction site foreman Matt changed his Sunday morning plans. Damn. He made a call and headed out.

His attorney and friend (the term friend was sometimes questionable) Aaron Todd stood on the front porch. How could anyone always look so elegant, even in jeans and a fleece jacket?

“Why don’t you people take care of your own?”

“You people? Really Austin. You sound almost racist.”

“You’re a vampire.”

“The ones in the walls are not my people.”

Aaron had a point. He was an attorney and lived in a beautiful modern house, with a beautiful wife who looked like she was right out of a Botticelli painting.  Aaron had nothing in common with the dried up husks with long yellow teeth and claw like fingers who were hibernating in the old walls.

Aaron was holding a pink box. “I brought donuts and coffee for your guys. It was the least I could do.”

“Thank you. The good kind,” said Austin, looking at the beautiful assortment of donuts, sweet rolls and bear claws. “Do you ever eat these things?”

“No. They make me sick.”

They waked back to the small bricked in room where the vampires had been found. The 8 x 8 foot space had been bricked in from the inside.

Aaron looked down at the still dead looking forms. “I know those two. I’d wondered what had happened to them. Not that I cared. I was glad to see them gone. The last time I saw them was this time of year. My wife Verity and I were downtown late at night and spotted these two on the steps of the new Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.”

“New?”

“It was 1890.” Aaron smiled and sipped his coffee. “They watched us with empty eyes coveting our existence. These two in the walls are creatures with no souls. They exist with nothing but longing for blood. They have no idea what the empty void is that fills them. That is why they wall themselves up to sleep for years. They know no torment. They feel no longing. They exist and that is all.

These two had come out to California to seek their fortunes right after the Civil war, like so many uneducated dullards. They were both pretty enough and young enough that they made a living selling their bodies. They were stupid enough to be seduced by evil. They forfeited their souls for eternal life. Either that or the idiots who converted them botched the job and only brought them back after their bodies were empty of any life at all. It doesnt matter. They might not even have had souls to begin with. They were the kind of people who just survive and nothing else. Their lives have no meaning.”

“You’re harsh.”

“I am realistic.”

“You saw them on the cathedral steps. You were going to tell me something about them.”

“It two days before Christmas, they sat on the steps huddled together. I was going to approach them and tell them to leave town, when a priest came out into the dark and sat with them. We could hear what he said. I’ll never forget.”

Aaron took a deep breath as if he was almost human. “It was obvious they had been there before. The priest made a sign of the cross then put his hands on their shoulders and said, those who are loved will earn their souls. It is not in the scripture but I believe it. I know it. You are loved. Believe me. Believe my brother and sister.

Austin was amazed at what the vampire told him. “Do you believe that Aaron?”

“I want to, but no, I do not believe it.”

Austin knew vampires were cold hearted but he assumed that maybe… then again, when it came to the heart of a vampire assumptions were dangerous.

“By the way,” said Aaron, “the good priest was found dead a week later. His body had been drained of all blood. Funny how things work out that way.”

They looked down at the corpse-like vampires who lay on an ancient cot, huddled together in a cold embrace. Their old fashioned clothes still showed some color through the dusty and faded threads.

Austin raised the chain saw and was about to start it up when the male opened his eyes. It sounded like paper shredding. The woman did the same.

“Do it now,” hissed Aaron.

Austin started the chainsaw and cut off their heads.

He looked up and saw writing on the wall scrawled in what could have been blood above the cot.

We no not wat we do

“We know not what we do,” Austin read out loud.

In the curled up clawed hand of the woman Austin found a small carved figure of a baby in a manger. The paint looked almost new.

In the hand of the man was a holly branch.

“Those were gifts from the priest,” said Aaron.

The bodies turned to dust before their eyes.

“Aaron, what do you want to do with the ashes?”

“You have a shop vac don’t you?”

“Man, you’re cold. No pun intended.”

Aaron shrugged. Austin put the baby in his pocket and gave the dried holly branch to Aaron.

“Maybe I should believe,” said Aaron.

Austin put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Maybe you should.”

 

~ end

Tangled Tales

For more Austin and Elizabeth adventures CLICK here.

What happens when a History Professor/Restoration Expert/Player followed the footsteps of his Granny and becomes a Vampire Hunter? He discovers basements full of undead creatures, a thriving community of hip and trendy Modern Vampires, and the maybe love of his life (who just happens to be a Vampire.)

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Dawn of the Undead – A Very Short Vampire Story

Dawn of the Undead – A Very Short Vampire Story

It had been a long night of love and blood and fun. So many Halloween parties. It was a good night to be a Vampire.

Jon pulled up to his house and sat in the driveway for a few minutes as he checked his messages. The sky grew lighter in the distance. Soon the sun would be up and he’d be in bed, shutters closed, dreaming sweet dreams of the night skies and warm women with long necks.

As he stepped out of the car something grabbed him and slammed him down in the driveway. Flat on his back he looked up into the face of a Vampire Hunter. Damn it.

“We’re going to hold you here until the sun comes up and you fry,” said a man dressed in black.

“Honestly Dude you’re going to have to cut out my heart or cut my head off to kill me. i guess you could burn me to a crisp but that takes forever. You might want to reconsider. Come on in and we’ll talk about this over a beer or something…” Jon was trying to stall them. The sun wasn’t going to hurt him much.

Turning his head Jon could see the thin ribbon of pink coming up over the hills. Dawn. It was his best hour. It was the time he’d write his best work. It was the time he’d relax and gather his thoughts. It is his time and they were not going to take it from him.

“Guys, I have a deadline on an article for Vampire Review. I have to get it done this morning. You’re making a mistake.”

The Vampire Hunters raised their knives.

A few hours later the sun was in the sky, the birds singing, squirrels ran through the trees. Jon took off his work gloves and put away his shovels. This wasn’t the way he’d planned on spending his morning, but when you’re a Vampire… sometimes you have to face the sun and do what you have to do.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From ghoulies and ghosties

And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Short Story Sunday: Friends Forever

“My son is living a nightmare no child, nobody should ever have to deal with.”

Dr. Michael Trent spoke with the police for God knows how many times in the past three months. This time it had been about Christopher’s death. He ran his hand through his hair and sent the detectives out the front door of his home. Upstairs Hunter lay in bed in a state between life and death, sanity and insanity, between the real work and a nightmare.

It had been just another camping trip. The five boys had been camping in the woods on the edge of town for years – since they were in 6th grade. They were good kids. The parents never had to worry about them getting into trouble.

On a warm summer night, when they were all sixteen and seventeen, they camped together for the last time.

After they’d all climbed into their sleeping bags, after a night of hotdogs, smores, a few swiped beers, and a lot of talk about school, girls, and their plans after graduation, it happened.

Hunter, Christopher, Dylan, Kyle and Sam. Best friends forever. They’d always be with each other. Always.

While asleep under the stars something grabbed Hunter’s sleeping bag and dragged him into the woods. The other boys could hear the trashing, the crunching, the tearing, and the screams.

Something huge, like a shadow, like a bear, or as one of the boys put it “The Hulk”, stood over Hunter and looked from the darkness with glowing dark eyes. It could have been anything.

Hunter’s once handsome face was an unrecognizable bloody pulp. His left arm was mangled and almost fleshless. It was a miracle that the was alive.

That was in July.

On the night of August 1st Dylan was walking home through the park they’d all played in as kids. He stopped to sit on a swing, thinking about what had happened three weeks before. He never thought of himself as vain, but his friends joked he looked like an Italian Model. Poor Hunter. Tears flowed down his face.

Then mid thought Dylan was slammed to the ground by an unknown force. His head was held as if in a vice. Pain like no other exploded his entire being as someone, something  ripped off his entire lower jaw. In the morning his mutilated body was found by a woman walking her dog. She never slept easy again.

A few weeks later Kyle was at the grocery store picking up flour for his mom. She was making him a birthday cake. She knew he was in mourning for his best friend but she wanted him to have the cake. Sam and Christopher would be there.

Kyle never made it home. He was slammed against his car and an unknown thing, a creature, something too violent to be a man, took his arm. It tried to get at his face but was scared off with the yelling of other grocery store patrons.

By then nobody in town let their teenagers out at night. On a Wednesday night Sam took the garbage out to the street. The creature jumped him and took his scalp. Then it took his heart. The scalp was never found. His heart was found in the garbage can, still warm.

As for Christopher, poor Christopher, was home alone while his parents were out at a party. It drained his blood. His face, like Hunter’s was mangled. The only things left were his brown eyes and his right ear. The neighbors called the police when the two family dogs would stop howling.

After the death of Christopher the attacks stopped. The creature or whatever it was had left. Still the threat of violence and unknown horrors lingered over the town.

Two years later Kyle started his first year of college. He’d decided to go to the local Community College for two years and then transfer to UC Irvine to study medicine, or maybe political science. He liked the beach and sunshine. It would be a good school for him. Getting along with one arm wasn’t that bad. It was the nightmares that paralyzed him.

Hunter was accepted to Princeton. It was on the other side of the country and away from his memories. He’d always be in touch with Kyle. They’d always be friends.

As he walked across campus girls smiled at him and approached him. Other young men shook his hand and gave him bro hugs. He’d smile and was thankful to be alive. The scars were fading, thanks to his dad’s skills as a plastic surgeon. Actually, he looked good. He looked different but kind of handsome he thought.

He missed his friends but they’d always be with him. Christopher’s ear and nose, Kyle’s left arm, Dylan’s jaw, and Sam’s thick brown hair.

Winter came and the memories of the horror was starting to fade. Dr. Trent was hanging Christmas lights, humming Jungle Bells. He heard something in the bushes. Darn it, the cat must have gotten out. He glanced over and called the cat’s name. It was the last thing he ever did.

~ end

 

 

Thanks for allowing me to try my hand at writing horror …over morning coffee.

October 20, 2018.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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.

This is not my bed. I don't sleep in a box.

Alright folks, this is what happens when a writer keeps trying to write a story and every five minutes someone needs something and interrupts. This is what happens when you’re a mom, and a wife, and working a business, and have parents, and neighbors. You get a story but it is more real-life, and a little dull rather than sensational. Just a normal Sunday morning that ends up with everyone meeting for coffee. Coffee is good. Almost everybody likes coffee. Most people like Vampires too but they just won’t admit it.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman 

Vlad’s Vampire Diary: You Can’t Go Home Again

Dear Diary,

Going home is no longer an option.

This morning I went to Google Maps. There are cameras in space, up in the sky, in the heavens taking photographs of the Earth. Everything can be seen. I dare say unseen is what I wish today.

This thing called technology, baffles me. It amazes me. What amazes me the most is that all of this, which would have once been considered black magic is now not magic at all, AND it has almost all happened in the past one hundred years. It has happened in the past fifty years.

After being imprisoned in a crypt for three hundred years, I am still overwhelmed. The past four years… I can not even describe them.

This morning at dawn I stood out on my deck and looked at the sun coming up over the dark night sky. I thought about my old home where I was King of Vampires and all I could see. This morning I saw a flock of turkeys. Alas I am not even King of Turkeys now.

So inside I went to my MacBook Pro and to Google Maps and to my castle.

It was gone. My castle was not there. GONE. Not a trace. Just forest and meadows and NOTHING. All traces of my existence was gone. I looked up my name. Nothing but some Russian fool who rides horses and other animals without a shirt, and ridiculous laughable horror movies, and bad fan fiction. There is no trace or memory of me.

I picked up my phone (another unbelievable marvel of technology) and called my friend Randolpho. He said I had to look on the Dark Web to find information about real Vampires. I do not understand. I know that by web he does not mean a spider web but something of course we can not see. This new world and the language is confusing. Everything is called by a name that is indeed a tangled web of language. He said I needed a special server and spoke of other things I do not understand. Who is that special server and where do I find him? Will he serve only me or others as well? I did not risk asking Randolpho and seeing his eyes roll.

Yes, that is something people do now. They roll their eyes around in their heads as if to say, “you are ridiculous and have the mind of a child.” I have recently learned the term, “bless his heart,” means the same thing. Eye rolling. Bah.

I am forgotten. I am lost. I am new. I am frustrated.

I expressed this feeling to my love Gillian.

She said, “You’re so cute Vlad.” Then she kissed me. That is something no amount of technology can improve on.

So apparently I am cute as well. I do not understand this cute, but I will take her word for it. My advice to any male is to take a woman’s word on it, no matter what she says.

~ Vlad

 

Dear Diary,

I still mourn the loss of my former home and kingdom, but on the other hand I am glad it is gone and nobody else is living there in my place.

Tonight I walked around my new home. It is a 3,500 square foot home with what is called a good sized yard. There is plenty of room for me, the cats, Jane the coyote dog, and Gillian when she is here.

