Short Story Sunday: Good Bones

The house had good bones. It would stand through a 8.0 magnitude earthquake if there were earthquakes where they stood. The first residents in 1906 had felt the San Francisco quake as well as the one in 1989 but there was never any damage. It was faint, like the ingrained presence of Vampires and Ghosts.

Austin Durant, History Professor, restorer of historic buildings, and Vampire Hunter, had been hired to restore the house, a once lavish structure filled with painted over wood work and seventy five years of unfortunate remodels. He’d brought along Kayden, a graduate student in history who’d been living with him due to the pandemic.

“If these walls could talk…” said Kayden looking around in what must have been at one time a grand salon.

“They can talk,” said Austin as he knocked quietly on the walls as he walked around the room.

“What are you looking for?” Kayden asked.

“Structural anomalies, possible pest damage, previous residents,” said Austin.

“Previous residents? Like bodies in the walls?”

“You never know.”

The two explored the house, Austin leading and answering Kayden’s questions. They’d traced the history of the house back to the original owners in 1889. The home was originally 2,000 square feet, but now it stood at 3,200 square feet with the additions of a large kitchen, sunroom and other undocumented additions.

Kayden opened an old beaten up oak wardrobe in one of the larger bedrooms. “So what if there had been a body in here. You know, like an old body from the 1920’s or something. What would you do?”

“I’d call the police and have them send someone out to take a look and remove it. Of course I’d try to figure out who it was and do some investigating of my own before anyone else looked at it.”

“Have you ever found a body?”

“A few times.”

“Wow, really?”

Austin was ready to tell one of his more interesting stories when he felt the hair on the back of his neck raise and felt a slight chill run through his body.  He turned around   to see the owner of the property standing in the doorway.

Even in the stifling heat, wearing shorts and a casual short sleeved shirt, Constantine Evans looked elegant and put together.

“If you’re looking for bodies or Ghosts there aren’t any in here,” said Constantine.

“Good to know,” said Austin. “Let me introduce you. Constantine, this is Kayden. Kayden, Constantine Jones, the owner of this house.”

“Hi. Great house. Should we have our masks on?” asked Kayden.

“No,” said Constantine. “You’re safe.”

Austin smiled slightly. “Constantine knew the original owners.”

“Wow they must have been really old,” said Kayden.

“Not really,” said Constantine. “The house was fabulous. He died in the war to end all wars, then she sold the place and moved to God knows where. They had such great parties. It was such a shame. The place was never the same after that.” He made a dramatic turn towards towards Kayden. “Now it will be magnificent again, thanks to Austin.”

Austin knew Kayden wanted to question Constantine about what he’d just said and was glad the young man had kept his thoughts on the subject to himself.

“I understand you’re getting a masters degree in History Kayden. We’ll have to talk more. I have so many stories about this house and the city we live in. So many stories,” Constantine said.

“Sounds like a plan. You and Kayden can talk later,” said Austin, “but we have to get going. I’ll go over the final blueprints with you tomorrow. How about I meet you here around ten tomorrow morning?”

“Sounds good to me,” said Constantine now smiling with amused eyes in that way that says I know what you’re thinking and I find it extremely funny.

As they drove back to Austin’s house Kayden talked on and on about how cool the house was. He also talked about how interesting the owner seemed and that he’d like to talk more with him.

Austin kept his thoughts to himself. How could he possibly explain to Kayden that one had to always proceed with caution, especially with a Vampire. How could he even explain to Kayden that there are Vampires.

On the other hand it was 2020. Vampires? No big deal, all things considering.

“Hey Kayden, when we get back to the house there are some things I need to tell you, and show you. You have to first promise me you’ll keep and open mind.”

“Sure. What about?”

“The owner of the house and a few other things. Just keep an open mind.”

“You know me. I’m pretty open.”

Austin just kept driving, and thinking about what kind of can of worms he was getting this kid into. On the other hand, like he’d thought before, it is 2020.

 

~ end

Tangled Tales

 

 

 

Vampire Hunters and Social Distancing

I swear people are stupid. On my way out today I saw so many people at the park I pass on the way to the freeway. A State Park ranger was driving down the street so I knew by the time I got home they’d all have warnings to keep their distance.

On April 1 my brother Aaron dragged me convinced me to go with him to visit the Vampire Hunter Austin Durant. One of Aaron’s Vampire friends had an old house out in the middle of nowhere up in the foothills near the town Murphy’s that he wanted to restore. Unfortunately the place was infested with a group of Shadow Creeping Ghouls, that is Vampires who have no souls, no couth, and are pretty much worthless disgusting predatory vermin.

They aren’t like us.

This group of Shadow Creepers had been slinking out at night and going to Stockton to attack people in their sleep, especially in homeless camps and other areas of more concentrated transient populations. They had to be stopped.

It isn’t unusual for Aaron to drag me along on these adventures, and I use the term adventures lightly. I am small and can fit into tight spaces. I know how to deal with old dried up rogue Vampires who aren’t Shadow Creepers, and have a pretty good track record. More often than not just using my mom voice does the trick. But you know, I hate it. I hate the work. I hate the smells. I hate the way the fumes and dust makes me cough for days on end.

So back on April first we talked to Austin. Then I went home and forgot about it. Yesterday Aaron called me. After I did my best not to use multiple bad words on the phone I agreed to help out.

After a ninety minute drive through the hills of the California Gold Rush Country, which is more or less most of Northern California, I arrived at the old ranch. I have to admit it was beautiful out there. Lupins and California Poppies covered large swatches of fields and hills. New green leaves had sprouted out on the oak trees. Hawks and Turkey Vultures dotted the sky.

The gate at the end of a gravel drive was already open. I blew past a No Trespassing sign and drove about half a mile until I could see a large farmhouse in the distance, next to a large barn and a couple of other outbuildings. At one time it must have been a beautiful home with a large veranda circling the lower half and gables on the top windows.

My brother Aaron stood in front of the house next to Austin. I noticed both were wearing bandanas around their faces.

Over to the side, were everyone had parked, next to a black truck was a big brown eyed guy wearing a face mask. He had on jeans, and a gray unzipped hoodie with a San Francisco Giants tee shirt underneath. Like most guys these days his hair was sort of shaggy and pretty close to almost pony tail length.

I got out of my car.

“Are you Juliette?” He didn’t hold out a hand or step forward. Good man.

“You with Austin?” I asked.

“Yes. My name’s William.”

“You’re a Vampire Hunter?”

“Yes.”

“Where’d you come in from?” I asked.

“Lodi.”

“Are you the back-up?”

“The infestation was worse than Austin thought it would be. Why’d they call you in?”

“Same thing. I told them not to call me.”

“I don’t blame you.”

“I told Austin that if this went sideways I’d turn him into a Vampire.”

William laughed a big hearty laugh right from his belly.

“So, William, what do you do when you’re not hunting down ghouls?”

“Wine. We grow grapes. We’ve been growing for years. My sister and I took over from our grandparents and now we’re starting a winery. We don’t have a name yet and the first batch is in barrels now. We started with a red mostly Zin mix and a Chardonnay.

“Wow. That is so cool.”

“Your brother told me you’re a graphic designer. Maybe we can talk about labels when this is all over.”

“Sure, that would be fun.” Seriously. It would be fun.

“So how long have you been a Vampire?” I knew William would ask. They all ask.

“Forever,” I said. He gave me a sideway look. “One hundred and sixty years. Aaron and I were born like this.”

“No shit. That’s pretty rare.”

“It is. I have three other brothers too. Anyone else coming?”

“No. We’re it. No large groups allowed these days.” He laughed again and adjusted his mask.

At least he didn’t tell me you don’t look like a Vampire. He knew most of us look like everyone else. Just like I knew he wouldn’t be dressed head to toe in black, wearing a huge leather duster, with a knife strapped to his leg and a squirt gun full of holy water. He might have had a carry permit for a gun or a knife, but I didn’t see it.

Aaron came up to me  and elbow bumped, not like we need to do it. He gave me a mask.

“There is some nasty stuff in there. You’ll definitely need this.”

To make a story that might make a great horror flick short, we cleaned the place out. It was nasty and dirty work. It’s a good thing we all brought a change of clothes and bags for the dirty ones. I swear if the brush/forest fire threat wasn’t a real thing I would have suggested we just burn the house down.

Aaron and I don’t know if we could get any kind of Covert-19 virus but we don’t know if we can carry it on us either. Even if you aren’t sick you still have to social distance. You don’t know what might be on you.

  • Keep social distancing
  • Wear a mask
  • Wash your hands
  • Hug your dog
  • Text, call, Zoom, FaceTime, email, and otherwise stay in contact with others. Stay in touch with your kids, your family, your friends, and anyone you know who might be alone or in need.
  • Stay positive
  • Stay creative
  • Watch birds
  • Read a book
  • Stretch
  • Stay safe

We’re all in this together. We really are.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Vampire Maman

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: Conversion

“Durant, we found something.”

“What do you mean you found something?”

“Live dead bodies.”

“Vampires?”

“Yes, vampires. Happy fucking holidays.”

“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 was 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

You might have seen this story before. I’m moving kids to college this week. New exciting posts to come later. ~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Tangled Tales

 

Austin and Elizabeth Stories

What happens when a History Professor/Restoration Expert/Player turns into 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 (or maybe the cause of his death.)

For the complete story of Austin and Elizabeth (from the beginning) check the links below.

Part 1: The Hunter

Part 2:  Memory of Distant Love

Part 3: Dark Dreams of the Hunted

Part 4: About Those Pesky Undead Folks

Park 5: The Hunt Continues

Part 6: Cold and Warm

Part 7: Date with a Vampire

Part 8: Crawl Space

Part 9: Dust and Desire

Part 10: One of Those Days…

Part 11: Even Vampire Hunters Get the Blues

Part 12: Back to the Past

Part 13: Nowhere in Time

Part 14: Father Paul

Part 15: The Bat

Part 16: Conversion

Saturday (a short story)

Saturday is here once more. Due to a busy schedule with wonderful, amazing, lovely old friends, and a busy weekend looming I’m reposting a story about our favorite Vampire Hunter, Austin Durant.

I could post for Cat-Ur-Day but I can’t find my cats. So without any more silly explanations…

Saturday (A Short Story from The Hunter Series)

Austin Durant was spending Saturday morning with a pot of coffee and a folder full of research materials. His mind was on the article he was writing, but also on the end of the school year, his latest landscaping project, and his girlfriend Elizabeth.

He stopped at the sound of the doorbell, then sent to answer. He hoped it wasn’t anyone trying to sell him anything. Two large men, dressed in black, stood at his front door. No clipboards.

Austin looked them up and down. “I’m going to assume you’re not from the Sanders campaign,” he said.

The men pushed their way through the door. Austin backed away.

“I don’t know why you guys even bothered to knock. Can I get you anything?” Now more than anytime he wished his old German Shepard Dogs Lucy and Mina were still alive. They would have ripped these guys to shreds, or at least barked a lot. After three years he still couldn’t bring himself to get another dog. But this wasn’t the time to reminisce about lost loves – he had Vampires in his house.

Who would have thought that Vampires would be at his front door at 2:37 on a Saturday afternoon in May? Sure, alright, he was a part-time, sometimes Vampire Hunter, but not on Saturday afternoon. The plan was to do a little work on an article about the California art colonies in the 1880’s, then do a little yard work, then go over to his sister’s house to eat tacos and watch Dead Pool.  Such is the life of a single History Professor slash Vampire Hunter.

“You know guys, this is a bad time for me. Why don’t you come back later, say in about a hundred years.”

The Vampires stepped forward baring their long sharp fangs. Austin started to calculate in his mind how to distract them so he could get his sword. Then the doorbell rang.

Austin put his hand up. “Excuse me for a minute guys.”

The Vampires stepped back and withdrew their fangs.

At the door stood Austin’s fifteen year old neighbor Ryan. A tabby cat with white paws stood next to him.

“Hey, Ryan. What’s up?”

“I, um, forgot my key to my house. My mom said you had a copy.”

“Sure, wait a second.” Austin looked at the Vampires. “Don’t even think about it.”

He got the key from the kitchen drawer and brought it back to Ryan. The boy thanked him then looked inside the door.

“Seriously dude, you have some creepy friends.”

“They’re not my friends,” said Austin. “Just some guys dropping off some stuff for a research project.”

“Uh, thanks for the keys.”

Ryan and the cat left and Austin turned his attention back to the Vampires. “OK guys, time to go. I have things to do, places to go, tacos to eat, and if you don’t get the hell out of my house I’ll add Vampires to kill to my list. Got it?”

The Vampires showed their fang again. Then the doorbell rang. The Vampires stepped back into the shadows.

Austin opened the door. Dave the mail carrier stood there with a package. “Hey, Austin, I just need a signature.”

“Good, I’ve been waiting for this,” said Austin as he signed the deliver slip. It was a packet of letters from the artist Julian Rix to a woman who would eventually break the artist’s heart. Austin put the letters on the table in his entry way and turned his attention back to the Vampires.

“Sorry about that. I told you this was a bad time,” he said to the Vampires.  “What do you guys want? I don’t have all day.”

The two Vampires showed their fangs and stepped towards Austin. “Listen, I don’t want any trouble. I don’t have a problem with you. I don’t even know you. In fact, my girlfriend is a Vampire.”

The Vampires hissed through their fangs, then stopped. There was a soft knock at the door.

Austin stepped back. “Excuse me, somebody is at the door.”

At the door Austin’s neighbor from down the street, a guy named Bob stood with a clip board. “Hi Austin, I have the petition to close the street on the Fourth of July.”

“Yes, I’m looking forward to it. Just let me know what I can do to help.”

“Sure thing,” said Bob. “Feel free to invite your friends.”

Austin looked around to see the Vampires had moved just behind him in the entry way. “Sure thing. Hey guys, you’re invited. Bring your favorite pot luck dish and some sparklers. It will be fun.”

After Bob left, Austin turned his full attention back to the Vampires. “I know you didn’t come here to borrow a cup of sugar. What do you want?”

The Vampires showed their fangs. “No, I’m not going to do this today. You’ve already waited almost an hour of my time. Either I kill you, you kill me, or you leave. What is it?”

The doorbell rang again. “Shit,” whispered Austin. He opened the door. There stood two college students with a clipboard. “Hey, I know you. How’s it going Tiffany?” The girl was in his California history class.

“Dr. Durant. I didn’t know you lived in this neighborhood. We’re here for the mayor’s campaign.”

“Good for you. I encourage everyone to be politically active. I think a few other groups will be out today as well.”

“Cool.”

The kids talked with Austin about politics and school. All the while Austin could sense the Vampires behind him, lurking in the shadows of his living room. He then wished the kids good luck as they went on their way.

He turned back to the Vampires who were now looking at his book shelf and talking quietly to each other.

Austin approached them. “So do you want to do this or not?”

“You have all of Steinbeck’s books, I’m impressed,” said  the taller and paler of the two Vampires. “Too bad I have to kill you.”

Then the door bell sounded again. Austin went to the front door. His neighbor Joe who lived behind him was there.

“Hey Austin. I’m fixing the fence so Sammy and Shadow can’t get out. Do you mind if I go into your yard for about a half hour?” Sammy and Shadow were two shaggy dogs of unknown breeds.

“Sure, I’ll help you out. Give me a few minutes. I’ll meet you in the back yard.”

Austin turned to the Vampires. “Guys, we’re going to have to do this later.”

The Vampires looked at him with frustration on their pale faces then slipped out the front door and vanished into the cloudy afternoon.

Well, this is the first time I’ve killed a Vampire with boredom, thought Austin. Then he put on his shoes and work gloves to meet Joe by the fence.

~ end

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Vampire Hunters, Parenting, and 2017

This December was a season of parties for us. While at one I ran into Austin Durant. Professor Doctor Durant to some. Austin Durant sometimes Asshole Vampire Hunter to me. OK, he is usually a good guy. He only goes after those nasty soulless types who lurk around like something out of a B horror movie. I’ve helped him out a few times. Sometimes it takes a Vampire to rid a building of Vampires.

He asked what I was up to. I mentioned that my kids talked me into taking a yoga class with them.

Austin looked surprised. “Vampires do yoga?”

I was a little insulted by his response. “I’m not one of those shadow creeping Vampires who crawls around in rafters and under floor boards waiting to drag home prey for their nasty dark lord and master. Think about that next time you want me to crawl under a house for you. Come on Austin, I need to stretch and relax just like everyone else. Everyone normal else. You need to stretch your imagination a little bit Austin.”

2016 brought all sorts of ugly things. I don’t even want to think of it anymore. Luckily I can usually get over stuff. I can put things behind me. When one is my age (157), one must learn to put things behind and let them go, or you might as well crawl under the floor boards.

So what will be above the floor boards in 2017? I don’t know. I started sharing my parenting thoughts, and stories about my kids when the youngest was in seventh grade, and the oldest was in high school. Now the youngest is a senior in high school, and the oldest is in his third year of college. That said, I will always be the mom. I will always be here for my kids. I’ll always be here for my readers seeking thoughts on parenting. I’ve done a pretty good job if I may say so myself.

The kids are getting older and so are the seniors in my life. The ancient Vampires still need help and love, and watching after… just in case, if you know what I mean.

I promise more short stories and tall tales. I’ll keep giving out advice – both solicited and unsolicited. I’ll keep you posted on all of the Vampire activities in my neck of the woods. That also includes Werewolves, Ghosts, and God knows what else (for example Zombies.)

So Austin fills up our wine glasses and asks, “Why do you help me? I’m a Vampire Hunter.”

I smiled, showing just a bit of fang in the room lit only by Christmas lights. “First of all you’re a piss poor Vampire Hunter. Secondly, you only go after nasty husks of Vampires who lack souls or purpose. You only go after those who can’t feel love, or empathy, or joy of any kind. That my friend is why. You do our dirty work for us. You know we don’t want those nasty creatures around anymore than you do.”

Then I downed my glass of wine and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Then just for fun I kissed his neck, with just a tiny nip. Austin laughed uncomfortably and said, “I love you too Juliette.”

Happy New Year everyone. My best advice would be to turn off the news, only read fiction, and fight for your right to be who you are.

xoxoxo

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

P.S. Click here for more about Austin Durant who is usually just around for Short Story Sunday.