Hollow Heads

Hollow Heads

A Science Fiction Story by Marla Todd

Sure we all volunteered with a capitol V but we didn’t know we’d be stuck a billion miles from home with a bunch of assholes.

Our plan was to stop at Planet 2387 before we made communication with our target planet. 2387 is an uninhabited wasteland. There might have been the rudiments of life there at one time but that ship had come and gone.

So we land at what was left of the Emile Hanson Memorial Outpost, otherwise known as Hanson’s Hole. I looked up Hanson’s name before we left home. He’d been the captain of the third Mars mission. You know, the one whose head exploded when he ran into a couple of guys from Europa, but that was a long time ago. That was almost three hundred years ago, long before I was born.

On the wall of the main building of Hanson’s Hole the words, “Welcome to Hell” were scrawled in what looked like blood.

Junior Potemkin, the communications officer, if you could call him that, started to hyperventilate. I slapped him in the back and told him to stop it. Captain John Finch our leader, rolled his eyes, and told us start testing for signs of life. I called my lead science officer and went exploring.

We’d only heard of this place. Nobody was sure even who’d been here in the past, or exactly what their mission was. We were looking at a ghost. And while the rest of the crew stood shaking in their gravity boots I started to explore. I didn’t travel twenty light years away from home to pee my pants over some extraterrestrial graffiti.

I’ll tell you, when I signed up for this gig, last minute of course, I found myself with the lamest group of space travelers ever assembled. Sure they were all smart and looked good on paper. Everyone had advanced degrees and shit loads of experience. But the experience was in the lab and on paper. Nobody had field experience or people experience aside from the Captain or me.

Potemkin was an expert in written communications but couldn’t carry on a conversation if his life depended on it. Our lead engineer Thomas K. Morgan was one of those insidious geeks who corrected everyone on every single word they said. Morgan’s favorite line in any conversation was, “actually” fill in the blank with his expert opinion, which was usually bullshit or worthless trivia. After we were out of the solar system Captain Finch told Morgan that he’d throw him out into space without a suit if he didn’t cut it out.

The rest of the group included a guy called Boof who thought he was channeling Flash Gordon, an antisocial hermit of a physicist who asked to be called X, and a pair of identical twins I called Satan’s Daughters. The twins, Vera and Meera, were sneaky little shits who talked at the same time and were never seen away from each other. They were brought on as some sort of geology experts, you know, dirt and rocks as they liked to remind everyone as they cackled like witches as if that was funny. They were dirt and rocks as far as I was concerned. The rest of the crew was bland, mean spirited, and aside from the Captain had no imagination what so ever.

So I’m looking at the writing on the wall and wondering what in the world, and who in the world had written it. I felt someone rub my shoulder and looked over to see Boof standing there expecting me to be Dale Arden to his Flash Gordon. Give me a break. He looks good but no. Absolutely no.

“Boof,” I said looking up at the leafy blue green canopy of plants (I assume they were maybe once plants) around the building. “Let’s take a look inside.”

He gave me a great big blinding white smile and knocked the door open with his foot. Boof wasn’t carrying a ray gun, but it wasn’t because we’re a couple of scientists with seven degrees between the two of us. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t like scientists or people with degrees can’t be badass. We just didn’t have any weapons with us.

The interior was dark. Not like no lights, because there was a skylight, but because obviously the interior decorator of this forgotten outpost either had a stack of 1980’s Architectural Digest Magazines handy for inspiration, or he was into all things Gothic.

“Looks like vampires live here,” said Boof.

I gave an uncomfortable laugh and tried to be serious, that is until the music started to play. I couldn’t figure out where the music was coming from. The sound was sort of like it was coming out of a metal tunnel. A man was singing in sort of a strange high voice, but it sounded kind of nice.

You’re just a little bit of sunshine when it’s raining,

You’re just a little bit of gladness when I’m blue,

You’re just a little bit of love light that keeps shining,

And when it’s cloudy, you’re a silver lining.

“Radio Franks.You’re Just A Little Bit of Everything I Love,” said Boof.

I looked straight ahead at a slowly moving shadow. “How do you know that Boof?”

“I like early 20thCentury music,” he answered, his eyes also on the shadow.

“Sing me something from the late 21stCentury. You know the one, about the alien romance, ruby skin.”

Boof started to sing quietly in a surprisingly beautiful tenor.

Your DNA plays around,

Like a silken ghost,

Worlds apart are we.

Flying higher

Flying higher

Flying higher

Reach the stars

Ruby skin, emerald eyes,

Heaven between

Hot alien thighs.

Flying higher

Flying higher

Flying higher

Reach the stars

“I hate that song,” I said taking a slow step forward. “You changed the lyrics.”

“Yes, I did change the lyrics, and yes I hate it too. Do you sing?”

“Only in the shower.”

“Can I join you?”

“Only in your dreams.”

“Let’s sleep then, shall we,” Boof said in almost a whisper as we slowly walked towards the shadow.

The shadow moved, in what looked like the shape of a human hand, then stupidity happened. A tremendous scraping sound, sent us turning backwards to see Garland Holbright, one the Earth’s most famous journalists, come along to document our journey for the ages. Every living Earthling knew who the man was, and Garland never let us forget.

Garland had opened the door in the wrong direction, throwing it off of it’s tracks.

“Find anything yet?” Garland called out loudly as he propped the door up against a wall.

The shadow vanished.

“God Damn you Holbright. You’re such an asshole,” said Boof, as I grabbed him by his jacket and held him back.

Garland Holbright was what we (not me, everyone else) called a Frank, short for Frankenstein. He was one of those kids who’s parents had custom ordered him from a cocktail of perfect DNA so he’d be brilliant and exceptionally good looking. Sure his IQ was off the charts and he was good at taking tests. Sure on a scale of one to ten in looks Garland was a seventeen, but where he excelled in trivia and Prince Charming handsomeness he lacked in creativity and personality. The guy was an insufferable bore with an ego the size of Jupiter.

Sure we’d all had genetic modifications for long term space travel. Our respiratory systems, muscular growth, and bone density had all been tweaked. A few of us, including me, had a few personal tweaks as well. My eyes are now a little brighter shade of hazel, and my hair is finally grows model perfect. That said, I’d like to think that you always get better babies with natural random DNA selection.

Boof and Garland had gotten into it the night before. Garland had convinced a friend to hack into the personnel logs and found out that Boof was created by a couple of teenagers one hot summer night in the back seat of a self driving solar convertible.

“Silence,” I said in one of those loud mom-like whispers. “Both of you. Garland, we are not alone.”

Garland formed an O with his mouth in surprise. I knew the guy was deathly afraid of aliens. Go figure. He goes on a space mission but he is afraid of anything that isn’t human, or maybe a dog.

While I was getting ready to rip Garland a new one Boof grabbed my arm.

“Timothy Leary is not dead,” he said right in my ear, so close I could feel his hot breath. I shook my head to get him away from me.

I wondered why Boof was making a reference to the 20thCentury Philosopher. Thank goodness he didn’t start singing that song. What was that group? Moody Crew? No, I think it was Moody Blues. I’d been spending way too much time with Boof. I swore between Boof and Garland I felt like my head was going to explode.

Then I turned around and there before us stood Pilot Tim Leary from the Space Explorer 23 Dog Star Mission. According to records, and Wikipedia, he’d died years ago, before I was even born. When I was a kid he was one of my idols.

Leary held out his arms in a welcoming gesture and with a wide grin said, “Welcome to Hanson’s Hole!”

“Captain Leary?” I asked, stepping forward to introduce my team and myself. “Chief Officer Gwendolyn Ward of the Research Ship the DeGrasse Tyson. These gentlemen are Science Specialist First Class Boof Errikson, and Garland Holbright, a journalist for International Geographic.

“An award winning journalist,” said Garland holding out his hand to Leary.

I kicked Boof in the ankle to prevent him from doing anything stupid. I let Garland have his bit of ego masturbation before I found out what was going on with Leary.

Leary took me by the arm as he walked and talked me into a much larger room that resembled an intergalactic art museum with comfortable seating. “I see your ship was named after the 48thPresident of the United States. A good omen there. My ship was called “The Dog Star.” I like dogs and all, I have a couple around here somewhere, but, I’ll tell you, it was a dog of a ship. Holy space shit, that thing was as bad as 2213 GM Sasquatch. Remember those? Do you like to be called Gwendolyn or Gwen?”

“Gwendolyn please. You’re alive.”

“Yes, very much so,” he said with a dashing smile as he patted my arm.

“But your body was found. DNA matched yours. There was no mistake. There is a huge memorial in Washington D.C.”

“And I’m honored at the thought, but obviously I’m still alive. I am indeed Commander Timothy Leary of the Dog Star.”

“But…” I started

“Do you know much about clones Gwen, Gentlemen?”

“Holbrook is a clone,” said Boof.

“I am not a clone,” said Garland.

“Gentlemen…” I hissed at them.

“You’re a freak Holbrook,” said Boof.

Garland threw his shoulders back. “You’re nothing but degenerate pod shelter trash.”

I’d had enough. “Boof, Garland, NOW.” I turned back to our host, “Captain Leary, the time line wouldn’t make sense. All of your bodies were found and brought back to earth. How do you explain that?”

Leary smiled again. “None of us wanted to go back so we cloned ourselves.”

“If you cloned yourselves, wait, your bodies were found a month after you landed here. It would have taken at least twelve years to have a fully grown human body.”

Leary motioned to the plush red chairs in the room. “Sit and make yourselves comfortable. I’ll tell you all about it.” We sat, and Leary told us an extraordinary story. “Once we had the Time Machine it seemed like we could steal anything we needed. Where do you think all of this art came from? Anyway, we stole an advanced cloning lab from the Dingus V Planet Chain. Nobody there has had fertile sex in centuries. They can’t, so they clone. Sad story, but shit happens.

Listen, none of us wanted to go back to our mission or Earth. We also didn’t want anyone looking for us. With the technology from Dingus V we were able to clone fully formed human bodies in thirty-six Earth hours. Thirty-six fucking hours. Unheard of. We programmed our clones to be without working brains. We called them the hollow heads. Once our clones were grown we smashed their empty heads in and called it a day. No brains, no souls, just lab grown flesh.”

“Wait,” said Garland. “You had a time machine?”

Leary smiled and shook his head in a definite yes. “I knew you’d ask. It is an amazing machine that jumps both time and space.”

“Space portal travel I can believe, but Time Travel is illegal universally, said Garland.

“That doesn’t mean it I can’t do it. I went forward because I don’t like the people I was with. I’m only here at Hanson’s Hole because I needed an additional respite from, well, everything. What are you doing here? Space Jumping I assume, but what is your mission. Nobody stops at Hanson’s Hole.”

I explained our mission as Leary listened intently.

Holbrook held up a finger and gave an artificially inquisitive look. “Why does it say Welcome to Hell in blood on the door of the compound?”

Leary shrugged. “I have no idea. It was there when I got here a few weeks ago. I just haven’t had the time or the paint to fix it.”

After more discussions about Leary’s adventures we returned to our own ship. I knew exactly what Leary was talking about when he said he was tired of annoying people.

Vera and Meera, the evil twins, came giggling and snorting into my office.

I motioned for them to sit. They both sat down and crossed their bony legs in unison. “Do you have the updated geology reports?”

Vera was the first to respond. “The soil acidity has doubled from the last time measurements were taken fifty years ago.”

“Fifty years ago,” said Meera.

Vera continued. “We also detected new volcanic activity. Are you having sex with Boof?”

Meera then spoke again, right on the tail of her sister. “Are you having sex with Boof? Was it good? Positively volcanic?”

“Volcanic. We know you are,” said Vera.

Meera started to laugh, a high pitched crow like cackle, then she started to snort. Then Vera joined in.

“Insubordination is not to be tolerated on this ship. If you ladies continue your immature behavior I will make sure you’re dropped off at the next supply station. You will receive no letters of recommendation, and I guarantee you will have to find your own way home, at your own expense. Capiche?”

“Yes, of course,” they said in unison. It almost sounded like they had an echo to their words.

“Thank you for the report. I’ll review it thoroughly.” I said motioning with my hand for them to leave.

After they’d Holbrook put his head in the door. “Do you want to have dinner later? This isn’t romantic, of course…”

I cut him off. “No.”

“Is there something going on between you and Boof?”

“No. Jesus, Garland, I’m having dinner with Caption Finch. A working dinner.”

As soon as he left a message came on the screen from Boof.

Hey Baby, do you want to see stars tonight?

I deleted the message.

The entire trip had been like the set-up from a bad bodice ripper romance, but without any sex or bodice ripping. You know the story. The heroine is caught between two potential lovers. One is dark haired, gorgeous, with impeccable breeding, and insanely rich. The other is blond, gorgeous, insanely smart, and grew up more or less a street urchin in a block of government run shelter pods. Who should our heroine choose? One will eventually betray her as the other one rescues her, but she won’t know until it happens. Screw that. I didn’t have time for it.

I took the clip out of my hair and shook out letting it fall to my shoulders. Thank goodness for planets with normal gravity. I remember reading about the days when the idea of women being in space seemed ridiculous. The excuse was always something about hair, periods, sex, temptations, strength and peeing. Seriously, one does not need a penis, or a hairy chest to travel in space. Thank goodness for Nichelle Nichols. I was so glad to see her on the one-dollar coin last year. I remember reading the emails of my great-great-grandmother telling my father about when she met Sally Ride. I can’t even imagine.

Over the next few days Captain Finch and I tasked our crew with collecting data, and ship maintenance. Our engineer Morgan questioned everything we asked him to do. He claimed inspections were not necessary. He went on about how his qualifications were better than anyone on the ship, and bragged about his superior intelligence whenever I requested a progress report.

Our physics team, headed up by a guy named Dex Harland, who insisted on being called just “X” decided that we were all going to be eaten by mutant aliens and refused to leave the ship. They spread the word through the crew that Timothy Leary was going to drug them and feed them to giant spiders or some sort of shit along those lines. It was as if the entire crew had gone insane.

I asked one of our two our medical officers about it and he told me that he was writing a screenplay about a murder on a space barge couldn’t give a rat’s ass about our mission. His name was Dr. Charles Young. He only took the job to get out of paying child support for four different women and six kids on three planets. Our sane medical crew member, Dr. Sashie Vern, took my arm and asked if I wanted to get coffee. In the empty crew lounge she begged me to keep Dr. Jay away from her due to his incompetence and creepiness.

On our last supply stop, Hawk Donaldson, a popular member of our Engineering group had a one night stand with a Trasidain female. Trasidian’s are beautiful human like creatures with iridescent pink skin, and several more pleasure seeking orifices than Earthlings. Unfortunately Trasidains also have horrible parasites, which there is no cure for except the death of the host.

Hawk contracted a large number of the parasites and was in excruciating pain as the bugs ate him from the inside out. On his request Dr. Sashie put him into a medically induced coma until his death thirty four hours later. His body, along with the bugs, was cremated and blasted into space.

After Hawk’s death Dr. Sashie wondered why most of the crew members refused to see her for regular check ups or even acknowledge her existence. I should have guessed what Dr. Sashie told me. Dr. Jay had told everyone that Dr. Sashie was incompetent and had caused Hawk’s death.

I went back to confront Dr. Jay and he just smirked.

“I’m entitled to my opinion,” he said with a shit eating grin. I wrote him up for spreading false information and confined him to his room when he was not on duty. The following day rumors spread that I was sleeping with Captain Finch, which was odd considering Finch is gay. I knew it was Dr. Jay.

As I made my rounds that day I realized that our crew, due to the nasty mix of passive aggressive cockroaches and over inflated egos was completely shutting down as a functional team.

The Engineering Group all shaved their heads and wore goggles because they decided that they did not want Garland Holbrook writing about them. Their reasoning was that if they all looked alike then Holbrook would get confused and leave them alone.

Poor Junior Potemkin, our painfully shy communications officer was being bullied by a Data Wrangler named Bambi Von Grob. She would sit next to Potemkin and make snorting noises, suck up snot in her nose, cough, loudly chew crunchy food hours on end, pound on her work station. In retaliation to his complaints she innocently told everyone on board that she was a victim of Junior Potemkin’s bullying.

I could go on for hours about the adolescent behavior of the crew. It seemed that most of my day was spent listening to complaints, breaking up fights, and telling crew members to act like adults.

With six months into our mission, and five years to go, I didn’t know how Captain Finch and I were going to handle this. I loved my job. I loved exploration. I loved the science, but I hated almost everyone on board of our ship.

Boof and I continued to visit Tim Leary. He told us a lot of tall tales but was stingy with any technical information. He said he’d always been more of a manager rather than a scientist. He’d joke that he should have been a stand-up-comic, even thought he didn’t really say anything funny.

One night at dinner, with a nice view of the three aligned moons of the planet, the Captain vented for about an hour about the crew. Boof, Garland, and Dr. Sashie Vern had joined us as the highest ranking crewmembers.

Captain Finch had an announcement for us. “I’ve done some research and come to a realization that we were given a crew of rejects of the highest order.”

“You think?” Boof said with a disgusted look.

“Our mission is longer than usual with extensive isolated periods and difficult Space Jumps. I asked for an experienced crew of individuals with solid science experience, and technical expertise. What I ended up with was a crew of people that nobody else wanted,” said Finch.

I added to his thoughts, “I asked around and was given memos stating that the reason was have the crew we have is because somebody wanted to get rid of them. We asked for the best of the best, and in turn, present company aside, we got the worst of the worst.”

“Exactly,” said Finch.

“Now what? Behavior modification or bull shit team building at the next supply spot isn’t going to fix anything,” said Sashie.

Garland Holbrook poured another glass of wine and smiled. “Clone the crew and leave them there. Then we can have a perfect crew. They have the facilities right here for high speed clone creation.”

“How would that work?” Asked Dr. Sashie.

“Leary and his crew stole the technology from the Glanidians who use semi-brainless clones for off planet mining and prostitution. It’s cheaper than robots, and biological clones are more reliable,” said Garland.

“But you have to feed them,” said Boof. “How can that be more reliable?”

Garland smiled. “No, they eat themselves. They don’t even know it. You know, Clone Nuggets.”

“That is horrible,” said Sashie.

“Yes it is but it isn’t what Leary and his crew did,” said Garland.

“Eventually we’d have to land somewhere and we’d be found out,” said Captain Finch.

“You don’t get it. We will clone the crew, but tweak the genetic codes so that they’ll have more pleasant personalities. We’ll make them brilliant but downright sweet, and completely bland. I know Gwendolyn and Boof could do it,” said Garland. “You both have studied genetics and personality modifications for violent and anti social prisoners on off planet penal colonies.”

I had to speak up. “It will take an extra week depending on how many clones we’re going to make. I spoke with the Evil Twins today and they estimated a major volcanic explosion within the next month. If it blows it will take out all life within five hundred miles of Leary’s clubhouse.”

Then we all sat, nobody asking the questions we all wanted the answer for.

There was a knock on the door. Tim Leary stood there in a black tuxedo, holding three bottles of wine in his arms.  “Your mission reminds me of a story my Great Great Grammy used to tell me. A long time ago when she was a little girl there used to be a huge store called Ickyah. People would flock to it to be unassembled furniture because it felt good if you built stuff yourself. The buyer would get home with instructions that said it would take two hours to build your bed frame and nightstand. Fifty hours later maybe the bed would be done and the nightstand drawer assembled. Another twenty hours everything would be complete with the help of additional duck tape and a lot of swearing.”

“Leary,” I said. “What does that have to do with your mission?”

“That’s what it is like living here. Everything was supposed to be easy. Self contained they said.  But it wasn’t. Fortunately I have a lot of duck tape. I still have that fast acting cloning machine. I’ll let you use it.”

“That is out of the question. We all took ethics oaths to protect our crew,” said Captain Finch.

“I didn’t,” said Holbrook.

We spend the rest of the night bitching about the rest of the crew. After everyone realized that we had more shit-for-brains stories than we could tell in one night. My brain was so agitated that there was no way I could get any sleep so I took a stroll under the three moons of Planet 2387.

“You need a real name,” I said aloud as I scanned the horizon.

“It has a name. Atropos.” I turned to see Garland Holbrook standing next to me. I didn’t even hear him coming. “She was one of the three Fates. Atropos was the one who would decide how long one’s life line was. She’d also choose how one died,”

“Why’d you come on this mission? You could have any job you wanted,” I said.

“Captain Finch is the best. None of us could have predicted the bait and switch with the crew. Think about it. If we had the original crew this would be a perfect science mission.”

This was new to me. “Original crew? Garland, what are you talking about?”

“You don’t know do you? They were finishing up in Florida on their last mission. You and Boof were later additions.”

I was almost in shock. My entire body went numb. Over a thousand souls were lost in a terrorist attack at the National Space Science Research compound. Religious fundamentalists fire bombed the place. No wonder Captain Finch took what crew was assigned him. The man must have been in deep mourning. Why didn’t anyone tell me? Why didn’t I figure it out?”

“Garland, could we get Tim Leary to go back in time and…”

“You know it doesn’t work that way. When you go back in time you can change whatever you want but it won’t change the future. Your changes spin off into an alternate thread of time that eventually fades away.”

“Sure, I forgot. I knew some of the people who died. I had no idea they were signed up with Finch’s next mission. No idea.”

I turned and headed off towards the Welcome to Hell door. I wanted to talk to Leary.

As I took my first step Garland grabbed my hand, twirled me around and kissed me. If I thought my head was spinning before, it was spinning even more now.

“I know you’re attracted to me. I know you’re attracted to Boof. May the best man win, and you know I’m the best man,” said Garland as he kissed me again.

“Let’s go talk to Leary,” I said as I tried to catch my breath.

Three weeks later we left Planet 2387. Leary took off in his time machine a week before we blasted off. From our ship we watched (at a great distance) the massive volcano blow up a good portion of the planet’s crust.

Junior Potemkin came into my office and thanked me for helping him out. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about.

“Everyone is so nice now,” he said slowly choosing the words. “It is as if they were all replaced with clones, or something.” Then he laughed uncomfortably. “That would have been weird.”

I smiled and told him that I was glad he was happy now. I truly was.

~ End

Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe – WPAD Science Fiction.

This story is featured in Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe, W.P.A.D. Science Fiction Anthology. Available with most fine online book dealers (including Amazon and B&N) in electronic and paperback versions. Part of proceeds from all WPaD books go to support or fellow authors who have MS. 

Just thinking about stuff, but not really, and a funny story about a Vampire Hunter.

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I was looking through my dusty archives to find something interesting to re-post, re-blog, re-purpose, or you know, not write today.

Given what is going on right now we should all have a lot more done than we have. Novels should be finished. Your entire yard should be re-landscaped. Dogs should be trained and dressed up like great works of arts. You should have painted at least three museum worthy masterpieces. To give him great amounts of credit my husband painted four rooms in our house including the kitchen.

Blogging about grown children is sort of like walking on a tight rope in the wind. That is all I’m going to say about that today.

I spoke to a friend today who sort of mentioned that one day just blends into the next and it is ok if nobody is getting anything done. It is ok. Additional stress is the last thing any of us need right now.

In the meantime I thought you’d like to read an amusing story that might make you smile.

 

Gerald Atkins, Vampire Hunter

“Now take that Gerald Atkins. He was the worst Vampire Hunter I’d ever seen. He could spot them but that was about it.”

“What was wrong with him?” Austin poured Grammy another cup of coffee.

“Oh he thought he was so suave showing up all dressed up like Sam Spade in his over coat and hat, smoking those smelly cigarettes of his.”

Grammy put some half and half in her coffee and continued. “Gerald would do stupid things like show up with holy water he’d gotten from a nun down at the Catholic church. I told him that he’d just as well throw Coca Cola at a Vampire for all the good it would do. I believe he was having sexual intercourse with that nun. Sister Ann was her name. I bet half the babies in that orphanage where hers.”

“They weren’t her children,” said Austin.

“You don’t know that Austin.”

“Oh Grammy.”

“Just let me finish my story. Gerald Atkins was an idiot. He showed up at a party with his detective get up, with his briefcase full of holy water, a cross, and some old spike he carved out of a 2×4 piece of lumber. Of course he had a knife too but I doubt if he ever sharpened it. The man was goddamn lazy if you ask me.

In a back room back away from all of the drug addicts doing their cocaine on the glass top tables Gerald Atkins finds a couple of Vampires hanging out. There’s a male and a female. Mr. Vampire looks like he belongs to one of those hair bands. It was the 80’s you know. Miss Vampire wore a royal blue silk dress with the back open almost down to her butt crack. So Gerald Atkins takes a look at then and throws his holy water at them. It splashes all over Miss Vampire’s expensive dress and does nothing but make a bunch of stains. The Vampires jump all over Gerald’s ass and suck enough blood out of him to almost kill him, but not quite. Then they dump him in a gutter.

He wakes up in the hospital blubbering on about Vampires. The doctors were convinced he had bats in his attic and was full goose bat shit loony, and locked him up in the mental ward for a few days.

Another time he decided he wanted to date a Vampire woman. Gerald Atkins was so stupid thinking he might get lucky before he killed her. He talked her up trying to tell her how beautiful she was in a cool sort of way. She listened to him and beat him to any game he might have been trying to play. He ends up telling her his life story and about all of his pathetic sorry romances except for his diddling Sister Ann. He never dared speak of Sister Ann but everybody knew about them. Everybody.

Then the fool thinks the Vampire woman is falling for him because she is smiling so sweetly and making her eyes go all twinkly and pretty the way Vampires do. That Vampire woman tied Gerald Atkins naked to a bed in a fancy hotel and left him with the bill. She never took a stitch of her clothing off. Just left him there naked as the day he was born with a couple of holes in his neck. Idiot.”

“Is he still hunting Vampires Grammy?”

“Gosh no. Those Vampires got tired of his shenanigans and cut his head off one night. They left him in the Old City Cemetery with his body laid out on a random grave and his head on top to the tombstone.”

“That’s awful,” said Austin.

Grammy shook her head. “Not really Austin. He wasn’t careful or smart like we are. He never did his research. He could tell if someone was a Vampire but he sure didn’t have any talent to hunt them down properly. He gave us all a bad name.”

Austin offered Grammy more coffee. She nodded yes.

“No thanks. I will have another one of those sugar cookies you made. I’ll take two.”

“Do you think you’ll ever hunt Vampire again?” Austin asked his Grammy half joking. Just half.

Grammy took a bite of cookie and thought a bit. Then she smiled at her grandson. “I don’t know. I can’t run like I used to but you never know. They wouldn’t expect an old lady like me now would they.”

Austin just smiled and took a cookie. No they wouldn’t expect anyone like his Grammy. Nobody ever expected Grammy.

~ end

 

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Have fun everyone. I have a new series starting up tomorrow so I’ll see you back here soon. Stay home. Social distance. Wash your hands. Be nice. Think good thoughts. Be creative.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Full Moon Marathon: Grandpa’s Dog

 In honor of the full moon and Werewolves I’m running a Full Moon Marathon today. Enjoy, ponder, learn, leave comments, stay at home, wash your hands. 

Grandpa’s Dog

A short story from Marla Todd

“I’m taking him to the vet and having him put down.” Jeff said into the phone.

“No you aren’t.” I said, ready to scream.

“It is cruel to make him suffer like this.”

“He isn’t our dog to put down.” I almost growled at my husband.

“I don’t care. Grandpa will understand. He’s always complaining about how he hates Bruce  anyway.”

“The kids will be heartbroken.” I said trying to stall him.

“They’ll understand.”

“What about my mom? She’ll never forgive you.”

“Gretchen, I’m taking Bruce to the vet. I’m sorry.”

“I want to say good-bye.”

“Bruce will understand.” He hung up. Damn him.