Gillian has claimed her own bathroom (there are four of them. FOUR.) With all of the tools and cosmetics at her disposal there is no need of a maid for her. When I first met her it took two hours for her to get ready in the morning. She had layers and layers of clothing. She had layers of hair. Cosmetics were complex and questionable. Now she jumps in the shower, blows her hair with hot air and lets it flow down her back, then she pulls on six items. Only six. Bra, panties, jeans, shirt, two shoes. That is all. Sometimes she wears a dress, but it is tiny and no slip, corset, underskirts, hoops, or pads are needed. It is just my beautiful Gillian’s natural shape that shows. She sometimes laughs and says it is easier to be a Vampire with fewer clothes.

Gillian also has taught me how to get blood stains out using magical chemicals and a machine that actually washes clothing. In my castle there were five women who washed my clothing, and only my clothing. There were a dozen more to do the job for the rest of the castle.

Yes, I can now wash clothing in secret, with my own private machine, without anyone knowing what I have been doing the night before. That is always a good thing.

~ Vlad

 

Dear Diary,

I was out tonight at my favorite night spot, where Vampires can sit among the crowd without anyone suspecting they are only there looking for a bit to eat in peace.

The bartender and owner, a lovely woman named Cassie, has become, shall I say, a friend.

Tonight she leaned against the bar facing me and asked me, “Where are you from Vlad? Originally? I can’t place your accent? Europe? South Africa?”

I smiled and took her hand, “Dear Cassie, where I come from no longer exists. Even if I could go home those who live there would not welcome me. I have found a home here, with those who are like me, in a new home with strangers. But strangers no more. I have you and others friends who are far better people than I knew before.”

“You can’t go home again. Sort of like the Thomas Wolfe novel. Have you read it?”

“No. Write it down. I will read it.”

“You seem sad,” she said.

“No, I am not sad. I am just feeling, what do you say, retrospective.” Then I smiled at her in a way that charms all who have warm blood in their veins. “I come from a place in Europe where the mountains are high and eagles still fly above the towering trees. I do not even know what country it is now. It does not matter. I am here in California. I will learn to ride a board on the waves. What is it called? Smurfing?”

“Surfing. It is surfing. Smurfs are small blue French people. Like annoying little dwarves and there’s only one girl.”

I had no idea what she was talking about. I just smiled and then scanned the room for someone with a nice neck and a healthy pulse.

Later with my veins full of fresh blood and my mind clear I went back to see Cassie. I gave her a kiss on her cheek and a hug. I closed my eyes feeling her heart beat.

“Thank you my dear Cassie for giving comfort to an old man.”

“Love you Vlad. HA! Old man my ass. What are you? Thirty-two, thirty-four?”

“Something like that,” I said as I kissed her cheek again. I would never tell her that I am 675 years old. I would never tell. It always confuses people, more than any technology can confuse an old Vampire like me.

As I left I could hear her tell the other bartender, “Damn, he is cute.”

I do not understand this cute. That I will never understand, but I will take it as a compliment from a friend.

~ Vlad

 

Dear Diary,

I woke in a cold sweat. I am a Vampire so I only have cold sweat. I had a nightmare about small blue Frenchmen. They smelled of garlic and blueberries. They sang songs in deep throaty voices about ripping out the heart of Vlad the Vampire King.

The door to my bedroom opened. My love Gillian came in. She was wearing an extremely small black dress. The dress fell to the floor, along with her bra and panties. That was three pieces of clothing. She had no shoes. Now she wore nothing but diamond studs in her ears.

She crawled into bed with me, putting her smooth cold arms around me. I put my arms around her and pulled her close as she skimmed her fangs across my neck, then put her lips to mine.

I closed my eyes, and saw blue men, screaming as the large waves covered them while the great white sharks ate them like teenage children eat Hot Cheetos.

Gillian took my face in her hands. “Are you ok Vlad?”

OK. That is another one of those words I do not understand. It means someone  or something is good, or not bad, or it could mean anything, or nothing.

“I am fine,” I said. “Just take my mind off of my mind. Make me forget.”

As always she did. And then some.

~ Vlad

 

Kissed by a Vampire

Kissed by a Vampire

You’ve just read the 40th entry of Vlad’s Vampire Diary. To start from the beginning, or read your favorites again click here. 

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman