Short Story Sunday: Snow Mountain

Snow Mountain

I usually don’t answer my phone when I see a number I don’t recognize but I was expecting a call from a big potential client. If I got this contact it would pay for my daughter’s first year in graduate school with maybe some left over.

Me: Hello this is Astrid.

My caller: Hi Astrid, I met your son Sam the other day at the Disk Bay Observatory. He told me you’d painted the mural in the lobby. Your work is beautiful.

It wasn’t Louanne Freeman, the woman who wanted half a dozen insanely expensive and historic paintings restored. 

Me: Who is this?

My caller: Nevil Simon.

Me: Oh my goodness. goodness. Nev Simon.

He went on a bit about what he’d been doing for the past thirty five years. Just a bit. Astrophysics. Divorce. No kids. Two cats. He’d looked up my online portfolio. 

Nevil Simon wanted to see me. Let’s back up a bit. I’m a 60 year old widow with three kids who are all out of the house, but still in college. Nevil Simon, an old flame from my college days contacted me. Yes, that Nevil. The one I never talked about but never forgot. 

We met in at his cabin in Tahoe. The weather was perfect, but we still ended up spending most of our time inside.

On the last night there, over steaks and a nice bottle of Zinfandel, Nevil smiled and took my hand. I looked into his big brown eyes, with those long lashes, and thought he was going to tell me something horribly romantic. 

“Some friends of mine invited me to go with them to the Snow Mountain Wilderness to find Bigfoot. Come with us. It will be fun,” he said. “A real adventure.”

Maybe at my age I shouldn’t be thinking of romance.

“Are you serious? Bigfoot?”

He laughed. “I don’t want to go alone. I need another sane person there with me.”

“It will be in the 90’s and there will be a million rattle snakes,” I said.

“The nights cool down to the 50’s.”

But my heart fluttered a bit. More than a bit. Damn, at 61 Nevil was still hot. “Fine, I’ll wear my heavy boots,” I said.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go into the wilderness and sleep on the ground in a tent. The Snow Mountain Wilderness is beautiful. I didn’t want to go into the wilderness with a group of die hard cryptozoologists. I didn’t want to go out into the woods at night with night gear goggles and listen for the howls of giant hairy humanoid creatures who might or might not exist.

It all just seemed weird. 

But I was going anyway. I was going because of a boy. A sixty one year old boy.

Nevil told me not to worry about food but I’m a mom, so I packed a few things. Old habits die hard. I packed wine, and cheese, and chocolate. I read that Bigfoots, or Bigfeets, or Sasquatches, or Squatches, or whatever, I heard they liked apples and other gifts, so I brought apples. I like apples so they wouldn’t be wasted. I couldn’t’ believe I was packing apples for am eight foot tall mythical beast. 

I also packed stuff for smores, and Smokehouse almonds, because large hairy creatures in the wilderness might like something that wasn’t squirrel meat or acorns or whatever the hell they eat, if they do indeed exist and eat. I figured if the Bigfoots didn’t want to make smores I’d make them for the humans. Everyone loves smores.

I told my kids where I was going and what I’d be doing. They couldn’t stop laughing. They asked me to take lots of pictures, and told me to have fun and be careful. Sam told me to bring condoms. His siblings, Rachael and Chase laughed out loud. I love my kids.

The drive to the turn off for the Big Foot Camp was a three and a half hour drive. It gave Nevil and I an opportunity to catch up that didn’t involve alcohol or sex. 

“So, why’d you ask me to this Big Foot thing again?” I asked. 

“I thought you’d be up for it. You always liked weird things, so I decided to look you up.”

“Weird things?”

“Maybe weird wasn’t the right word. Fantasy things. Lord of the Rings, Maxfield Parrish posters, fairies, Dracula, gothic things, you know.”

“That was in college.  I liked the art. In fact, I’ve made a lucrative career out of it.”

“I know. Inert foot in mouth Nev. But you like camping.”

“Sure.”

“I don’t believe we’ll see anything but it will be fun. You know, kind of like an old fashioned snipe hunt.”

“Well, now that you put it that way…”

“I wanted to see you again Astrid.”

As I reached to take his hand the car bumped off of the paved road onto dirt and we came to a dusty stop behind a FedEx truck.

The driver waved. Nevil rolled down the window. “What are you doing way out here? Delivering to the ranger station?”

“I’m not sure who it is. I’ve never seen them. They have a bear proof box about a hundred feet up this drive. I drop off packages every few weeks. Sometimes I pick up. Living off the grid I guess. The names are always funny like Alba Tross, or Harry Balls. Hey, changing the subject, there’s been some trouble up the road. Missing college students or something like that. Be careful.”

He waved us on, and we continued for another half hour down the road. We made jokes about the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine Van showing up any minute now.

The camp was set up when we arrived. 

A big guy with a round face named Bill greeted us with hugs. The other Bigfoot Hunters, Janice, Mike, and Drew welcomed us as well. We were told they’d heard a lot of howling the night before and heard something large in the woods. According to Bill we were in for the adventure of a lifetime. Oh boy.

Just as we settled down for beer, chips, and salsa with the group a couple of vehicles drove up. One was a truck from the National Forest Service. The other was a Glenn County Sherriff’s SUV. The officer from Glenn County explained to us that three college students had gone missing. It wasn’t the first time this year. Foul play was expected. Blood had been found on their car along bullet holes. 

Two male suspects were at large and considered armed and dangerous. If we saw a couple of white men in their 40’s with shaved heads and racists neck tattoos we were told to call the sheriff’s office or 911 right away. They handed us flyers with pictures of the men. 

The two National Forest Service Rangers told us to stay off the trails at night, as if that was going to stop a group of seasoned Bigfoot hunters.

I asked Nevil about it. He said we’d be fine. That was small comfort to me. My husband had been murdered. When I heard of events like this it was never fine in my mind.

At dusk I walked to the nearby creek to watch the sunset and maybe see some wildlife. Nevil was catching up with his friends. Honestly, I had no idea what they were talking about and just needed a few minutes by myself.  By the water I met a couple of young men, who were out birdwatching. They were maybe in their early 20’s. The one who introduced himself as Josh was a ghostly pale skinny kid with blue eyes and blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. The other, Daniel, was dark with curly black hair and brown eyes behind round wire rimmed glasses. I thought about my kids, then I thought about the killers with swastikas tattooed on their necks. 

“Hey, guys,” I said. “Be careful out here.”

Daniel promised me they would. 

Then out of the blue Josh and Daniel said they knew where the Bigfoot camp was. Josh gave me directions that I wrote down in the small sketchbook I always carry with me. When I looked up from the paper and they were gone. Maybe it was the mosquitos, or they were bored of a gray haired woman old enough to be their mother.

Later that night I got up for my own call of nature. On the way back to the tent I saw Josh and Daniel again. They waved. I waved. Nevil came out to find me, and Daniel recognized him as one of their former professors. He recognized the kid and they talked for a bit. He’d gotten into graduate school at UCLA. They’d talk later. They were camping nearby. Then Josh reminded us of the map. Then the young friends started down the trail, but not before they turned off their lantern. I could hear them talking softly to each other, then Nevil and I headed back to our own tent.

Nevil stopped me before we entered our camp. “Look up. What do you see?”

“A zillion stars. Oh my god it is beautiful. I don’t remember that last time I saw this many stars.”

“Do you see it up there?” He pointed.

“The big dipper and little dipper.”

“Also known as the big and little bears. See that bright star below the big dipper? That is Arcartus. It is on the end of the constellations Boötes the Herdsman. The herdsman can be seen driving his great plow, in a great circle around Polaris, the north star.  With his two trusted hunting dogs, which are represented by the constellation Canes Venatici on his right. Asterion is the northern dog and Chara is the southern dog. I always imagined them to be huge wolfhounds or retrievers of some sort. Boötes also resides next to three constellations: Hercules and Corona Borealis are on his left. Below him, Virgo in all her glory shines bright, perhaps waiting for him to seduce her along their trip across the Milky Way.

As he spoke, he stood behind me with his arms around my waist, holding me tight. 

“Was Arcartus anyone?” I asked.

“It means Guardian of the Bear. It keeps the big and little bear safe. Arcartus would look orange if we had a telescope. I’ll bring one next time, or better yet you can come spend a weekend with me.” He turned me around and kissed me. “A weekend without Bigfoot.”

“That would be awesome.”

“Astrid,” he whispered. “Shining bright.”

“My name doesn’t mean star.” I said, then felt stupid.

“It means divinely beautiful.”

“How’d you know that?”

“I looked it up.”

If he’d been anyone else I would have called him out, but tonight I didn’t care.

The next morning over coffee and bacon we were called love birds by the other Bigfoot hunters who all made kissy noises. 

So the big foot hunt was on. 

We trooped around for hours covered in layers of sweat, sunscreen, and dirt. Then, after dinner, as it grew dark, we heard knocking.

The knocking could have been caused by people. I bet pot growers in the National Forests did it all the time to freak people out. There was a howl, but it could have been anything or anyone. Still, I had chills up my spine. I couldn’t stop thinking about the young people who were missing. It could have been my kids and their friends. It could have been Nevil and I if we’d taken the wrong turn or showed up a few days earlier. 

As it grew darker, Nevil and I went down the narrow trail. The knocking became louder with the knocks closer together, almost in a rough rhythm. Sort of like toddlers banging on pans.

I shrugged off my pack and dug out a couple of flashlights. When I turned towards Nevil he was gone. 

Knock knock knock, in front of me. Then knock knock knock, behind me. 

I called for Nevil. 

“Astrid. I’m here.”

I turned around.

In front of me stood my husband. Yes, the same husband who’d been dead for eighteen years. I suddenly realized, the same husband whose murder had never been solved.

“Phil.” I could barely get my voice to work.

“You’ll see two young men. You’ve met them before. You will also see third stranger. The stranger will be wearing a yellow neon hunting vest and a bandana. Follow them.”

“What?”

“Do as I say?”

I stepped towards Phil. I was going to turn on my flashlight, but I didn’t have to. He sort of glowed, kind of like one of those old fashioned Santas, or a jellyfish in an aquarium, or a million other ways my overly visual brain started to fill my head with.

“I’m not exactly a ghost Astrid. I can’t stay long.”

“Phil.”

“I’m here to help.”

“What? How? Why? Why haven’t I seen you before now?”

“I can’t say.”

“The kids…”

“You’ve done a great job rising them. I am so proud of them all grown up and in school, on their own.”

“You know?”

“Of course I do.”

I stepped forward. “Phil, I’ve missed you so much.”

“I love you baby, always and forever. On the other hand, I’m not here and you’re still in the world of the living. Follow the boys. Give Nevil a chance. He’s a good man. Tonight follow the boys.”

“I love you,” I said.

Then he smiled at me and vanished. 

I turned around and there stood Nevil.

“There you are,” he said. “I thought I’d lost you. Are you alright?”

“Why?”

“You look like you’re about to cry.”

“I’m fine.”

He took me in his arms and hugged me tight. I closed my eyes and hugged back. 

When I opened my eyes, I saw a strange pair of eyes over Nevil’s shoulder. The largest person I’d ever seen in my entire life stood there glaring at me with a bandana over his face, a cap on his head, and a neon yellow vest. His eyes were a weird yellowish brown that looked like uranium glass under an ultraviolet light. He must have been almost seven feet tall with the build of a professional offensive lineman. 

“Come. The camp is this way,” he said. I tried to catch his accent but couldn’t make it out. Scottish maybe? 

“Who are you?” Nevil asked.

“Doctor Nev, you know stars. Come with me.”

Daniel and Josh stood smiling behind the large stranger.

“There you are Astrid, Dr. Nev,” said Josh. “Come on. We gotta go.”

Nevil wasn’t so sure. He pulled me aside.

“We don’t know anything about these guys.”

“I trust them.”

“Are you nuts? Why?”

“Stop acting like I’m some stupid silly college girl. I have a successful business. I’ve raised three wonderful children, mostly on my own. My husband was murdered. The killer was never found. I’ve been dealing with shit for years…on my own, so don’t question me. I don’t have to explain anything. If you want to stay behind that is your choice, but I’m going with these guys.”

“That guy is huge, dressed like he’s out of some weird survivalist cult.”

“Says the man who too me to a Bigfoot hunting expedition. Trust me Nev. Trust me.”

We hiked for another twenty minutes down a narrow trail lit by a small flashlight carried by the big man up front. The two young men walking behind us talked about something we couldn’t hear and laughed the way only young men do, with that sort of joyful raspy kind of unapologetic way. 

Then, our large guide stopped. The boys were quiet. The clearing in front of us lit up with lanterns and torches.

There stood fifteen large extremely hairy people in various styles of clothing, or no clothing. Only they weren’t people. They were Bigfoots. Our guide took off his bandana.

“Welcome,” he said. “Take these children home. Do what you will with the other two.”

By a fire Josh and Daniel lay underneath sleeping bags. A young woman sat by them. She looked up. What the…they were just standing next to us.

“Oh my god, help us. My friends need to get to the hospital,” she said.

I looked just beyond them and saw two men hanging by their feet from a tree. They were alive and trying to wiggle. They were the killers.

“How?” asked Nevil looking at me, then at the girl, and on to the Bigfoot group.

“Their spirits sought you out,” said our guide in a gruff voice, taking off her hat. Reddish brown hair tumbled out in a complex mass of curls and braids. Yes, our guide was female. “If you take our your phone and call 911 someone will come help. We have coverage up here. Don’t look surprised. We have a lot of things. Remember the FedEx truck?”

“They saved us,” said the girl who was named Katie. “They hung up the men who shot Daniel and Josh.” Katie turned to the Bigfoot group. “I will never forget your kindness. You will always be in my heart.”

The group of large people, because they were people of their own kind, gave Katie hugs, then they turned and walked into the woods.

About an hour later a rescue helicopter came for the three missing college students. Law enforcement came for the killers. Nevil and I walked back to the camp in silence.

We never told anyone about the Bigfoot community. Katie told law enforcement that she wasn’t sure who hung up the men who’d shot her friends. It was dark, she told them.

Nevil and I talked about the weirdness a little, well, a lot. We saw it. We experienced it. We couldn’t explain any of it. We never told his Bigfoot seeking friends about our experiences. I never told Nevil about my visit from Phil.

Later I told my children about it, as they listened in awe and wonder. As an empty nester I can still make them think I’m the cool mom. 

A few months later Nevil and I traveled down to Death Valley to see the weird geology and amazing stargazing. He’d brought a telescope.

“Look to the empty spot. That is Fomalhaut. It is a bit isolated. Some call it the solitary one. Look down the length of Pegasus and you’ll see it.”

The solitary one, I thought. That could have been me a few months ago, before I’d gone on a Bigfoot hunt. 

Nevil put his arm around my shoulder and we watched the shooting stars, just the two of us. Then again, I never knew, after the weekend in the Snow Mountain Wilderness if we’d ever really be alone again.

~ end

Short Story Sunday: The Hunter

The Hunter

“We pumped quite a bit of blood out of your stomach. We’re not sure where it came from.”

She heard the words but was the noise in her head was still loud…

“Your heart had stopped beating. You weren’t breathing. You were cold.”

A hospital bed. She was in a bed hooked up to equipment. Her throat hurt.

“We still can’t get your body temperature up to normal and your heart beat is extremely slow.”

She’d been found in a room of an abandoned house wearing nothing but a black silk cocktail dress and black high heeled sandals. The nails on her hands and feet were painted silver. Aside from that there was no jewelry, no purse, no identification. The man she’d been with had received minor injuries and would be in soon to see her. He said he was her boyfriend. Panic started to set in but she didn’t show it.

“Do you remember anything?”

“Not a lot.” She lied. She had remembered almost everything, despite the headache. The man called Austin had wanted to show her a house he was remodeling. He specialized in renovating Victorians and older historic homes. It was charming. It was haunted. “Is Austin alright?”

“He had a few stitches in his forehead, but yes, he is doing fine.”

“We left the club where we met. I mean, it wasn’t a hook up, we’d been seeing each other for a while. We’re friends. He told me about his work restoring old homes. I own some property I was thinking of having restored…He took me to a house he owns. It’s old, nobody lives there. A Queen Ann style Victorian. Beautiful. He showed me around and we ended up in an upstairs room.” She didn’t tell him of the phantoms and the screams that nearly burst her ear drums. She paused, and glanced at the needle in her arm. “Alright, we did fool around some. But we both started to feel really sick. He passed out first. I tried to wake him. I think we were drugged at the bar. Is he ok?”

“I’m fine sweetheart.” In the door stood a man with a bandage on his forehead. His brown eyes met her blue with almost a spark of both passion and hate. He smiled at the doctor.

“She’s a vampire and I’m a vampire hunter. I had no idea the house was haunted when I took her there. Sorry, it’s along running joke between us. Isn’t it Elizabeth?”

Her eyes met his again. A hunter hunting the huntress. “Is that all I am to you?”

He sat next on the edge of the bed and took her cold hand. “You need to warm up dear or they’ll never let you out of here. I know, it takes a lot of effort to keep your heart beating for those machines. You don’t want them thinking you’re dead.”

To think she was starting to fall in love with this man.

“I thought you were going to kill me last night but you saved my life. Why’d you do that Elizabeth?

Doctor Davis spoke up. “What is going on here?”

Austin smiled and spoke in a quiet calming voice. “I’m sorry for the confusion. We have our own language. We had a fight. She wasn’t going to kill me. Just an expression. She was angry. You know, I’m a typical guy. I did typical stupid guy stuff. We went to the house and like she said, we were both feeling sick. Then someone came in and mugged us. She saved me. I don’t know how, but she defended me. It was too dark to tell what was going on. We had a tumultuous relationship but we’re not violent, just a little dramatic.”

“He’d never touch me.” Elizabeth looked back at Austin. “The ones who attacked us… I had no idea. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

“I thought you’d know.”

“I don’t.”

“Huh. Interesting.”

They both talked to the police about what had happened. Their story was the same. They’d gone to a house he owned, it was unoccupied, they were attacked. They both had traces of an airborne toxin in their systems.

Elizabeth was released into Austin’s care. She’d told him she’d call a taxi but he insisted on bringing her home.

On the way he talked. She sat still, feeling sick, trying to regain her energy. The morning sun burned her eyes even through the fog.

“So my building, the house we were in last night is haunted. Those were ghosts.”

Elizabeth glanced over at him, then looked away. “Yes, they were ghosts. I know someone who can get rid of them for you. He’s good and his prices are reasonable.”

“You know Elizabeth, I’ve found at least a dozen of your kind, vampires, in the basements of abandoned old buildings I’ve purchased for restoration. They weren’t like you. They were like rats.”

“I’m not like them. I don’t live in the shadows or in a crypt. I don’t sleep in a coffin. Most of us aren’t like your rats. We live normal lives.”

“When were you born?”

“1834. I’ve been a vampire since 1853. How did you know?”

He gave her a mean smile. “Call it a 6th sense. My grandfather hunted vampires. It’s in my blood, no pun intended.”

They arrived at her house. He was impressed. A beautiful craftsman style, maybe 2,500 square feet, nice old neighborhood. Inside the woodwork was beautiful. Her decorating was a combination of period and modern. Nice.

“You can go,” she told him.

“Show me around. This place is great.”

“I’m the original owner. 1905.”

As she showed him around Austin noticed a diploma in her office. “You didn’t tell me you were an attorney. Go figure.”

“I told you I consulted for the Justice Department. There is no shame in what I do.”

The house was impressive as was the vampire who lived in it. “Was that my blood they pumped out of your stomach?”

“Most of it. Don’t worry, you won’t turn into a Vampire. I just took maybe a pint.”

Austin noticed a mirror on the wall. He took Elizabeth by the shoulders and turned her around to face it. He could see his own reflection but hers was just a dim shadow.

“Look at my eyes, in the mirror. Look at my eyes,” she told him.

Their eyes locked in the glass. Her image became clear. He laughed. It wasn’t the sarcastic bitter laugh she’d heard all morning. This was joy.

“Elizabeth, will you be alright if I leave you?”

“You aren’t going to kill me?”

“Not today.”

“Then when? When will you be back to cut out my heart and cut off my head.”

“Do you want to go out sometime on a real date?”

“You’re scaring me Austin.”

“I know. I’ll pick you up tomorrow around 8:00. It should be dark by then. Wear something nice.”

She watched through the window as he drove away. Her heart had stopped beating. She wasn’t breathing. In the refrigerator was a bottle of blood. She was starving. Her head was light but that was because of him.

Austin drove away with a smile on his face. What a rush. He wasn’t sure what tomorrow would bring. Either he’d kill her or he’d marry her. That is, if she didn’t kill him first.

This was the first story in the Austin and Elizabeth series. For their continuing adventures click here.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Night Call

Max pulled off his shirt and looked in the mirror.

“Damn,” he said to himself.

It wasn’t that he was incredibly good looking, which he was. It wasn’t the defined six pack and the perfect pecs, or even the amazing biceps, or the sexy forearms, or even the perfect broad shoulders.

It was the deep scratches, ugly bites, and large scrapes. There were also a couple of shallow stab wounds. All were either circled in red, or a putrid green.

He’d gone to what he thought was a typical call to help out some pretty clueless and helpless overly Gothic Vampires, and ended up in a nightmare.

The two Gothic Vampires were sitting in his living room watching “Long Shot” on Netflix, and drinking wine laced with Poet’s Blood.

Max looked in the mirror at his teeth. Thank goodness nobody had hit him in the mouth. He couldn’t risk losing a fang. Fangs took forever to grow back, not to mention the excruciating pain of it all.

What Max thought would be a routine call ended up being a three hour ordeal with not only Vampire Hunters but with a couple of random Demons who were lurking around for left overs.

After taking a shower and putting salve on his wounds, Max put on a soft sweatshirt and went to see his guests.

A small woman dressed in black lace, and a slim young looking man with long dark hair and a velvet jacket, sat close to each other on his couch.

They thanked Max for saving him. They were good kids, only about fifty years old. He was glad to have saved them from evil.

“I’ll send a security crew out to your home to make sure you have a good video system in and the right kind of locks and alarms. I also know a Witch who can do some spells to help. I know, you might not like Witches but the one I know does low level spells to give Vampire Hunters painful hives and blindness if they try to enter your home. It works like a charm.”

Max sat down and poured himself some wine, minus the blood.

Then they all watched Shitt$ Creek and laughed, knowing that tomorrow would be a new night, and that they were safe… at least for now.

~ end

Stay safe. Get your shots. Wear a mask. Be kind. Don’t be a dick. Check in on those who are alone or might need extra help. Talk to your kids. Hug a dog. And kiss a Vampire (you’ll thank me for it later.)

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Morning in the Vineyard

Morning at the Vineyard

A story from Juliette Kings

Andrew didn’t remember much when the door opened with blinding light waking him from his sleep, much less the voice that said “You aren’t dead.”

“Of course I’m not dead.” Andrew lifted himself up on his elbow and looked around at the bedroom.

“You were so cold. We couldn’t hear your heart.” A slim woman with long slightly graying hair stood near the bed.

“That’s what all the girls say.” No response. “That was a joke.”

“Oh. Ha ha ha. Good one.” Uncomfortable laughing.

There was the taste of blood in his mouth, but not his own. It must have been a Hell of a night. He looked at the woman again. She was pretty but not young, standing there in a flowing sundress and pretty light summer sweater. Nice. This would be fairly easy staying here for a few days, but he would still be cautious. Sometimes the most easy ones turned out to be the most dangerous.

Andrew started to get up and realized he was naked under the sheets.

“Your clothes were soaked and also covered with blood. We thought about calling the police but my husband Ian said to wait until morning. My husband Dennis said the same. I don’t agree with them. We should have called the police as soon as we found you.”

“Where was I?”

“In the vineyard, face down in the dirt. Your car was in a ditch with four flats and the front end smashed in. We pulled it out.”

The Tesla. Quiet and fast and expensive. Then he thought about what she said. “Husbands? You mentioned two husbands.”

“We practice polyandry. Two husbands, one wife, one family. It isn’t legal or common or accepted by most people but…”

“I don’t have a problem with it. As long as it works for you.”

“It does.”

She took a stack of clothing, jeans, a shirt, etc, from the top of the dresser and gave it to Andrew. “Clean clothing. Breakfast will be ready in about a half hour. And we’ll discuss who you are and why you’re here and where all the blood came from.” Then she turned and left the room.

What a night. The fog started to clear from Andrew’s brain. He staggered up out of the bed and closed the window shades. Damn sunlight. Looking in the mirror the reflection looked back showing a well built man with alabaster skin, long chestnut curls flowing down his back, a classically handsome face and hazel eyes the color of the blue green southern seas. His mouth twitched showing fangs. He quickly gained his composure and hid the teeth and rubbed his tired eyes.

“Shit. What the crap happened to you Andrew,” he said to himself. There was wine, a lot of wine. There were women. There was a guy named Brant and his friend Chet. There was the girl Ginger…she had AB + blood, Chet had O. Oh no. Why didn’t he remember? And how’d he end up face down in the middle of a vineyard? Zinfandel. He knew what kind of grapes they were.

Taking a 3 minute shower, he towel dried his long locks, pulled on the clothes the woman had left him and went down the stairs. He could smell food cooking and coffee. He gripped the banister to prevent himself from throwing up everything inside of his stomach. He’d over done it for sure, blood and wine. Wine and blood. Sex too but that was  a blur. Food might do him some good.

In the kitchen were two men and the woman, along with half a dozen kids in who ranged from about 8 to 17.

He looked at the men. A large blonde man who looked like a former football player introduced himself as Ian. Dennis was shorter with the look of a History Professor or some sort of thing like that. They called the woman Carrie. One big happy family.

Ian poured Andrew coffee and welcomed him. They all welcomed him. This was getting creepy. Then again, Andrew was the Vampire, but he was sitting in the home of a farmer and wine maker and her two husbands and six kids. It was weird. But hey, he decided to make the best of it.

They made small talk. He thanked them for taking him in. Carrie put plates of eggs and fried tofu and toast and fruit and bacon and mushrooms on the table.

The teenage girls thought Andrew’s hair was great and asked him if he was in a band. He smiled minus fangs. He must have had at least five cups of coffee.

“Last night I thought you had some nasty scratches on your face,” mentioned Ian.

“I, uh, heal fast.” Andrew said that then wished he’d kept his mouth shut. He healed fast because he wasn’t like them. He took the blood and energy of regular normal people and in return, he made them feel good – like a rush that would last at least a week. Well, if he liked them and made a connection.

“Where’d all the blood come from? Except for the scratch on your face you didn’t have a mark on you.” As Carrie said that she gave him a long cold look.

“Blood? On me? I guess I drank too much. Too much of everything and threw up. I don’t know. My friends drank a lot and someone was doing some sort of recreational drugs or maybe prescription pain killers, I’m not sure, but I over did it. Listen, I’m so sorry about this and I really appreciate your hospitality. I’ve imposed on you. I wish there was something I could do to pay you back. Let me know.”

Ian gave him a pat on the arm. “We know what it is like to be different.”

“You’re a Vampire aren’t you?” Dennis asked as the kids all looked on.

Andrew brushed a damp lock of hair out of his face and suddenly felt a little warm. “Yes, but…”

“How long have you been a Vampire?” Carrie was asking now.

“I’ve always been one. My parents were Vampires. Um, I was born just down the road from here. October 22, 1851.”

The children were transfixed.

“We don’t have a problem with Vampires. Some food might settle your stomach Andrew,” said Carrie. “And you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. We found your phone and called your sister. She’ll be here in a couple of hours.”

This was all too strange for Andrew. He’d spent the past 100 years or thereabouts avoiding families and any kind of normal human lives. Years had passed traveling, and performing and enjoying wine and women and wild nights. But now he sat with a nice family with no pretenses. And rarely had he ever met humans who knew or even knew about real Vampires. It was so unusually weird.

I sing opera,” he said to the kids. “Mainly opera but I can sing just about anything. Just got back from Patagonia and learned a bunch of folk songs. I can do metal too. That comes naturally.”

“I can imagine you do a great power ballad,” Carrie said with a smile, then she told the children to leave the room.

Andrew had to smile. This as so weird but he could get used to this. He looked at Carrie’s golden brown eyes. A positive blood, just like his. She’d make a good Vampire, or even just a snack.

He thought about his sister. It had been forever since he’d seen her or her children. It would be nice. More than nice. Maybe she’d get another husband too. He might suggest it. He smiled. That would be funny.

“What happened to my friends? Did you see any of them?” Andrew looked from Dennis to Ian then to Carrie. “Did they say where they went?”

Carrie looked him in the eye as Dennis and Ian flanked her side. “We buried them in the garden behind the carriage house.”

“Don’t worry,” said Dennis “Nobody ever found the other bodies we’ve buried, so they won’t find your friends.”

Andrew took another gulp of coffee and hoped his sister would arrive soon.

And that was the entire truth just as my brother Andrew told it to me

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Times of Need

He held her hand and listened as she told her story.

“I…can’t…if I die…my body…I’ll be…put…in a freezer…nobody will get….me”

She’d come from across the street where she’d lived for almost twenty years. They’d become friends, sharing glasses of wine on their decks, discussing keeping up their Victorian homes, and everything else under the stars.

Tonight she’d somehow made it across the street. He’d let her in and tucked her into the comfortable bed in his guest room. She could barely walk, barely breath, and barely speak, but he managed to make out her story.”

“I grew up in a place where poetry had to rhyme. Romance always ended in a wedding. Divorced women were predators out to steal husbands. Women didn’t buy their own homes. It was all about waiting for a man. Tonight you’re going to be my man, but not that way. I hope you don’t mind.”

“It will be an honor to be your man tonight,” he told her.

“I’m divorced. My kids are in college. I can’t die of this. If I go to the hospital I’ll die alone. If I stay home I will die. My body will be taken to a storage freezer. My kids won’t know what to do. Their father is worthless. He isn’t in their lives. Will you make sure my children will be alright. They know you. They trust you.”

“I’ll make sure they’ll always be alright. Your children will be safe. You’ll be safe. You aren’t going to die.”

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll catch this from me?”

“No,” he said. “I am not afraid. I won’t catch it. I can’t catch it.”

She gave him a weak smile, knowing he wouldn’t catch it. Then she coughed again with tears of fear and frustration.

“I’ll make it better,” he said. “Is that what you want?”

She closed her eyes as she thought about her choice. As she tried to speak nothing came out. Then she squeezed his hand, and looked in his face.

Brushing her hair out of his face, then off of her neck he said, “Alright. Here we go. Next week we’ll be having wine on your deck and forgetting you were ever sick.”

The next morning she felt like she was having the worst hang over of her life, but the cough was gone. Her sense of smell was back. She laughed.

He came in with a cup.

“Coffee?” she asked.

“Spiced blood. You’ll need it.”

In these times we all need to take care of others. Wear your mask. Check in on those who are alone or might need extra help. Stay safe.

~ end

Short Story Sunday: Blow Up

It wasn’t just one of those days. It was THE day. At least it seemed that way, for a few minutes, then Tara realized that it was a rare week that went by without a disaster.

Take this morning for example. She’d been driving home and heard the sound of an explosion, then sirens, and then saw a huge black cloud coming from the sky. She assumed that it was a fire in a field or an old warehouse occupied by homeless tweekers. She stopped to get gas, then by the grocery store to pick up cat food.

She turned into her street and saw that it was her garage.

“Dingus,” she whispered. Her dog raised his head from the back seat of her car. “Amber,” she said out loud. “Oh no. Amber.”

The detached garage was gone. Firefighters were working on keeping the rest of the house from burning down. Tara parked and ran down the street towards her house. Dingus ran after her.

Her neighbor Sue was standing outside with a beer in her hand. She approached Tara and stopped her from getting too close to the fire. “I have Amber. Your kitty is safe sweetie.”

“What about the guys in the garage?” Tara looked at the fire with tears coming down her cheek.

“I’m going to assume they’re gone. Holy shit, to come all this way and blow themselves up in a garage fire,” said Sue. “I told them just the other day to lay low and not fool with stuff. They never listened. That is on of the great faults of history. Nobody listens to the natives. They have to think they know better. They have to think their technology is always better.”

The women watched as the fire was put out, then Tara approached one of the fire fighters. She held her big Lab mix Dingus close and told him not to jump.

“Hey, Dingus,” he said as he pulled off a glove and put his and on the dog’s head. “I’m so sorry Tara. This is so weird. We thought there was someone in your garage. Maybe… I don’t know. It was weird, like someone running around in the flames. Then we didn’t see them. Was there anyone who might have been in your garage?”

“No, Joe. The only thing I had in there was Dale’s old Mustang, a few tools, and gardening stuff. My Costco stash was in there too, you know toilet paper, paper towels, charcoal. But I kept the lighter fluid in the house. I had a couple of gas cans for the power tools but they were empty.”

They talked some more about the weird explosion and fire. The a handsome officer from the Sheriff Department asked some general questions. He said someone would be out to investigate. Tara called her insurance company, then called her mom and her boss.

After all of the emergency crews had gone, and the yellow tape was around my garage, Sue and Tara poked around a bit.

The women couldn’t find any trace of anything. That included Tara’s deceased brother Dale’s 1965 Mustang convertible. It was a sweet ride – white with a red interior. Dale had loved that car. So had Tara.

Sue looked down at the burnt out garage then at Tara. “Do you think they took the car?”

“Looks that way,” said Tara.

Later that night Sue’s husband and kids came home from a school field trip. They speculated on what might have happened. They decided not to tell the fire department or Sheriff about their own theories.

Despite the smoke smell Tara decided to stay in her house that night. Joe came over later and spent the night. They shared a bottle of wine, made love, and Tara didn’t tell him anything about her garage.

Far away on the moon Titan, circling the planet Saturn, Dolf and Wheeze drove into the underground city in Dale’s 1965 Mustang. They thought their parents were going to kill them for crashing their ship in Tess’s back yard. They’d even get more shit for blowing up her garage. They’d put a chip in Amber’s neck to make sure they’d know what was happening on Earth. Amber seemed to know everything. She was their best long-term connection. But for now they just wanted to settle in from the long trip and cruise with their friends. Life was good, especially for Titan teens.

~ end