Books of the Dead

“What is this place?” I asked my brother’s friend Florence. He’d taken me to an old building she owned in the downtown area.

“My library, sort of,” she said with a delighted smile. She was a thin woman with a black bob, pale skin, and bright blue eyes lined in black.  “The oldest is from the 1760’s, but most are from the 19th and 20th Centuries. I have a fair amount from the 21st Century too. I got my first one in 1819. Two hundred years ago.

“Are they manuscripts? First editions?” I asked.

I collect books that have never been read or published. Take that back, I’m not sure if anyone has read them or not. I doubt it. Some of them are quite brilliant. Fantastically brilliant. Oh my goodness I am in complete awe of some of these writers.

Even the ones that aren’t finished are pretty interesting. We’re trying to piece them together and fill in the blanks. It is a puzzle. Quite the mystery on some.

The manuscripts come from the estates of people who have passed away. Their families don’t know what to do with the stuff. Or I find them in piles of papers, usually mixed with photos and other personal office ephemera. I’ve even found manuscripts at flea markets, and left in abandoned buildings.

Someone put their heart and soul into these. It would be a shame to see these stories gone forever.

I suppose some were meant to be published. I believe some people just wrote because they had to. Sort of personal therapy. You know how that is.

I’ve got a group of college students and a few others working on reading and editing. Maybe, eventually we’ll get some of them published, you know, out in the world.

Take a look around. Feel free to take a few home to read, if you promise to bring them back.”

I walked around the stacks, surprised not to see any ghosts.

“Florence, this is amazing,” said my brother.

“Thanks. You know how it is being a Vampire. One needs a hobby. I feel it is my job to be the keeper of memories that aren’t mine. Dreams that aren’t ready to die. That too,” she said.

“Thank you Florence,” I said.

She smiled and kissed my cheek with her cold lips. “You’re welcome. I’ll let you know when I start publishing some of them. You’ll have to leave good reviews.”

For the rest of the day we looked through the manuscripts and talked quietly about books, and writers, and stories of our own.

Once a story is told it will always have a life of it’s own – even if nobody ever reads it.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Death is in my garbage can

I see ghosts. Of course I do, because I’m a Vampire.

That said, I have never seen the ghost of a wild animal or at least that of a wild creature who met death in my yard.

Yesterday my lovely delicate little light as air calico cat grabbed a squirrel by the neck, almost decorated it, then at out the heart, lungs, liver, and whatever else was above the intestines.

I found the bloodied squirrel spread eagle, gutted, with tiny white ribs exposed to the sunlight. Not a drop of blood was on the cat.

I only mention this because whenever I have found a dead animal in my yard I feel unease. I don’t know what to do with them so I put them in the garbage can. Then every single time I have to go out to the garbage can in the side yard I know a body is in the bottom of it.

The largest animal was a huge male turkey who was dead on the ground underneath a broken tree branch in my front yard. A female turkey walked around him feeding on whatever she could find in my flower beds. Think of the largest Thanksgiving turkey and add about ten pounds to it. That was the dead turkey in my yard.

It died on garbage day. For a week two turkey feet stuck up almost to the top of the garbage can, a reminder to me every time I took something out to the trash that life is a frail thing indeed.

Another time I found a beautiful dead little squirrel in my front yard, still warm from a fall. I scooped it up and wrapped it carefully in a bag and put it in the garbage can.

Birds, snakes, squirrels, and turkeys all go in the can. My house is built upon rocks so digging is out of the question. And if I did bury an animal in my yard by the next morning another animal would have dug it up, no matter how many rocks I put over the hole.

Anyway, there is something uneasy about having the body of an animal, not food, but just an animal who visited my home come to a violent death and end up spending a week with me (or until the next garbage day.)

I do not see their ghosts. I do not hear tiny animal banshee voices in the wind. All that is left is fur and feathers.

This is an unreasonable discomfort of mine, but anyway… it is what it is.

You’d think as a Vampire I wouldn’t care, but finding a tiny warm squirrel in my yard, with no life in it’s tiny body is just so sad. A rat, not sad at all. A turkey – not that is just weird because they are so darned big. With smaller birds all that I ever find left are feathers and maybe a random foot. You can ask my cat about that. Luckily it has been years since I’ve had to deal with dead possums or skunks. I don’t know what I’d do if I found a coyote, a raccoon, or heaven forbid a bobcat or a mountain lion dead in my yard.

Garbage day won’t come soon enough. It is Friday and death is in my garbage can.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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City of the Angels Part 2: Beauty in the land of the dead

Last Thursday I visited the city of Colma, where almost everyone is dead. Seriously, over a million graves are there with less than 2,000 living in residence. There are no cemeteries in San Francisco – they were all moved to Colma. People and pets are still buried there to this day.

The photos were taken by my friend Amelia who joined Clara and I for the day. Thank you Amelia. These are lovely.

Click here for Part 1.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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A Vampire of Little Consequence

I received a call that Uncle Rico had gone into a coma. It wasn’t expected. These things happen. He’d slowed down for no apparent reason. In the old days someone might have put him in a crypt or a box under the floor boards or in the attic. Or do what the family was doing now and just wait.

My brothers Aaron and Val came over to my house. We’d spoken to our parents who gave us the usual emotionless responses. They’re matter of fact about these things. My father is uncomfortable. My mother unemotional.

We didn’t call my other two brothers. Maybe later. They’ll be at my parent’s house. They live close to them.

Later this week I have a grave side service to attend to support a friend. These things are important but not in the traditions of my immediate family. My parents don’t do funerals. They’re a couple of Vampires who don’t acknowledge death. They choose, because they say they are Modern, to deal with, or not deal with things their own way. I have yet to figure out what way that is. More or less it is not dealing with it. But I need to be there, to give support. To let them know that my heart is not as cold as my skin.

So we don’t deal with a lot of things in our own families, because we’re Vampires. We’re already considered dead, but I have to say that we’re not. We’re just different. Some of us are just transformed. Some of us have always been like this. Some of us are undead, but that is an entirely different post (deal with it.)

It has been a busy week, and we’re only into Tuesday. I’ve had a tiny bout of blood poisoning. You know, people get colds, we get this shit.

So I’m here with my brothers, talking about our family. It is what we do. We always talk about the same things. We tell the same stories. Sometimes we have new stories, but today it is mostly old stories. We don’t talk much about Rico. Then we don’t talk about any of it and talk about movies. Then we talk about where the best fall leaves will be, and wonder if it will rain this winter.

My husband Teddy and sister-in-law Verity join us on the deck with wine, and glasses for everyone. Verity and I stress out slightly about parenting. Then we stop because our kids are great. We just worry about them. It is a weird world out there.

All day I was busy but feeling like a Vampire of little consequence. Then it sort of turns around. I get out of my own head, and get more into my heart, and into the cold sweet embrace of my Vampire family.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Death, Ghosts, and Pokemon Go

Like everyone else, my kids are playing Pokemon Go. In case you’ve been somewhere else, like on another planet or Albania, Pokemon Go is an application you download to your phone. Thanks to a partnership of some sorts with Google Maps, you can find Pokemon critters everywhere. There are hot spots to collect goodies and balls to capture the creatures. There are gyms where they can fight each other. Parks, schools, churches, and murals are all hot spots for a lot of activity. We even found one in our house yesterday.

Of course there are going to be snarky critics who don’t understand the attraction to this game. Screw em. It is a GAME. It is FUN. I’ve had fun watching it bring parents and their teens together.

This is the link to the official web site: http://www.pokemongo.com/en-us/explore/

A quote from the site:

Get up, get out, and explore!

Get on your feet and step outside to find and catch wild Pokemon. Explore cities and towns where you live – and even around the globe  – to capture as many Pokemon as you can. As you walk through the real world, your smartphone will vibrate to let you know you’re near a Pokemon. 

It goes on to tell the players that there is a lot of activity in public sites. One place where there is a lot of activity is cemeteries.

As you know, my kids and I like to visit old cemeteries for various reasons. It isn’t because we’re Vampires. Contrary to popular horror movie culture we don’t live in crypts or in rotting coffins under the ground. Yes, occasionally someone ends up there, but not too often anymore. But that isn’t what this post is about.

Yesterday I was out and about with my kids (ages 17 and 20) when one of them mentioned we were near a cemetery with a lot of activity. So of course at the light I pulled into the parking lot.

I have to admit that I had never been to this particular grave yard, only minutes from my home. It was founded in 1855, four years before I was born. Most of the old grave markers are now flat on the ground, having been broken over the years, and then repaired by no doubt loving hands. Several of the markers and statues are marked by Pokemon activity.

As we walked along exploring the stones we forgot about the game, and started to speculate on the names and the stories.

Unlike many modern cemeteries this one had a mix of flat markers, and traditional larger tombstones. Many had images of hobbies, activities, and occupations. Old and new were mixed together with no real pattern.

Less than a mile away in the old Catholic cemetery we once found a marker for a child who passed away at the age of eight. She would have been forty this year had she been alive. Her stone was in the back by a fence, alone, dusty, all alone. I still wonder about her. No ghost sits on her grave to give us answers.

In this cemetery by the lake, the same lake that borders my neighborhood, there are few ghosts out during the day. It was quieter there than most places of rest.

Anyway, to make a short story even longer…

In the back, near the back fence border, I was attracted to a stone with a portrait on it, and the colorful large headstones near it. I found myself in an entire section of young people. Not babies, but people who’d been in their teens and early twenties. They were Millennials. These were all recent, in the past few years.

One stone, the one that first attracted me, had a message from a twenty year old man’s parents. It said, We will never forgive ourselves for not being able to save you. It broke my heart.

All of the stones had pictures on the headstones of sports, animals, and hobbies, and stories, and portraits and photos of the kids. It was the saddest place in the world. Teens aren’t supposed to die. And here I was with my children, who are in the same age group. It was so random. So sad. They were all there together in the back, near the edge of the lake, where young people hang out.

If was as if they were calling us over to say, “don’t forget us.”

It was odd how a game that is played by young people brought us to such a place.

On the way back across to where I’d parked we saw other stones and speculated on lives that once were. The place was dotted with tiny stones of children who’d come and gone before their first birthday, or first day of school. Yet none of them seemed alone, between the larger graves.

In Chico there is a cemetery with a large children’s area. It is a sad wasteland with no grass or trees, slapped in a sunken area that nobody else would want. Tiny markers with lonely lambs sit in the hot sun, and the cold rain, all alone.

Some say that Vampire infants, those tiny beings born to Vampires parents, steal the souls of dead children. Rest assured it isn’t true.

Last night we had a boisterous night at home with a lot of laughing and joking around. Today there was more searching for tiny creatures in our smartphones.

My brother Andy was over and smiled at our adventures. His strong distaste for ghosts keeps him out of cemeteries, and he doesn’t use his smartphone for anything but phone calls and the occasional text, but he did have some suggestions for an app my son and his friends are developing. It is for Vampires looking for good places to dine. It sounds like a great idea, but for this summer I think I’ll stick to finding tiny imaginary Japanese creatures with my phone, but not without a touch of sadness.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

 

Passings in the Night

Passings in the Night

The plan tonight was to share some Vampire tales and adventures and truly funny things, but plans change.

Tonight I saw The Ghost, Nigel. He wore an impeccable black suit, his hair was a perfect glossy black and all in place. He motioned for me to sit with him out on my back deck under the cold night sky.

His eyes met mine and he told me a story.

“I died December 3, 1986. I normally wouldn’t have remembered the anniversary of my own death, but, it was the strangest thing, I was standing out in the woods, not doing much of anything. When you’re a ghost you don’t do much of anything. Anyway, I was out in the woods and a woman came towards me. She was smiling at me and I knew things about her. Her life had taken up where parts of mine had stopped. Then her life stopped December 3, 2013.

She looked at me for just a moment in passing. It was dark but I could see the light coming over the horizon. She asked me who I was and if we knew each other. I told her “I don’t know you, but we’ve loved some of the same people.” I turned her in the right direction.”

Nigel stood up and looked up at the stars, hovering in and out of a transparent state. Then he came close to me and made himself look as real as a live person.

“I couldn’t go with her. But I sent a little bit of my love along, I hope. Well, I know I did. Don’t look all sad. I’m a ghost. These things happen. Hey, nobody should die alone. She left surrounded by love.”

“Who was she?” I had to ask.

He shook his head slightly. “I don’t know. But we loved the same people, just not at the same time. I loved them first, then she loved them after I was gone. I have a feeling she was better at it than I was, or most people for that matter.”

There were so many questions I wanted to ask him but tonight was not the time to ask or to try to get answers.

Love is a force that we can’t explain or quantify. It goes beyond worlds, beyond sorrow and beyond grief.

 

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

First posted December 2013 – In memory of Julian Elsworth and Lil Longshore.