Short Story Sunday: Fall Garden

Some of you might have read this extremely short story before, but read it again. It will get you into a good mood for October. I’ll try to have a new story soon. Things are just kind of weird these days and my brain is otherwise occupied.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Fall Garden

So I’m digging away, trying to put in some sort of flower beds in my rocky garden. It is foggy. It is cold. And I am not amused. That is what happens when you live in a house built on gold mine tailings. Rocks. Nothing but river rocks coated in a tiny bit of dirt and a shit load of weed seeds.

I’ve got the pick ax out, and I’m jamming the shovel in a hole, with the cold nose of a ninety pound German Shepard in my face, when I FINALLY get the last rock loose before I can plant a small dwarf lime tree. The dog goes nuts. I push her away and pull out the rock.

It isn’t a rock.

It is a skull.

A human skull.

Shit.

My son comes out with a fresh cup of coffee for me (did I mention it was cold.) He looked at the skull and then calls up to the house.

“Hey Dad, she found another one.” Then he turns to me. “This one is small. Man, woman, or child?”

I toss the skull in my garden gloved hands. “It might be a woman but you never know.”

“Want me to put it with the others?”

“Sure,” I said, handing the skull to my sweet teenager.

I could hear him in the side yard opening the 50 gallon Rubbermaid storage container, and dropping in the skull.

He came back to me after about a minute. “Hey Mom, the container is almost full.”

I took a deep breath. “That’s a lot of skulls.”

He gave me an uncomfortable look. “It sure is. Who do you think they are?”

I put my arm around his waist and gave him a hug. “I have no idea. But thanks for the coffee sweetie. Let’s go in. I think I’m done out here today.”

Short Story Sunday: A Light In The Shadows

A Light In The Shadows

From the Journals of Oscar Ambrose

August 1, 1889

An angel came into my life today upon a cloud of pink bows, with ruby lips and chestnut curls. Her laugh is like tiny musical bells. Her eyes sparkle in the candlelight with joy that lights up the dark night sky.

August 5, 1889

We walked tonight along the parkway, her arm in mine. She has the knowledge of the ages, but the lighthearted composure of a young girl.

With any other woman I would have thought she was brazen and forward, but when she kissed me I felt as though the heavens would open up and swallow us in light.

August 8, 1889

Tonight we attended the Opera. She scanned the audience and smiled after waving to a friend.  In her blue gown and pearls she was a rare flower in a sea of withering beauties. I am undone by her.

I declared my love tonight.  Another kiss, but it was that of a woman’s passion and not that of a young innocent girl. We consummated our love in a fury of desire. Then I found myself alone, feeling weak, my neck ached and my head spun. Yet, I have never felt so good in all my life.

September 8, 1889

Today when I saw her it was as if she had put me in a trance. Ahhhh, another night of passion.

September 10, 1889

She laughs at the drop of a pin. It never takes much to amuse her. She told me she couldn’t be serious all the time. Her brother Valentine is much the same. He watches over her and I believe he knows but says nothing. I love her and like him tremendously but I wonder how he could be so dispassionate knowing how I use his sister. It is a guilt I am willing to live with.

September 11, 1889

I asked her to be my wife. I expected a resounding yes. I am wealthy and can give her any material comfort she wishes. My social connections are outstanding. My passion can match hers. She stroked my face with her hand and told me how handsome I am and how kind.  The answer was no. My heart fell into darkness.

September 12, 1889

Two men came to my door asking if I knew Juliette. I was shocked to see them, dressed in long black coats with weapons at their sides. They told me such news that I could hardly believe them and almost ordered them out of my sight.

They said she was a demon from the depths of hell. They said I should take her to my bed one last time and then plunge a knife into her heart and cut off her head.

What Hell is this that they spoke of? They called her a Vampire. My angel.

September 13, 1889

I confronted her tonight. She stood in her dress decorated in pink and yellow roses. Her milk white shoulders waiting to be touched and her red lips waiting to be kissed. I thought she would cry at such horrible accusations. She only said “Don’t speak with those men again or I will leave your life forever.”

“Are you a creature from Hell?” I asked her.

She said “I am a child of darkness but I carry no evil in me. Do you not feel comfort and well being after you’re with me? Do you not feel safe? I will always keep you safe. I will always keep those who would harm you away. I will do that for you and for your family, if you promise not to speak of this again.”

September 17, 1943

After I married she never came back, but my children and their children had charmed lives with miraculous happenings. My dear wife expressed the same thoughts. From time to time I think I see my Juliette in the shadows and hear her laugh, and then chills go down my spine and I can’t help but smile.

~ Oscar Ambrose

Note from Juliette 9/17/2013: He was so sweet. I put down the journal and stroked the cat curled next to me. The sweet cat I named after the sweet man. My brother and I still watch over his family and keep them out of harm’s way. It is the least I can do.

Short Story Sunday: Two Stories – “Maybe” and “The Offer”

A new story for 2020

Maybe

My phone dinged with another text message. I really needed to mute the sound.

Jay: I am so sorry about Ryan.

Me: Thank you.

Jay: I saw your photo. Your still hot.

Me: You still can’t spell.

Another old boyfriend I’d have to block. They came out of the woodwork like rats, only they were middle aged men, all divorced, widowed, never married, and looking for any excuse to get laid.

The messages ranged from sappy memories of times that never meant much to me, dick pics, apologies, propositions, apologies for past bad behavior, and whiney threads of what could have been. I blocked them all.

Mike: If you need anything call me.

Me: Who is this?

Mike: Mike Johnson

Me: What are you doing now?

Mike: Thinking about you.

Me: I mean, are you working? Retired? Married? Single?

Mike: Semi retired. Semi single. Rich. Still have my hair. Still in the area. Still thinking of your hot body next to mine. I never forgot. Never.

Me: OK. Remember, you dumped me.

Mike: I was young and stupid. If you need anything, and I mean anything.

Me: OK.

I blocked him. That made nine. There were more out there and I hoped they’d all keep their thoughts to themselves. I’d dated a lot before I met Ryan.

Them: I think about you all the time.

Me: Stop.

Ryan and I had thirty one years together, two wonderful children, and now I had to figure out what was next. Or maybe not.

It had been five months since Ryan passed. I wasn’t so numb anymore. The kids were grown and handling it ok. I couldn’t sit around feeling sorry for myself for breaking down. I had to be there for them and my grand kids. I didn’t have the luxury of feeling sorry for myself, and Ryan wouldn’t have wanted me to.

Then I received an email from someone I used to know.

Dear Colette,
I was saddened to hear the news of Ryan’s passing. We had worked together on research projects for years and become friends. He spoke often of you and your children.

I didn’t get back to you because I also had Covid-19 and survived it.

It took a while for me to realize that Ryan’s Colette was you. I never told him I knew you.


I sat looking at the computer screen growing numb. The email was from Ian Locke, the one who got away. At least sort of got away. We parted ways because due to the old “wrong time, wrong place” type of situation.

Ian continued with sweet thoughts and good memories of my husband. It was exceptionally touching and weird. I never made the connection when Ryan spoke of Ian. They were never in the same city, and usually they were out in the field or in the lab, so we never met.

Then my phone vibrated and I answered the call. It was Ian.

His voice immediately brought me back to a time forty years ago when we were in college. We were just babies, or at least adults who didn’t know how to be adults yet. It was a time to experiment and flounder.

We talked a bit about Ryan and our children. We both had two. I had two girls. He had two boys. They were all doing great and in college. We spoke of our careers.

Then Ryan said, “I’m getting a divorce. I’ll sign the final papers next week.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“She had been cheating on me for years. When he passed away she wanted to patch things up but it was too late.”

Suddenly I wanted to throw up. I wasn’t so stupid that I didn’t know where this was going. I had no idea, but I wasn’t stupid.

“She gave Ryan Covid-19. She gave it to me. She and I survived it. I’m sorry. I am so angry. I lost my friend. I lost all sense of trust. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t even be telling you this.”

He shouldn’t have been telling me that.

I thought of the research trips. I thought of the times he had to stay a few extra days. I thought of him dying in our spare bedroom where he’d quarantined himself.

Ian continued. “Renee lost it when Ryan died. She was hysterical for weeks, then she finally told me about everything. I didn’t want to believe it but then I saw the texts, the emails, the photos. She said she was going to tell you. I told her no. She said she needed to tell you. What a cunt. I didn’t want you to hear it from her. I am so sorry Colette.”

“Ian,” I said. “I want to talk to you more. I want to see you, but I don’t know… could you call me back in a few weeks? Will you call me in a few weeks.”

“Sure. Colette…”

“I’ll talk to you soon. It’s good to hear your voice. Call me later.”

I hung up.

I haven’t heard from Ian. It has only been a week. I did put my house up for sale. I’m looking for a beach house, closer to my kids.

Nobody knows about my conversation with Ian. I don’t plan on telling anyone.

2020 is almost done. Next year should be better. Maybe. Either way it will be a new beginning for me. I tell myself that. Maybe I’ll convince myself. Maybe.

~ end

For those who want something a little more cheerful read the following story. It is an oldie but a goodie. Have fun. Stay safe. WEAR YOUR MASK.

The Offer (a fairy tale with a wizard, a kitten and a mysterious stranger)

Miles was the official Royal Wizard to the Kingdom of the Moonbeam Mountains. What the fuck kind of name was that for a Kingdom?

“I will NEVER be as good as my dad.” he thought brooding in the dark under the night sky on the roof with a bottle of 80 proof Dragon Blood.

Sitting alone in his castle by the sea he thought of her, the princess who’d more or less left him for another man. Hell, he never had her. She’d always been in love with someone else. They’d been together for ten years. In ten years she’d told him a thousand times that she loved him but at the same time she was running a fantasy in her head about another guy.

For the past 6 years they’d lived with each other almost full-time. Their father’s were best friends. Hers was the King of the Northwestern Kingdom, his father was the Royal Wizard there and their mother’s were girlfriends. Everything was perfect, just like it was supposed to be. Every single year he’d proposed to her. Every single year she’d told him that she wanted to wait. Wait for what? Now he knew. She was waiting for another guy.

He called to have his horse ready and took off to the local pub. At least there he could keep his mind off of things.

Half way to the pub he stopped to pull his gloves out of his saddle bag. He heard a noise on the side of the road. A teeny tiny gray and white kitten ran towards him. It couldn’t have been more than six weeks old.

“Oh sweetie,” he whispered to the kitten, “I can’t leave you out here alone.” He tucked the tiny cat under his coat and continued on.

As he entered the village gate he could hear the band playing at the pub and already see friends lingering around the front door. “Deep breath Miles,” he thought to himself knowing everyone would ask about his princess. They knew he’d left her. They didn’t know why or for how long. He didn’t want to talk about it. Maybe he’d just put a spell on the place to make them all shut up about it, but ethics and his own code of decency stopped him from it. There is no crime in being curious.

After dropping his horse off in safe hands he greeted the people outside then went in. He could feel the small body purring inside of his coat. There was something about a cat that could make one forget everything. Cats were so pure and so decadent and so useless and so calming and so everything that made the universe worth living in. Cats represented all that was. Not good or bad just everything.

He caught his reflection in a window. Blonde hair, board shoulders, blue eyes, dimples on his boy-next-door cheeks and a scar across his neck that would tingle every time she kissed him, no matter what violent memories it brought him.

Everyone greeted him. Big points were scored with the ladies when he cradled the purring kitten in the crook of his arm. Damn that kitty was cute. She looked up at him and mewed a purr dripped sound that was absolutely toxic cute. He could never get enough of that feeling of pure joy and love.

After ordering a brew Miles did a few tricks for the patrons. They always asked and he was glad to give them some shows of blue sparks, wispy smoke dragons and fairies flying over their heads and levitating beer steins. It was all good fun. Fun was always good especially with the way he was feeling.

The fact that he’d been alone for a few months hadn’t gone unnoticed. He could hear the gossip behind his back. He could feel the single women watching him and wanting him. There was no reason for him to be alone at night but he wasn’t ready yet for company in his cold bed.

He heard a voice at his shoulder. “Missing your homeland Wizard?”

Miles turned around to see a tall exceptionally thin man standing at his shoulder. He wore a good suit and a sarcastic smile on his face.

The man continued to speak. “Do you miss a warm princess next to you in your cold bed? Do you wish your magic was more powerful? Do you wish you’d get the same respect and power as your father has? I can give you all of that.”

“It isn’t wise to attempt to provoke a wizard, even a piss poor attempt like yours. I don’t know you sir, but I’m here to enjoy an evening with friends. Now if you’ll excuse me and my cat we’ve got others to talk to,” Miles said to the tall thin man.

“Give me that kitten and I’ll grant you three wishes,” the stranger said in a voice so smooth it made Miles cringe.

“I don’t want your wishes and I’m sure as Hell not giving you my cat.”

At a large table he sat with friends, joking and listening to their stories, but his senses were wide open to any evil that lurked in the building. The tall thin stranger occupied himself with another group, but Miles could feel his presence.

The kitten purred and played with everyone at the table. There was nothing special or magic about her except that she was a cat. “Just a cat,” thought Miles, “nothing more.”

Hours later, after he’d had a successful evening with friends who’d done more than a good job of cheering him up and getting him out of his gloomy mood, Miles arrived home. His staff would be in bed so he put the horse to bed for the night, gathered the kitten back under his coat and headed for the front door. The moonlight made the dark pathway easy. He took a deep breath of the salt air and listened to the waves crashing on the beach below.

“Welcome to my castle by the sea dear kitten,” he told his small purring friend. “You look like a Lizzie to me. How about it? Do you like that name my dear?” The kitten meowed and purred.

Looking up he saw a figure on the cliff. It was the annoying thin stranger from the pub.

“Wizard, give me the cat and I will give you everything you desire. I can make your princess love you. I can make you famous. I can bring you riches.”

“Get off my property or I’ll…” he thought a moment for the bad things he could do then spoke. “What’s so special about the cat?”

“Your princess for the cat Miles. Say the word and you’ll have what your heart desires.”

“I don’t know who you are but I don’t want a woman who loves me because of a spell. I want her to love me for the right reason. I want her to fall for me in a nice long romantic way of her own accord. Love spells are bull shit. Every wizard with any talent knows that. And any man who knows what his heart desires and knows what true love feels like knows that.”

“Give me the cat.”

“Is she yours? Don’t lie to me man. I’ll know if you’re telling me a lie.”

The stranger halted a bit. “Well, no.”

“Then what is it? I don’t want any wishes and I don’t trust you with a helpless kitten. What do you really want? Is this some sort of test? Or are you just a creepy stalker? What is it? Tell me.”

“Do you love your princess?” The man asked him as if he was accusing Miles of cheating.

“Sure I do but, it’s none of your business.” None of anyone’s business that she was in love with someone else. “Get the Hell off of my property.” Miles blasted the ground in front of the man with a bolt of orange lightning. The man jumped back. “Go or the next one will hit you.”

The man was gone. Miles was alone in the kitchen with the kitten. “What was that about? Do you know?”

The kitten just purred.

Three wishes. He laughed out loud a bitter laugh. What would he need with three wishes. He’d worked hard for everything he had. He was proud of what he’d accomplished. Being a wizard, much less one in a foreign country, wasn’t always easy. People depended on him.

He thought of calling her, his princess, but he decided to let it go, at least for tonight. She had left him letters and messages but he couldn’t get past the pain of betrayal.

He wondered who the skinny guy was and why he wanted the cat. Three wishes. It wasn’t worth it. He’d never trade his soul or the tiny stray he’d found on the side of the road. After all, wasn’t it the same thing? He had shown compassion to a small beast. He’d shown his soul.

The kitten didn’t start to talk. He kissed the top of her tiny head but she didn’t turn into a princess.

Taking out a piece of paper and a pen he started to write.

Tonight a strange skinny man offered me three wishes in exchange for a small kitten I found on the side of the road. The man said he could make you love me. I wasn’t tempted by the offer. If you love me I want it to be honest and true for me. No magic. No games. No more lies. 

He wadded up the letter and made it vanish with a flash of blue smoke.  It was no use.  Heading up the stairs with the kitten in his arms he stopped at the sound of someone knocking on the door. “Damn you, I do not want your wishes.”

Jerking open the door Miles yelled, “I’m not giving you my kitten.”

But standing at the door wasn’t the tall skinny man, it was his princess. He brought her in and told her the story of the strange skinny man and the kitten. She listened in wonder and then they both went upstairs.

And did they live happily ever after? Maybe. Only time, or maybe the cat will tell.

~ end

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Floatsam and Jetsum

Here near the beach is one of the few places not on fire right now. The hills are flaming. The valleys are full of smoke. We are safe here on the beach for now despite the ashes on the deck of our beach house.

Last night after dinner, when the fog and smoke had blown off, and the wind had calmed down we walked along the beach.

My husband and daughter walked along the edge of the surf deep in conversation, solving the problems of the world. I walked along next to them enjoying the sound of the waves and the sand under my feet. We wore our masks, and passed a few other with their dogs and kids.

As we approached the old abandoned pier and ship wreck I could see dark heaps scattered the sand. It could have been driftwood, or clumps of seaweed. Some looked as if giant fish, or the king of the mer-people and his enterage had washed ashore after a great undersea battle.

Early in the morning just after the sun came up, before anyone else was out on the beach I walked towards the old pier and the ruined half sunken ship.

I saw the shadow shapes from the night before had been driftwood, logs, and matted seaweed. I also saw fewer shapes than the night before. I wondered how high the surf had been to wash away such large objects.

Walking over to where I imagined the mer-king had beached I saw in indentation and it looks as if someone had dragged a large object towards the surf. In the track I found a string, like a broken necklace, made of polished shells and what looked like pearls and gold coins. I picked it up and put it in my pocket.

Near the spot where the object had been I saw a hand print where someone, or something had dragged along the sand. A clump of what looked like long turquoise was tanged in the sand. I put it in my pocket.

When I get home next, away from the beach, I’ll research my finds. In the meantime I’ll dream of the mer-king and wonder if he still swims tonight or if he perished on the beach.

I’ll never know, but then again, you never know about these things. You never know.

Short Story Sunday: Writing On The Wall

Writing On The Wall

Every house I’ve ever lived in as an adult has had writing on the wall. It’s usually phone numbers in the garage next to the automatic sprinkler controls, or labels in the pantry closet, or construction notes. I’ve lived in a couple of places that had backs of closets illustrated by children who are now senior citizens.

Earlier this week my husband Steve and I started painting the walls in our family room and breakfast nook. We’re doing a major decorative remodel. Think “Property Brothers” or something along those lines. As he pulled out screws that previous owners used to hang some large pieces of art or maybe a giant fish or something.

Anyway, a large piece of plaster fell off of the wall. Steve swore something under his breath using the words “fuck” and “damn.” He called me over.

“Look at this honey. What do you think?”

On the wall these words were scrawled in black ink: I killed Heather Marie Larkin. She was a bitch and deserved to die. Her body is buried under the house. JKR 1989.

“Do you think it’s true?” I asked Steve.

“I don’t know. It could be a joke. Have you ever heard of Heather Marie Larkin?”

“I don’t know. It sounds sort of familiar. I’ll look it up.”

The Internet was all over Heather Marie Larkin. She’d been twenty-four years old, a recent college graduate, engaged to a brilliant law student named Ted LaRue. From the comments it looked like the Heather wasn’t well liked. Not just because of her spectacular good looks and charmed life, but for the fact she was a horrible person. Heather Marie Larkin was the girl who got away with everything. If anyone was in her way they would fall – and fall hard.

One night in 1989 Heather vanished and was never seen or heard from again. No clues. No suspects. Nothing. JKR was Joanna Katrina Randolph. She married Ted LaRue two years after Heather vanished. Her parents had built the house in 1982.

Steve said, “You know if she is buried under our house we’ll never be able to sell it. The press will be all over the place. This will always be known as a murder house. Those true crime people will be all over the place, looking in our windows and trying to bug us about things, not to mention the ghost hunters.”

“Good point,” I said.

“Glad you agree. Hand me the paint brush sweetie.”

And I did.

~ end.

Tangled Tales

 

Short Story Sunday: Good Bones

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

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

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

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

“What are you looking for?” Kayden asked.

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

“Previous residents? Like bodies in the walls?”

“You never know.”

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

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

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

“Have you ever found a body?”

“A few times.”

“Wow, really?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sure. What about?”

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

“You know me. I’m pretty open.”

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

 

~ end

Tangled Tales