Short Story Sunday: Dancing on the Beach

Dancing on the Beach

As told by Dr. Shawna Greene

For three days we watched the human like form sitting motionless near the beach. We decided if it was human it was probably dead because no human could sit for so long in the heat and the cold and the wind the way this one did. More than likely it was garbage someone had dumped. A few people had traveled through over the past few weeks, near the abandoned mining town near the isolated stretches of desert and beach where we’d set up our summer research station in Patagonia.

We’d come to look for dinosaurs (with success, finding eggs and giant bones).

Dave, Blane and I trekked an hour down the hill to the spot where the mysterious lump sat. It was indeed human, wrapped in a blanket, large brimmed hat, dark sunglasses and a scarf covering the face. It almost looked like a modern mummy. The, without notice it moved.

“¿Estás bien?” Dave asked the stranger.

The man unwrapped the scarf from his face and removed his sunglasses. “I’m fine. I speak English too. But thanks for asking.”

He was tall with long chestnut colored hair and sparkling hazel eyes. Of course I noticed.  I couldn’t help it after being out in the wilds for a month with my fellow researchers. My two college aged kids were in summer internships, my ex-husband was off on a honeymoon with a woman 10 years younger than me and I was doing something I loved – discovering the past.

But today, we discovered something quite different and unexpected. His name was Andrew. He was tall (I figured 6’2″) with a quick smile and a musical voice that captured the attention of all when he spoke.

Andrew said he’d been researching folk music, writing songs, savoring the local flavor and hinted at getting over a broken heart. A kindred spirit I thought. Well, I have to admit, my heart had mostly healed after my husband left two years ago – the day after our youngest child graduated from high school.

Had it been anyone else, we would have let him stay, but Andrew was so delightful and charming, and helpful that we let him stay on. His knowledge of just about everything was astounding. In the evenings he would sing songs ranging from Argentinian folk songs to Italian Opera. Everyone on the team did better with Andrew around.

The younger women, especially the graduate students Courtney and Kaitlin were enchanted by Andrew. No surprise there. He’d dote on them without being a predator. Then again the men were enchanted by him to. We all were.

Sometimes Andrew and I would share a glass of wine under the stars and talk of everything under the stars. He didn’t give away much of his personal life. He’d been living in New York and London, but thought of moving back to California where his family was. His first love was Opera, but he was taking notes on a book about how music takes the mind and soul to new places. He was more interested in finding out about us than telling us about himself.

I felt a bond with this appealing and mysterious man. He was so mysterious but I was so comfortable with him, like I’d known him forever.

One evening we walked the beach after dinner, just the two of us. We talked about time and space and he opened up in an unexpected burst.

“Time travel,” Andrew began, “will be possible, a reality, but it will be squandered by idiots who don’t appreciate the past or the possibilities of the future. They will be selfish short-sighted buffoons only interested in entertaining their own shallow minded pursuits and never seeing the power of the invention of the time machine.

And think about this…we are here on Earth with no knowledge of ANY life on other planets, yet we spend time and brain power on theories of what is out there and life in the universe and how the universe started and… what if nobody else is out there.

Or what if someone else is out there and they’ve figured it all out and we’re wrong, or we’ve figured it out and they are wrong. But we don’t know, because while you look for your giant dinosaur bones which seem like they’re from another planet, we ponder if there is life on other planets. And why is it all so random. You might disagree because of your scientific mind and experience with creatures of the past and because of the sheer amount of wonder in your soul…but…oh Shawna, we’re so different you and I.”

I didn’t know what to say. Andrew held out his hands. “Dance with me Shawna. Dance with me under the stars.”

Taking his cool hands in my own I found myself suddenly transfixed, dancing in the dark, with a long haired stranger who indeed was so different from me.

“Close your eyes,” he whispered in my ear. And against all better judgment I closed my eyes only to find myself transported into a ball room, wearing a silk gown the color of roses and sunsets, dancing with a handsome hazel eyed man in tails and white tie. And then I opened my eyes to find myself in cargo shorts and a fleece jacket on a desolate beach on the bottom of the earth.

“What are you?” I asked him that surprised that I didn’t ask who but what.

He laughed and I caught something different in his smile. His teeth. He looked like he had fangs. “I am a genetic wonder and mystery. I am the Velociraptor of the human subspecies.” Then he looked serious. “Shawna, don’t be afraid of what I tell you for I would never harm you. I am a Vampire.”

“Like in the movies?” I stupidly asked.

“No, like the guy standing next to you. Like the guy who came down to the ends of the earth to heal a broken heart and soul, to give up, to write songs and wallow in my misery only to find you.”

“You have fangs.” I had to say it. I just had to.

Andrew gently brushed my face with the back of his hand. “Yes, and I use them. I drink the blood of Regular Humans. I live for a long long long time. I have relatives who are over 1,000 years old. I was born in the 19th century, before the Civil War, during the California Gold Rush. But, I am just part of the natural order of the world, of the universe, and I hope of our two souls.”

“I have to admit you’re scaring me Andrew.”

“And the thought of you being afraid scares me more than anything Shawna. I’ve trusted you enough to tell you what I am. Now let me trust that you will not be afraid or reject my offer of friendship.”

“Will you turn me into a Vampire?” It was fear in my voice now, not hope that he would.

“Only if you want me to. Maybe. It isn’t anything I take lightly. But, but, Shawna, that isn’t what is important here. It is evolution, the very thing you’ve spent years studying, the difference in species and life forms and life forces and life and…” He ran his hands through his hair and closed his eyes then opened them looking right into mine. “And love. It all comes down to love and of course passion. You have that passion. I can see it when you speak of your work, your life, your children. You have what so many can only dream of.”

“You’re a Vampire.” I couldn’t get that out of my head, despite his remarkable words and way of speaking.

“Yes, and I’m cool with it. Are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“I understand.”

“Do you want my blood?”

“I would never harm you Shawna.”

“Have you taken blood from any of the others here?” I thought of my fellow scientists and grad students.

“Yes, but…why do you think they’re so happy all the sudden? Sure I took something from them that I needed but I gave them what they needed. Do you understand? Can you attempt to understand. I mean, really, it isn’t any different than finding a new dinosaur. Isn’t it?”

Then we just looked at each other for the longest time. It was a time that ended up in his cabin on the hill, in the creaky iron bed with the colorful quilts, with his cold body wrapped around my hot human one.

It was still dark when I awoke, brushing my hair out of my eyes. Next to the bed, sitting on a wooden crate was a woman. Her chestnut hair the exact same rich color as Andrew’s.

“I didn’t know he had company but…there is something about you Shawna that makes me glad he bonded with you. He is charming but my son can be exhausting and so emotional at times.”

I had to say I was in shock seeing this beautiful woman who didn’t look more than twenty six years old. “I’ve come to take him home, not away from you, but…what I’m trying to say is that you touched Andrew’s heart and maybe…”

Andrew opened his eyes. “Mom. Have you met Shawna?”

Well, this was awkward.  They packed up and left, but not before they both left me with their contact information. This was weird. Vampires leaving contact information. Then again, it would have been weird for Andrew to just leave without a word. Of course my ex-husband left without so much as a word, but that is another story.

But before he left, he kissed me one more time then whispered in my ear, “I love you.”

The summer and our time in the desert is almost over. I still savor my short time with Andrew and the memory of his voice and his touch.

Will I contact him when I return? I don’t know. We both live in California where there are plenty of beaches to dance on and where the stars shine bright on the night.

Then again…he is a Vampire, or maybe that shouldn’t matter.

 

~ end

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

A Trio of Beach Stories (plus one)

Forget the snow and gloom. Let’s go to the beach today with a trio of beach stories with Vampires and other assorted friends.

  • The Beach House
  • Baker Beach
  • Dancing on the Beach
  • When You Grow Old

Ocean

The Beach House – A Christmas Story (with Vampires)

My brother Val and I had gone to the beach house for Thanksgiving. This was 1944, before my marriage or children, when it seemed it was always just my brother and me, plus assorted friends and lovers.

Our brother Andy (Andrew) was somewhere in Europe in a USO show. Our eldest brother Max and my future husband Teddy were in London doing something secret for the American Government. Our parents were in Washington DC.

Nobody knew where our brother Aaron or his wife Verity were. They were the traditional ones who always stayed on the safe predictable road to anywhere – now we had no idea where they were. The last time anyone heard they were in France, but they could have been anywhere. They could have been dead or worse captured but we stopped guessing.

Valentine and I had our fill the night before in San Francisco. The clubs were full of servicemen on leave and women who were tired of waiting for their men to come home and people who had nothing to do with the war or missing love ones. Val was also on leave from his position in the Army – watching and finding out secrets. Vampires are good for that. Almost too good. But we had to get involved. We had no other choice. This was the world we lived in and our country too. It was our home.

We watched the fog roll in as the sun went down over the Pacific Ocean.

A car drove up to the house. We weren’t expecting anyone.

It was Nathaniel Chase. Even back then he was over 400 years old but didn’t look a day over 35. A small black cat followed at his heels.

“What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be in San Francisco,” he growled without so much as a hello to us.

“We’re not supposed to be anywhere, at least not until after Christmas,” said Val.

“I thought you were in Canada, or Hawaii or someplace…,” I started in on him until he put his hand up for me to shut up. I knew the gesture well. He’d been cutting me off my entire life.

“Valentine, please get my bag out of the car for me. Juliette I need your help, come.” He headed down the hall to the far bedroom.

Under his coat his shirt was soaked with blood. I couldn’t tell if it was his or if it belonged to somebody else.

I helped him out of his coat and then the suit jacket and shirt underneath. He’d been stabbed several times. “My heart…was nicked. I’ve lost a lot of blood…a lot.”

I held out my wrist. “Take mine. It will seal your heart.”

“I don’t know…Juliette…”

“You’ll die.”

“No. You can bring someone in later.”

“You will die. Take mine. Regular blood won’t help. You know that.”

A regular human man would have died with his injury. He’d been stabbed in the heart, not just a “nick.”

He took my wrist and sank his fangs into it. Not much happened.

“Just take my neck,” I told him and started to unbutton my shirt. “Don’t say no. You’ve done more for me than I can count. I owe you.”

Asking another Vampire to bite your neck is extreme. It is also something that happens in risky sex. It is something you don’t do lightly or with just anyone. There can be consequences.

I put my hand on his chest where the knife entered. Then I leaned in close, cold skin to cold skin and put my other hand at the back of his neck. “Take my blood Nathaniel.”

He pushed my hair aside and put his mouth on my neck. He had my blood and my feelings, my memories, my heart and everything I kept close. I could feel him searching and wanting then blanking it all out. He wasn’t interested in sucking out my souls or knowing my secrets or being my lover.  I’d done this before but it wasn’t to save a life. It was to satisfy a lover, another Vampire in passion and …whatever. But this was intense and in that realm. I felt drained. I was drained literally.

Nathaniel pulled away and lay back on the pillows. His eyes were closed. He took my hand and entwined my finger in his. We sat for maybe an hour as still as death. I brushed my lips against his cheek. He opened his eyes and gave me a slight smile. “Thank you. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry.”

Over the years he’d always been the one to save Val and me. So many times we’d strayed and he was there to get us back on track. He was always there to scold us and keep us in line. So many times I resented his presence and wished he’d go away forever.

I went out to the deck where Val sat with a bottle of wine and a cigar. He looked at my neck. “I gave him blood. Nothing else.”

My brother gave me a hug. “Thank you dear. Listen, the couple down the road are having a party. We can head on over and get you settled again. If Nathaniel needs more tonight we’ll have it.”

So we walked half a mile down the road watching the stars and listening to the waves crashing against the beach. I told Val that I knew who injured Nathaniel but it was taken care of. We were not the ones to extract vengeance. Someone else would do that. It isn’t what Val and I usually do, unless forced of course.

Nathaniel stayed with us for the rest of the month. We spent Christmas having a fire on the beach, just the three of us and Nathaniel’s black cat. Val and I were 85 and 86 at the time but Nathaniel still saw us as silly teens, or at least he saw us as still needing guidance.

Eventually we were all reunited with family and friends.

Anyway, that was a long time ago. It was a time I rarely even think about anymore. Now that my own children enter adulthood I think of more things from my current life. I hope their lives are calm and without trauma. That won’t be the case, but I’d like to think it would be.

So that is it for right now. December is almost here. Today my daughter Clara and I will hang the Christmas wreath and once again wish for Peace on Earth. I doubt if it will ever happen but we can wish and we can each do our part to help.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Ocean

Baker Beach

Max heard the Nessun dorma ringtone and groaned. It was his brother Andy. It was an emergency. He could sense it.

He picked up and listened.

“Max, thank God you’re there. I’m by Baker Beach. Some asshole redneck in a truck sideswiped me. The car is totaled. Can you get out here? Right now.”

Max untangled himself from the woman next to him and sat up. “Are you ok?”

“I’m fine. Like I said, the car is totaled.”

“Call AAA. I’ll call Uber and get you a ride home.”

“You don’t understand man. I have someone locked in the trunk and he is pissed off.”

———-

Andy watched at the back end of his car became even more mangled by the violent pounding from the occupant he’d locked in the trunk. The noise was even worse.

“Stop it NOW,” he yelled, “or I’ll drain every drop of blood from your body, stuff your pathetic putrid smelling carcass and sell it to the highest bidder.”

Than banging and howling stopped right at the moment Max drove up.

He got out of the car. A woman got out of the passenger side. Like Max, she was dressed in black from head to toe.

“Mehitabel, you look beautiful. What are you doing with my brother?”

She smiled and kissed Andy on the cheek. “Glad you’re not hurt. Who do you have in the trunk?”

Max went over to Andy’s car and kicked the bumper. The mangled trunk lid popped open.

“Holy fuck,” Max swore under his breath.

Mehitabel put her hand over her nose and mouth to keep out the stench. “Andy, this isn’t good.”

“I know, this is bad,” said Andy. “But it isn’t every day you find a Sasquatch.”

——————-

After the car was towed and the sun started to come up, the three Vampires stopped at their favorite diner for breakfast. They’d all had their fill of blood the night before but coffee and eggs sounded good right then.

“Is this the fourth or fifth car you’ve totaled this year?” Max took a sip of coffee and shook his head at his brother.

“Second this year,” said Andy. “Hey, it wasn’t my fault.”

Mehitabel looked at the brothers. “So do you think he’ll be alright?”

“The Sasquatch? I don’t know. As long as he stays out of the city I think he’ll be fine,” said Max.

“This is San Francisco. Nobody would notice him,” said Andy.

Max smiled and put his hand on Mehitabel’s knee.

“You guys should get married. I’m serious,” said Andy.

Mehitabel almost spit out her coffee. Max took his hand off of her knee, then thought better of his action and put his hand back on her knee and gave a small squeeze. The waitress came by and poured more coffee.

I guess the moral of this story is that as long as you are always there for each other, don’t ask too many questions, and keep love in your hearts life will be good.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

beach

Dancing on the Beach

As told by Dr. Shawna Greene

For three days we watched the human like form sitting motionless near the beach. We decided if it was human it was probably dead because no human could sit for so long in the heat and the cold and the wind the way this one did. More than likely it was garbage someone had dumped. A few people had traveled through over the past few weeks, near the abandoned mining town near the isolated stretches of desert and beach where we’d set up our summer research station in Patagonia.

We’d come to look for dinosaurs (with success, finding eggs and giant bones).

Dave, Blane and I trekked an hour down the hill to the spot where the mysterious lump sat. It was indeed human, wrapped in a blanket, large brimmed hat, dark sunglasses and a scarf covering the face. It almost looked like a modern mummy. The, without notice it moved.

“¿Estás bien?” Dave asked the stranger.

The man unwrapped the scarf from his face and removed his sunglasses. “I’m fine. I speak English too. But thanks for asking.”

He was tall with long chestnut colored hair and sparkling hazel eyes. Of course I noticed. I couldn’t help it after being out in the wilds for a month with my fellow researchers. My two college aged kids were in summer internships, my ex-husband was off on a honeymoon with a woman 10 years younger than me and I was doing something I loved – discovering the past.

But today, we discovered something quite different and unexpected. His name was Andrew. He was tall (I figured 6’2″) with a quick smile and a musical voice that captured the attention of all when he spoke.

Andrew said he’d been researching folk music, writing songs, savoring the local flavor and hinted at getting over a broken heart. A kindred spirit I thought. Well, I have to admit, my heart had mostly healed after my husband left two years ago – the day after our youngest child graduated from high school.

Had it been anyone else, we would have let him stay, but Andrew was so delightful and charming, and helpful that we let him stay on. His knowledge of just about everything was astounding. In the evenings he would sing songs ranging from Argentinian folk songs to Italian Opera. Everyone on the team did better with Andrew around.

The younger women, especially the graduate students Courtney and Kaitlin were enchanted by Andrew. No surprise there. He’d dote on them without being a predator. Then again the men were enchanted by him to. We all were.

Sometimes Andrew and I would share a glass of wine under the stars and talk of everything under the stars. He didn’t give away much of his personal life. He’d been living in New York and London, but thought of moving back to California where his family was. His first love was Opera, but he was taking notes on a book about how music takes the mind and soul to new places. He was more interested in finding out about us than telling us about himself.

I felt a bond with this appealing and mysterious man. He was so mysterious but I was so comfortable with him, like I’d known him forever.

One evening we walked the beach after dinner, just the two of us. We talked about time and space and he opened up in an unexpected burst.

“Time travel,” Andrew began, “will be possible, a reality, but it will be squandered by idiots who don’t appreciate the past or the possibilities of the future. They will be selfish short-sighted buffoons only interested in entertaining their own shallow minded pursuits and never seeing the power of the invention of the time machine.

And think about this…we are here on Earth with no knowledge of ANY life on other planets, yet we spend time and brain power on theories of what is out there and life in the universe and how the universe started and… what if nobody else is out there.

Or what if someone else is out there and they’ve figured it all out and we’re wrong, or we’ve figured it out and they are wrong. But we don’t know, because while you look for your giant dinosaur bones which seem like they’re from another planet, we ponder if there is life on other planets. And why is it all so random. You might disagree because of your scientific mind and experience with creatures of the past and because of the sheer amount of wonder in your soul…but…oh Shawna, we’re so different you and I.”

I didn’t know what to say. Andrew held out his hands. “Dance with me Shawna. Dance with me under the stars.”

Taking his cool hands in my own I found myself suddenly transfixed, dancing in the dark, with a long haired stranger who indeed was so different from me.

“Close your eyes,” he whispered in my ear. And against all better judgment I closed my eyes only to find myself transported into a ball room, wearing a silk gown the color of roses and sunsets, dancing with a handsome hazel eyed man in tails and white tie. And then I opened my eyes to find myself in cargo shorts and a fleece jacket on a desolate beach on the bottom of the earth.

“What are you?” I asked him that surprised that I didn’t ask who but what.