Bruce was Grandpa’s dog. He was old. The oldest dog I knew. Jeff thought he was 16. I knew better. Jeff thought Bruce was half wolf and half Alaskan malamute. I knew he was half Irish.  Jeff liked to bake him organic dog treats. I knew Bruce preferred bourbon and prime rib. Jeff thought grandpa was crazy to have such a large dog. I knew Grandpa was half crazy and Jeff was right, it was about the dog, but it didn’t have anything to do with its size.

Once a month I kept the dog for Grandpa, while he “Went to the cabin with his old college buddies.” I hauled the dog to weddings, to funerals, to camping trips and hanging around the house.  He’d been there for my college graduation, my wedding, for my kids. My mom had watched the old dog before me. My grandma before her.

Of course Jeff didn’t believe anything my family said about the damn dog. He’d spent years hearing us tell bad jokes and tall tales. It was how we spoke, in stories. I blame it on my Southern parents. Jeff just thinks I’m funny. He tells me I should have my own show on cable.  HA HA HA.  He thinks my family is quirky and quaint. Right now nothing was funny or quaint.

I raced home from the studio. I’m a photographer, mostly editorial, corporate portraits, product photos.  Good thing I’m the owner of the business, otherwise I’d never deal with my husband, my children and Grandpa’s damn dog. I would have had the dog with me today but he was too stiff to climb into the car by himself and at 125 pounds I didn’t feel like lifting him today.

Jeff was still at home. I parked blocking the driveway. Thank God the kids were still in school. I have never been so angry with anyone in my entire life. I barged through the door yelling at my husband.  “All I asked you to do was check in on him for me at lunch time and you decided to kill him. Well for once in your life listen to me…”

I yelling stopped when I saw Jeff. He had a towel around his hand. He was bleeding.

“The old guy bit me when I was trying to get him out of the house.” he said with a shrug of his shoulder.

I saw Bruce poke his old white muzzle around the corner.

“Why the hell did you have to bite him?”  I yelled at the dog. Bruce tucked his tail and cowered. His ribs stuck out from his sides. He looked ancient and pathetic.

Jeff reached out to scratch the dog behind his ear. “Don’t yell at him. It’s like he sensed what I was going to do. Poor old guy was scared.”

“Don’t touch him.” I yelled. I looked at the wound on Jeff’s hand. It was clean. I went back to the dog. “Damn you, after all I’ve done for you.” Bruce looked at me with glassy brown eyes and shook, tail still between his legs.

Jeff put his arms around me “Gretch, don’t get mad at the dog. “

“You don’t understand,” I gasped.

“He’s old and scared.” Jeff said stroking my hair with his good hand. “You know dear, all that dog hears is “Bruce, blah blah blah. Blah blah blah”. He laughed and gave me a quick hug.

I pulled away. “He’s a werewolf.”

“Oh Honey, don’t call him that. He’s just an old arthritic dog. Poor old guy.” He leaned down to touch noses with the dog. Bruce licked Jeff’s face and thumped his tail on the floor. “You aren’t a werewolf are you old guy? You’re just a prince in disguise. You think she’ll give you a kiss?” Jeff started to make kissy noises.

I thought I was going to throw up.

“There’s a reason why we never see Grandpa and Bruce together.” I growled.  They’re the same animal. Bruce isn’t 16, he’s 85. ”

Jeff took a deep breath. “I’m not going to put him down. We’ll wait till Grandpa gets home and discuss it with him. Werewolves. That’s a good one. So when you work at night does that mean you’re a vampire?” he laughed again.  “You can bite my neck anytime.” He kissed my neck.

I backed away feeling the panic rushing up inside my body. “Jeff, it’s true and now….”

I couldn’t say the words. Now my husband was going to become a werewolf and I’d have one more old dog to take care of.

~ end

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

First published here in 2013

Short Story Sunday: Old Bones

From Dr. Shawna Green
February, 2020
Wales

Many believe Neanderthals believed in a spiritual world. Their graves are found with pollen, which is seen as proof of flowers put in with the buried dead.

In Wales, while on a dig for a 5th Century princess, we found a cave containing an unprecedented burial of five Neanderthal skeletons and three smaller Homo sapiens.

Not only was there pollen, but we also found shells, assorted stones arranged in spiral patterns, and stone tools.

My colleague Dr. Henry Evans carefully pulled out a small bit that looked like metal.

“That is an early Totenkopf skull and bones pin,” said Henry.

“The Nazis weren’t here.” I said. “Or were they?”

“This dirt hasn’t been moved for at least 50,000 years.”

I examined the smaller skulls.

“Henry, two of the skulls have dental work. It looks fairy modern.”

“20th Century. Looks like pre-1950,” said Henry.

“I don’t understand.”

“Shawna, please keep quiet on this for a while until we have these analyzed.”

The bones were around 49,000 years old. All of the bones. The Neanderthal group consisted of three males and two females. Their smaller friends were also a mixed group of two male and one female. All were eight adults.

Then we did DNA analysis.

The man was an SS officer named Franz Meyer.  He vanished in 1937.

The other two came back as Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart. They had a also vanished in 1937. Even more surprising was that their bones, along with Meyer’s carbon dated to 49,000 years give or take a few.

Henry shared more startling findings with me. “There were rumors that Meyer had been working on time travel technology. I always thought Meyer’s work was part of Hitler’s spiritualism and insane technological obsessions. When Meyer vanished so did all of his notes. Some assumed he died when his lab burned down. Shawna, this is huge.”

“But how did they all get at the same place. Earhart and Noonan went down in the South Pacific. Meyer was last seen in German.”

“I don’t know.”

“Now what?”

“I don’t know Shawna. I just don’t know.”

“This is big Henry.”

“I know.”

“Can you imagine flying your plane across the Pacific Ocean then finding yourself in the Ice Ages?”

“How horrifying,” said Henry.

“They were buried with respect.”

Henry looked at me with large blue eyes, then a tear rolled down his face.

For a moment I thought of a bit of trivia.

“Henry, I’ve heard there is a possibility that everyone with blue, or blueish eyes has a bit of Neanderthal in them.”

Henry wiped his eyes. “Neanderthals made rope too. Meyer had traces of hemp at his neck.”

“He wasn’t a nice person.” I said, suddenly feeling the weight of it all on my shoulders.

“Well, let’s give it a rest. We’ll make a plan tomorrow.”

“Yes, we can regroup in the morning,” I said, imagining a blue eyed man swinging by a tree with rope made by his distant ancestors.

~ end

Tangled Tales

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Short Story Sunday Romance Marathon: First Sight

First Sight

 

Northern England   1323 AD

It started to rain, a few drops at first then sheets of freezing water almost horizontal across the sky. That’s all Aleyn needed, to be not only cold but wet as well. To add to the nasty weather and bad mood, he was late. The wind whipped his long wet hair around and slapped him in the face. He swore and quickly tied it back.

Predawn morning was too early and too cold to be up for any woman, no matter how beautiful or persuasive or helpless she was. Then again, this wasn’t just any woman. It was his best friend’s sister. He still wondered how let himself be recruited to bring her to the gathering. “Oh right. I was available.” He thought in disgust. “That’s the story of my life. Ask Aleyn, he’s always available. Like I don’t have anything better to do than travel in the dead of winter to find a woman who doesn’t need my help.”

Despite years of living like a warrior, he still had to fight off the desire to be passive, both physically and emotionally. He’d heard that this woman, Nathaira, was passive to the point of being dangerous. “Wonderful, a match made in heaven. On the up side, maybe she won’t be as demanding and hard headed as the rest of her family.”

As much as he disliked it, Aleyn had a talent for the down and dirty raw violence of physical combat. He’d mastered every weapon he could, learning strategy and cunning. With his tall muscular build, broad shoulders, wild dark hair and piercing ice blue eyes, he made a striking figure. His true gift was his voice; the kind of voice that made people listen, the voice of a leader. Too bad he didn’t have anything to say.

His men followed him on their horses across the fields to the castle of Dexter of Blackwoods. Five men, hand picked for their bravery and steady temperament. All were smart, true and loyal. They were his guards, and in turn he was their teacher. He loved his men and their families with a fierce protective passion. They knew he was different, but they never questioned why. Nobody ever questioned anything in this place. It drove him crazy.

Aleyn’s thoughts wandered back to the gathering he would escort Lady Nathaira to. For the first time, more than 40 of his clan were gathering together. The letter he’d received stated that finally they would be organizing and banding together for solidarity and support. “Support my ass. We’re nothing but outcasts and no amount of support will change that.” he thought. They were stranded to live among a population so different from themselves and there was nothing he or any of his kind could do to change the fact.

This was a place where people still believed their world was the center of the universe. The unknown was to be feared, rather than embraced for the possibilities.

Every time he thought about his situation he could feel the scars on his back and shoulders pull. He had tried to block out his memories of his former self. Home, family, community, his entire world were now dead to him. He’d made a new life in this primitive place. Hope for this world and its people drew him away from his own home and trapped him forever in exile.

Rubbing his temple to fight off a brain splitting headache, he almost lost his balance. “I’ll never get used to this body of mine.” he thought.

His man Garth turned to him with a grim look of concern. I’m fine Aleyn silently mouthed.

Years earlier, Garth had guessed what Aleyn really was. In turn, Aleyn never acknowledged it. If he did he’d risk death for himself and everyone he now loved. Despite the problems and frustrations, he’d made a place for himself and found a small measure of happiness.

As a beloved spiritual teacher and healer, the woman Nathaira had also found a place for herself, practically alone, without her family or a husband to protect her. Everything about her had pointed to failure, but she never failed. In fact, she thrived. Nathaira was the only one in this region of the world, aside from himself, who could teach real hope to these miserable people.

As Aleyn and his men approached the great hall of Lord Dexter’s castle they could hear screaming and the wailing of women. ”Can’t these people ever just shut up?” Aleyn said aloud to himself.

The stone structure was cold and damp.

Not only are they stupid in there, but they have no concept of comfort, Aleyn thought. Knowledge of the great ages of the past had eluded them. In was one more in a long list of frustrating items he didn’t need to think about, but couldn’t get out of his head.

One of his men pounded on the main door. It was slowly opened by a scruffy, timid man wearing ill-fitting dirt colored tunic, obviously a servant. Maybe not. You never could be sure with these people.

“Is your master within?”

The man started to shake. His voice was nothing but an animal like whimper. It sounded like he was saying no, but it could have been anything.

Aleyn pushed his way through. “I am here for Lady Nathaira. Let me pass.”

He scanned the hall. Half a dozen women huddled on benches in the corner, with as many children clinging to their skirts. A few scruffy looking boys of around 8 or 9 stood by the fire, now staring with fascination at the six well dressed, well armed knights and their leader.

Some sort of massacre had taken place. Benches were overturned. Broken pottery lay where it had fallen. Shards of fabric, what looked to have been sumptuous clothing were thrown across the hall. Clumps of long brown hair, still partially braided scattered the floor. A gold necklace with green stones lay twisted and broken. He put his finger to something splattered on the floor. Blood.

He called to his men to check the hall and doorways. They found two badly injured men in the hallway. Long gashes covered their arms and torsos. Aleyn put his hands on their necks looking for a pulse. They’d obviously been taken down by the lord of the castle, trying to protect themselves and perhaps someone else.

“May the healing powers of our Lord be with you,” he muttered. Then turning to a weeping woman he barked out orders, “Get these men by the fire. Warm them up and dress their wounds. Don’t stand there gawking like a frog. Do it.”

The woman ran off for help. These people had been reduced to being perpetual children through fear. In disgust he continued his search for Nathaira, fearing it would be in vain.

A frightened looking, sumptuously dressed woman approached him. “The lord of the house took her last night. He says she’s a witch. He says she cast a spell on him.”

“What do you say about it?” he asked. “Well? Tell me?”

“When he invited her here he expected a crone. She showed up looking like a waiting bride. A virginal beauty with glittering eyes of want.”

“Shut up now.” A second woman, unusually beautiful with long blond braids, slipped next to him and grabbed his arm. “My Lord, Lady Nathaira is a saint. Do not blame her or judge her for what my brother has done. Come, I will provide you with comfort, then…”

Aleyn lost all patience. “Where is Lady Nathaira?”

“There is no helping her. She is damned with no hope of ever being in the light again.”

Why didn’t these people ever just come out and say the truth. Everything was a riddle to him.

“I don’t have time for this madam.” Then again, time meant nothing to them as well.

“Come, let me make you comfortable my lord. I can please you until my brother, the master of this castle returns.”

He took her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. They were almost empty. Her soul was almost gone. Like with so many others it had atrophied into the darkness of her mind. It was a way to survive as comfortably as possible and damn the consequences.

“Come out of your darkness madam. I command you to do so.”

She looked at his face in shock, tears in her eyes. “Up there.” She whispered, backing away from him and pointing to the stairs. “My brother is here, in the chapel…but not himself,” she trailed off in tears.

Aleyn went up a dark stair well into a tower. At the top of the stairs a door was bolted from the outside.

Aleyn unbolted the door. Where are the men she was traveling with? Where is her serving lady? He motioned his men to stay back. Drawing his dagger he walked into the freezing room.

“Put the weapon away. I won’t hurt you,” a quiet, but slightly annoyed voice said from the other end of the chamber. The diffused morning light came through the long crack of a window and illuminated the speaker in a weird perverse halo.

He closed the door behind him. His heart sank as he walked closer to the woman on a wide bench bench. She sat alone, a clutching a rough blanket over her knees to her chest. Her brown hair was a short uneven mess, chopped off at her jaw line. The left side of her face was covered with a mass of ugly bruises and scrapes. Rope burns were on her wrists. Her nose had been bleeding and was now crusted with blood. Her eyes had started to blacken and swell. He knew by ugly scars down her back, scars matching his own, that she was the one he had been looking for.

“Nathaira?”

Her pale blue eyes looked up in calm greeting. “You must be Aleyn. So glad you could finally make it, she said calmly with an ever so slight touch of sarcasm in her voice. She held out her hand palm up. He gently touched the tips of his fingers with hers, in the custom of their kind, then took her hand and gently kissed it. She closed her eyes and gave his hand a squeeze before letting go.

Aleyn sat next to her and carefully touched the burses on her face.

“How bad are your injuries?” he asked as she winced and turned away.

She pulled the blanket around her shoulders and swung her bare feet over the edge of the bed. “I’m fine. Let’s get out of here.”

The lady wasn’t fine. He noticed more black and blue marks on her arms. “Nobody taught you how to fight did they?”

Nathaira took a deep breath. “It is not in my nature to fight.”

“It’s not in my nature either, but I’ve forced myself to do it. You have to fight if you want to survive.”

“Fine, next time I’ll make sure I kill someone,” she snapped back.

“Tell me what happened here,” he took her icy hands and held them between his in an attempt to calm her down. It seemed to work. She leaned a little into him trying to keep warm. He could feel her starting to shiver from the cold.

She spoke calmly, with little emotion. “My first two days here were filled with fellowship and healing. I actually made these people smile and realize that maybe they didn’t have to live in fear. Then last night Dexter shows up ready for a fight. He locks up my people then comes after me. I tried, but I couldn’t get through to him. He has no interest in anything spiritual. If I didn’t know any better I’d swear the man has no soul.”

“Of course he has a soul. Don’t talk that way. Someone will hear you,” he whispered.

“Listen to yourself. You’re as bad as the locals. Nobody will hear me except you,” she scolded him, slightly raising her voice.

“I hope you’re right,” Aleyn answered quietly.

“I am right. Do you want to know what happened or not?”

“Of course, please continue.”

She was still shivering. Aleyn took off his own fur-lined cape and draped it around her, trying to warm her up. For a brief second, Nathaira attempted a weak smile in appreciation then continued. “Needless to say, Dexter only wanted my body. I told him he couldn’t have me. The next thing I knew he had knocked me to the ground and was shouting that I was a whore. Then the stupid ignorant bastard tied my wrists together and hacked off my hair. Son of a bitch almost broke my nose too. Slammed my face right into the floor. He and his brother took my clothes. Cut them right off of me in front of the entire household. Then he dragged me up here for a night of carnal pleasures.”

“He raped you,” Aleyn said quietly almost to himself. He felt sick.

“He didn’t rape me. He tried but I wouldn’t let him.”

“So you did fight.”

She took a deep breath and paused for a few seconds. “Sort of. I tried to talk him out of it, but he wouldn’t listen. I asked him if he believed in hell. He told me to shut up and spread my legs. By then I’d had enough of his abuse, so I put a vision of hell in his mind he’ll never forget. By the time he got to the chapel he’d shit his own pants.”

Aleyn couldn’t believe what she’d told him. “You gave him a vision of hell?”

She rolled her eyes at him in disgust. “Yes. Do you need me to spell it out? You can spell can’t you? I’d be surprised if you could, considering most of the population around here is completely illiterate. They can’t even…”

He gently put a finger to her lips. “Nathaira, please. You’re a healer, you’re not supposed to do things like that.”

She pulled his hand away from her face. “He was going to force me to…he was going to…” she turned her head away in disgust.

He spoke calmly and quietly in hopes of quieting her down. “You know it’s against the rules, to put visions of fear in the hearts of men.”

“Against the rules? Excuse me, Mister tall dark and handsome, sent here to rescue my ass about twelve hours too late, since when have we had rules?”

Tall dark and handsome? Rescue my ass? What a mouth. She really is just like her brother. You could beat the last breath out of him and he’d still get in the last word. He could be drowning and he’d still throw out a sarcastic remark.

“There are rules to ensure our survival.” He told her, firmly, trying to sound in charge.

She gave him the you-clueless-asshole-look that he knew so well from her siblings, then wiped her nose on the blanket. “That little visit-to-hell trick ensured my survival.” She glared at him then looked him up and down. “Would you rather have come here to find that he had raped and killed me? Imagine how my brothers would have reacted to that.”

“I can’t…” he stammered.

She cut him off, “Listen, I don’t have the strong persuasive powers that the rest of my family has. The only real gifts I still have are the ability to comfort and heal. Comfort and healing aren’t going to protect me against a predator like Dexter.” She ran her hand through her hair. “Can you believe this mess? It will take me years to get it half-way normal looking again. Damn that ugly piece of shit and his stupid ass brother. I was supposed to be safe here.” Her voice cracked but she didn’t cry. She took a deep breath and paused, fighting back the tears. “Be glad I didn’t kill Dexter. Believe me, I wanted to.”

He shrugged. He couldn’t begrudge her for feeling the way she did.

Aleyn found clothes for her. A soft under dress and a long over dress of green with ivory colored embroidery. Long sleeves almost reached the ground. Out of her bag she pulled a long embroidered scarf to cover her hair. He helped her get dressed. She didn’t seem to care if he saw her naked or touched her while he helped. He noticed burses on her sides and legs. Every movement gave her pain but she never complained. She took jeweled bracelets from her bag and used them to carefully secure the sleeves at her wrists, then slipped a few silver rings on her fingers. Her fingernails looked ragged and recently broken, Aleyn assumed from the confrontation with Dexter.

Nathaira wasn’t young or breathtakingly beautiful, but she was still an attractive woman with the delicate prettiness of a young girl still in her face. Despite the current bruising and swelling, her skin was smooth and unblemished aside for a generous dusting of freckles. Her figure was sensuous and inviting. Given another time and place it would have given him pleasure to gaze upon her. Today it just made him sad.

Taking her hand he steadied her with an arm around her waist. “Your brothers and Lord Mal will be furious.”

She snapped. “Screw my brothers and that asshole Mal. I’m tired of everyone telling everything I do is wrong.”

He was shocked by her language and defensiveness. “It’s not you they’ll be mad at. I was supposed to protect you. I was supposed to prevent this from happening.”

Nathaira started to cry, big heart breaking sobs. He put his arms around her and held her. He stroked her back and kissed the tears from her eyes.

“Cry it all out. I promise you, I’ll never let anyone hurt you again.” Every sob made his heart break She molded herself next to him. It felt so right, even in this God forsaken place.

He glanced up and saw his right hand man, Garth, in the doorway. He looked stoic but Aleyn knew Garth was glad to see his wifeless leader in the embrace of the woman.

“We found her maid servant and men. Let’s go,” Garth said, trying not to smile.

Aleyn gave a nod. He gently dried Nathaira’s tears and helped her up.

When they went back to great hall the transformation he saw next was no surprise. Gone was the injured, defensive woman he’d comforted. Small and battered she stood in the room, not as a fragile woman, but as an angel of hope, a healer of hopelessly broken hearts and bruised souls. The women gathered around Nathaira and touched her. She embraced them. A few men joined them. She spoke to them in a clear beautiful voice, in their own language. Her tone was calm but her words projected through the hall.

“Keep your faith not in fear and ignorance, but with hope and a pure open heart. Remember God’s love transcends the ignorant and selfish laws of men. Let that love bind your spirit together and keep you strong. Be healed by your faith and the love for your Lord and with your love for each other.” Her words were that of the true teacher. It was a message that had been long forgotten by the ignorant priests that preached fear and distrust.

Tears filled her eyes again as she embraced the women and touched the hands of the men. The morning light filled the chamber. Aleyn knew they could feel Nathaira’s warm healing powers. The children hugged her legs and she held their little faces in her hands and kissed them. She spoke quietly to each of them, giving them strength and comfort. Aleyn knew that they would never forget her, even the few who would survive to old age.

Draping her heavy wool cloak over her shoulders he led her outside to where his men were waiting with the horses. He noticed her eyes dart to their faces and weapons.

Nathaira glanced back at the castle. “These people were so spiritually drained. It broke my heart. They listen to the priest seven days a week telling them that they are wicked lost souls. They’re drawn to the violence and superstitions of biblical stories, not the messages of love and hope. There is no semblance of any grace or understanding in their lives. Ignorance and sheer stupidity rule the land. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand it at all. At least that ugly piece of shit Dexter won’t hurt them anymore. I wish I could do more, but you know how it is. “

He didn’t respond except for a slight shake of his head. Experience had showed him how it was, to be practically useless in a hopeless situation. He noticed how gentle her tone was with the people of the house. How different she was with him, one of her own kind.

She said as she hooked her arm in his as they walked, as if she’d known him for years.

He had to smile at her familiarity. “Nathaira, your name means snake doesn’t it?”

“Snakes are creatures of God, just like swans, hawks or horses. Each has a beauty and purity of it’s own that is lost on most people. Besides, I don’t see it as meaning snake, I see it as meaning that I’m flexible.”

He almost laughed out loud. She was a character. Lovely, charming, spirited, and completely obnoxious, all at the same time.

Aleyn tried to keep a serious tone. “It will take us another fortnight to get to the others. You’ll travel as my obedient and dutiful wife. It will be safer that way.”

She gave him a shy smile. “Do we get to sleep under the same blanket?”

He stopped walking and looked at her. “Excuse me?”

She mocked a serious look. “Don’t worry Aleyn, your virtue is safe with me.” Then she chuckled at herself, amused by her own joke.

Aleyn shook his head and smiled. They continued to walk in silence. Glancing over at Nathaira. He knew she was in pain, physically and mentally.

Noticing his look, she squeezed his arm. “Thanks again for coming. Oh, I forgot to tell you, Dexter’s stupid ass brother Niall and the local priest are planning on killing me tonight at sunset. They said it would be slow and painful.”

“Then I suggest we gather up your people and get out of here.”

She smiled and winked at him. “Lead the way, brave and true husband of mine.”

For the first time in years he was at a loss for words, especially with a woman. Aleyn knew then and there he was falling in love with his best friend’s sister and there was no turning back.

 

~ End

 

Note: They are not speaking OLDE ENGLISH because they aren’t OLDE ENGLISH. I’ve had some asshats point out how they talk. Also it is fiction. Also nobody wants to be an “e” on the end of every word.

Some of you might have read this before. I started this story in 2004. It is part of a much larger work in progress called “A Night at the Crest.” Click here for more.  “A Night at the Crest” is one of the better things I’ve written.

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Night Dogs

Tangled Tales

 

Night Dogs

Constantine Jones sat on the bottom of the museum steps wondering what just happened.

Earlier that evening he’d put on his best Armani suit, a Hermes silk tie, and was feeling good about the outcome of the evening. It was to be a charity event. Beautiful people would be there dressed up. Everyone would be relaxed, and happy, and it would be delightfully fun.

After discussing art and drinking champagne he’d lured a few well-heeled patrons to remote galleries to see some unusual modern art. There he took a few pints of blood from wrists and left his donors with no memories, except those of a delightful conversation with a well dressed, nice looking young art expert. Well, a 165 year old art expert, but that was besides the point.

Then in the main gallery, the California Room, he saw her standing in front of the Thomas Hill grand painting of Yosemite Valley. She wasn’t the most beautiful woman in the room but she was attractive in a cute sort of California girl way, and had that delightful look of both shyness and playfulness. Her olive green dress shimmered along the neckline with iridescent beads. As she turned her head towards him it was like a lightning bolt had hit his heart. First sight.

Second sight as well. A smallish dog of unknown breed stood next to her with a service dog vest on. A service dog. Why did she need a service dog?

With his usual ease, Constantine approached the woman. He asked if he could pet the dog. She said yes. She told him she’d had a head injury when she was in Afghanistan. She’d been in the Army. He would never guessed. The dog could detect seizures.

They talked for an hour about art, and life, and it seemed as if he’d met his soul mate. It was the best hour he’d ever spent. Then she was gone. He hadn’t even asked her name.

So like Prince Charming, he sat at the bottom of the stairs wondering where Cinderella had gone. All he had of her was one of her earrings he’d found on the steps. It was a gold strand with a single diamond on the end. The diamond was real.

I might as well walk home he thought. It was just a couple of miles. He’d clear out his mind. The full moon, and lights from late night downtown bars and restaurants lit the way.

Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw a large dog wearing a back pack. A service dog? A smaller dog in a vest followed. Around the next corner, in an alley, he saw three more large dogs in the dark, all wearing packs.

Maybe it was a training exercise. The dogs could have been German Shepards looking for drugs or a missing person, or even bodies. It was weird, but at this point he didn’t care. He just wanted to go home. He was a Vampire so weird and unusual was over rated anyway.

Constantine thought about the woman he’d met. She’d been a nurse in a convoy, and there was a bomb. She didn’t say anything else except that her dog was named Tess. She liked Jazz music, indie films, and indie books. Of course she liked art too. She was a high school art teacher now, having moved on from nursing. But sometimes she helped out the school nurse. Weird how he got those details. He’d told her… what had he told her about himself? Not much. He was a Vampire so he never told much, at least not at first. He’d told her that he ran a philanthropic foundation that supported the arts, and other causes. He told her he had two cats and liked astronomy. She also was a watcher of the moon and stars. Then she kissed his cheek, excused herself, and a few minutes later he saw her walking out the front door of the museum.

As a Vampire he usually had a good feel for people but he couldn’t get a final read on her. Again, he thought about the fact that he didn’t even get her name. But the dog was named Tess. Tess the service dog.

Constantine thought about war. He could imagine the horrors she’d been through. He was a child during the Civil War or the War Between the States, whatever they wanted to call it. Those weren’t memories he cared to relive. He’d come out to California as soon as he was old enough to be on his own, as soon as he’d become a Vampire, and stayed there.

As he walked along the dogs with packs stayed in the alleys and shadows. Looking at the local news feeds and police scans from his iPhone he found nothing. One of his neighbors was a K-9 cop. Constantine would ask him about it tomorrow.

Arriving home at his craftsman style bungalow he noticed a few dogs in packs at the end of the street. This was getting weird. Odder, and a nice surprise, was that a woman in a slightly wrinkled olive green dress, and a single diamond and gold earring was standing on his front porch.

Tess the service dog stood beside her. Hanging off of her shoulder was a back pack.

No. It couldn’t be. She wasn’t Cinderella. She was a Werewolf.

They introduced themselves, again, but this time with names. Her name was Diana. Like the goddess of the moon.

“You have my earring,” she said smiling and holding out a hand.

“You have my heart,” he heard himself saying, much to his surprise.

Then he kissed her under the full moon, as Tess sat at attention and wagged her tail.

~ End

 

Tangled Tales

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman