Short Story Sunday: Take Me Away

February 28, 2021

It wasn’t as if she needed to go out. It was that connection with the surface and letting the cold air on her skin wake up all of her senses.

As she put on her camouflage jacket she thought about how as a child she’d never been able to go out on her own. The adults had been so overprotective. There was nothing out there to be afraid of. One outside she walked along her usual route, taking in the sun and imagining what it was like to be somewhere else. Anywhere else would do right now.

Somewhere else. Jack had broken her heart, along with smashing her dreams to oblivion. Every secret of her heart was smashed by his cruel words. He’d called her unrealistic and unpractical. He told her she could never leave, but that she’d never have his heart. The more she thought about it the more she realized that this perfect man was nothing but imperfect. He was a fraud. He was an uncreative, selfish, and boorish prick. Good riddance.

After several hours of hiking she stopped for a snack, and a quick look at her map. Then out of the corner of her eyes she caught motion. WTF? Nothing should have been out here. Nothing.

About a hundred feet away was a machine. It had wheels on the ground. How odd. It was about ten feet long and almost the same across. Approaching it without caution she thought about Jack. That jerk-off was afraid of everything. Sure he pretended to be tough and a big man but underneath it all he was afraid of anything new. He lacked curiosity. Everyone she knew lacked curiosity. It made her sick to think that she was considered the weird one. Everyone else was weird to her. She was stifled by their attitudes and smug sense of complacency.

As she walked up to the machine she suddenly wondered if there was life on it. Where did it come from? More like who did it come from? She knew where it was from.

“Hello?” she said quietly as she approached it, the same as if she was approaching a wild animal.

It moved. Ahhhhhhh she thought. Cameras.

This strange new machine was adorable. She moved closer and looked straight into the lens. Pushing her hood back off of her head, and then smiling she said, “Come get me. I want to leave this place. I want color, and the warm sunshine on my bare skin, and everything you take for granted. I want the freedom to think my own thoughts without being told I’m crazy. I want to know who you are, sing your songs, eat your food, and listen to your stories.”

On the side she saw letters, then took her gloved hand and wiped off the reddish brown dust. In a blue circle was a name. NASA.

“Take me away,” she said. “I want to walk on your beaches. I want to feel sand in my toes. I want to look up in the night sky and see where a glowing red dot and know how wrong everyone was about me.”

136.73 million miles away in Pasadena, California, on the planet Earth, someone yelled out in excitement, and almost knocked over her coffee. “OH MY GOD. You have to see this. YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS.”

Back at the wheeled rover she smiled again. “I’m here. Take me away.”

~ end

Short Story Sunday: Lighthouse

Lighthouse

A story I’ve told before. I will tell it again tonight.

1880

He’d been found in the ocean, wearing a formal jacket with tails and clinging to the top of a grand piano. Underneath the man was a large gray wolfhound.

The captain of the ship that had picked him up said that he didn’t seem to remember much, or maybe did not want to remember. The dog, named Delilah, wouldn’t leave the side of her master.

At first they thought it was a ship wreck but it ended up being a complicated and strange mystery. The ship, a 200 ton brigantine had left Port of Talcahuano, in Chile three months before the mysterious man had been found in the Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco. Not a soul was on the ship, except the Captain who’d been found with a gun in his hand and what looked like a fatal self-inflicted bullet wound in his head. The life boats were still on the ship, as well as a cargo of wine and explosives, and the personal belongings of the few passengers and crew.

A break in an unusually strong and violent series of storms allowed them to dock and drop the man on the piano lid and his wolfhound off at the home of the lighthouse keeper’s family.

The lighthouse keeper checked in on the man who was sleeping in his guest room, dog curled by the bed. He could tell the stranger was wealthy by the quality of his clothing, the expensive watch and ring, and the formal refined way he’d spoken. His locked trunk had been recovered from the abandoned ship and now was at the foot of the bed.

The stranger said his name was Maxwell. He told them to call him Max. The first night there he’d drawn exquisite pictures for the light keeper’s wife of palm trees, and of beautiful women in fashionable dresses, and native women of South America with unusual hats and full colorful skirts. Over brandy he told them that he was 31 years old, born in 1849 when his pregnant mother had come out with his father for the California Gold Rush. Now he resided in San Francisco.

“What is your occupation? “The lighthouse keeper’s daughter Jayne asked the stranger,  fully well expecting him to say he was involved in a rich family business, or lived off of the wealth of his forebears.

He looked at her with hazel eyes, that she would have sworn were dark brown earlier that evening. “I am in law enforcement of a sorts, like detective, or a marshal. I seek out those who are particularly evil. I had apprehended a ruthless and violent fiend in South America and was on my way home. Unfortunately on the ship…” he paused and glanced up for a second, then back at the family of the lighthouse keeper. “On the ship I found myself taken by surprise and overwhelmed. It is a story I will tell you later, but now I must sleep, or I’ll end up under the table here.”

So he retired for the night. That was two days ago. He still slept as quiet and cold as death, but not dead. The dog lay by the foot of the bed thumping her tail whenever anyone came near.

A storm raged outside. The weather didn’t allow anyone to go get a doctor. His wife assured him that the man called Max just needed to rest. It made sense considering the man had been clinging to a piano lid and floating in the freezing ocean for days before he was picked up.

Despite the storm Lighthouse Keeper’s wife climbed up a ladder to fix a shutter that was almost ready to fly away with the wind. As she reached the window the ladder fell and she crashed to the ground below. All went black except the feeling of being carried inside.

Max put her down in a large chair by the fire and took her broken arm in his icy hands. “Close your eyes,” he whispered. She could feel his hands heat up and warm her wrist. The pain turned to numbness. She opened her eyes and could see a look of pain on his face, then he smiled and kissed her forehead.

“You’re arm is still broken, but the bones have started to mend enough for you not to need a splint.”

“You? You healed me,” she said.

“Yes. It is a gift. Keep the knowledge to yourself or people will think we are both insane.” He then touched a forming bruise on her forehead, making that pain, along with the bruise go away as well.

During the night the storm broke up. Sunshine came out between the clouds. Jayne convinced Max to walk down to the docks to pick up some fish for the night’s dinner.

She held his arm as they strolled along the road.

“Your glasses are so dark. I noticed your eyes turned from hazel to brown when we went outside,” said Jayne.

“My eyes are sensitive to the sun. I have three younger brothers, and a younger sister. Two of them have eyes that do the same as mine, that is change color,” he said, then changed the subject. “Do you like living here Jayne.”

“I love my family. I love the ocean. I don’t being in a small town with nothing but fish and lumber. I’d like to see more of the world before I’m expected to find a husband.”

“Do you want to be married Jayne?”

“Maybe,” said Jayne, “I can move to Utah and take two husbands. Women can vote in Utah and Wyoming. Why not here?”

“Because men are ignorant and barbaric my dear Jayne. They’re afraid that if you vote you’ll be smarter and more just than they are. The don’t want to give up their power to someone who might do a better job. By the way, men of a certain faith may have more than one wife but I do not believe a woman is allowed two husbands in Utah. You would have to go to Tibet for that.”

Jayne laughed. “To be truthful, even one husband would be too many for me right now. I don’t need anyone to own me right now.” She tugged on his arm. “You’re so different.”

“How am I different? I’m just like any other man.”

“You healed my mother’s arm. You survived almost a week in the icy ocean’s water hanging onto a piano top with nothing but the clothes on your back and a dog. Your eyes change color. Your skin feels like ice. You are unbelievably attractive. I am stating a fact about your looks. But I only want your friendship. Even with the oddness I like you. I feel as if we have been friends for a long long time. Where are you really from Maxwell? Who are your people?”

He smiled and took off his glasses. His eyes were hazel again. “Where I come from men and women are equal. We live quietly. We live honestly among each other. What I am about to tell you will sound strange, but we live on the edge between life and death. We walk in the world of sunlight, but also walk in the land of the shadows and do not fear death or God.”

“I would like to go there with you. I would earn my way. I could be a lady detective.”

“It is not easy to live in my world Jayne.”

“No world is easy Max,” she said then smiled and pulled the comb out of her hair letting it blow in the wind. “Do you have a sweetheart at home?”

Max hesitated then spoke. “There is a woman I have a strong connection with, but I will never love her.”

“Is she married?”

“No. It isn’t like that. We met when I was at the University. So was she, which is odd unto itself. She knows my thoughts. She knows my desires. But she is not the one. What about you Jayne?”

“I was engaged to a man who knew neither my thoughts or desires, and had no intention on learning either. He thought I belonged to him body and soul, not in the way of love, but as property to be owned and controlled. He was jealous to the point of rage if I would speak with another man. He was even jealous of the boys I teach at the school and demanded I quit my teaching job. I would rather die than live a life where someone else controlled my body, my thoughts, my job, and my every whim. That is why I am no longer engaged to him.” Then laughed and ran to the end of the pier and let the wind blow through her hair and laughed some more.

Max marveled at the way she was so free thinking and full of life. He saw so much death and sorrow in his line of work that now with Jayne he felt renewed. She was sunshine in his dark world of shadows and night.

Hours later in the quiet of the night, the wind died own, and the moon hung in a thin crescent in the sky. Max walked along the beach with his dog Delilah. The taste of fresh blood and wine was in his mouth and the cold comfort of the night had settled into his soul. Delilah ran ahead, then the dog started to bark. Ahead of him Max saw a bloody figure crumpled on the rocks. His heart sank. It was Jayne.

Max picked her up and carried her home. He knew what had happened. She’d gone out to look at the stars and was attacked by a man she’d jilted. She’d spoken briefly about it when they’d walked earlier in the day. She had turned away the advances of a hot headed man who wanted her as his own. In the afternoon the man had walked past them, giving Jayne a look like a mad dog when he saw her holding Max’s arm.

He put her on her bed as her parents and brothers gathered around. As still as death, and as cold as the sea, they watched life drained out of her.

Jayne’s mother put her hand on Max’s arm. “Can you heal her, like you healed me?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “If I do she will never be the same, not like she was before. She won’t be crippled or lose herself, she will be… she will be like me.”

“Save her, then find the man who did this to her,” said the Lighthouse Keeper.

“You do not know what you ask,” said Max.

“You put a spark back in her eyes I have not seen in ages. Please save her if you can.”

“Let me be alone with her and she will not die.”

In the morning a man’s body washed up on the beach. It looked as if dogs had torn out his throat. His face was a mask of fear.

Two weeks later Jayne kissed her family good-by and went with Max on the next ship to San Francisco.

2017

Max stood in his living room with a glass of wine in his hand as he looked at the view of the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. He couldn’t imagine getting tired of it. He glanced over to see Jayne, wearing a short black dress and looking gorgeous as always, coming towards him. He kissed her cool cheek. She smiled with just a touch of fang showing.

“Are you staying with Pierce tonight?” Max asked.

“Of course I am. I take it Mehitabel is staying here,” said Jayne.

Max glanced at a small pretty woman across the room. He suddenly thought of what he’d told Jayne about her so many years ago on the walk to the docks. Odd that when he was out in the ocean, clinging onto a piano top of all things, he had thought of Mehitabel. He might ask but he was never sure what she would say. No, he wouldn’t ask, he’d just wait to see what would happen, but he was sure she’d stay.

“I’m sure she’ll stay,” he told Jayne.

They talked for a while longer, about work, about friends, and about how the sunset sparkled on the ocean. Max wasn’t always one for words, but he knew that Jayne knew that they’d always be friends. Maybe even before they had ever met.

Then Jayne laughed. “I still can’t believe you were clinging to a piano lid.”

And Max had to laugh along.

~ End

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Spreading It Thick

While the rest of the country was freezing Ramona was digging up her raised beds in Long Beach. She and her brother swore they’d never leave California. That is just about the only thing she agreed on with him.

Caleb had been visiting the night before. As usual he’d brought back a slew of bad memories in an attempt to get her to feel like a failure. Gaslighting Remona was his favorite activity as far as Ramona’s husband was concerned. Fortunately, her husband Mac was out of town fishing with their son. Ramona couldn’t have handled another Mac and Caleb knock down drag out.

She opened the bag and spread the manure thick, just like Caleb spread his BS thick. The tomatoes would thrive better than Ramona did before she got out of her brother’s grip and realized what a snake he was.

Replaying the conversation from the night before she stuck the spade with all of the violent force she could muster. Then she tied her gray hair back into a ponytail.

“Mac can’t like that gray hair,” Caleb told her with his usual tone of superiority.

“I’m tired of coloring my hair,” Ramona told him. “Mac likes it.”

“I doubt that. I bet he’s off with another woman right now. I wouldn’t blame him.”

“Why do you say things like that Caleb?”

“Like what? Open your eyes Ramona.”

She replayed the lies and remembered how he had told her parents she’d faked a pregnancy. He’d befriended the woman who broke up her first marriage. He told almost every ex-boyfriend of her that she was either a slut or a psychopathological liar. 

When she and Mac didn’t get the bid on their dream house, she’d found out Caleb had told a wealthy friend about it. That wealthy friend had bid way over the asking price. Over the years Caleb had called potential employers and told them Ramona was crazy. Caleb had lied to their elderly parents and almost cleared out their bank account. She caught him trying to steal their dog. The list went on and on. 

Unfortunately, she didn’t even know about most of what he’d done until years later. Then when she did find out it stung even worse than when it happened.

Finally the last straw was when Caleb had convinced her then 17 year old son Sam that he was Sam’s father. Ramona remembered how Sam had become withdrawn and angry. Finally after a week of frustration she found him crying in their back yard and found out what had happened. Sam was now twenty two, and she’d stopped talking to Caleb. At least until last night.

Ramona knew she shouldn’t have let Caleb in her house. He sat down in her living room and bragged about his new young wife. He said he was going to sue her for a long list of unbelievable shit. Then he started to spout off about her husband Mac and how he must be cheating on her. Now the text from a friend of hers made sense. She wondered why anyone would be concerned about what Mac was doing when he wasn’t at home. 

As Ramona dug and leveled out the raised garden beds she smiled knowing her tomatoes, peppers, and exotic melons would thrive. The lettuce would be the be green perfection. Her pumpkins would grow to enormous size. And oh how the artichokes would virtually sing.

There was enough bull shit in her raised beds now to last for years. She dug one last home and dropped in Caleb’s wallet. She knew his car would be towed away in a few days. She’d re-parked it two miles away and walked home. It felt good to stretch her legs. 

Maybe later she’d take her dogs Wally and Tess down to the beach. She deserved some fun. Her work was done. It was a good day. 

~ end

Short Story Sunday: Prisoner of Love

It wasn’t as if Andy had planned on being locked in a basement. No windows. It wasn’t like he’d turn into a bat because he couldn’t do that, but he could make them think he wasn’t there. Or at least he hoped that was true, considering he had no idea who had locked him away.

He thought about the Count of Monte Cristo.

How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure.

But unlike Edmond Dantes, Andy didn’t have a mad priest to show him the way to treasure so that he could get revenge on his captor and win back the woman he loved.

Andy thought about the woman he loved for a bit. Did she love him? Or was she rejecting him simply because he was a Vampire and she was not? Or was he just thinking about it way too much.

It would have been nice to be back in his own comfortable home, playing the piano, entertaining friends or curled up in a chair with a good book and a nice goblet of wine or blood or…

A sudden noise brought him out of he reverie. A brick popped out of the wall and a pale hand came through. What could this sudden event of fate mean? Was he to be rescued?

He reached for the hand. It pulled back at his touch.

“You’re like ice,” hissed a quiet voice.

“I run a little cold. Who are you?”

“I am but a prisoner of love.”

Andy took a deep breath, at least a deep one for a Vampire. Why did he always find himself in situations like this with someone who was bat shit crazy?

“Where are we and why? No stupid answers.”

He was answered with silence. That wouldn’t do. Andy went to the hole in the wall and looked through. It was dark but he could see a slight shadow. “Answer me. Where are we? Do you know?”

Something jumped on his lap and shook him awake. Andy let his book (The Count of Monte Cristo) drop and nearly tipped over the goblet on the table next to his favorite reading chair. A small black kitten curled up and started to purr. What a crazy dream. What a strange and bizarre dream he’d had. But he didn’t have a black kitten.

Sitting still and quiet Andy listened for noise of a visitor. He’d hear the slightest breath or an excited heart beat. If they were close enough he’d smell blood.

There was no other living thing in the room except Andy and the kitten.

“Where did you come from dear kitty?”

The kitten only purred. She was tiny, maybe 8 weeks old at the most. A sense of unease overcame him. Someone was in the house. Making his fangs ready he stood and turned around. Standing behind him was a pale form – a woman in a long silken dress and platinum blonde hair. She held out her hand.

“I am but a prisoner of love,” she whispered.

“Is this your cat?”

But Andy never got his answer. She vanished in a wisp of smoke with the smell of sulphur.

The next morning he walked the exclusive old neighborhood and asked if anyone knew who the kitten belonged to. He even put up posters. Nobody had lost a kitten. Nobody had an answer for him.

What is it with Vampires and cats and love? He laughed then said aloud, “If you’re going to haunt my dreams and my house you might as well tell me who you are.”

He felt a cold blast of air then heard a soft laugh then the soft sound of a woman’s voice “When you compare the sorrows of real life to the pleasures of the imaginary one, you will never want to live again, only to dream forever.”

It was a quote from The Count of Monte Cristo.

A prisoner of love. “Not me,” thought Andy, “not me.”

~ End

~ 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

Blind Trust

Ohhhhh Mandy White.
I’m sharing this lovely little romance for my blog’s Tangled Tales. Love it. I want everyone I know to follow dysfunctional.wordpress.com

Dysfictional

~ ~ Photo by K Zoltan from Pexels ~ ~

This year, Gina’s gift to her husband would be extra special. It had been years in the planning; an interminable wait list, clandestine phone calls, hasty arrangements with the help of her sister when the time finally came.

Keeping the secret from Stuart had been agonizing; usually, they told each other everything. Conveniently, he was away on business when Gina and Maxine boarded a taxi for the airport. She told him her sister was recovering from surgery and needed an extra set of hands around the house for a couple of weeks. It was a half-truth; she did stay with her sister in Boston, but it was Gina who was recovering from surgery.

Gina had spoken to Stuart on the phone several times while she was away, but hadn’t told him she was returning early. He wasn’t expecting her for…

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