He laughed and I caught something different in his smile. His teeth. He looked like he had fangs. “I am a genetic wonder and mystery. I am the Velociraptor of the human subspecies.” Then he looked serious. “Shawna, don’t be afraid of what I tell you for I would never harm you. I am a Vampire.”

“Like in the movies?” I stupidly asked.

“No, like the guy standing next to you. Like the guy who came down to the ends of the earth to heal a broken heart and soul, to give up, to write songs and wallow in my misery only to find you.”

“You have fangs.” I had to say it. I just had to.

Andrew gently brushed my face with the back of his hand. “Yes, and I use them. I drink the blood of Regular Humans. I live for a long long long time. I have relatives who are over 1,000 years old. I was born in the 19th century, before the Civil War, during the California Gold Rush. But, I am just part of the natural order of the world, of the universe, and I hope of our two souls.”

“I have to admit you’re scaring me Andrew.”

“And the thought of you being afraid scares me more than anything Shawna. I’ve trusted you enough to tell you what I am. Now let me trust that you will not be afraid or reject my offer of friendship.”

“Will you turn me into a Vampire?” It was fear in my voice now, not hope that he would.

“Only if you want me to. Maybe. It isn’t anything I take lightly. But, but, Shawna, that isn’t what is important here. It is evolution, the very thing you’ve spent years studying, the difference in species and life forms and life forces and life and…” He ran his hands through his hair and closed his eyes then opened them looking right into mine. “And love. It all comes down to love and of course passion. You have that passion. I can see it when you speak of your work, your life, your children. You have what so many can only dream of.”

“You’re a Vampire.” I couldn’t get that out of my head, despite his remarkable words and way of speaking.

“Yes, and I’m cool with it. Are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“I understand.”

“Do you want my blood?”

“I would never harm you Shawna.”

“Have you taken blood from any of the others here?” I thought of my fellow scientists and grad students.

“Yes, but…why do you think they’re so happy all the sudden? Sure I took something from them that I needed but I gave them what they needed. Do you understand? Can you attempt to understand. I mean, really, it isn’t any different than finding a new dinosaur. Isn’t it?”

Then we just looked at each other for the longest time. It was a time that ended up in his cabin on the hill, in the creaky iron bed with the colorful quilts, with his cold body wrapped around my hot human one.

It was still dark when I awoke, brushing my hair out of my eyes. Next to the bed, sitting on a wooden crate was a woman. Her chestnut hair the exact same rich color as Andrew’s.

“I didn’t know he had company but…there is something about you Shawna that makes me glad he bonded with you. He is charming but my son can be exhausting and so emotional at times.”

I had to say I was in shock seeing this beautiful woman who didn’t look more than twenty six years old. “I’ve come to take him home, not away from you, but…what I’m trying to say is that you touched Andrew’s heart and maybe…”

Andrew opened his eyes. “Mom. Have you met Shawna?”

Well, this was awkward. They packed up and left, but not before they both left me with their contact information. This was weird. Vampires leaving contact information. Then again, it would have been weird for Andrew to just leave without a word. Of course my ex-husband left without so much as a word, but that is another story.

But before he left, he kissed me one more time then whispered in my ear, “I love you.”

The summer and our time in the desert is almost over. I still savor my short time with Andrew and the memory of his voice and his touch.

Will I contact him when I return? I don’t know. We both live in California where there are plenty of beaches to dance on and where the stars shine bright on the night.

Then again…he is a Vampire, or maybe that shouldn’t matter.

~ Dr. Shawna Greene 2013

 

dancing in the dark

When You Grow Old

“Who will take care of you when you get old?” I asked my brother’s caretaker Josh.

My brother Bob is 90 years old. A former screenwriter and movie producer, he lives in a modern glass and polished wood mansion on the Central Coast of California.

I’d been at Bob’s for six months.

“Your grandmother would have been 101 this year,” Bob told me. I was going to turn 101 this year, at the end of October. What Bob doesn’t know is that I am his sister Valentina. He doesn’t know I’m a vampire either. He thinks I’m a great niece who is the spitting image of his older sister who passed away in 1935.

I walked the beach in the evenings with Bob. He leaned my arm and told me about the cycles of the tide and the migration of the whales.

Arriving home we found that my brother’s caretaker Josh had fixed dinner. A beautiful salad and fresh rockfish. Josh, a tall skinny but muscular blonde in his 30’s had been with Bob for about three years. He divided his time between helping Bob and two other elderly folks near by, and when he wasn’t with his old folks he was surfing.

I asked Josh why he worked with old people. “They’re exceptional creatures,” he told me, “with the knowledge of lost times. They have wisdom and humor that needs to be honored. You can’t always get that out of old people, but if you work them just so and LISTEN they’ll give you the secrets of the universe. And the weird thing is, no not weird, I the magic of it, is that they don’t even know they have that knowledge.”

The next morning we had a visitor. It was Stephen, one of my brother’s neighbors. “You’ve been good to your brother,” he whispered in my ear. He was also a Vampire, something I’d known for a while, but never talked to him about. Our paths crossed but this was the first time we had made a social call since I’d been there.

It seems Stephen and Bob have been friends for the past 10 years, since Stephen purchased the run down house next door and restored it to the former glory of its past. Until today, he only visited Bob when I was out. They spend the evenings talking, watching movies and playing cards with Josh. There was a bond of friendship that was so real and close, the kind that never ends, even with age and differences of opinion.

A few night later Stephen and I walked the beach.

“How long have you been a Vampire?” I asked him. It was a common question Vampires ask each other.

“Since the summer of 1802. Funny it seems like yesterday.”

“So hows it working out for you? I mean, the Vampire thing and all?” I had to ask.

“Good. It’s all good. You know it isn’t for everyone.”

“I wonder about Bob.” I had wondered about my brother and if I made him into a Vampire if I’d restore his youth and keep him in my life.

“Bob is happy where he is.”

“I think you’re right.”

We walked more and listened to the waves. Then he kissed me under that stars. That was a surprise. A nice surprise.

The next morning after Josh had helped Bob with his shower and getting dressed I visited with him over coffee. Josh was such a caring free spirit, loving his work with the elderly and his relationship with the waves.

“Who will take care of you when you get old?” I asked Josh.

He smiled. “I’ll ride out on the surf and become one with the sea.”

“Who will listen to your words of wisdom?”

“You and Stephen can pass it on. You’ll still be here. You’ll always be here. So will Bob, not in body but his spirit is strong. He’ll be around as long as the stars over the surf.” Then he winked at me. “Valentina, I know all about you. Your kind is all over the coast down here. I grew up with Vampires. It’s cool.”

And so it was.

~ end

 

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

I hope you had fun with these tall tales (all of them completely true by the way.)

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Dancing on the Beach

Dancing on the Beach

As told by Dr. Shawna Greene

For three days we watched the human like form sitting motionless near the beach. We decided if it was human it was probably dead because no human could sit for so long in the heat and the cold and the wind the way this one did. More than likely it was garbage someone had dumped. A few people had traveled through over the past few weeks, near the abandoned mining town near the isolated stretches of desert and beach where we’d set up our summer research station in Patagonia.

We’d come to look for dinosaurs (with success, finding eggs and giant bones).

Dave, Blane and I trekked an hour down the hill to the spot where the mysterious lump sat. It was indeed human, wrapped in a blanket, large brimmed hat, dark sunglasses and a scarf covering the face. It almost looked like a modern mummy. The, without notice it moved.

“¿Estás bien?” Dave asked the stranger.

The man unwrapped the scarf from his face and removed his sunglasses. “I’m fine. I speak English too. But thanks for asking.”

He was tall with long chestnut colored hair and sparkling hazel eyes. Of course I noticed. I couldn’t help it after being out in the wilds for a month with my fellow researchers. My two college aged kids were in summer internships, my ex-husband was off on a honeymoon with a woman 10 years younger than me and I was doing something I loved – discovering the past.

But today, we discovered something quite different and unexpected. His name was Andrew. He was tall (I figured 6’2″) with a quick smile and a musical voice that captured the attention of all when he spoke.

Andrew said he’d been researching folk music, writing songs, savoring the local flavor and hinted at getting over a broken heart. A kindred spirit I thought. Well, I have to admit, my heart had mostly healed after my husband left two years ago – the day after our youngest child graduated from high school.

Had it been anyone else, we would have let him stay, but Andrew was so delightful and charming, and helpful that we let him stay on. His knowledge of just about everything was astounding. In the evenings he would sing songs ranging from Argentinian folk songs to Italian Opera. Everyone on the team did better with Andrew around.

The younger women, especially the graduate students Courtney and Kaitlin were enchanted by Andrew. No surprise there. He’d dote on them without being a predator. Then again the men were enchanted by him to. We all were.

Sometimes Andrew and I would share a glass of wine under the stars and talk of everything under the stars. He didn’t give away much of his personal life. He’d been living in New York and London, but thought of moving back to California where his family was. His first love was Opera, but he was taking notes on a book about how music takes the mind and soul to new places. He was more interested in finding out about us than telling us about himself.

I felt a bond with this appealing and mysterious man. He was so mysterious but I was so comfortable with him, like I’d known him forever.

One evening we walked the beach after dinner, just the two of us. We talked about time and space and he opened up in an unexpected burst.

“Time travel,” Andrew began, “will be possible, a reality, but it will be squandered by idiots who don’t appreciate the past or the possibilities of the future. They will be selfish short-sighted buffoons only interested in entertaining their own shallow minded pursuits and never seeing the power of the invention of the time machine.

And think about this…we are here on Earth with no knowledge of ANY life on other planets, yet we spend time and brain power on theories of what is out there and life in the universe and how the universe started and… what if nobody else is out there.

Or what if someone else is out there and they’ve figured it all out and we’re wrong, or we’ve figured it out and they are wrong. But we don’t know, because while you look for your giant dinosaur bones which seem like they’re from another planet, we ponder if there is life on other planets. And why is it all so random. You might disagree because of your scientific mind and experience with creatures of the past and because of the sheer amount of wonder in your soul…but…oh Shawna, we’re so different you and I.”

I didn’t know what to say. Andrew held out his hands. “Dance with me Shawna. Dance with me under the stars.”

Taking his cool hands in my own I found myself suddenly transfixed, dancing in the dark, with a long haired stranger who indeed was so different from me.

“Close your eyes,” he whispered in my ear. And against all better judgment I closed my eyes only to find myself transported into a ball room, wearing a silk gown the color of roses and sunsets, dancing with a handsome hazel eyed man in tails and white tie. And then I opened my eyes to find myself in cargo shorts and a fleece jacket on a desolate beach on the bottom of the earth.

“What are you?” I asked him that surprised that I didn’t ask who but what.

He laughed and I caught something different in his smile. His teeth. He looked like he had fangs. “I am a genetic wonder and mystery. I am the Velociraptor of the human subspecies.” Then he looked serious. “Shawna, don’t be afraid of what I tell you for I would never harm you. I am a Vampire.”

“Like in the movies?” I stupidly asked.

“No, like the guy standing next to you. Like the guy who came down to the ends of the earth to heal a broken heart and soul, to give up, to write songs and wallow in my misery only to find you.”

“You have fangs.” I had to say it. I just had to.

Andrew gently brushed my face with the back of his hand. “Yes, and I use them. I drink the blood of Regular Humans. I live for a long long long time. I have relatives who are over 1,000 years old. I was born in the 19th century, before the Civil War, during the California Gold Rush. But, I am just part of the natural order of the world, of the universe, and I hope of our two souls.”

“I have to admit you’re scaring me Andrew.”

“And the thought of you being afraid scares me more than anything Shawna. I’ve trusted you enough to tell you what I am. Now let me trust that you will not be afraid or reject my offer of friendship.”

“Will you turn me into a Vampire?” It was fear in my voice now, not hope that he would.

“Only if you want me to. Maybe. It isn’t anything I take lightly. But, but, Shawna, that isn’t what is important here. It is evolution, the very thing you’ve spent years studying, the difference in species and life forms and life forces and life and…” He ran his hands through his hair and closed his eyes then opened them looking right into mine. “And love. It all comes down to love and of course passion. You have that passion. I can see it when you speak of your work, your life, your children. You have what so many can only dream of.”

“You’re a Vampire.” I couldn’t get that out of my head, despite his remarkable words and way of speaking.

“Yes, and I’m cool with it. Are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“I understand.”

“Do you want my blood?”

“I would never harm you Shawna.”

“Have you taken blood from any of the others here?” I thought of my fellow scientists and grad students.

“Yes, but…why do you think they’re so happy all the sudden? Sure I took something from them that I needed but I gave them what they needed. Do you understand? Can you attempt to understand. I mean, really, it isn’t any different than finding a new dinosaur. Isn’t it?”

Then we just looked at each other for the longest time. It was a time that ended up in his cabin on the hill, in the creaky iron bed with the colorful quilts, with his cold body wrapped around my hot human one.

It was still dark when I awoke, brushing my hair out of my eyes. Next to the bed, sitting on a wooden crate was a woman. Her chestnut hair the exact same rich color as Andrew’s.

“I didn’t know he had company but…there is something about you Shawna that makes me glad he bonded with you. He is charming but my son can be exhausting and so emotional at times.”

I had to say I was in shock seeing this beautiful woman who didn’t look more than twenty six years old. “I’ve come to take him home, not away from you, but…what I’m trying to say is that you touched Andrew’s heart and maybe…”

Andrew opened his eyes. “Mom. Have you met Shawna?”

Well, this was awkward. They packed up and left, but not before they both left me with their contact information. This was weird. Vampires leaving contact information. Then again, it would have been weird for Andrew to just leave without a word. Of course my ex-husband left without so much as a word, but that is another story.

But before he left, he kissed me one more time then whispered in my ear, “I love you.”

The summer and our time in the desert is almost over. I still savor my short time with Andrew and the memory of his voice and his touch.

Will I contact him when I return? I don’t know. We both live in California where there are plenty of beaches to dance on and where the stars shine bright on the night.

Then again…he is a Vampire, or maybe that shouldn’t matter.

~ Dr. Shawna Greene 2013

 

_____________

Yes, because it is Friday and Juliette is busy with other deadlines. So yes, you might have read this favorite tale about Andy before.

Dancing on the Beach

 

Dancing on the Beach

As told by Dr. Shawna Greene

For three days we watched the human like form sitting motionless near the beach. We decided if it was human it was probably dead because no human could sit for so long in the heat and the cold and the wind the way this one did. More than likely it was garbage someone had dumped. A few people had traveled through over the past few weeks, near the abandoned mining town near the isolated stretches of desert and beach where we’d set up our summer research station in Patagonia.

We’d come to look for dinosaurs (with success, finding eggs and giant bones).

Dave, Blane and I trekked an hour down the hill to the spot where the mysterious lump sat. It was indeed human, wrapped in a blanket, large brimmed hat, dark sunglasses and a scarf covering the face. It almost looked like a modern mummy. The, without notice it moved.

“¿Estás bien?” Dave asked the stranger.

The man unwrapped the scarf from his face and removed his sunglasses. “I’m fine. I speak English too. But thanks for asking.”

He was tall with long chestnut colored hair and sparkling hazel eyes. Of course I noticed. I couldn’t help it after being out in the wilds for a month with my fellow researchers. My two college aged kids were in summer internships, my ex-husband was off on a honeymoon with a woman 10 years younger than me and I was doing something I loved – discovering the past.

But today, we discovered something quite different and unexpected. His name was Andrew. He was tall (I figured 6’2″) with a quick smile and a musical voice that captured the attention of all when he spoke.

Andrew said he’d been researching folk music, writing songs, savoring the local flavor and hinted at getting over a broken heart. A kindred spirit I thought. Well, I have to admit, my heart had mostly healed after my husband left two years ago – the day after our youngest child graduated from high school.

Had it been anyone else, we would have let him stay, but Andrew was so delightful and charming, and helpful that we let him stay on. His knowledge of just about everything was astounding. In the evenings he would sing songs ranging from Argentinian folk songs to Italian Opera. Everyone on the team did better with Andrew around.

The younger women, especially the graduate students Courtney and Kaitlin were enchanted by Andrew. No surprise there. He’d dote on them without being a predator. Then again the men were enchanted by him to. We all were.

Sometimes Andrew and I would share a glass of wine under the stars and talk of everything under the stars. He didn’t give away much of his personal life. He’d been living in New York and London, but thought of moving back to California where his family was. His first love was Opera, but he was taking notes on a book about how music takes the mind and soul to new places. He was more interested in finding out about us than telling us about himself.

I felt a bond with this appealing and mysterious man. He was so mysterious but I was so comfortable with him, like I’d known him forever.

One evening we walked the beach after dinner, just the two of us. We talked about time and space and he opened up in an unexpected burst.

“Time travel,” Andrew began, “will be possible, a reality, but it will be squandered by idiots who don’t appreciate the past or the possibilities of the future. They will be selfish short-sighted buffoons only interested in entertaining their own shallow minded pursuits and never seeing the power of the invention of the time machine.

And think about this…we are here on Earth with no knowledge of ANY life on other planets, yet we spend time and brain power on theories of what is out there and life in the universe and how the universe started and… what if nobody else is out there.

Or what if someone else is out there and they’ve figured it all out and we’re wrong, or we’ve figured it out and they are wrong. But we don’t know, because while you look for your giant dinosaur bones which seem like they’re from another planet, we ponder if there is life on other planets. And why is it all so random. You might disagree because of your scientific mind and experience with creatures of the past and because of the sheer amount of wonder in your soul…but…oh Shawna, we’re so different you and I.”

I didn’t know what to say. Andrew held out his hands. “Dance with me Shawna. Dance with me under the stars.”

Taking his cool hands in my own I found myself suddenly transfixed, dancing in the dark, with a long haired stranger who indeed was so different from me.

“Close your eyes,” he whispered in my ear. And against all better judgment I closed my eyes only to find myself transported into a ball room, wearing a silk gown the color of roses and sunsets, dancing with a handsome hazel eyed man in tails and white tie. And then I opened my eyes to find myself in cargo shorts and a fleece jacket on a desolate beach on the bottom of the earth.

“What are you?” I asked him that surprised that I didn’t ask who but what.

He laughed and I caught something different in his smile. His teeth. He looked like he had fangs. “I am a genetic wonder and mystery. I am the Velociraptor of the human subspecies.” Then he looked serious. “Shawna, don’t be afraid of what I tell you for I would never harm you. I am a Vampire.”

“Like in the movies?” I stupidly asked.

“No, like the guy standing next to you. Like the guy who came down to the ends of the earth to heal a broken heart and soul, to give up, to write songs and wallow in my misery only to find you.”

“You have fangs.” I had to say it. I just had to.

Andrew gently brushed my face with the back of his hand. “Yes, and I use them. I drink the blood of Regular Humans. I live for a long long long time. I have relatives who are over 1,000 years old. I was born in the 19th century, before the Civil War, during the California Gold Rush. But, I am just part of the natural order of the world, of the universe, and I hope of our two souls.”

“I have to admit you’re scaring me Andrew.”

“And the thought of you being afraid scares me more than anything Shawna. I’ve trusted you enough to tell you what I am. Now let me trust that you will not be afraid or reject my offer of friendship.”

“Will you turn me into a Vampire?” It was fear in my voice now, not hope that he would.

“Only if you want me to. Maybe. It isn’t anything I take lightly. But, but, Shawna, that isn’t what is important here. It is evolution, the very thing you’ve spent years studying, the difference in species and life forms and life forces and life and…” He ran his hands through his hair and closed his eyes then opened them looking right into mine. “And love. It all comes down to love and of course passion. You have that passion. I can see it when you speak of your work, your life, your children. You have what so many can only dream of.”

“You’re a Vampire.” I couldn’t get that out of my head, despite his remarkable words and way of speaking.

“Yes, and I’m cool with it. Are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“I understand.”

“Do you want my blood?”

“I would never harm you Shawna.”

“Have you taken blood from any of the others here?” I thought of my fellow scientists and grad students.

“Yes, but…why do you think they’re so happy all the sudden? Sure I took something from them that I needed but I gave them what they needed. Do you understand? Can you attempt to understand. I mean, really, it isn’t any different than finding a new dinosaur. Isn’t it?”

Then we just looked at each other for the longest time. It was a time that ended up in his cabin on the hill, in the creaky iron bed with the colorful quilts, with his cold body wrapped around my hot human one.

It was still dark when I awoke, brushing my hair out of my eyes. Next to the bed, sitting on a wooden crate was a woman. Her chestnut hair the exact same rich color as Andrew’s.

“I didn’t know he had company but…there is something about you Shawna that makes me glad he bonded with you. He is charming but my son can be exhausting and so emotional at times.”

I had to say I was in shock seeing this beautiful woman who didn’t look more than twenty six years old. “I’ve come to take him home, not away from you, but…what I’m trying to say is that you touched Andrew’s heart and maybe…”

Andrew opened his eyes. “Mom. Have you met Shawna?”

Well, this was awkward. They packed up and left, but not before they both left me with their contact information. This was weird. Vampires leaving contact information. Then again, it would have been weird for Andrew to just leave without a word. Of course my ex-husband left without so much as a word, but that is another story.

But before he left, he kissed me one more time then whispered in my ear, “I love you.”

The summer and our time in the desert is almost over. I still savor my short time with Andrew and the memory of his voice and his touch.

Will I contact him when I return? I don’t know. We both live in California where there are plenty of beaches to dance on and where the stars shine bright on the night.

Then again…he is a Vampire, or maybe that shouldn’t matter.

 

 

~ Dr. Shawna Greene 2013

 

Short Story Sunday: Dancing on the Beach

This is one of my favorites. I’m out of town (so I didn’t write a new story this morning) so if you’ve read this one read it one more time. Happy February – hope this gets you into a romantic mood – or at least a Vampire mood. Juliette.

red heart

Dancing on the Beach

As told by Dr. Shawna Greene

For three days we watched the human like form sitting motionless near the beach. We decided if it was human it was probably dead because no human could sit for so long in the heat and the cold and the wind the way this one did. More than likely it was garbage someone had dumped. A few people had traveled through over the past few weeks, near the abandoned mining town near the isolated stretches of desert and beach where we’d set up our summer research station in Patagonia.

We’d come to look for dinosaurs (with success, finding eggs and giant bones).

Dave, Blane and I trekked an hour down the hill to the spot where the mysterious lump sat. It was indeed human, wrapped in a blanket, large brimmed hat, dark sunglasses and a scarf covering the face. It almost looked like a modern mummy. The, without notice it moved.

“¿Estás bien?” Dave asked the stranger.

The man unwrapped the scarf from his face and removed his sunglasses. “I’m fine. I speak English too. But thanks for asking.”

He was tall with long chestnut colored hair and sparkling hazel eyes. Of course I noticed. I couldn’t help it after being out in the wilds for a month with my fellow researchers. My two college aged kids were in summer internships, my ex-husband was off on a honeymoon with a woman 10 years younger than me and I was doing something I loved – discovering the past.

But today, we discovered something quite different and unexpected. His name was Andrew. He was tall (I figured 6’2″) with a quick smile and a musical voice that captured the attention of all when he spoke.

Andrew said he’d been researching folk music, writing songs, savoring the local flavor and hinted at getting over a broken heart. A kindred spirit I thought. Well, I have to admit, my heart had mostly healed after my husband left two years ago – the day after our youngest child graduated from high school.

Had it been anyone else, we would have let him stay, but Andrew was so delightful and charming, and helpful that we let him stay on. His knowledge of just about everything was astounding. In the evenings he would sing songs ranging from Argentinian folk songs to Italian Opera. Everyone on the team did better with Andrew around.

The younger women, especially the graduate students Courtney and Kaitlin were enchanted by Andrew. No surprise there. He’d dote on them without being a predator. Then again the men were enchanted by him to. We all were.

Sometimes Andrew and I would share a glass of wine under the stars and talk of everything under the stars. He didn’t give away much of his personal life. He’d been living in New York and London, but thought of moving back to California where his family was. His first love was Opera, but he was taking notes on a book about how music takes the mind and soul to new places. He was more interested in finding out about us than telling us about himself.

I felt a bond with this appealing and mysterious man. He was so mysterious but I was so comfortable with him, like I’d known him forever.

One evening we walked the beach after dinner, just the two of us. We talked about time and space and he opened up in an unexpected burst.

“Time travel,” Andrew began, “will be possible, a reality, but it will be squandered by idiots who don’t appreciate the past or the possibilities of the future. They will be selfish short-sighted buffoons only interested in entertaining their own shallow minded pursuits and never seeing the power of the invention of the time machine.

And think about this…we are here on Earth with no knowledge of ANY life on other planets, yet we spend time and brain power on theories of what is out there and life in the universe and how the universe started and… what if nobody else is out there.

Or what if someone else is out there and they’ve figured it all out and we’re wrong, or we’ve figured it out and they are wrong. But we don’t know, because while you look for your giant dinosaur bones which seem like they’re from another planet, we ponder if there is life on other planets. And why is it all so random. You might disagree because of your scientific mind and experience with creatures of the past and because of the sheer amount of wonder in your soul…but…oh Shawna, we’re so different you and I.”

I didn’t know what to say. Andrew held out his hands. “Dance with me Shawna. Dance with me under the stars.”

Taking his cool hands in my own I found myself suddenly transfixed, dancing in the dark, with a long haired stranger who indeed was so different from me.

“Close your eyes,” he whispered in my ear. And against all better judgment I closed my eyes only to find myself transported into a ball room, wearing a silk gown the color of roses and sunsets, dancing with a handsome hazel eyed man in tails and white tie. And then I opened my eyes to find myself in cargo shorts and a fleece jacket on a desolate beach on the bottom of the earth.

“What are you?” I asked him that surprised that I didn’t ask who but what.

He laughed and I caught something different in his smile. His teeth. He looked like he had fangs. “I am a genetic wonder and mystery. I am the Velociraptor of the human subspecies.” Then he looked serious. “Shawna, don’t be afraid of what I tell you for I would never harm you. I am a Vampire.”

“Like in the movies?” I stupidly asked.

“No, like the guy standing next to you. Like the guy who came down to the ends of the earth to heal a broken heart and soul, to give up, to write songs and wallow in my misery only to find you.”

“You have fangs.” I had to say it. I just had to.

Andrew gently brushed my face with the back of his hand. “Yes, and I use them. I drink the blood of Regular Humans. I live for a long long long time. I have relatives who are over 1,000 years old. I was born in the 19th century, before the Civil War, during the California Gold Rush. But, I am just part of the natural order of the world, of the universe, and I hope of our two souls.”

“I have to admit you’re scaring me Andrew.”

“And the thought of you being afraid scares me more than anything Shawna. I’ve trusted you enough to tell you what I am. Now let me trust that you will not be afraid or reject my offer of friendship.”

“Will you turn me into a Vampire?” It was fear in my voice now, not hope that he would.

“Only if you want me to. Maybe. It isn’t anything I take lightly. But, but, Shawna, that isn’t what is important here. It is evolution, the very thing you’ve spent years studying, the difference in species and life forms and life forces and life and…” He ran his hands through his hair and closed his eyes then opened them looking right into mine. “And love. It all comes down to love and of course passion. You have that passion. I can see it when you speak of your work, your life, your children. You have what so many can only dream of.”

“You’re a Vampire.” I couldn’t get that out of my head, despite his remarkable words and way of speaking.

“Yes, and I’m cool with it. Are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“I understand.”

“Do you want my blood?”

“I would never harm you Shawna.”

“Have you taken blood from any of the others here?” I thought of my fellow scientists and grad students.

“Yes, but…why do you think they’re so happy all the sudden? Sure I took something from them that I needed but I gave them what they needed. Do you understand? Can you attempt to understand. I mean, really, it isn’t any different than finding a new dinosaur. Isn’t it?”

Then we just looked at each other for the longest time. It was a time that ended up in his cabin on the hill, in the creaky iron bed with the colorful quilts, with his cold body wrapped around my hot human one.

It was still dark when I awoke, brushing my hair out of my eyes. Next to the bed, sitting on a wooden crate was a woman. Her chestnut hair the exact same rich color as Andrew’s.

“I didn’t know he had company but…there is something about you Shawna that makes me glad he bonded with you. He is charming but my son can be exhausting and so emotional at times.”

I had to say I was in shock seeing this beautiful woman who didn’t look more than twenty six years old. “I’ve come to take him home, not away from you, but…what I’m trying to say is that you touched Andrew’s heart and maybe…”

Andrew opened his eyes. “Mom. Have you met Shawna?”

Well, this was awkward. They packed up and left, but not before they both left me with their contact information. This was weird. Vampires leaving contact information. Then again, it would have been weird for Andrew to just leave without a word. Of course my ex-husband left without so much as a word, but that is another story.

But before he left, he kissed me one more time then whispered in my ear, “I love you.”

The summer and our time in the desert is almost over. I still savor my short time with Andrew and the memory of his voice and his touch.

Will I contact him when I return? I don’t know. We both live in California where there are plenty of beaches to dance on and where the stars shine bright on the night.

Then again…he is a Vampire, or maybe that shouldn’t matter.

red heart

 

 

 

____________________________________

 

Still feeling romantic? Enter the 1st Annual Vampire Maman Love Letter Contest. CLICK HERE for details.

 

Short Story Sunday: Guest Writer Edgar Allen Poe – The Tell Tale Heart

I find myself somewhat out of words… without a Sunday Short Story – so I’m honored to feature a story of terror from dear Eddie Poe. My brother used to read this to me and we would scare ourselves silly!  This story is best when read out loud! So please READ IT ALOUD to your friends and family and anyone you want to totally and completely creep out! 

For more great gothic, horror and romantic fiction with a twist stories go to the bottom of the page for links.

heart

The Tell-Tale Heart

by Edgar Allan Poe
(first published 1850)

poe

TRUE! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses — not destroyed — not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily — how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded –with what caution –with what foresight –with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it –oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly –very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! –would a madman have been so wise as this? And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously –oh, so cautiously –cautiously (for the hinges creaked) –I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights –every night just at midnight –but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers –of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back –but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out –“Who’s there?”

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; –just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief –oh, no! –it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself –“It is nothing but the wind in the chimney –it is only a mouse crossing the floor,” or “It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.” Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel –although he neither saw nor heard –to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little –a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it –you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily –until, at length a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open –wide, wide open –and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness –all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over acuteness of the senses? –now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! –do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me –the sound would be heard by a neighbor! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once –once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye — not even his –could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out –no stain of any kind –no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all –ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o’clock –still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, –for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbor during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled, –for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search –search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct: –it continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness –until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale; –but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased –and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound –much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath — and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly –more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent   but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men — but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed –I raved –I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder –louder –louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! –no, no! They heard! –they suspected! –they knew! –they were making a mockery of my horror! –this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! –and now –again! –hark! louder! louder! louder! louder! —

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! –here, here! –it is the beating of his hideous heart!”

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More from Short Story Sunday

Click on the title to go to the story.

And if you get a chance read or listen to the audio version of The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl (it is one of my favorite books). A fun, romantic, smart book that will transport you back to the 19th century (but without Vampires.) It takes you back to a young man’s search for the real truth behind Poe’s death and on a journey with unique characters you won’t forget. Matthew Pearl is did his research with this one. The guy is brilliant. The guy rocks at historic fiction.

And because I couldn’t resist…

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