Short Story Sunday: Hollow Heads

Hollow Heads

A Science Fiction Story by Marla Todd

Sure we all volunteered with a capitol V but we didn’t know we’d be stuck a billion miles from home with a bunch of assholes.

Our plan was to stop at Planet 2387 before we made communication with our target planet. 2387 is an uninhabited wasteland. There might have been the rudiments of life there at one time but that ship had come and gone.

So we land at what was left of the Emile Hanson Memorial Outpost, otherwise known as Hanson’s Hole. I looked up Hanson’s name before we left home. He’d been the captain of the third Mars mission. You know, the one whose head exploded when he ran into a couple of guys from Europa, but that was a long time ago. That was almost three hundred years ago, long before I was born.

On the wall of the main building of Hanson’s Hole the words, “Welcome to Hell” were scrawled in what looked like blood.

Junior Potemkin, the communications officer, if you could call him that, started to hyperventilate. I slapped him in the back and told him to stop it. Captain John Finch our leader, rolled his eyes, and told us start testing for signs of life. I called my lead science officer and went exploring.

We’d only heard of this place. Nobody was sure even who’d been here in the past, or exactly what their mission was. We were looking at a ghost. And while the rest of the crew stood shaking in their gravity boots I started to explore. I didn’t travel twenty light years away from home to pee my pants over some extraterrestrial graffiti.

I’ll tell you, when I signed up for this gig, last minute of course, I found myself with the lamest group of space travelers ever assembled. Sure they were all smart and looked good on paper. Everyone had advanced degrees and shit loads of experience. But the experience was in the lab and on paper. Nobody had field experience or people experience aside from the Captain or me.

Potemkin was an expert in written communications but couldn’t carry on a conversation if his life depended on it. Our lead engineer Thomas K. Morgan was one of those insidious geeks who corrected everyone on every single word they said. Morgan’s favorite line in any conversation was, “actually” fill in the blank with his expert opinion, which was usually bullshit or worthless trivia. After we were out of the solar system Captain Finch told Morgan that he’d throw him out into space without a suit if he didn’t cut it out.

The rest of the group included a guy called Boof who thought he was channeling Flash Gordon, an antisocial hermit of a physicist who asked to be called X, and a pair of identical twins I called Satan’s Daughters. The twins, Vera and Meera, were sneaky little shits who talked at the same time and were never seen away from each other. They were brought on as some sort of geology experts, you know, dirt and rocks as they liked to remind everyone as they cackled like witches as if that was funny. They were dirt and rocks as far as I was concerned. The rest of the crew was bland, mean spirited, and aside from the Captain had no imagination what so ever.

So I’m looking at the writing on the wall and wondering what in the world, and who in the world had written it. I felt someone rub my shoulder and looked over to see Boof standing there expecting me to be Dale Arden to his Flash Gordon. Give me a break. He looks good but no. Absolutely no.

“Boof,” I said looking up at the leafy blue green canopy of plants (I assume they were maybe once plants) around the building. “Let’s take a look inside.”

He gave me a great big blinding white smile and knocked the door open with his foot. Boof wasn’t carrying a ray gun, but it wasn’t because we’re a couple of scientists with seven degrees between the two of us. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t like scientists or people with degrees can’t be badass. We just didn’t have any weapons with us.

The interior was dark. Not like no lights, because there was a skylight, but because obviously the interior decorator of this forgotten outpost either had a stack of 1980’s Architectural Digest Magazines handy for inspiration, or he was into all things Gothic.

“Looks like vampires live here,” said Boof.

I gave an uncomfortable laugh and tried to be serious, that is until the music started to play. I couldn’t figure out where the music was coming from. The sound was sort of like it was coming out of a metal tunnel. A man was singing in sort of a strange high voice, but it sounded kind of nice.

 

You’re just a little bit of sunshine when it’s raining,

You’re just a little bit of gladness when I’m blue,

You’re just a little bit of love light that keeps shining,

And when it’s cloudy, you’re a silver lining.

 

“Radio Franks. You’re Just A Little Bit of Everything I Love,” said Boof.

I looked straight ahead at a slowly moving shadow. “How do you know that Boof?”

“I like early 20th Century music,” he answered, his eyes also on the shadow.

“Sing me something from the late 21st Century. You know the one, about the alien romance, ruby skin.”

Boof started to sing quietly in a surprisingly beautiful tenor.

 

Your DNA plays around,

Like a silken ghost,

Worlds apart are we.

 

Flying higher

Flying higher

Flying higher

Reach the stars

 

Ruby skin, emerald eyes,

Heaven between

Hot alien thighs.

 

Flying higher

Flying higher

Flying higher

Reach the stars

 

“I hate that song,” I said taking a slow step forward. “You changed the lyrics.”

“Yes, I did change the lyrics, and yes I hate it too. Do you sing?”

“Only in the shower.”

“Can I join you?”

“Only in your dreams.”

“Let’s sleep then, shall we,” Boof said in almost a whisper as we slowly walked towards the shadow.

 

The shadow moved, in what looked like the shape of a human hand, then stupidity happened. A tremendous scraping sound, sent us turning backwards to see Garland Holbright, one the Earth’s most famous journalists, come along to document our journey for the ages. Every living Earthling knew who the man was, and Garland never let us forget.

Garland had opened the door in the wrong direction, throwing it off of it’s tracks.

“Find anything yet?” Garland called out loudly as he propped the door up against a wall.

The shadow vanished.

“God Damn you Holbright. You’re such an asshole,” said Boof, as I grabbed him by his jacket and held him back.

Garland Holbright was what we (not me, everyone else) called a Frank, short for Frankenstein. He was one of those kids who’s parents had custom ordered him from a cocktail of perfect DNA so he’d be brilliant and exceptionally good looking. Sure his IQ was off the charts and he was good at taking tests. Sure on a scale of one to ten in looks Garland was a seventeen, but where he excelled in trivia and Prince Charming handsomeness he lacked in creativity and personality. The guy was an insufferable bore with an ego the size of Jupiter.

Sure we’d all had genetic modifications for long term space travel. Our respiratory systems, muscular growth, and bone density had all been tweaked. A few of us, including me, had a few personal tweaks as well. My eyes are now a little brighter shade of hazel, and my hair is finally grows model perfect. That said, I’d like to think that you always get better babies with natural random DNA selection.

Boof and Garland had gotten into it the night before. Garland had convinced a friend to hack into the personnel logs and found out that Boof was created by a couple of teenagers one hot summer night in the back seat of a self driving solar convertible.

“Silence,” I said in one of those loud mom-like whispers. “Both of you. Garland, we are not alone.”

Garland formed an O with his mouth in surprise. I knew the guy was deathly afraid of aliens. Go figure. He goes on a space mission but he is afraid of anything that isn’t human, or maybe a dog.

While I was getting ready to rip Garland a new one Boof grabbed my arm.

“Timothy Leary is not dead,” he said right in my ear, so close I could feel his hot breath. I shook my head to get him away from me.

I wondered why Boof was making a reference to the 20th Century Philosopher. Thank goodness he didn’t start singing that song. What was that group? Moody Crew? No, I think it was Moody Blues. I’d been spending way too much time with Boof. I swore between Boof and Garland I felt like my head was going to explode.

Then I turned around and there before us stood Pilot Tim Leary from the Space Explorer 23 Dog Star Mission. According to records, and Wikipedia, he’d died years ago, before I was even born. When I was a kid he was one of my idols.

Leary held out his arms in a welcoming gesture and with a wide grin said, “Welcome to Hanson’s Hole!”

“Captain Leary?” I asked, stepping forward to introduce my team and myself. “Chief Officer Gwendolyn Ward of the Research Ship the DeGrasse Tyson. These gentlemen are Science Specialist First Class Boof Errikson, and Garland Holbright, a journalist for International Geographic.

“An award winning journalist,” said Garland holding out his hand to Leary.

I kicked Boof in the ankle to prevent him from doing anything stupid. I let Garland have his bit of ego masturbation before I found out what was going on with Leary.

Leary took me by the arm as he walked and talked me into a much larger room that resembled an intergalactic art museum with comfortable seating. “I see your ship was named after the 48th President of the United States. A good omen there. My ship was called “The Dog Star.” I like dogs and all, I have a couple around here somewhere, but, I’ll tell you, it was a dog of a ship. Holy space shit, that thing was as bad as 2213 GM Sasquatch. Remember those? Do you like to be called Gwendolyn or Gwen?”

“Gwendolyn please. You’re alive.”

“Yes, very much so,” he said with a dashing smile as he patted my arm.

“But your body was found. DNA matched yours. There was no mistake. There is a huge memorial in Washington D.C.”

“And I’m honored at the thought, but obviously I’m still alive. I am indeed Commander Timothy Leary of the Dog Star.”

“But…” I started

“Do you know much about clones Gwen, Gentlemen?”

“Holbrook is a clone,” said Boof.

“I am not a clone,” said Garland.

“Gentlemen…” I hissed at them.

“You’re a freak Holbrook,” said Boof.

Garland threw his shoulders back. “You’re nothing but degenerate pod shelter trash.”

I’d had enough. “Boof, Garland, NOW.” I turned back to our host, “Captain Leary, the time line wouldn’t make sense. All of your bodies were found and brought back to earth. How do you explain that?”

Leary smiled again. “None of us wanted to go back so we cloned ourselves.”

“If you cloned yourselves, wait, your bodies were found a month after you landed here. It would have taken at least twelve years to have a fully grown human body.”

Leary motioned to the plush red chairs in the room. “Sit and make yourselves comfortable. I’ll tell you all about it.” We sat, and Leary told us an extraordinary story. “Once we had the Time Machine it seemed like we could steal anything we needed. Where do you think all of this art came from? Anyway, we stole an advanced cloning lab from the Dingus V Planet Chain. Nobody there has had fertile sex in centuries. They can’t, so they clone. Sad story, but shit happens.

Listen, none of us wanted to go back to our mission or Earth. We also didn’t want anyone looking for us. With the technology from Dingus V we were able to clone fully formed human bodies in thirty-six Earth hours. Thirty-six fucking hours. Unheard of. We programmed our clones to be without working brains. We called them the hollow heads. Once our clones were grown we smashed their empty heads in and called it a day. No brains, no souls, just lab grown flesh.”

“Wait,” said Garland. “You had a time machine?”

Leary smiled and shook his head in a definite yes. “I knew you’d ask. It is an amazing machine that jumps both time and space.”

“Space portal travel I can believe, but Time Travel is illegal universally, said Garland.

“That doesn’t mean it I can’t do it. I went forward because I don’t like the people I was with. I’m only here at Hanson’s Hole because I needed an additional respite from, well, everything. What are you doing here? Space Jumping I assume, but what is your mission. Nobody stops at Hanson’s Hole.”

I explained our mission as Leary listened intently.

Holbrook held up a finger and gave an artificially inquisitive look. “Why does it say Welcome to Hell in blood on the door of the compound?”

Leary shrugged. “I have no idea. It was there when I got here a few weeks ago. I just haven’t had the time or the paint to fix it.”

After more discussions about Leary’s adventures we returned to our own ship. I knew exactly what Leary was talking about when he said he was tired of annoying people.

Vera and Meera, the evil twins, came giggling and snorting into my office.

I motioned for them to sit. They both sat down and crossed their bony legs in unison. “Do you have the updated geology reports?”

Vera was the first to respond. “The soil acidity has doubled from the last time measurements were taken fifty years ago.”

“Fifty years ago,” said Meera.

Vera continued. “We also detected new volcanic activity. Are you having sex with Boof?”

Meera then spoke again, right on the tail of her sister. “Are you having sex with Boof? Was it good? Positively volcanic?”

“Volcanic. We know you are,” said Vera.

Meera started to laugh, a high pitched crow like cackle, then she started to snort. Then Vera joined in.

“Insubordination is not to be tolerated on this ship. If you ladies continue your immature behavior I will make sure you’re dropped off at the next supply station. You will receive no letters of recommendation, and I guarantee you will have to find your own way home, at your own expense. Capiche?”

“Yes, of course,” they said in unison. It almost sounded like they had an echo to their words.

“Thank you for the report. I’ll review it thoroughly.” I said motioning with my hand for them to leave.

After they’d Holbrook put his head in the door. “Do you want to have dinner later? This isn’t romantic, of course…”

I cut him off. “No.”

“Is there something going on between you and Boof?”

“No. Jesus, Garland, I’m having dinner with Caption Finch. A working dinner.”

As soon as he left a message came on the screen from Boof.

Hey Baby, do you want to see stars tonight?

I deleted the message.

The entire trip had been like the set-up from a bad bodice ripper romance, but without any sex or bodice ripping. You know the story. The heroine is caught between two potential lovers. One is dark haired, gorgeous, with impeccable breeding, and insanely rich. The other is blond, gorgeous, insanely smart, and grew up more or less a street urchin in a block of government run shelter pods. Who should our heroine choose? One will eventually betray her as the other one rescues her, but she won’t know until it happens. Screw that. I didn’t have time for it.

I took the clip out of my hair and shook out letting it fall to my shoulders. Thank goodness for planets with normal gravity. I remember reading about the days when the idea of women being in space seemed ridiculous. The excuse was always something about hair, periods, sex, temptations, strength and peeing. Seriously, one does not need a penis, or a hairy chest to travel in space. Thank goodness for Nichelle Nichols. I was so glad to see her on the one-dollar coin last year. I remember reading the emails of my great-great-grandmother telling my father about when she met Sally Ride. I can’t even imagine.

Over the next few days Captain Finch and I tasked our crew with collecting data, and ship maintenance. Our engineer Morgan questioned everything we asked him to do. He claimed inspections were not necessary. He went on about how his qualifications were better than anyone on the ship, and bragged about his superior intelligence whenever I requested a progress report.

Our physics team, headed up by a guy named Dex Harland, who insisted on being called just “X” decided that we were all going to be eaten by mutant aliens and refused to leave the ship. They spread the word through the crew that Timothy Leary was going to drug them and feed them to giant spiders or some sort of shit along those lines. It was as if the entire crew had gone insane.

I asked one of our two our medical officers about it and he told me that he was writing a screenplay about a murder on a space barge couldn’t give a rat’s ass about our mission. His name was Dr. Charles Young. He only took the job to get out of paying child support for four different women and six kids on three planets. Our sane medical crew member, Dr. Sashie Vern, took my arm and asked if I wanted to get coffee. In the empty crew lounge she begged me to keep Dr. Jay away from her due to his incompetence and creepiness.

On our last supply stop, Hawk Donaldson, a popular member of our Engineering group had a one night stand with a Trasidain female. Trasidian’s are beautiful human like creatures with iridescent pink skin, and several more pleasure seeking orifices than Earthlings. Unfortunately Trasidains also have horrible parasites, which there is no cure for except the death of the host.

Hawk contracted a large number of the parasites and was in excruciating pain as the bugs ate him from the inside out. On his request Dr. Sashie put him into a medically induced coma until his death thirty four hours later. His body, along with the bugs, was cremated and blasted into space.

After Hawk’s death Dr. Sashie wondered why most of the crew members refused to see her for regular check ups or even acknowledge her existence. I should have guessed what Dr. Sashie told me. Dr. Jay had told everyone that Dr. Sashie was incompetent and had caused Hawk’s death.

I went back to confront Dr. Jay and he just smirked.

“I’m entitled to my opinion,” he said with a shit eating grin. I wrote him up for spreading false information and confined him to his room when he was not on duty. The following day rumors spread that I was sleeping with Captain Finch, which was odd considering Finch is gay. I knew it was Dr. Jay.

As I made my rounds that day I realized that our crew, due to the nasty mix of passive aggressive cockroaches and over inflated egos was completely shutting down as a functional team.

The Engineering Group all shaved their heads and wore goggles because they decided that they did not want Garland Holbrook writing about them. Their reasoning was that if they all looked alike then Holbrook would get confused and leave them alone.

Poor Junior Potemkin, our painfully shy communications officer was being bullied by a Data Wrangler named Bambi Von Grob. She would sit next to Potemkin and make snorting noises, suck up snot in her nose, cough, loudly chew crunchy food hours on end, pound on her work station. In retaliation to his complaints she innocently told everyone on board that she was a victim of Junior Potemkin’s bullying.

I could go on for hours about the adolescent behavior of the crew. It seemed that most of my day was spent listening to complaints, breaking up fights, and telling crew members to act like adults.

With six months into our mission, and five years to go, I didn’t know how Captain Finch and I were going to handle this. I loved my job. I loved exploration. I loved the science, but I hated almost everyone on board of our ship.

Boof and I continued to visit Tim Leary. He told us a lot of tall tales but was stingy with any technical information. He said he’d always been more of a manager rather than a scientist. He’d joke that he should have been a stand-up-comic, even thought he didn’t really say anything funny.

One night at dinner, with a nice view of the three aligned moons of the planet, the Captain vented for about an hour about the crew. Boof, Garland, and Dr. Sashie Vern had joined us as the highest ranking crewmembers.

Captain Finch had an announcement for us. “I’ve done some research and come to a realization that we were given a crew of rejects of the highest order.”

“You think?” Boof said with a disgusted look.

“Our mission is longer than usual with extensive isolated periods and difficult Space Jumps. I asked for an experienced crew of individuals with solid science experience, and technical expertise. What I ended up with was a crew of people that nobody else wanted,” said Finch.

I added to his thoughts, “We asked for the best of the best, and in turn, present company aside, we got the worst of the worst. Come to think of it, Boof, Sashi and I were the only three you personally interviewed.”

“Sad but true,” said Finch.”But we’re stuck with what we have. We’ll make the best of it.” I noticed Captain Finch looked unusually tired and sad, as if someone had died.

“Now what? Behavior modification or bull shit team building at the next supply spot isn’t going to fix anything,” said Sashie.

Garland Holbrook poured another glass of wine and smiled. “Clone most of the crew and leave them there. Then we can have a perfect crew. They have the facilities right here for high speed clone creation.”

“How would that work?” Asked Dr. Sashie.

“Leary and his crew stole the technology from the Glanidians who use semi-brainless clones for off planet mining and prostitution. It’s cheaper than robots, and biological clones are more reliable,” said Garland.

“But you have to feed them,” said Boof. “How can that be more reliable?”

Garland smiled. “No, they eat themselves. They don’t even know it. You know, Clone Nuggets.”

“That is horrible,” said Sashie.

“Yes it is but it isn’t what Leary and his crew did,” said Garland. “Not Clone Nuggets, but clones. They made clones of themselves. We could make clones of our crew.”

 “Eventually we’d have to land somewhere and we’d be found out,” said Captain Finch.

“You don’t get it. We will clone the crew, but tweak the genetic codes so that they’ll have more pleasant personalities. We’ll make them brilliant but downright sweet, and completely bland. I know Gwendolyn and Boof could do it,” said Garland. “You both have studied genetics and personality modifications for violent and anti social prisoners on off planet penal colonies.”

I had to speak up. “It will take an extra week depending on how many clones we’re going to make. I spoke with the Evil Twins today and they estimated a major volcanic explosion within the next month. If it blows it will take out all life within five hundred miles of Leary’s clubhouse.”

Then we all sat, nobody asking the questions we all wanted the answer for.

There was a knock on the door. Tim Leary stood there in a black tuxedo, holding three bottles of wine in his arms.  “Your mission reminds me of a story my Great Great Grammy used to tell me. A long time ago when she was a little girl there used to be a huge store called Ickyah. People would flock to it to be unassembled furniture because it felt good if you built stuff yourself. The buyer would get home with instructions that said it would take two hours to build your bed frame and nightstand. Fifty hours later maybe the bed would be done and the nightstand drawer assembled. Another twenty hours everything would be complete with the help of additional duck tape and a lot of swearing.”

“Leary,” I said. “What does that have to do with your mission?”

“That’s what it is like living here. Everything was supposed to be easy. Self contained they said.  But it wasn’t. Fortunately I have a lot of duck tape. I still have that fast acting cloning machine. I’ll let you use it.”

“That is out of the question. We all took ethics oaths to protect our crew,” said Captain Finch.

“I didn’t,” said Holbrook.

 

We spend the rest of the night bitching about the rest of the crew. After everyone realized that we had more shit-for-brains stories than we could tell in one night. My brain was so agitated that there was no way I could get any sleep so I took a stroll under the three moons of Planet 2387.

“You need a real name,” I said aloud as I scanned the horizon.

“It has a name. Atropos.” I turned to see Garland Holbrook standing next to me. I didn’t even hear him coming. “She was one of the three Fates. Atropos was the one who would decide how long one’s life line was. She’d also choose how one died,”

“Why’d you come on this mission? You could have any job you wanted,” I said.

“Captain Finch is the best. None of us could have predicted the bait and switch with the crew. Think about it. If we had the original crew this would be a perfect science mission.”

This was new to me. “Original crew? Garland, what are you talking about?”

“You don’t know do you? They were finishing up in Florida on their last mission. This was before you and Boof were interviewed.”

I was almost in shock. My entire body went numb. Over a thousand souls were lost in a terrorist attack at the National Space Science Research compound. Religious fundamentalists fire bombed the place. No wonder Captain Finch took whatever crew was assigned him. The man must have been in deep mourning. Why didn’t anyone tell me? Why didn’t I figure it out?”

“Garland, could we get Tim Leary to go back in time and…”

“You know it doesn’t work that way. When you go back in time you can change whatever you want but it won’t change the future. Your changes spin off into an alternate thread of time that eventually fades away.”

“Sure, I forgot. I knew some of the people who died. I had no idea they were signed up with Finch’s next mission. No idea.”

I turned and headed off towards the Welcome to Hell door. I wanted to talk to Leary.

As I took my first step Garland grabbed my hand, twirled me around and kissed me. If I thought my head was spinning before, it was spinning even more now.

“I know you’re attracted to me. I know you’re attracted to Boof. May the best man win, and you know I’m the best man,” said Garland as he kissed me again.

“Let’s go talk to Leary,” I said as I tried to catch my breath for the second time .

 

Three weeks later we left Planet 2387. Leary took off in his time machine a week before we blasted off. From our ship we watched (at a great distance) the massive volcano blow up a good portion of the planet’s crust.

Junior Potemkin came into my office and thanked me for helping him out. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about.

“Everyone is so nice now,” he said slowly choosing the words. “It is as if they were all replaced with clones, or something.” Then he laughed uncomfortably. “That would have been weird.”

I smiled and told him that I was glad he was happy now. I truly was.

~ end

This story is featured in the WPAD Science Fiction Anthology – Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe. 

WPAD SciFi

 

Short Story Sunday: A Werewolf’s Train to Nowhere

In honor of last night’s full moon…

A Werewolf’s Train To Nowhere

 Right after I’d graduated from college (the first time) from one of the rare Universities (now a well respected and famous school) that accepted women I took a trip across country on a train to meet my brother Val. He’d gone to New York City without me, leaving me, a young woman, unescorted. I would have done fine on my own but back then, in 1881 young women, even Vampires, didn’t travel alone.

I got on the train on a dark full moon night and made my way to my car. I was to share a car with several other students and some sort of chaperone. What I found was three young men dressed in rather garish suits of the latest fashion (or so they thought) and nobody else. Two had short beards, again, the style of the time. I recognized one from school. The train started to move. There was no getting off. OK I could have jumped, but I was in a long dress with a bustle no less and jumping wasn’t a practical option. Contrary to popular belief I couldn’t turn myself into a bat and fly away. So I stayed. They were horrible the entire time making crude jokes and being as vulgar as they could be. They insulted me for being a Vampire, calling me dead and cold and well, they were vulgar to say the least. I was in Hell and ready to get off of the train.

I sat took claim to a settee with a small table and tried to ignore my garishly dressed companions. A young woman climbed aboard and the three men cheered. She was dressed as garish as they were in the most stylish of gowns but it was a bright orange color with brown beaded trim. Her hair was as orange as the dress and piled high on her head. That included a lot of fake hair to go along with her real hair.

She eyed me up and down. “Who invited the Vampire?”

“I’m Juliette,” I said to the Werewolf girl. Holy crap I’d been stuck for a cross-country trip with four Werewolves. Every muscle and bone on my body tightened up. I wanted to scream. Instead I just kept my place in my corner while my companions made as much noise as they could laughing out loud and of course the alcohol and drugs came out. Of course.

Just as the parting whistle blew the door opened again and in stepped my friend Pierce. Finally, another Vampire had arrived, and a strong protective one at that. His father owned the train car and I didn’t even put the two together. Pierce was a friend of my brothers Max and Andy. At age 28 (born in 1848) he was the oldest of our group. We made quite a contrast in our highly fashionable yet subdued attire compared to the flamboyant brightly dressed Werewolves. We were also a lot quieter.

The Werewolf girl who was named Phoebe gave Pierce a long hard look then smiled and licked her lips. Pierce is attractive with a narrow face, a sensuous mouth and dark heavily lashed eyes. Of course she noticed him. She’d no doubt try to have his clothes off, have her way with him then tear his throat out. Well, maybe not, but I didn’t want him to get her claws into a friend who was almost like a brother to me.

The males were Luke, Seth and Eldon. I’ll never forget their names. They were rude and loud and young. Had they been Vampires I might have thought they were fun, but since they were Werewolves I thought they were disgusting. Phoebe was just as bad with her crude laugh and dirty jokes.

Pierce and I played cards and stood on the back of the train in the night air. We mostly talked. I asked him about people we knew who’d gone out into the world – the young Vampires we’d grown up with. Pierce was on his way to New York. I was on my way to New York as well to meet my brother Valentine. After that we’d board a ship to London.

Conversations with the Werewolves were in bits and pieces of insults and crude jokes. Pierce’s father did business with their families. To keep the peace and keep favors in check he’d offered to let the young adults of the pack to ride with us. Also, by being with Vampires the Werewolves were more likely to behave themselves. At least that is what everyone thought.

On the second night, after a half of case of Champagne, the young Werewolf men, Luke, Seth and Eldon stripped naked right in front of us and said they were going out for a run. Phoebe decided to stay in. They ran out and I could hear them up on the roof of the train car howling, then down a side ladder and they were gone. Phoebe sat by the window looking at the full moon. She’d taken off her jacket and bodice down to a short-sleeved lace covered blouse. Long dark hair sprouted on her arms and hands. Her fingers grew claw like. Fur grew down the side of her face. She ignored us as a low growl came to the back of her throat as she watched for her pack mates.

Peirce and I watched three huge wolves run along the side of the train. The moonlight reflected off of their silvery gray fur. They were beautiful.

Then we heard horrifically loud shots. Our fellow passengers a few cars down were shooting at the wolves. Pierce ran out of the car. I could hear him shouting for the men with the guns to stop. Phoebe started to scream and scream and scream.

The next day we heard news of three young men found dead by the side of the tracks. The story was they had been drinking and had a fight on the top of the train and fell off after shooting each other.

I will never forget holding Phoebe in my arms and rocking her, trying to tell her that everything would be alright. I knew it would never be alright but I said it anyway.

For the next week as we made our way across the country she’d howl mournfully at night. The passengers said the train was haunted. I knew they’d brought on their own ghosts when they killed the wolves for no reason.

Werewolves and Vampires are predators but even we don’t partake in the senseless of killing animals for no reason other than target practice.

Pierce and I related the story to others but over the years we’ve kept a lot of the details to ourselves. It seems like so long ago. It was a long time ago. A long long time ago.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Tangled Tales

Short Story Sunday: I’ll Take Care of You

Tangled Tales

I’ll Take Care of You

The headache was real. He opened his eyes and squinted at the sun coming through the window and tried to remember what had happened the night before.

“Oh you’re up. Look at the sunlight. Tell me how you feel.”

“Like I’ve been hit by a truck.”

“Do you feel alive?”

He looked at her sitting in a navy blue wingback chair wearing nothing but a smile and black silk stockings held up by red garters. He thought of her as a girl, not from her age but by the way she acted. She had been cute for a while but the cuteness became annoying and practiced.

He got out of bed and looked for his robe. She watched him with a smile on her face that was part wonder and part greed. Memories started to come back. Against his better judgement he’d taken her home and to his bed. Then she’d poured something she said was wine, but it obviously wasn’t.

“What did we drink last night?”

“What did you drink Andrew darling. I gave you an elixir to life. I gave you a tonic of love. I gave you light and love?”

He didn’t even respond. The sooner he got her out of his house and made coffee the better. Finding his robe he headed to the kitchen.

“Do you feel different?” She got up and followed him down the stairs.

“Other than feeling like shit?”

“Today is your new birthday. You’re mortal again.”

It suddenly occurred that she’d given him some sort of potion. “Jen, I can’t be cured. There was nothing wrong with me.”

“You were a Vampire.”

“I’m still a Vampire.”

“You’re walking in the sunlight. See it comes through the windows and you aren’t burning.”

“I’ve always been able to walk in the sunlight. Whatever you gave me didn’t work. It never works anymore than me giving you something that would turn you into a dog.”

“Give me a chance and I’ll take care of you Andrew,” she said clutching at his arms.

He pried off her hands and whispered under his breath, “Yes, and I’ll make sure to take care of you.”

Escorting her to the door, the Vampire told her to not come back – but he knew she’d try. Jen never took no for an answer. He compared her to a bad rash, that is if he’d ever had a bad rash.

Nobody would believe her tall tales of dating a Vampire. She was a groupie, a fan, a follower who didn’t know how to be an adult or find real love. It wasn’t like he always knew how to find real love, but at least he wasn’t going to let anyone change him for it.

Picking up the phone he made a call. “You know, I really don’t have the stomach for killing her right now. Any suggestions?”

His friend paused on the other end of the line then said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of her.”

After getting off the phone Andrew made a blood and strawberry smoothie hoping it would clear out some of the toxic effects of whatever the Hell Jen had given him.

Jen told everyone her family had always been around Vampires, kind of sort of, but she’d just discovered her ability to pick them out about 10 years ago. She’d clamped onto Andrew about a year back after seeing him sing with one of her favorite bands at a local club. She’d spotted him and found out all of the details about his life through mutual friends. Her immaturity was charming at first and kind of cute but now it just grated on Andrew. He ran his hands through his hair and wondered why he’d brought her home last night. Oh right, blood and sex. That always does it.

Then again, Jen thought life should be a cross between a Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie and Twilight. Holy crap. The woman was delusional.

Jen sat alone in her San Francisco apartment and thought about her beautiful Vampire lover. Giggling at the thought of his cool skin and hot kisses and wonderful techniques as a lover. He knew all the tricks. She imagined living with him in his beautiful St. Francis Woods home.

Last night she’d offered him not just her body but her blood as well. Last of all she offered her heart. As far as she was concerned that was a sealed deal. She was part of him now. He’d never get rid of her.

A year passed and Andrew had all but forgotten about that night with Jen. Occasionally one of his friends would bring up the story of the toxic brew and laugh about it.

“Don’t laugh, it could have ruined my voice,” Andrew would tell them half serious and half joking.

“What ever happened to her?” They would always ask. Andrew would just shrug.

A hundred miles away, locked in a room with no sharp objects Jen sat rocking on the bed speaking of her Vampire lover and how he’d return for her. Andrew said something under his breath about taking care of her. So she waited not knowing that he already taken care of her, quite nicely.

 

~ End

 

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: 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.

 

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: A Man Should Have What He Wants

Note: Welcome. I’m away today seeking cooler weather (under triple digit) so enjoy this “classic VM rerun.”

Tangled Tales

A Man Should Have What He Wants

A Nasty Little Vampire Story from Juliette aka Vampire Maman  

A house full of books and the ghosts of what could have been.

What can be. Oliver Thomas thought as he sat on the edge of the bed.

He never let himself get close to those he visited over the years. It was easy to become detached just as one could be detached to an apple or a head of lettuce.

She slept quietly. On the nightstand were books, earrings, a clock set for 5:00 a.m., and her glasses. Her husband was snoring and slept in another room. Her children were tucked into their dreams. Oliver made sure of that. They’d all be asleep.

Oliver Thomas kept coming back to her. She was different, by her own accord. Amanda had always been different – the type who saw the world in visions and possibilities. Someone who overcame obstacles.  If she grew to be old she’d be a sweet eccentric with her window boxes full of exotic flowers and vast knowledge of the obscure and unusual.

She had a hard time making friends due to her shyness and reluctance to follow up. Her fear of rejection paralyzed her in some areas of her life. Most of life was paralyzing but she seemed to thrive and succeed.

Yet, the woman could light up a room with her wit and charm. She was a success despite her low opinion of herself.

But he’d fallen in love with her in a strange way that someone falls in love with an idea of perfection and the ideal person to share life’s adventures with.

Her teenage kids still hung all over her like toddlers, leaning on her even now. They were taller than she was, dressed in their black band shirts with trendy long hair and black painted nails.  Oliver had seen Amanda once, her son with his lanky arm around her shoulder, her daughter with an arm around her waist. How many women, he wondered, envied her for the closeness she had with her children.

If it wasn’t for her children she might have checked out and left the world a long time ago. Since childhood Amanda had been uncomfortable with life and the tremendous effort it took for her to live with herself and her failures.

Oliver saw that Amanda had failed to see her success, except with her children. He didn’t want to think of her marriage with Craig. It worked better than most. In fact, for the most part, her marriage to Craig was an uncommon success.

Craig, the handsome and successful husband, was the love of her life. Even in her dreams Amanda couldn’t cheat on Craig. They’d built a life together. For her that was enough. More than enough she told herself.

But Oliver knew it wasn’t enough. Amanda found her life in others but kept her secret soul and passions locked up, bound in shadows and secrets.

At one time, Oliver and Amanda had been lovers. The memory of her warm skin, her lips on his own, her hands in his hair and her passion haunted him. He’d come and gone from her life assuming she’d always be there.

Now he was only with her in the dream world of the night.  She’d remember him in another time and place in long lost memories of centuries past. She’d think she’d had a life in another time with him, a past life of possibilities and promise and passion.

An unlikely candidate this middle aged working mom, too tired and busy  to think of herself except when she let her imagination fly as she commuted to school and work in her car each morning, or when she dozed off at night in her own secret places.

The passions were still in her, as it had been when she was young. How could that be?  He kissed her then buried his face into her neck and when he’d had enough of her he silently left her with dreams of passion and desire.

The following evening Oliver looked up from his desk and there she was, standing in the doorway. Black dress, apple green sweater, black heels. The blue Coach bag, a 50th birthday present from her husband was slung over her shoulder. She looked she owned the world, but she still didn’t think she was beautiful.

How did she find me here? I never told her where I live?

“Amanda.” He said her name as if in a dream.

“Don’t Amanda me Oliver. I want you to leave me alone.”

He stood and approached her with his hands held out. “It was always the wrong time or place for us.”

She stepped back ignoring his open arms. “Don’t even start with me Oliver. It would have never worked. You always said I was too independent. Then you turned around and called me needy.”

“I never said any of those things.” He was shocked by her accusations.

“You didn’t have to say it. You made it obvious you were thinking it.”

He didn’t respond. This wasn’t the time for the witty dialog they’d shared in the past, the long talks through the night or the sweet lover’s words.

“Amanda, you can’t stand there before me and say that with a straight face.”

She looked at the floor then looked up straight into his eyes. “You never told me you loved me.”

“I didn’t have to.”

“Bull shit. You just expected me to hang around and wait for you to come in and out of my life. It got old Oliver. But it doesn’t matter. I’m married to a man who loves me the way I am.  I’m successful, happy and I love my life.”

“I doubt if Craig realizes what a fortunate man he is.”

“He knows.”

“Did you ever tell him about me?” Oliver took a step forward. Amanda folded her arms as if to shut him out.

“I haven’t told anyone about you. They’d all think I was nuts. Just like my Aunt Margaret when she talked about her Vampire.”

“You still love me Amanda.” Oliver said those words quietly with such passion that almost no woman would be able to resist. No woman except Amanda.

She turned and left, slamming the door behind her.

Oliver watched from the window as she got in her car and drove away. The slightest hint of regret surged through his dark thoughts. He’d never meet another who captured his heart and his passions like she had.  He’d never meet anyone who made him laugh or feel the joy of being like Amanda had.

Oliver heard the steps behind him but didn’t turn around. A warm hand caressed his shoulder.

“Is she gone?” The speaker was obviously annoyed.

“Yes.”

“Does she have any idea I’m here?”

“No.”

Craig looked out the window. “Good. Where do we go from here?”

“Are you absolutely sure you want to do this?”

“My son is an Emo freak who acts in plays and writes poetry for fun. My daughter won’t talk to anyone unless it’s a text. My wife is never going to lose the baby fat or stop telling stupid jokes or snoring or complaining how hard she works. It wasn’t what I signed up for.”

“I understand.”

“Just for once I want what I want. I don’t want to go home to a woman who is tired all the time and can’t even comprehend my needs.”

“What about your children? You must care about them on some level.”

“They’ll be fine without me. Amanda will have two million dollars in life insurance to get the kids through college. There’s another 10 million in assets she can sell off if she has to. She’ll make sure her children have wonderful memories of me.”

“The news of your death will break her heart.”

Craig scowled at Oliver. “Amanda is already so miserable she won’t even notice. She’ll be happy to be the unfortunate widow and bask in the glow of her own sorrow. I’m doing her a favor by dying rather than divorcing her.”

“And your girlfriends?” Asked Oliver.

“They’re whores who think they can get ahead by sleeping with the CEO. They’ll both get their pink slips next week. So now what?”

Oliver went back around to his desk and sat in the antique leather chair. “Your car will be found in the river and it will be assumed your body was washed away with the currents. Your wallet and a few clothing items will be found washed up on a beach. It will be assumed that you died.”

“So when do I change?”

“Change?”

“When do I become like you? A Vampire.” Craig asked this impatiently almost sounding like a spoilt teen.

Oliver took a deep breath and answered him. “Tonight if you want, but I’d rather wait until tomorrow.”

Craig leaned on the desk close to the Vampire. “I want this Oliver. I want my freedom.”

“You’ll get what you want Craig.”

“Oliver, I’m telling you…”

Craig started to speak but Oliver held up his hand. “We’ll take my jet to Rome in the morning. By the time we get there you’ll be a different man. The old Craig will be gone forever. In the meantime, you need to see your children one last time.”

Amanda sat in the high school auditorium waiting for the play to start. A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Her son played Lysander and her daughter was playing Puck.

Craig had called earlier to tell her he was working late. He’d been sorry to miss the play but said he’d see it on closing night next weekend. She thought she was going to throw up. She pulled out her phone and listened to the message she’d received right after she’d seen Oliver.

A sing song girlish voice said “Mandy, I mean Amanda, this is Trinity, Craig’s assistant. I wanted to let you know that I’ve been sleeping with your husband for about two years. He said I did all those nasty fetish things you wouldn’t do and I believed him. I really really loved him and would have done anything but he dumped me for Tara Hall. She’s like the VP of Marketing.  They’ve been doing it since October so he was two timing on me too. Stupid puke. So when he says he is gone on business he’s really with her. I just thought you’d want to know because you seem like a nice lady.”

It was the fifth time she’d listened to it. Each time she’d hoped she’d heard it wrong but that wasn’t the case.

A text came in from Craig saying he had a change of plans and was on his way.

Concentrate. Don’t think about him. It isn’t true. He’ll be here any minute. Don’t cry.

The house lights went down and the play started.

Oliver Thomas stood on the side of the river and watched the emergency crews on the opposite shore drag out a sliver convertible, the headless body of the driver still strapped in the seat. Some unfortunate member of the police department would find sightless eyes attached to a severed head staring up at him from the floor of the passenger seat.

Witnesses said another car had forced him off the road. The convertible rolled and went into the water. It had been too dark to get any plate numbers or a good description of the other car.

Craig wanted to be free of his wife and children. A man should have what he wants after all.

Now Oliver would do it right. He’d wait a few months, he had time and he’d be there for Amanda and her children, like he should have been all along.

 

~ end

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: A Better Place

The dogs were huge. The male weighed 170 pounds. The female was a mere 120 pounds. They padded silently behind her as she walked home from the bar.

Mehitabel had gone out for a bite to eat with the dogs due to the fact her boyfriend Max had left them with her while he finished up a job. He’d be back in a few hours. It was odd to call him her boyfriend. It was odd to think she was engaged to him. Everything was odd so she thought as she walked along in the cool night air.

At the bar she’d spoken to some nice young men who’d walked down by the beach with her. She put her fangs to their wrists and taken about a half pint of blood. They’d been scuba diving earlier that day. She could always pick up on divers due to their oxygen levels, and the salt on their skin. All they would remember was the pretty young women with the two giant dogs who’d showed them the trail to the beach.

As she got closer to her house she heard loud raspy laughing behind her. She turned around and saw them. Witches.

These were not nice ladies who get energy from crystals, or read tarot cards, make healing lotions, and try to conjure up spirits from the earth. These kind of Witches were the trailer trash of the paranormal world.

Mehitabel knew that six months earlier the one named Blanche had charged ten-thousand dollars to give a woman’s ex-husband’s new wife breast cancer. The other, a Witch who called herself Tourmaline would make love potions that would cause the unwitting recipient to fall in love, but always loathe themselves for falling in love with someone they found repulsive.

Both Witches wore tacky tight dresses with too much cleavage, too much make-up, and too much bleached blonde hair that reminded her of fried onions. They toddled on six-inch heels, while walking along with their back sides sticking out in an unnatural way that made Mehitabel think of stink-beetles.

“Hey, look,” said Blanche in a gravel and honey voice. “It’s the pretty little Vampire. What are you up to tonight?”

“Show us those fangs,” said Tourmaline.

Mehitabel whistled to the dogs, then kept walking. She could hear the click of the Witch’s heels as they followed behind her.

She took a deep breath and stopped her heart beat. Then she slowly turned around. “Ladies, stop following me.” But the Witches were gone. All that was left was the smell of sickly sweet perfume and sulphur.

A half hour later, with her door locked, Mehitabel fed the dogs, then poured herself a glass of wine.

Love potions. She couldn’t even imagine forcing someone to love her. Then there was the revenge spells, meant to do nothing but harm to the innocent. Blanche and Tourmaline had ruined hundreds of lives and caused so much pain over the past thirty years. She should have killed them there on the spot. She could have. The dogs could have.

She woke with the touch of cold lips on hers, and a hand gently lifting the tilted wine glass out of her hand and put it, and the book she was reading, on the table. Max, the man who loved her, without the aid of potions or spells, smiled at her. She glanced over and noticed he’d put his gun on the table.

In the morning there was news of the bodies of two women on the beach. They’d each been shot once in the head. Their bodies were drained of blood and set on fire. The smell of sulphur and roasted flesh filled the air. Toxic fumes sent two detectives to the hospital.

Mehitabel put her arms around Max and pulled him close. A good Vampire was hard to find. She kissed his handsome face, closed her eyes, and smiled to sweet dreams of making the world a better place.

 

~ end

 

Tangled Tales

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman