False Starts, Lost Dreams, Finding Love and an Ancient Tabby

False Starts, Lost Dreams, Finding Love and an Ancient Tabby

As a child Bronagh would get up each morning and go to school. There she’d figure out ways to escape through day dreams and long lone walks around the school ball field. In her more lucid and social moments she’d be trying to ignore the nonstop bullying from the group of smirking thugs who ruled the school. Having a different name in a universe full of Debbies and Nancys and Susans made one stand out. It made one get picked on along with being small, plain and quiet. Her family was also considered weird.

Her father was a large loud Irishman with a thick accent and her mother was a small pale elf like German woman who’d lost her family in the war, then ended up in a group home for lost children. The Irishman and the German girl met in a bar, got married, moved to America and had too many children and didn’t do things like other families. They’d sit up all night and play cards and smoke and drink too much. Then they’d tell stories of ghosts and werewolves and violent relatives who didn’t come to America. They’d sing loud songs and walk around their backyard in their underwear. Sometimes the intensity of the couple frightened the other families of their normal middle class community.

Bronagh was never mistreated at home but she never felt too connected to her family either. She loved them but she didn’t want to live with them or be like them.

She struggled in school but in her secret world she was smart and would one day be beautiful and successful. Nightmare sessions in front of the class unable to do a math problem while other children jeered made her imagine a different life. At that point she started to keep secrets.

Nobody ever knew what she was feeling or thinking. She gave away nothing by her expression or words. She lived in two worlds – one on the outside and her own world inside.

She grew up, went on to high school, made friends, grew into a beautiful young woman, made straight A’s and never looked back.

Then she went to college and found herself on too many long walks alone, but that was OK. She was used to that. Friends came and went. There were always good times to be had but she never stayed close to anyone. She graduated and had plans but her life seemed to be one big black hole that sucked the life out of every idea, every relationship and every job prospect. All of her choices sucked. It was as if everything she touched turned to garbage. It was garbage that couldn’t even be recycled. It was toxic waste.

Time passed and roadblocks grew higher and doors slammed in her face. She found herself with a college degree, a shelf full of books, a stray one-eyed tabby cat she named Toulouse, and nothing else.

One day she decided that one of two things needed to happen. She either needed to die or fall in love. Nobody would ever love her she decided, so she set a date to end it all, that is if nothing happened.

She grew numb.

One day she forced herself to go the large university library to research jobs and graduate schools.

On the first floor she ran into an old party friend Cindy. Beautiful lucky Cindy was going off to her dream job in Los Angeles. A huge engagement ring sat on Cindy’s finger. Cindy’s clothes were beautiful and obviously expensive. Joy radiated out of her, not for material reasons but because she was just where she wanted to be. Then again Cindy had been born where every girl wanted to be.  Cindy was that kind of girl. Bronagh gave Cindy a hug and wished her the best.

Then she saw a guy she’d had a one night stand with talking to a biology professor she’d had. Ditching them she went up the stairwell to the second floor to take refuge with some art books. There were always too many people from her past she didn’t want to deal with.

On the second floor, as she left the art section, she ran into a man she’d been passionately in love with. She smiled with a sense of hope that maybe, just maybe he’d finally feel the same longing she did. He was glad to see her. He was glad to tell her that he was getting married – to somebody else.  He asked her if she still had the cat. She thought he thought she was an idiot. She lied and said she had a boyfriend and great job prospects. Someone she really liked had dumped her the week before. She’d been fired from a job she’d held for a month. It didn’t matter. He’d cheated on her anyway. Being young and miserable with no prospects is no fun even when you don’t feel bad about telling lies.

Feeling numb she looked at college catalogs, made notes about graduate school requirements then go up to walk and distract herself. It was time to look up poisons or just sit down and die and turn into a mummy that someone would find in 50 years or so behind a stack of books nobody ever read.

In the deep darkness of the ancient basement stacks she accidentally tripped and fell into the arms of a young man. It wasn’t that kind of fall into your arms. It was more of the kind of “I noticed you were looking up poisons,” kind of falling to his arms. He noticed in a big way. Poisons were not the kind of things pretty girls, or anyone not doing medical research or writing crime novels usually looked up. She said she was writing a story. He knew she was telling a lie but he let it pass.

She had iced herbal tea with him in an earthy crunchy little coffee shop and they talked about all sorts of things. His name was Val, yes, that Val, my brother. His delightful friend Alonzo joined them.

That was 38 years ago. She still remembered the purple skirt and white lace top she was wearing. On her feet were gray flats. Val was wearing jeans and a black tee. Alonzo wore a red vest and a white button down shirt. His dark hair curled around his ears. It was weird how she remembered the details. She clicked with Val and Alonzo. They didn’t judge her. But they were not like the predators she’d met who wanted to lure her into schemes and religions and cults and plans that she didn’t want to be part of.

They became friends and she became one of them – one of us. A Vampire.

I know it sounds weird but she tells such a glum story. Bronagh is the funniest Vampire I’ve ever met. Yes, we have a sense of humor. You can’t live as long as we do and not.

Bronagh thinks about things too much – old things, things that happened, the guy in the library, the guy who dumped her, people who had been to her, a friend who died when they were young. But then not really, not lately. She used to sometimes wonder what life might have been like had she not become a Vampire.

Becoming a Vampire wasn’t what solved her problems. Having some support and encouragement and sheer tenacity is what got her out of her gloom. Long story. Hard work. Creative thinking. Love. Humor. She shrugs it off.

She’ll laugh and talk about how handsome Alonzo is but that she married him for his sense of humor. She’ll tell you about how he proposed to her while they walked under the stars on a windy beach. She won’t tell you about the times she was so unhappy and lost. Those dark times were such a small portion of everything but still, it makes a mark.

Alonzo had a past so full of nightmares that he was glad to become a Vampire and live in a world of calm control and find some measure of peace. I’m just glad to have them in my life. Maybe I’ll talk Alonzo into telling me a few stories.

Halloween is almost here and all kinds of ghosts are coming out of the woodwork. Let’s just keep most of them tucked away. We don’t need to deal with them or let them bother us.

Alonzo just shrugs and laughs off anything from his past. Bronagh does the same for the most part. They’re just like any other couple, only they’re Vampires. They believe that what they is due to divine intervention and it happened for a reason. Maybe. Maybe not. I’d like to think it was meant to be. OK it was meant to be.

And the odd thing about this story is that the old one-eyed tabby cat Toulouse is still alive at 39 years old. Of course, cats aren’t supposed to live that long but sometimes, well, all Vampires know that there are things we’ll never be able to explain.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: The Alley

Taking a short cut through a downtown alley wasn’t always like it was in the movies. He’d rarely witnessed crimes, or found dumped bodies among the dumpsters and rats. The smells were close to death but not quite. Urine and sun roasted garbage were the aromas of the night. No night-blooming jasmine for this short cut.

Walking along he wasn’t afraid. There wasn’t anything to fear except maybe stepping on something disgusting he’d have to scrape off of his shoe later. But then he saw her standing at the end of the alley.

Had she been a cat he would have taken her home, or found her a forever home, but she was not.

“Hi Val,” she said in a girlish voice. She sounded like she was maybe twelve instead of twenty eight.

“Nikki. You look good.”

She looked good for Nikki. Val hadn’t seen her this clean, well, maybe ever. She’d been homeless on and off for the four years he’d known her. Tonight was the first time he’d seen her in a dress. Even through the bad teeth, unhealthy chalky skin, and the constant fidgeting he could tell she’d once been pretty.

“My cousin Josh took me shopping. Got me this dress, and the sweater. Do you like it. The sweater is sort of like lace, all light like, for the summer. First new clothes I’ve worn in maybe six years.”

“Are you living somewhere?”

“I have my own room in the back of Josh’s building, out by the alley so I have, like my own private entrance. I have a bathroom too. The toilet is in the shower because it is really small. Sometimes when I take a shower I just pee on the floor over the drain. I always laugh because the toilet is right there.”

“What are you doing out here?” It was 3:00 am. He knew why she was out.

Nikki crossed her arms and leaned from one foot to the other. “Just doing some business, you know.”

“Looking for a fix?”

“Maybe, and a little romance.”

Val knew she traded sex for drugs. She kept talking.

“Um, Josh won’t let me bring guys home. I can’t do drugs, drink, or smoke at my room. Those are his rules. You know, I do stuff for him like clean up in the back, mop up, dishes, take out the garbage, and stuff. Maybe I’ll get to cook or work up front one day. He said if I work hard he’ll pay to get my teeth fixed. Ramon said if I go back to school he’ll help me too.”

Val knew Ramon, the high school kid who was headed off to U.C. Berkeley. Nice kid who wanted to get a degree in mathematics and change the world.

“You should go home Nikki. Forget the fix. You look so pretty tonight. Don’t waste it on some creeper. You don’t need to get high,” said Val.

“Maybe if you’d turn me into a Vampire I wouldn’t need it. If you turned me into a Vampire I’d stop hurting all the time. I’d be pretty again.”

“You’d die Nikki.”

“Better than living my life.”

“Don’t say that Nikki. Never say that.”

She looked down at the ground, then leaned up against a parked car. “Tell me a story Val, about when you were my age.”

He’d been telling her stories to get her mind off of getting high, or having sex with anyone she could in exchange for the next high. If he could keep her up until the sun came up then she’d be safe from the evils of the night.

“In 1886 I was twenty eight, same age as you are. My sister and I were in London. Jack the Ripper was in the news. We were at a party…”

“What was she wearing Val? Tell me what your sister was wearing.”

“A cream colored silk dress adorned with purple roses, millions of ruffles and a huge bustle in back. Her hair was piled high on her head in curls all done up with pearls and ivory combs. She danced for hours with a wealthy handsome son of a Duke.”

“Did she drink his blood?”

“Of course she did.”

“Did she make love to him?”

“In a way he would never forget, or get over. He’d never fall out of love with the mysterious woman he’d danced with all night.”

Nikki hugged herself as Val continued to tell her a half true story, embellishing it with more romance than reality.

He walked her home, and kept her talking until the first light of the morning started to show in the sky. “Be safe Nikki. Listen to Josh and Ramon. They’re looking out for you. They care. I care.”

He kissed her cheek with his cold lips.

“Why don’t you ever drink my blood Val?”

“You know why Nikki,” he said.

“I’d do you good Val. I’d make that cold blooded…” She continued with a crude and explicit, sexual description of what she would do to him if he’d only take her home to his house, or even behind one of the dumpsters in the alley behind her building. He turned and walked away from her feeling sad, and disgusted.

Two days later Nikki was found dead in her little room, wearing one of her new sundresses. She’d had unprotected sex with at least three different men that night. She’d died of an overdose of a cocktail of drugs too lethal for most people to imagine.

Before Josh opened his restaurant for breakfast Val stopped by to give him his condolences. Josh shook his head. He’d done everything he could to help Nikki.

“She was always a lost soul. So much talent. Aw man, she was so beautiful once. She just got in with the wrong guys, one right after another. They took everything from her. But she wouldn’t listen to anyone,” Josh told Val, wiping his eyes.

Ramon stood listening then said, “Nikki could have so much hope. Just yesterday she was telling me she wanted to go back to college. She wanted to live. Then she went on again about her friend who was going to turn her into a Vampire, and she’d be young and pretty again, and live forever. She said she was in love with this guy, this Vampire. It was creepy. She was nuts. Sorry Josh, but…” His voice trailed off as he wiped a tear off of his face.

Val wished them the best. That afternoon he made a large donation to a local women’s shelter. Over the past one hundred and fifty nine years he’d seen many lost souls. One slutty little druggie shouldn’t have bothered him so much. Nikki was nothing to him. Then again, she could have been everything to someone if anyone other than Josh or Ramon had cared.

Had she been a stray cat he would have taken her in. Had she been clean he might have taken her forever.

~ End.

 

Tangled Tales

 

First published here in 2016. 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Goji and the Angel

Diana Author Photo

Diana Garcia

Goji and the Angel

By Diana Garcia

 

Angel Rodriguez did not like it one bit.  She was stuck.  She heard a click as she turned the key and pumped the gas pedal, but nothing happened. So, here she was in the middle of the desert, in the middle of the night.

She sure as hell was not going out there in the dark to look for help. Her cell phone was dead so she would not go out until morning to look for other hikers.

Just go to sleep,she thought.

The the cacophony of night noises made it hard. It was the usual desert sounds she heard late at night but in the comfort of her own bed. Out here, it was different. Packs of passing and yipping howling coyotes, things slithering in the dirt right outside the car, and black shadows flying low and shrieking past her car windows. The Arizona desert was teeming with active night denizens and the hot wind did not dissipate, nor give reprieve, with the setting of the sun. Even with the windows rolled halfway down Angel found it hard to breathe. Sweat dripped into her eyes every time she attempted to close them.

Angel fanned herself with a piece of cardboard as she lay low in the back seat of her car. She gazed out of the rear windshield. The obsidian panorama contributed to her fearful thoughts. Not even stars to calm her terror and anxiety. Where the hell were the stars?Where the fuck is the moon?Oh, there it was, a thin slivered sickle of grayish glow off in the distance peeked out as dark clouds moved on to be replaced by other dark clouds, like a broken neon sign with burnt out bulbs.

Speaking out loud to no one Angel said,

“Okay, that’s enough Angel. Close your eyes and think of good things, shhhhh.”

The calming mantra worked for about two minutes. Now she had to go pee.

“Oh fuck. Do I piss my pants or should I go outside?”

Angel opened the door and slid out of the car to urinate. There was no other choice. She was squatting while with one hand she held her jeans and panties out of the stream’s way, and with the other hand she firmly held onto the door handle. Touching the car gave her a sense of security.

The day before, Angel had been driving in the desolate desert searching for a hidden treasure mapped out on butcher paper given to her by an old injured prospector she and her fellow rescue workers were bringing down the Superstition Mountains. Yes, there were still people searching for the lost Dutchman’s gold in this day and age.  Angel was in the EMT truck setting up the IV for the dehydrated old man who moaned in pain with his eyes closed. He suddenly grabbed her arm and said,

“In my front pocket, dear”

“What did you say, sir?”

“In my front pocket. Get the map.” His tone was urgent but his ragged breathing made him hard to understand. He took long pauses between each word.

Angel reached into the man’s pocket and pulled out a bundle wrapped in faded blue checked cloth and said, “This? You want this, sir?”

The old man held a firm grip on her arm and whispered,

“The fucking gold is NOT in the Superstitions. I buried it about fifteen miles east of here. That’s the map,” he said as he looked at the bundle in Angel’s hand.

“But sir, I don’t want this. Why don’t I put it in your backpack for safe keeping, okay? For when you get out of the hospital.”

“No, dear. You don’t understand, I’m dying. I have lung cancer. I thought I was being followed so I backtracked after burying the gold and took the Peralta Trail back into the mountain to throw the buggers off. I was being followed. I know it.” Angel held the back of his head as he coughed blood into a handful of tissues she held to his mouth.

After he stopped coughing, Angel asked in order to appease the distressed man, “So you want me to use the map and get your gold and bring it to you?”

She was an Arizona native and stories about the Lost Dutchman Mine and treasure was the stuff of campfire storytelling lore, nothing more than that.

The man calmed down, released his hold on Angel’s arm, looked into her eyes and said, “No dear, I want you to get the gold and use it for you and your family. Do big things with it. You saved me from getting killed. I’d rather a good person have it than those buggers,” whispered the man as he closed his eyes.

“But sir, I can’t do that. This is your property. Please. You’ll be fine. You’re just dehydrated. We’ll get you taken care of and you’ll be fine.”

“No. Listen, I’ve been moving that gold around in different parts for sixty years. My grandpa and great grandpa did the same before me. We kept the legend alive. Do you hear me? I was a doctor back in my day. My wife and sons are now long dead. I’m dying. I just can’t keep this up anymore. Please don’t tell anyone. Just let the legend live.”

Angel looked at the man’s pale blue eyes and saw truth and loss there. She nodded and zipped the bundle in her work jacket and continued working on the man as they were driven away into town.

_______

Angel had hiked down a steep crevasse. An avid mountain climber and hiker, Angel was no stranger to the harsh and scorching landscape that was the Arizona desert. She had told her friends and family that she needed some time off and was going camping and hiking on her own. This was not unusual for Angel so her family and friends thought nothing of her little weekend escape and was told to be careful. Angel had decided that looking for the gold using the old man’s map would be something fun and was looking forward to her “escape” from work and the routine stuff that comes with living in the busy city of Phoenix. However, during her drive east of the Superstition Mountains she had been questioning if she was nuts.

The map was clear and concise and Angel figured the old man had been in the military and it was evidence that he was a seasoned hiker and map maker. It was a well-made topographical map with coordinates which illustrated elevation and contour lines of hills, various landforms, and crevasses. It was an expert depiction of the ground relief, terrain, and even the flow of creeks and animal or human trails. Angel was athletic enough that she did not foresee any problem with locating a hidden treasure. She contemplated about what she would do with the gold, if indeed there was any. She wondered what it would feel like to be out of debt, especially her college loans.

The old man had died the next morning at Banner Goldfield Medical Center. He refused to speak with anyone, except Angel. She held his hand as he took his last breath. She felt a deep sadness. She had never lost anyone close to her but had seen many people and children die in her work. Angel had been a rescue EMT for 8 years and had many rescue stories, some devastating and with only a few happy outcomes. She lectured at schools and community colleges regarding desert search and rescue, and how to recognize, treat and avoid heat exhaustion.

Angel hurt for the old guy because she never even asked his name. He had died without any identification. When the rescue team found him, they just called him the “old guy.”

Once back in civilization she would make sure the first thing to do would be to trade in her old car for a new off-road vehicle.

________________

Now it was midnight and she was peeing in the desert.

As Angel pulled up her pants, she heard a loud THUD. She felt the car jump with the weight of whatever landed on the car. She yelped and jumped away, but it was so dark and her eyes had adjusted about as good as they were going to adjust. Regardless, she was blinded by dark shadows.

She heard a WHOOSH and felt the pressure of a blast of air like giant bird wings flapping. She crouched low where she had been standing and yelled out into the darkness, “What the hell!”

The car’s rear tires bounced off the ground and then another THUD landed directly in front of her. It had kicked up dirt and rocks. Angel choked and coughed in panic.

“Calm down” said a deep voice, then again soothingly, “Calm down.”

Angel stood and reached out like a blind woman, “Who’s there? I can’t see.”

“Here drink some water and wash your face.  I got this water bottle out of your car” said the voice.

“Um-Okay.” she said as she felt the water bottle pressing into her hand and did as she was told.

“Can you see me now?” said the voice.

Angel looked hard and couldn’t believe the shadowy outline of what stood before her. She closed her eyes and opened them again.

“You’re a giant,” she whispered. “Oh my gawd.” She gazed upward at a being that appeared to be over eight feet tall.

“I won’t hurt you,” it said.

“Are those w-wings?”

The creature’s yellow eyes glowed like starshine and a visceral light emanated from them.

“What the fuck are you?”

“I am stuff of legends, dear.”

Huge clawed hands touched muscular thighs as the thing bent low so they could look at each other face to face.

“Listen, I won’t hurt you. I’m bending so you can see my face. Horrific, I know, but I’m good.”

Angel covered her mouth with both hands as she gazed at the creature before her. His look was penetrating and made her feel as if he could see into her soul. It was a hypnotic pull. She felt the urge to scream in terror and to run into the darkness.

She willed herself to stay calm and to speak.

“You resemble the gargoyles of Notre Dame.” Said Angel as she gulped for air. “I saw statues of you when I traveled abroad.”

A deep throated laughter emanated from the creature. It sent a chill up her spine. She felt every little hair on her arms and neck stand on end.

“I’m not from France. Don’t mean to scare you.”

“Then, who are you? What are you? You speak good English.”

“My name is Goji. Pleased to meet you. And you are?”

“Hi, I’m Angel,” she whispered as he straightened up to full height.

“Ahhhhh, a glorious angel stands before me.”

The gargoyle regally bowed his head and said,

“Why are you out here in the middle of the night where dangerous creatures abound?”

“Do you mind if I grab my camping chair from the back. I need to sit. I’m shaking so hard that I don’t think I can stand much longer.”

“Please do.”

Angel walked to the back of the SUV and lifted the hatch and pulled out two camping chairs.

She offered one of them to the gargoyle, he said,

“Oh no dear, I’ll break it. You sit. I will lean against your car, if you don’t mind?”

Angel sat in the cloth chair, glad to be off her feet. She was still shaking, but not from being cold. Even so, she was intrigued and wondered if she was dreaming.

“Am I dreaming?” She said out loud not expecting an answer.

“No, I saw you were stranded and wondered if you would seek help or if other humans would find you. I’ve been watching from afar.”

Angel was speechless, so he continued, “I flew down because earlier I smelled a mountain lion nearby and felt I needed to protect you.”

“After all, that is what we gargoyles do.” He made air quotes at his use of the word gargoyle. “We protect.”

Goji leaned against the SUV with one ankle crossing his other as he stood. His muscular arms and hands reached back as he nonchalantly leaned into the car.

There was an awkward silence. Angel stared at the monstrous thing before her. His face was apelike but his ears were long and the top point of each curved forward. Unlike an ape, there was no hair on his face or body. The legs were long and muscular. They looked like photos she’d seen in her ex-boyfriend’s bodybuilding magazines. Goji had high cheekbones and the enormous almond shaped yellow eyes gave his chiseled face an Asian look. His lips were full and out of his mouth jutted curved tusks, like a wild boar.

Angel asked, “Where are you from? Have you always been here in this desert?”

“I was born long ago in the sedge lands of Kemet, what you would call Egypt.”

Angel nodded, and said, “Was it an insult to call you a gargoyle?”

“No, I laughed because that word means ‘throat’ or ‘gullet’ relegating my kind as stone water spouts. It just makes me laugh.”

“I’m sorry. That is funny. I suppose the stone gargoyles served their purpose. Then, what are you?”

“We are ancients. As I said, my kind originated in the riverbanks of Kemet long before humankind appeared. You may just call me Goji.”

“How did you learn to speak English?”

“Long ago. I also speak Akkadian, Sumerian, Cappadocian, Arabic, French, actually, many languages. I’ve been around for millennia so I’ve picked up a few things, like languages.”

“Millenia? Wow. Why are you here, in the desert? Angel spread her arms out to signify the area.

“I’ve always loved the desert. This Arizona desert reminds me of home, far way, but it makes me reminiscent. Frankly, humanity tires me with their wars and pollution and the noise. Ugh. I hate all the noise you humans make.” He made his large pointy ears flap to accentuate that noise bothers him.

Angel laughed at his flapping ears. She felt more at ease.

The soft glow of a new dawn peeked gingerly from the far mountains and a warm breeze blew through the surrounding scrub and acacia trees. Angel walked to her open front passenger door and asked Goji if he wanted a bottle of water. He motioned his head no and watched her reach in for a new bottle from the open ice chest on the front seat.

She sat back down and asked, “So, what do your kind eat and drink?”

“Oh, I drink creek water and I like meat, lots of meat: rats, deer, and I occasionally like to scare up a mountain lion. That’s how I found you. I was keeping watch.”

Angel looked at his tusks in wonderment and felt chilled all over again.

“Do you often appear to humans?”

“Hardly ever. But I once had an enlightening conversation with the bishop of Rouen who spread lies about me and told his people that he killed me by holding his mighty crucifix at me. He was a pervert who manipulated the Merovingian stock, but I won’t get into that.”

Angel laughed and said, “You’re funny. Thanks for not tearing me to shreds with your tusks and those scary claws.”

Goji looked at his hands and smiled.

“So, what are you doing broken down in the middle of nowhere?”

Angel raised her eyebrows and said, “If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.”

“Try me.”

“Well, me and my crew, Um, I work for an emergency response team, S-A-R, Search and Rescue, and my crew was dispatched to rescue this old guy from the Superstition Mountains the other day and he gave me a map when I was treating him for dehydration.” Feeling a little embarrassed, she paused.

“Go on.”

“Well, long story short, we did the emergency search and rescue. I treated the very dehydrated old man. He gave me a map and told me it would show me where he hid a treasure. The gold from the Lost Dutchman Mine. He said he and his family have been moving it and hiding it for years, his father and great-grandfather, etc.” Angel looked at her hands, “He died the next day at the hospital.”

“So, Old Kellerman died.”

Surprised at Goji’s statement, Angel asked,

“You knew the old guy? I didn’t know his name. He said he was a doctor.”

“Yes, Dr. Kellerman. Poor man died. Sad.” Goji looked down and shook his head.

Angel whispered, “I’m sorry. He told me he was dying of lung cancer.”

“Kellerman was supposed to meet me at a designated spot three days ago but he never made it. Now I know why. Pardon me.”

Angel watched Goji walk a few feet away as he looked up towards the orange glow of the awakening sun. He turned and walked back towards her. His enormous wings stretched out then fanned in. Angel choked on her water when she saw the wingspan and pretended to cough.

She said, “I’m sorry I gave you the bad news. I felt really sorry for him. He had no I.D. on him when we brought him in. He wouldn’t talk with anyone except me.”

“Kellerman was my only friend. His father was also a friend. So was his grandfather and great-grandfather.”

“I’m so sorry Mr. Goji”

“Just Goji. Thanks.”

“I helped the family hide a vast treasure and have been helping them do this for a very long time. I am the guardian of that treasure.” When Angel did not respond he continued,

“The Kellerman’s were originally prospectors who found a huge vein here in the southwest. They later became mining magnates. Some of their offspring went on to be politicians, lawyers, and doctors. Good people. The Kellermans enjoyed the old stories that a German immigrant by the name of Jacob Waltz found the gold. Waltz was a boastful drunken braggart and the Kellermans never corrected the rumors.”

“So, everything the old man told me is true?”

“Yes. Do you have the map? Can I see it?”

Angel got the flashlight and map from her glovebox and handed both to Goji.

He unfolded the map on the hood of the car, then fumbled with the flashlight.

Angel grabbed it from him and pressed the button. She shined the light on Goji to get a better look at him.

“Wow,” she said, “You look fearsome but somehow I’m not afraid of you any longer.”

Goji grabbed the flashlight from her in embarrassment.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare. That was rude.”

“That’s okay, I just don’t want to scare you with my beauty. No worries,” he said with a smile.

He pointed to the map with a clawed finger, “See that?”

Angel looked at the map where his clawed finger pointed at a drawing in the corner at the edge.

“I didn’t remember seeing that. It’s a winged creature. It’s a drawing of you on top of a mountain.”

“Kellerman was a good artist. He was always drawing pictures of me when he was a kid. Yes, this is Kellerman’s map.

Angel asked, “He said someone had been following him. Do you think someone knew about the map?”

“Yes, I found two guys lost around the area I was to meet Kellerman. While they were sleeping I found some guns and bottles of booze in their bags. I hid but followed them and heard them talking about killing some old guy. Apparently, they cozied up to Old Kellerman at a bar and while he was drunk he started talking about a lost treasure only he knew where it was hidden. Old Kellerman apparently told them he was to meet someone to help him move the gold. That’s why they were waiting to ambush him.”

Angel asked, “Why would he tell people about it?”

“I don’t think people really ever believed him when he spoke about it. He started drinking a lot after his family died off. I told him never to say anything, but I guess he was rambling and these guys started following him.”

“He seemed pretty scared when we found him. I wonder what happened to those men who had been following him?”

“I broke their necks while they slept at their campsite”

Dumbfounded, Angel just looked at Goji.

“I know. I wouldn’t have killed them but they were talking about killing Old Kellerman. I’ve been friends with the family for over a hundred and fifty years. I was not going to let anything happen to him.”

“I understand, but what did you do with the bodies?”

“I threw their clothes and things in a garbage dumpster in a Gold Canyon housing development and then flew back and laid their bodies in an area where I saw a vulture family nesting.”

“What the fuck?”

“Well, at least it was a humane thing to do. The vulture family had fledglings so the bodies did not go to waste.”

“Oh, okay, I feel better now,” said Angel with a sarcastic tone.

The giant gargoyle ripped the map to shreds.

Angel reached out with her hand but it was too late, “Why did you do that?”

He turned to her and said, “Why do you need the map? I just told you I’m the guardian of the treasure.”

“I, I liked it. I would have kept it as a keepsake.”

“Look Ms. Angel, I have dozens of old maps made by the Kellermans in my cave. I’ll give you the last one he made before this.”

Angel looked up at Goji as the sun rose high over the mountain. His presence among a desert landscape she had always known made her wonder what other things unknown hid among the boulders and rocks surrounding them.

“This is going to sound weird, but have you ever flown a human from one place to another?”

“Yes, once, Old Kellerman when he was a teen. He had asked many times when he was younger but I always refused. It had to be at night. I have always been very careful.” He looked away and closed his eyes for a moment. It was a painful memory of a time past.

“Okay, so, this is weird, no one will believe this, but can you fly me to the nearest gas station?”

“I’m sorry, no,” said the gargoyle.

“What? Why?”

“I mean to say no, not now. When It’s dark I will be happy to fly you near a gas station or closer to civilization.”

Angel muttered to herself, “One more day out here in this heat. My car is too hot. This is crazy.”

“I can, however, fly you nearby.”

Goji pointed to a far mountain spine which spanned the landscape. “I stay in a cave up there. It’s cool away from the sun. Actually, it gets cold. I have food and water if you like?”

Angel, looked up at him, then glanced at the sun which was soon to be high up and the heat would begin baking things like an earthly convection oven.

“Okay, let me get my backpack out of the car.”

She strapped the backpack in front of her body instead of her back as Goji instructed her. He bent and wrapped his huge arms around her small waist and began lifting her. His wings were not like those of a bird, but like those of a bat, a gigantic bat. The heat from his body seared her back and neck and she cried out as they flew away, his tight hold on her while they lifted off made her feel faint. She opened her eyes and looked down. Her car looked like a tiny speck among the landscape of saguaro and mesquite trees. The wavy heat blast of hot winds accompanied their flight as they passed ravens and hawks circling wide and out of their way. He gently lowered her as the beat of wings slowed and the dust settled.

They quietly stood on the steep cliffside looking out at the vibrant colors and hues of greens and browns and shadows that undulated across the panoramic view of the desert. It was breathtaking.

Angel sighed and looked around. “I don’t see a cave.”

“Of course not. It’s hidden.”

Goji effortlessly moved a giant boulder which to Angel had only appeared to be part of the mountain.

He stood before an opening and bowed, “After you.”

Angel wasn’t sure if she should enter the beckoning darkness of what looked like a huge cavern, much of which was the mountain itself. She gingerly entered the cave. They followed a downward path for what seemed like hours. Angel noticed the cooling temperature as they descended. After a time, she was able to see her surroundings as a strange glow appeared around a sharp bend in their path.

Long jagged and pointy russet-gold stalagmites jutted down from the top of the cavernous space high above her. The enormous razor spikes emitted an incandescent bioluminescent glow from bright mosses that hung in between them. It was truly a vision to behold. Angel was an avid hiker and spelunker and relished the idea of spending a lot of time exploring this mountain. With head turned upward she turned in circles and smiled gleefully.

“Wow!” Was all she felt compelled to say. A voice echoed back with another “Wow!” No other words could describe the awe she felt at that moment. A mythical gargoyle, this amazing cavern. What next?

“Watch your step, Ms. Angel,” Said Goji. He pointed down.

“This is bottomless. I would never find you if you fell.”

Angel fell to her knees and peered into a giant pit. With mouth open she turned to look up at Goji.

“Seriously? Bottomless?”

“As far as I have been able to determine. Please step away from there.” He grabbed her arm and helped her up. He steered Angel toward an archway that led into another cave.

“Please have a seat. We have much to discuss.”

The cave was smaller than the cavernous entry. A stream of water trickled nearby. She watched Goji round the large room lighting torches embedded into the rock walls. He grabbed a rope and gently lowered a medieval looking wrought iron round light fixture with hundreds of candles. The sound of the babbling brook echoed as Angel watched Goji patiently light the candles.

He said, “I haven’t lit these in over a century.”

“It’s very beautiful in here,” said Angel as she walked around looking at faded hanging tapestries that belonged in a castle. They looked hauntingly out of place among the jutting red rock walls. The fire’s illuminating glow revealed an ancient petroglyph on the farthest wall in the cave. It depicted a herd of pronghorn antelope that appeared to be running with the flickering shadows of the nearby torchlight, squiggly lines in a row to signify water, dragonflies, and hand imprints with the infinity circle inside the palm. Angel pressed her hand atop one of those hands and kept it there as she imagined who made these wonderous images. Angel had been lost in thought but then turned and found Goji staring at her.

He whispered, “The artwork of an ancient people.” His reverence bespoke that he was equally amazed as she.

Frayed and torn red and blue velvet chairs and couches from another century encircled a fire pit.

“Thank you for trusting me to bring you here,” he said as he sat on an immense block of basalt. “You are the first human I’ve ever brought in here.” He paused. Silence.

Angel suddenly felt nervous. The feeling of being on the precipice of new and unfathomable experiences and emotions did not elude her. She felt special and chosen for a big responsibility. She waited.

“So, I have one request before I bestow my new young,” He paused, took a deep intake of breath, and continued, “and very beautiful new friend with riches beyond belief.”

His yellow eyes bored into Angel. They burned into her soul and she felt shaken but could only stare back at him in fear.

“Are you sure you told no one of the map or what Old Kellerman said to you? I need to be sure.”

“No. I did not mention it to anyone. I felt no one would believe me anyway. My coworkers are jokesters when we’re not working, and since I’m the only female crew member they like to rib me and poke fun, but it’s all in good sport. We get together, but I felt they would make fun of me or make fun of the old guy. I felt really sorry for him. He was so intense.”

“Well then, Ms. Angel, I have a proposition for you. Hear me out.” Goji leaned closer to her and took hold of her hand. It looked small and fragile in his. She noticed his claws were razor sharp, yet, at that moment, her fear dissipated with his warm touch.

“Ms. Angel?”

“Yes?”

“Will you do me the honor of being my friend?”

The pleading intensity with which his almond shaped fiery eyes looked into hers was hopeful, a raw innocence, childlike. It was a simple request, yet it was a plea, a deep longing for a friend. Angel knew this friendship would be the greatest treasure of all. This lonely giant soul needed a friend.

Tears pooled and flowed down her cheeks at the sadness and loneliness this plea exuded. She could not fathom a loneliness that extended centuries.

Angel wiped the tears away and with a smile said,

“I would be truly honored Goji.”

__________

Years passed.

Angel went to medical school and became a respected trauma surgeon. People grew tired of wondering where she would disappear for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. She was so mysterious that they eventually stopped wondering, or worrying, about her disappearances.

Goji and Angel became the best of friends. He relished their discussions about religion, politics, and life in general. He wanted details and the minutia of all the experiences she recounted of her daily life. He was fascinated with technology and the human advancements in science and space travel. Discussions of alien worlds, UFOs, quantum physics, and multiverses, and nanotechnology were his favorite topics of discussion. She brought books, newspapers, and magazines to his cave. His thirst for any and all information was voracious.

The day Angel gave Goji a smartphone they both laughed because she was his only listed contact. She rolled on the floor, laughing uncontrollably, in her office the day she received a selfie from him.

In time, Angel created the GOJI Charitable Foundation which helped the poor and sick around the world.  Hospitals and research facilities in the Kellerman name were founded. This was the dream of both Goji and Angel. They worked together on all of these projects. Angel sought Goji’s advice on everything. It was a marriage of sorts.

Their fondness for each other was unspoken and unrequited, yet clearly evident in the amount of time they spent together, in that cavern, or on those long and moonlit night flights they so loved to take together.

Throughout the years, Goji and Angel, planned and arranged meeting at mapped out destinations around the world. They walked among Egyptian and Aztec pyramids on moonless nights. The South American jungles held no fear for Angel as long as she walked with Goji. Angel charted planes to private islands, and there she would wait for Goji to alight on the midnight beaches where they would walk and talk until daylight. A winged preternatural being landing in a foggy landscape was a sight to behold, and it never ceased to fill Angel with heart-pounding awe.

__________

One evening, Angel died in Goji’s arms. It was where she wanted to be. For over sixty-five years they had been dear friends, comrades, and confidants. Later, in a private ceremony, seen only by bats and quiet slithering things, Goji threw a handful of orange and yellow cactus blooms and wildflowers. He watched them float downward, into the bottomless pit, now a sacred sepulcher. A soft echo of a whisper floated upward, then silence. He stood motionless at the edge for hours, like a stone statue on the high parapet of an ancient cathedral.

Not long after that, Goji, an ancient from Kemet, moved the boulder into place to hide the cavern forever and he flew off into an obsidian Arizona night.

 

~ end

 

Gargoyle

 

Diana Garcia is an Arizona native currently residing in Prescott, Arizona. She has a journalism degree from Arizona State University, Walter Cronkrite School; and is a researcher, photojournalist, performance poet and storyteller. Short stories of varying genres are her favorite story telling medium, which have been published, along with her poetry, in a few anthologies. Her writing strongly reflects her strong cultural ties to her indigenous Mexica and Xicano heritage. She is currently researching and writing a historical novel, as well as an anthology of her poetry and short stories.

Note from Juliette:

I love this story so much. Thank you Diana for writing it and letting me share it with my readers. All of her stories are from the heart and will transport you to another time and place.

For more information about Diana and her other works please see the FaceBook link below. Or click here for more information.

“Goji and the Angel” was featured in the WPaD Anthology “Weirder Tales.

Diana is a founding member of WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) and I am proud and honored to say she is my friend. 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Weird Tales_Diana_11x17 (3)

 

Short Story Sunday: Fallen

Fallen

“Oh man, I wish we could turn into bats like in the movies. That would make things a lot easier.”

Max leaned against the kitchen counter listening to his friend Pierce. It had been a rough night for the hunters of shadows – the Vampires who were dedicated to keeping their world safe for both Vampires and those they lived among.

“Do you think she’ll be alright? I didn’t say anything in the car. You know how sensitive she is.”

Max poured himself another glass of wine. “She’ll be fine, eventually. I’ve seen her through worse. Mehitabel has seen herself through worse.”

“Mehitabel won’t tell you if anything is wrong. Come on Max, she took on…” Peirce paused.

“A fallen angel. Sure, and some people call us fallen angels. They have no idea. We’re just physically different. The fallen angels are pure evil.”

“So is the poison that entered our friend, your lover.”

“We’re just friends.”

“Bullshit Max. That is total and complete bullshit.”

The sound of the shower upstairs turned off. Max put down his glass and went to check on his friend.

Mehitabel sat on his bed, her hair dark and wet around her shoulders. She wore one of his robes, a burgundy colored brushed silk.

“Hey, how do you feel?” he said stepping close putting his hand on her cool cheek.

“Not good. Sort of weird, like someone broke my heart, but I don’t know how or why or who. It wasn’t him.”

Max started to pull the robe open.

“Not tonight Max. Please I don’t want to have sex with you or anyone right now, alright.”

“Mehitabel, I don’t want to… I… just let me look.” He pulled open the robe to see the large gash going from the top of her left shoulder down her arm almost to her elbow. The ugly wound had sealed but it was far from being healed. She winced as he touched it. An ugly blackness outlined the edges of the tear.

He put his hand over the wound. At first she tried to pull away but as he whispered words in an ancient language of their people the pain started to leave her arm. Then he bent over and kissed her shoulder. The blackness turned to a pale red. “I came to give, not to take.”

Tears filled her eyes as she lay back on the bed. Max lay next to her and put his arms around her. “Sleep. It is the best thing you can do. I’ll be up later. Nothing can hurt you here, not while Pierce and I are with you.”

Downstairs Pierce had turned on the TV. “Giants lost today. How is she?”

“Not good. I’m going to sleep with her tonight. Just sleep and be there.”

Max and Pierce stayed up to watch ESPN to get their minds off of the past 48 hours.

Mehitabel lay in bed, her fangs ready as she looked out at the creature standing on the window ledge. “You cannot hurt me here. You cannot have me.”

It looked like a man, but she could see the flicker of the forked tail in the dark and the fold of leathery wings above his shoulders.

He smiled an angelic smile of pure bliss and beauty, then mouthed the words, “You’re mine. You. Are. Mine.”

At the sound of the door opening the dark being vanished. Max crawled under the covers bedside her. “Just because, just because we’re the way we are, and because I can’t give you… it doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”

She didn’t respond. She was too busy watching and waiting as she looked into the darkness outside the window.

~ End

The Travelers: A Tale of Mystery, Love and Hope

The Travelers

A Christmas Tale of Mystery, Love and Hope
from Juliette Kings

The night was falling on the travelers, Daniel and his son Tad and daughter Ada. They had to stop before the dark of night and freezing snowfalls. The father and his children were finally going home, from the broken dreams of gold to the city where Daniel had found a job in his profession of typesetter and reporter. When his wife had passed on he followed his dream to the California gold fields taking his teenage children with him. For good or bad they’d made the new state their home.

As the snow began to fall they came upon a cabin, the door boarded up from the outside, the windows shuttered. It looked deserted and like shelter for the night. Dan and his son pried the nails off of the boards, which secured the door and went into the two-room structure. Inside was a cozy room with a fireplace, comfortable chairs and a wall full of books. Dan sent Tad out to bring in firewood.

Ada went to the bedroom and called her father. On the bed was a man, still as the night, cold and pale as the snow. In his arms, wrapped in blanket was a tiny girl in a red velvet hat, a scarf covered up most of her small face. She was also still and pale.

Ada’s heart sank. The poor souls in the bed looked to have passed on. But why were they trapped in the cabin? Had they been sick? Why were they not buried with a prayer and the proper respect? The man’s coat was obviously expensive and of the finest materials. His boots were of the most beautiful leather and style. His face was handsome and refined. Ada took off her glove and touched the back of her hand to the man’s face. He was indeed cold as ice and still as death. She called in her father.

“I know this man.” He said. “A fine man. A poet. I heard him read when I was in San Francisco. What a tragic pity to find him here with his child.”

The looked upon the bodies of the father and child when they saw the slightest movement and the man opened his eyes.

“My daughter, please help her,” whispered the man on the bed.

Ada took the girl in her arms. She weighed almost nothing. The child let out a sigh. Ada brought the girl into the other room and sat in a rocking chair by the fire Tad had built. The girl started to move and put her face against Ada’s warm neck. Ada soon fell asleep with dreams of flowers and all things good.

In the morning the poet and child were gone.

The travelers found box covered with red paper. In the box was a golden heart and a note to Ada.

 

Dearest Ada,

This heart belonged to my dear wife who was murdered by villains of the vilest kind. Please wear it knowing that you will always be loved and you will always be a part of us.

TK

 

On the table in the front room was a bounty of food. Where had it come from? There were fresh baked goods, milk and juice, exotic fruits, sausages and chocolates. Under small quilted cozies were pots with fragrant tea and coffee. Another note was slipped under the teapot.

Daniel read the note aloud to his children.

 

My heart thanks you for your generosity.

You saved our lives.

You never questioned who had trapped us or hurt us.

You never judged us.

You never feared us.

The love between parent and his children is burned into your heart like the fires that burn in the heavenly stars.

My daughter and I will never forget you.

Your children and their children and their children will always be safe and watched over and kept from the harm of wicked men. I owe and promise you that.

Never fear the night or the darkness for we will always be watching your back.

Wishing you a Happy Christmas.

~ Thomas Kent

 

As the travelers ate they talked of the sweet dreams they’d had the night before, along with stiff necks they had that morning. Daniel and his children  spoke of Mr. Kent and his precious daughter and wondered why they’d been trapped in the cabin.

Many many years later after a long and wonderful life full of romance and adventure, Ada fingered the heart, which she still wore. As she took her last breath she said, “I have never known fear, only love”.

An ocean away Thomas Kent felt an icy wind, then hope and gratitude in his cold Vampire heart.

 

 

~ 2012 JK

victorian christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love this story.

Today is the 5th time I’ve published it here. It is also featured in the WPaD holiday story collection Tinsel Tales.

This story is near and dear to my heart. It is my gift to you. I hope you enjoyed it, and paused to think about the mysteries in your own life.

Merry Christmas everyone and may all of your mysteries be good ones.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Short Story Sunday: Robert and the Key

I’m honored to feature a story from 14 year old Charlotte K., a high school freshman. I’m always happy to feature work of young authors here. 

Robert and The Key

coffeeHello, the names Robert. My whole life has just been a boring existence until that is I met the key girl. It started on Saturday, April 5th, 2002; I had no plans as I usually did for I had no friends and no social life what so ever. My Saturday’s normally consist of getting coffee in a ratty coffee shop called Crystal’s, then I would proceed to go home after that, walk through my front door, stomp around my house until reaching my dull and lifeless bedroom, sitting in my chair and staring off into space until I finish my coffee. After that I would normally sleep for the next 5-7 hours bringing me then to around 3-5PM where I would sit on my couch eating my depression away and watching pointless TV shows to fit with my pointless life.  This Saturday was different though, I got up, exhausted and threw on my coat and shuffled down to Crystal’s.

Normally nobody was in there by this morning there was a girl, this was the key girl. She sat at a table drinking a mug full of hot chocolate with peppermint. She beautiful I thought to myself. The girl had long blonde hair like the color of the golden sun, with big waves going through it. Her eyes were like magic, imagine the darkest brown you can and those were her eyes, almost black. Perfect lips, not to thin but not overly full but just right, the shape of her face was a little bit round, just right though. I walked to the counter admiring her beauty.

I ordered my usual black coffee of whatever they were brewing that morning. As I was walking out the door I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder, it was she.  “I happened to notice you staring at me.” She said softly, smiling and looking down at her feet.

“Uhhh…” I said blankly.

“It’s alright.” She said cheerfully while adding laughter to the end.

“Sit with me?” She asked pointing to any empty table.

I walked slowly over to the table. I was thinking why in the world would a girl like this want me?  She probably feels bad for me. I pulled out the chair for her and she sat down, I sat down next.

“So Robert, I’m going to give you something alright?”

She knows my name?

“Umm alright?” I said confused.

“Close your eyes.”

Oh god. I closed my eyes and felt her grab for my left hand.

“Open your hand please.” I did as she asked. I felt something be put into my hands; she closed my hand into a fist.

“Open your eyes.”  In my hands there was a key.

“This is the key to the world, the key to knowledge, and the key to love. Put it in your pocket and don’t look at it until you get to your apartment okay?”

“Okay?” I said questioning.

“Turn your head to the right for me.” I turned my head to the right.

When I turned back she was gone. Poof.  I ran home fast as I could. I got to my door and didn’t once look at the keys. I pulled out the two keys in my pocket, one being my house key and the other being the key the girl gave me. I took both out and stared blankly at them, the keys looked identical as if long lost twins. I tested one and it worked, I test the other and it work. I brushed it off and walked into my apartment to see a note left on my table it read…

Dear Robert,

Everything you need in life can be found here.

Love, The Key Girl.

Moral: Everything you need is found within yourself.