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Hello, to everyone (and by everyone, I mean the 11 people following this blog who will hopefully stop in)...
Chapter I: Choices
“How much money you got, scrotum-face?”
Held aloft by the Neanderthal bully, Connor’s feet dangled about six inches off the ground, one hand grasping the front of his shirt, another holding him by the collar. The boy was much bigger and obviously much stronger. Connor knew who he was, knew his story…his name, he was certain, was Moe.
The kid was trouble. This, coupled with his menacing size and reputation, gave Connor all the motivation he needed to stay out of his way. Today, however, in a hurry to get to class Connor decided to take a shortcut. Bad move. Apparently this was the ogre’s lair, the place where this Cro-Magnon liked to hang out and terrorize those who dared to set foot on the territory he had staked out. Kind of like dogs do after they piss around the yard to mark their turf.
“Hey, re-turd, I asked you a question. How much money you got on you?”
It was not so much a question as it was an ultimatum: give me all your cash or get your lungs pulled out through your nose.
The boy pulled Connor a bit closer to where they were almost touching noses. Connor could smell a combination of cigarettes and Cheetos on his breath. Or maybe it was Doritos. What difference did it make?
This guy had 5’ O-clock shadow, for Pete’s sake! Is that normal for an 8th grader? Of course this guy probably belonged in the 10th or 11th grade. Connor guessed his brain to be about the size of a T-rex, which was, allegedly, walnut-sized.
Moe’s appearance was enough to frighten any middle-school kid, some high-school kids, and, quite possibly, several adults. He was big, for one. Not fat big, but muscular big. He was tall with broad shoulders. Connor guessed his height at about six feet. Not many middle school kids got to 5-1/2 feet, but then again Moe was not supposed to be in middle school.
Moe had a head of shaggy brown hair which was always an unkempt mess, never brushed or combed. He washed it once, maybe twice per week, but the odor that emanated from his body threw even that generous guestimation into doubt.
Perhaps this was his preferred environment. Moe’s master plan was to keep failing until he was either too old to continue in school or until the administration just passed him to get him out of there (this second option was the more likely of the two scenarios). Here he is the big dog on the porch, towering above the rest of the kids on the yard. Most of the kids in this school hadn’t reached puberty yet, whereas this meathead should be dating college chicks, if he were actually smart enough and attractive enough to get the attention of one.
No one would dare challenge this guy. Make all the clichéd comparisons: David vs. Goliath, the 300 Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae, whatever. The point was anyone going head-to-head with this guy faced odds that were just as daunting, though the outcome was never anything to cheer about. David beat Goliath. The Spartans lasted three days, brave and defiant to the end, but ultimately lost, fighting to the last man. This was the kind of stuff that you drew on to face certain defeat with dignity, honor, and maybe a little hope that you COULD pull off a stunning victory.
With Moe, however, it always ended the same: strong bully approaches (ambushes, actually) tiny, elf-like middle school kid who proceeds to lose control of his bodily functions, then crumples like a Ford Escort getting hit by an 18-wheeler. There are no last stands, no stirring words before defeat, no dignity or honor. The end always resulted in some poor sap getting his ass kicked and his money, if he had any, taken by force.
Residual effects were more damaging: the embarrassment of getting your ass handed to you in front of your classmates, then having to walk around school the rest of the day muddied and bloodied, and the feeling of helplessness that always accompanied these assaults.
“Hey, butt-breath. I’m gonna ask you one…last…time. How much you got?”
By this time a small crowd had gathered. Connor had no illusions about anyone coming to his rescue. People these days didn’t stand up for what was right, and today would be no exception. In the midst of the crowd Connor was alone, on his own. The strong were allowed to indulge themselves at the expense of the weak while the sheep just let it ride, man, as long as they didn’t have to get involved.
Connor was fairly confident that no matter what he did he was going to get the crap kicked out of him. Fine…so be it. Was he scared? Yes. However he wasn’t going to whimper and cry in front of all these people. He wouldn’t give any of them the satisfaction. If they wanted to see blood, they were probably going to get to see blood. The sheep, however, would not see him cower and beg for mercy. Not today. Screw that. Connor was many things, but he wasn’t a sheep.
Connor stared into the eyes of the troglodyte, calm, determined, and steadfast. Scared to death, but steadfast nonetheless. “You want my money? You’re gonna have to take it from me.”
“’Scuze me? I don’t think I heard you right, worm.”
Connor steeled himself. “Well, maybe your head is too far up your ass to have heard me right. Let me put it in terms even someone with your limited brain capacity could understand: you want my money, you’re gonna have to take it from me. I’m not gonna just hand it over. So do whatever you’re gonna do, just get it done.”
That, it seemed, struck a nerve. Moe’s eyes widened, his face turned a couple shades of crimson. Did this little worm just say what he thought he said? Apparently no one had ever challenged him like this, and it took him totally by surprise.
“Someone’s getting a whuppin’!” came a cry from the crowd.
“He told you!” said another.
The bully looked annoyingly at the crowd, but only for a moment. He then turned his attention back to matters at hand.
Connor knew he had scored a verbal hit. He started to think about the Spartans standing in the pass, overwhelming odds against them, how brave they were. Wait…the Spartans all died in the end. Not a good analogy. Stupid Spartans.
Maybe Moe would just drop it and forget the whole thing out of respect for this little turd who was brave enough to challenge his overwhelming superiority. Yeah…right. Brave wasn’t the right word…stupid was a more apt way to put it.
Moe was pissed, that much was evident. He had just been embarrassed in front of a crowd of onlookers. Chum in the water. His hands tightened their grip on Connor’s shirt, and now they really were touching nose to nose. Gross.
Connor’s heart was pounding. He tried to convince himself that the shaking in his legs was from the cold air surrounding him, except that it was the middle of April, and it was 80 degrees.
At any rate, he had said his piece. Now he just had to wait for the response. He didn’t have to wait long.
(For those of you who don't know, the original Pixie novel can be bought here: http://www.amazon.com/Pixie-Warrior-ebook/dp/B00140IUE8)
Story two, The Gray Robes, is about Pixie justice. It’s set in the first third of the 14th Century and in England. A fully human pixie granddaughter is burned as a witch by the gray robes. This is a huge mistake. This story introduces two new characters. Timothy is the un-winged son of a Katra Pixie. He’s seven years old in this story. Sha’Jael is a weeks old daughter of Sha’mia, high queen of all pixies and a main character in Pixie Warrior. (Drollerie Press). Sha’Jael insists that Timmy is hers for life.
She and Timothy confront King Edward and his two companions. Edward is seeking his bastard son whom he fears has gone missing. He rides into a complex situation. Timothy misdirects him until the village is ready for them. Pixies are alerted. You need to know that the king’s riders have with them a crazed priest, made insane by a pixie bite that will eventually kill him. He was one of three gray robes that burned a pixie’s human granddaughter as a witch. Bad idea that! Here are bits:
All pixies are a bit impetuous. Pixie babies are even more so, and though my cousins of the House of Sha would dispute it, Sha babies are the most impetuous of all. Sha’Jael fluttered down from the oak where she’d hidden and landed toes first on Tim’s shoulder, and many things happened.
“Demons!” the priest screamed.
“A fairy!” The king was awe-struck and meant no insult. Everyone knows fairies are nasty things, just as all know that pixie and fairy are locked in battle until the last judgment.
Jael hissed at the King, displaying teeth grown long and sharp for the hunt.
The knight with the crossbow loosed the bolt at Timothy. Faster than most eyes can see, Jael was off Timothy’s shoulder and had the bolt in hand.
She hovered in front of the king, rage on her face. Her voice was raised, and from a pixie baby that means it was squeaky. “One of your men lost this. I return it to you. Loose another at my Timmy and I’ll make you all bleed. Timmy is mine. … And I am NO foul and stinking fairy.” She made a rude very rude face, something involving squinting eyes and a protruding tongue. “I am PIXIE, twelfth princess of the House of SHA; and you will not call me fairty!”
The king made a half mocking, half serious bow. “My abject apologies, Princess.”
Jael fluttered close to the king’s face – too close for his companion’s comfort. One urged his horse forward and batted at her. She darted up and back. The riders moved forward. Someone shouted, and a hail of arrows – well aimed arrows – struck the ground in front of them. They reigned to a sudden halt.
… So that’s that bit. I like this little pixie and I like Timothy. So does King Edward. Later we have this:
Sha’jael for all her scolding (and hissing) attached herself to Edward. She danced on his table, sat on his hand or shoulder, flirted shamelessly, and in the process taught him more about pixies and their human relations than any amount of pedanticism could have.
When I walked into the dining hall the men were focused on a conversation between King Edward and Jael and Timothy.
“So, it’s all settled. You are betrothed to young Timothy?”
“I’ve chosen him,” she said with considerable finality.
Timothy rolled his eyes. “She’s a baby,” he said “and silly.”
“Tim is not as certain as you are, Princess.”
“He will be,” she said. “I’ll be fully grown in a year. He’ll see. I’ll be irresistibly pretty. All the Sha are. He’ll be smitten.”
The king slapped his knees and the others laughed. Sha’jael blew a kiss to Tim and wing colored a gorgeous and flirty pink, going quickly to emerald.
Timothy blushed, and the laughter grew. “You’re not even two months old. You’ll change your mind,” Tim was tolerant, even a bit condescending.
“… won’t,” she said.
“You’ll only be as tall as you’ll get by year’s end, but not mature for at least twenty years after.”
“… I’ll be gorgeous.”
Timothy paused. “I can see you will be. …” Her wings turned pink again. “But most pixies don’t mate until after one hundred years at least. … I’ll be old or dead.”
“You have too much pixie blood for that.” She crossed her arms. “Besides, I don’t have to wait. … “
“Hopeless!” Timothy threw up his hands.
“So that’s a ‘yes’ then?” the king asked to laughter.
Tim paused again, looked the pouty Jael up and down and sighed. “That’s a maybe.”
The knight’s laughter turned to a loud roar.
Bits from Story three, Timmy and Jael, follow. In this story Timmy comes of age, at least as far as the 14th Century is concerned. Love blossoms but prematurely for Jael and Timmy. The pixie elders separate them. Adventures follow. Wicked fairies, the black plague, stuff.
Tentativley the first paragraph is:
“Three things happened in 1347. I turned fourteen, which made me an adult in everyone’s eyes – except those of my aunt and mother. A ship for Genoa landed at the London docks and most everyone in Scotland and England died as a result. The third thing? Well, I’ll tell you about that later.”
Later we meet a new character. She just kinda showed up in this story. I hadn’t planed this one at all:
I ducked to avoid a collision with Katra’ Jayin’s newest daughter. She was ten days old and had only one flying speed: as fast as she could go. She wing-braked, which is a lot like skidding to a halt in mid-air and circled my head twice, landing on my right shoulder.
“Good morning, Tamalee,” Unfortunately a food now has a similarly spelled name, and it is pronounced exactly the same. Alas, we don’t foresee these things.
She gave me a huge kiss on the cheek; she kissed everyone. “Momma and papa are still sleeping. They were up all night! Did you know that? So it was hard to sleep. It’s hard to sleep when you are up. Did you know that? … Aunty told me to chase a bug.”
I snickered at that. She ignored it.
“I caught five gnats, a green biter and one hopper. I watched Cousin Anna milk the goats. And Katra’Jael is sitting on the old wall where the rock pens are. She isn’t doing anything.”
That bit of news was disturbing. Jael was always doing something, usually involving keeping me within her line of sight.
Without a breath, Tamalee rushed on, “… and we’re going to have a big dance tonight.”
“First I’ve heard of it,” I said.
“Of course,” she said. “I just told you and I just decided to organize it. Well, b’ye!” She zipped off with that abbreviation of ‘God be with ye,” but made a long loop around Old Oak and returned to hover in front of my face. “You could dance one dance with me. … Even if you’ll dance ALL the others with Jael. Everyone know you belong to Jael.”
Everyone but me. Jael claimed me as her own when newly born, and that had been that. Well settled in her mind, she made sure it was a fixed idea in everyone else’s too. Until the last year or so, she’d had the bad habit of showing hunt teeth and hissing at every female, human or pixie, who sowed the slightest interest in me – interest that wasn’t motherly, that is.
I didn’t mind too much until this past year. I like Jael, though sometimes I like her more than other times. Last spring-day I had porridge and ham with the Widow Whitmore and her daughter Isabella. Isabella is two years past me in age and a Basarith granddaughter. That makes her a very distant cousin. She has glossy black hair and a sweet – and accommodating – disposition.
Jael’s muttering about ‘pulling off her wings if she had any, traveled through the village in half a day. Jael was scolded by everyone but so very unrepentant that Isabella found someone else upon whom to bestow her flirtatious smiles.
Later in this story we have this (rough draft only):
“Jael?” I spoke her name softly, using the same tone I’d learned to use with wounded animals.
Nothing. Not even a sigh.
“Jael,” I repeated. This time it wasn’t a question. I touched her cheek and gently lifted her head. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she turned her head away.
“What’s wrong, Jael?”
She said nothing. I tried to coax her head toward me, and she shook off my hand.
“Jael?” I spoke more emphatically.
“You’ll marry now … and it wont’ be … it won’t be me. … “ She said it so softly I had trouble hearing it. “You … are the age …” She swept the air with her hand. “All the unwinged find mates. You will marry Isabella, and I’ll die.”
I wanted to ask her if all pixies were so full of nonsense, but I already knew that answer.
“I have no intention of marrying anyone right now. I’ve got the blood of all four houses in me. I may not have wings, but I’ve got the blood – and just enough Pixie nonsense – to keep me alive for a long time. And I’ve got enough pixie sense to know that turning fourteen did not change me from boy to man, even if it does them.”
I copied her sweeping gesture. She didn’t raise her eyes to see it, but it wasn’t wasted; she followed the shadow of it.
“But when you marry … it won’t be me …”
It’s hard to explain just what those plaintive words did to me. I’d spent the last seven years fending off her claims on me. I’d been alternatively flattered and annoyed. I liked her. She was companionable most days, and we’d shared lots of adventures. Her one flaw was insisting that she and I were destined to marry.
I ran my fingers through her untended hair and pulled a bit of plant dross from her wings. “You’re a pitiful mess,” I said. And then I did the most unaccountable thing. I kissed her. I lifted her little chin and kissed her tear salted lips.
Understand that we’d kissed before – but not like this. They were little pecks. She was prone to kissing my cheek and flying off, and I kissed her forehead once. But this was … a kiss.
I was staring at the late news with the volume turned down when Danny’s picture flashed on the screen. It took a moment for my brain to catch up to the fact I was seeing his picture on television. I sat up, reached for the remote and turned up the volume. The serious anchorlady was saying that the boy was missing since late that afternoon. He was last seen leaving a pick-up baseball game at Fletcher Middle School, riding his bike in the direction of home.
They showed his vital information on screen. Danny Darwin, twelve years old, five feet tall, ninety pounds, brown hair and blue eyes. Last seen wearing a red Nike tee shirt and blue jeans.
I knew most of this.
I’d just met him that afternoon when I almost ran him over. I was driving home from work, brooding on my soon-to-be ex-wife, when he rode his bike right out in front of my car. I swerved and avoided hitting him, but he dumped his bike and took a little slide.
“You okay?” I asked, getting out of the car as he picked himself up. He was skinny, with limp brown hair that hung down in his face. His red Nike tee shirt was a half size too big. I’d guessed him to be ten or eleven.
“Oh, man, that was close,” the boy moaned as he examined a tear in the knee of his jeans. I squatted down to get a better look at the damage as the surge of adrenalin started to melt away and the sledgehammer in my chest slowed its tempo.
He sat back down on the ground and pulled up his right leg, looking at the wound to his jeans and the blood on his knee. Tears threatened to spill as he turned his pale blue eyes up to mine. He swallowed hard.
“I’m okay,” he said.
I liked him. He was a tough kid. Aside from a skinned knee and a small cut on the palm of his right hand he was fine.
“What’s your name, kid?”
“Danny,” he said. “Danny Darwin.”
I gave him my hand and pulled him up. “Okay, Danny, my name’s Mack. I’m sorry about your jeans but I think your bike is alright.” I stood the bike up and looked it over. A baseball mitt dangled from the handlebars.
He smiled and looked at his bike, hardly a scratch, his knee already forgotten as he took the handlebars.
“We’re friends now, Danny, and all my friends call me Mack,” I said. I put my hand on his shoulder and gave him a gentle squeeze. “Now listen. People driving cars aren’t always paying attention like they should, so you have to be responsible for your own safety. You understand? You’ve got to be the one paying attention.”
“I’m sorry, Mack, I’ll be more careful,” he said. “I promise.”
“You could have really gotten hurt. You’re lucky I have cat-like ninja reflexes,” I said, trying to take the bite out of the scolding.
“I’ll pay better attention, I promise,” he said. His eyes shone with the truth, pure and simple.
An old Monte Carlo was stopped at the intersection a half block away. It turned in our direction and I motioned Danny to the side of the street. It rumbled toward us slowly, leaving a trail of gray smoke in its wake. We let the car pass and then I gave Danny a serious look.
“You gonna watch where you’re going?”
He nodded vigorously. “You bet I am.”
I chucked him on the shoulder and smiled. “Alright, Danny. You take care, now.”
He got on his bike and rode away, looked back over his shoulder at me, smiling and waving as he pedaled down the street. I waved back and hollered for him to watch where he was going.
A graphic with a phone number appeared on the screen and the anchorlady implored the viewers to call with any information that might help locate Danny. I memorized the number as they switched to a story about a double shooting on the Westside.
I went to the kitchen with Bandit, my yellow Labrador, following closely. I dropped some ice cubes into a tumbler, soaked them with Jack Daniels and added a splash of water. I picked up my cell phone on the way to the back door. Bandit led the way out to the deck. I savored the slow burn of the whiskey as the dog sniffed around the perimeter of the yard, hoping to root out an opossum or a coon.
Naturally, I wondered if my encounter with Danny had anything to do with his disappearance. Did he hit his head when he fell and suffer a concussion? Maybe he’s disoriented, lost on his bike somewhere.
Not likely. His head never even hit the ground and he was fine when we parted.
Would he run away? I had no idea, but he seemed like a happy, well-adjusted kid to me. You never know what someone’s home life is like, sometimes even when you know them well, but I didn’t sense any fear in the boy in our brief meeting.
It could be as simple as a miscommunication with his parents. It’s Friday night; maybe he made plans for a sleepover with a school buddy, and maybe his parents forgot about it.
No. That’s a reach, and the cops would have covered that angle by now, anyway.
The simple explanations that resulted in a safe outcome for Danny were few, and would have been investigated first. It’s only been five hours, but if it’s already on the news, the boy didn’t turn up in the most likely places.
This felt different from all the other times I’d seen or read news stories about missing children. I’d met him; he was more than just a picture on TV -- he was a kid in the neighborhood.
I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach; an unpleasant, rolling sensation. I gripped the deck railing and tried to imagine that everything would be fine; Danny would be found unharmed, smiling and riding his bike with his baseball mitt dangling from the handlebars. But a dark wind kept blowing the thought away before I could get my arms around it.
This kind of thing is on the news all the time, but it’s never in your neighborhood. And as long as it doesn’t happen in your neighborhood, you can keep it from being quite so real. It’s a sad story on the news, and sure, those are real people, but not to you, not really.
Now it happens right here, right down the street. The media would soon have the Darwin house staked out, if they didn’t already. Danny’s parents hadn’t been on the news tonight, but it was only a matter of time. Their nightmare would be there for all to see. The neighbors, my neighbors, would voice their horror and pledge their support. The other locals would watch in a mild state of horror from their couches and dinner tables.
I drained my glass and set it on the railing, picked up my cell and dialed the number for the police.
“Jacksonville Beach Police Department, Officer Wallace speaking,” a man’s voice announced.
“Hello, my name is Mack Anderson and I have some information regarding Danny Darwin.”
“Hold one second, sir,” Officer Wallace said.
The air was thick with humidity and the sea breeze seemed to have given up for the night. I felt the familiar sting of a mosquito on my neck. I killed the insect with a quick slap and wiped its bloody remains on the leg of my softball shorts.
A metallic click in my ear and a new voice came on the line. “This is Detective Cahill. Who am I speaking with?”
“My name is Mack Anderson. I have some information on Danny Darwin that might be helpful.”
“What have you got, Mr. Anderson?”
“I saw Danny this afternoon. He was riding his bike and I almost hit him. I got out of my car and talked to him to make sure he was alright. He seemed fine, and we went our separate ways.”
“Where did this happen?”
“I was driving west on Seagate Avenue, on the block between 9th and 10th Street. Around five thirty this afternoon.”
“You sure about the time?”
“I’m sure about the approximate time. It was between five thirty and five forty five.” I explained the sequence of events that approximated the time.
Cahill took down my full name, address, and contact numbers. “The detective in charge of this case will want to speak with you. Probably tonight. Are you at home right now, Mr. Anderson?”
“Keep your phone handy. I’ll call you back.”
I went inside, showered and put on khaki shorts and an Allman Brothers concert tee shirt, vintage 1988. Then I mixed another drink and went back outside. The first drink hadn’t done much for me, but as I sat on the deck looking up at the stars in a moonless sky, the second one began to work. I realized that I hadn’t thought about my soon-to-be ex-wife in at least three hours. Had to be a new record.
Cahill called back.
“Mr. Anderson, would it be alright if I stop by in about fifteen minutes? I can save you the trouble of having to come to the station.”
I looked at my watch. Five minutes past midnight. I wasn’t going anywhere, and I wasn’t ready to go to bed, so I told him sure, drop on by.
True to his word, fifteen minutes later I heard a car door slam in the driveway. Bandit barked twice and looked at me. I waved him down as I stood and walked inside. He trailed me through the house and I opened the front door just as a man was reaching for the buzzer.
I guessed him to be in his early sixties, with thin gray hair combed across a deeply creased forehead. He was taller than average, with a narrow face and strong jaw line. His eyes were gray and hooded, a spray of crow’s feet fanning out from the corners. The sleeves were rolled up on his white Oxford button-down, the collar was unbuttoned and his blue and red striped tie hung an inch low. He had the air of a hard-working man who was having a hard day.
“Detective Cahill,” he said, flipping open a small leather case to display his badge.
We shook hands. He had a wide hand and a solid grip. I invited him in and showed him to the kitchen.
“Coffee? Something stronger?”
“Just some water, please,” he said.
I fetched him a bottled water from the refrigerator and we sat at the kitchen table. He asked me to go through the account of my meeting with Danny, and I gave it to him as I had done earlier on the phone. He checked his notes as I did so, letting me recount the tale without interruption.
“Do you recall anyone else in the vicinity at the time? Any cars, pedestrians walking by, neighbors out in the yard, anything like that?”
I reviewed the encounter in my mind once again, but no images of bystanders emerged.
“Sorry, detective, but I don’t recall anyone at all.”
“Try to keep your mind open to it, maybe something will pop up. That happens, sometimes. The human memory is a quirky mechanism.”
“I’ll do that,” I said, but I didn’t hold out much hope for a forgotten detail.
He flipped his notepad closed and stood up from the table. “We appreciate the information, Mr. Anderson.”
“I know it’s not much, but I thought it might be helpful,” I said, wishing I had more to offer.
“It’s very helpful. It narrows the time frame and helps us track his movements.”
“Am I the last one to see him?” I asked.
“I’m not in charge of the investigation, so I couldn’t tell you that,” he said. He didn’t say if it was because he didn’t have the information, or didn’t have the authority to share it. “Either way, we appreciate your help.”
“If there’s anything else I can do, don’t hesitate to ask,” I said.
“I can’t think of anything, but I would like to use your facilities if that’s alright.”
“No problem. Through the den, down the hallway on the right,” I said. He probably wanted to take a covert look around, but I didn’t care. I figured that was why he wanted to “save me a trip to the station”. He was smooth if somewhat transparent.
When he returned he thanked me for my time and suggested that the detective in charge of the investigation would still want to talk to me. I was sure a thorough background check would be performed, but there were no marks on my record, save a misdemeanor Drunk and Disorderly charge from my college days, the result of an unfortunate incident at a frat party.
I walked him to the driveway. His car was an unmarked gray Chevy Malibu of recent vintage. We shook hands again.
“Good luck, detective. I hope he turns up in good shape.”
Cahill gave a weary nod. “You and me, both.”
Bandit stood next to me in the driveway and we watched Cahill’s taillights as he turned the corner at the end of the street. Maybe it was just my state of mind, but I didn’t get the feeling Cahill was holding out much hope for a safe recovery. Bandit looked up at me. There was doubt in his eyes, too.
I desperately needed to stop and think. I turned my head to judge the distance from me to the monsters chasing. Monsters they were, although I never got a good look at them. The things I did see were just images as they ran through the pale moonlight that filtered down through the high barred windows.
Their eyes were the red of glowing embers and their mouths were full of sharp, pointy teeth. I suppose it was to make it easier to devour me. Their skin was black and slimy. They were part canine, part hell, and the hatred oozing from them was unmistakable.
Of course, we all know what happens when the girl, being chased by the psycho, looks back? Yep, you got it. After sliding what felt like was 40 yards on my knees, I corrected myself. That was a bit of luck on my part and while I knew it was stupid, I looked back again. I also know that while everyone would sit in their safe home and throw popcorn at the screen, I have to believe it is human nature to do so.
The dogs, for lack of a better term, were so much closer. I wanted to stop and cry. How did I get here? Where was I? And then there was my personal favorite, “Why me?”
Before I could look back around, I was bouncing backwards off a wall or what I thought to be a wall. Before I could land on my backside, something grabbed my arms and short sharp scream burst from my lungs. Before I could blink, I was hauled up off the floor, feet still wanting to run, and me, still wanting to obey.
I looked up into the most perfectly black eyes I had ever seen. There are so many shades of black, each one just a hint different. These were utterly black and the way I knew they were I knew they were, was because the skin surrounding them was so white, it faintly luminous.
“Run!” I tried to get out.
Harsh breathing filled the hallway and it took a moment to finally realize it was mine. The other sounds were still there, but different now. Shuffling nails now, no longer running. Panting and snuffling, instead of that damn growling.
I tore my eyes, with some effort, from the black holes in front of me to look back.
A whimper came from one of the things and then it was followed by more. As I watched, the pack as a whole turned and fled. Still suspended, I whipped my head back around to look at… what?
I started to feel the cold of his hands on my overheated skin. I looked back at his eyes and realized he was looking at me in a way I didn’t to much care for. A rumble came from his chest as he groaned and closed those black holes.
I knew I needed to get away from him, that he was as just as dangerous as the dogs that just left or maybe more. Apprehension filled my soul as I watched him.
He tilted his head back and breathed deep through his nose and I knew he was taking a breath of me. When he opened his mouth, I watched with horrified fascination as his incisors grew to enormous length. He took another deep breath, through his mouth this time, and then he lowered his head and opened his eyes.
Where before was just unrelenting black, now was the fiery depths of hell. Crimson pupils burned with lava colored irises. He lifted me higher, closer to those teeth and my silence was broken. Scream after ragged scream erupted from me like water from a burst damn. He laughed softly as he bent his head to my neck. I kicked my feet wildly, looking for something to connect with. He shifted me to hold me with one impossibly strong arm, using his other hand to gently move my head to the side.
“You don’t know what you have done by just being born.” He whispered, lips moving against my throat. “Don’t worry, little Mia. You are only damned”
I screamed my throat raw one last time as I felt his fangs pierce my neck.
Gasping, panting, and sweating, I sat up on the couch and about fell off of it trying to get a look around. My coordination when I first wake up is always in question, but in this instance, since I didn’t brain myself on the coffee table in my haste, I felt it would be a good night. To my relief, there was no one around with big teeth and creepy eyes and I got my pulse back under control after a moment or two.
I looked at my cell phone and saw it was 7:27 PM. I had a party to go to a 9:00 so I groaned and headed for the kitchen to make coffee.
After putting a pot on to brew, I made my way to the shower down the hall, cursing my best friend Samantha for throwing this party. It was my 24th birthday so there was no way I could have gotten out of it. I am not anti-social, but I prefer sitting at home with a good book. It’s less hassle and I am always for less hassle.
Stopping short, I went back to the living room to switch on the stereo. I put Godsmack in the CD player and felt a little better. I live for music and TV can go to hell. However, that’s just my opinion and I won’t force it on anyone… much. Turning the volume up, I headed back to the shower.
Standing under the hot water, I contemplated my nightmare. Under normal circumstances I don’t remember my dreams at all but this was the second time in a week I have had this dream and it was identical in every way. Trying to shrug it off, I heard Awake come wafting down the hallway. This was my favorite song on the CD and I started to sing along with it.
Rinsing my hair, I suddenly froze. My nerves were drawn tight, tension thrumming through my body. To the best of my recollection, he never laughed, or chuckled, in that song. He never sounded exactly like the man in my dreams and for damn sure, he never sounded like he was right outside my shower door.
I have those frosted shower doors that curve and they open by sliding from the middle. I don’t like T.V. but I do watch horror movies, not that I liked them any better, and am easily impressionable at the old age of 24. I have seen Janet Leigh killed in a puddle of chocolate syrup enough to know that I didn’t want to go out that way. I really don’t like chocolate that much and so, laugh if you must, I installed a latch on the inside of my shower. I was standing there with soap in my hair, afraid to open my eyes even the tiniest bit. I couldn’t remember if I locked it or not. I was having a difficult time trying to get enough oxygen.
“This is stupid.” I muttered, hopefully to myself. “That was a dream based on one to many of those damn movies that you watch so much. Go ahead and crack an eye lid and just look, you damn coward. No shadowy figure is going to be standing there.”
I did as I was told. No one was going to tell me I was a bad soldier, not following orders. I was right. No shadow. No one was waiting with a really sharp knife and a bottle of Hershey chocolate. Immediately I felt foolish. What I may lack in coordination I more than make up for in imagination. I finished rinsing my hair.
. If I timed this right, I would have 10 minutes to shave my legs and get out before I froze to death. I grabbed the shaving gel, lathered up and began my favorite part of showering. One day I was going to win the lottery, not that we had one here, and have laser hair removal performed on my legs. I have always fantasized about that. The big check was in my hand and the reporter asking me two things.
Number one- Are you going to keep working?
Are you nuts?
Number two- What is your first purchase going to be?
Laser hair removal.
That’s my big dream.
Lost in my daydreaming, I was almost done when I realized I was singing along with Awake again. Realizing that at that point in shaving wasn’t good for me. Ankles are a bitch at the best of times. Add to that my impressive grace and throw in a dash of ‘What the Hell?’ and you have the recipe for blood. Well, more precisely, my blood. There was a good inch and a half of skin missing from my ankle.
“Son of a …” was as far as I got before another freaky moment. From the corner of my eye I thought I saw movement. There was the shadow. It was on the other side of the room, the side that I couldn’t see before. It was the killer. My heart froze in my throat.
I couldn’t tell if he had the required bottle or not, damn frosted glass. Before I could get my head around fully to see and scream, there was a very low laugh and then nothing. The shadow stood there unmoving.
I decided quickly that I should keep my mouth shut. The frost worked for me as well, after all, and he didn’t know that I had seen him.
Trying desperately to think of something to use as a weapon, I remembered the shampoo. It burns my eyes, so it should burn his. But what if he is wearing a mask? Wait dummy, if he covered his eyes he couldn’t see. I looked at the razor in my hand. I turned it so that the handle stuck out between my fingers. That could hurt. What if I combined them both? Awesome! At least I had something to hurt him with. Police would have DNA evidence to try to find my murderer with if nothing else.
Speaking of hurt, my ankle stung like it was on fire. I hate water in a fresh cut. Speaking of water, I was freezing my ass off standing there. I looked down and was amazed at the amount of blood in the shower floor.
“Get your head together, lady, and get moving” I said under my breath. Looking at the shadow, I realized it hadn’t moved an inch.
“Ok, deep breath” I inhaled and looked at the latch. It was locked. Would it make a click when I lifted it? Would it give me away? With a razor in one hand and Paul Mitchell’s’ best in the other, I looked at it.
Damn it, just open it. Adrenaline was flooding my body and I knew I had to move. Using the top of the bottle to flip it so that maybe he wouldn’t see my hand to well through the frost, it was silent. Well, till it swung back and hit the door. But that tiny bit of noise was covered by the noise of the now ice cold water.
Grabbing the handle with my pinky and to hell with him noticing my hand, I slid the door open, closed my eyes on the way out and squeezed the shampoo bottle at the cloaked figure blocking the door. Then I made a jab with the razor handle.
I cracked open an eye when no one attacked me. I stood there wide eyed and felt really, really stupid. I could only thank God that there was no one there to witness that total embarrassing act. My bathrobe was now dripping with shampoo as I realized I had hung it there last night.
I started laughing and then laughed harder when I felt the hysteria rising up in me. Legs shaking, I lowered the lid of the toilet and sat there for about five minutes while trying to get a grip on myself. That dream had me really screwed up, apparently.
Reaching in the medicine cabinet I got out the band aids and antibiotic cream and proceeded to clean my leg up. After wrapping up in a towel while cursing my shampooed bathrobe, I walked to my bedroom to find something to wear. Knowing Sam as I did it was not going to be a jeans and t-shirt party. Even though she threw this party for me, I was grumbling as I yanked my clothes out of the closet.
A simple short A-line dress in dark green velvet was about the only thing I had to wear. It was kind of cute. Fit tight across the breasts and then flaring out to just above the knee. I paired it with some black tights and tall black boots that covered my calves. Looking in my mirror, I suppose it did ok. I am not a fashion freak.
I went back to the bathroom for some light cosmetic work and I was as ready as I was going to be. I looked in the mirror for a moment longer. Something didn’t feel right, although I couldn’t explain it. It was as if the night was waiting for something, holding its breath, in a way. Then I thought about the bath robe and turned away.
Flipping the light out, I stomped down the hall. I really hate being the center of attention. No, hate isn’t a strong enough word. Detest? Despise? Anyway, you get the point.
I returned to the living room and took Godsmack out of the player. When I turned it over to examine it, sure enough, there was a scratch on it. Ok, that explains that. The laugh was my doing.
Coffee spoke to me in the way that lovers do and I couldn’t resist the temptation. Sitting at the bar I took a deep breath of the favored drink. I skimp on most things, shopping wise, but my coffee was my escape. I looked at the clock and even my coffee couldn’t wash away my unease about the upcoming event. I had six minutes to go before I had to leave.
Carrying my cup, I went and chose some Beethoven to put in the player. Fur Elise filled the room and I started to sway with it. Closing my eyes, I let the magical piano take me away. There is nothing more beautiful than the piano in my opinion. It was a marvel of construction with all of the keys and all of the strings. However, they were nothing without the one piece of wood at the bottom to bring it all together, the sound board.
Abruptly, I saw the face in my dream again. I heard his voice and felt his lips. My eyes snapped open. My relaxed state of mind was gone. Damn it.
I put my cup in the sink, grabbed my purse, keys, and hit the road. After I securely locked up, that is. I am paranoid, but I have my reasons.
Getting into my Kia, I checked my backseat. Nope, no bad guy there. I let the windows down and the warm Bama air ran through my hair. I had a back up of Beethoven and I tried to recapture my happy place. I was five minutes from Sam’s when my phone rang.
“Hey” I said. I thought it was her because I was 2 minutes late. She hates that, but it was my party. I got nothing from the caller.
“Hello?” I said again.
“Hey, at least you could talk dirty and make both of us happy” This came after another moment of silence.
“What? Nothing? Call back when you got something to say.” I pulled the phone away and thought I heard laughing. I flipped it closed and then opened it again to check my last call number. Unknown. Great.
Sansuig is his planet’s Customers Enforcer for all blood coming from Earth. Unfortunately for him, the elite vampires of his home planet aren’t willing to settle for legal blood: They’ve created a market for the sommeliers, smugglers who sneak contraband blood from Earth back home to sell at exorbitant rates. His department just doesn’t have the funding to keep up with these flashy sommeliers, but that doesn’t stop his boss from demanding a high-profile arrest--or else. Now he’s got to enlist the help of Henry, a twelve-year-old human with irresistible blood, to catch one of the most notorious smugglers the planet’s ever seen. Not to mention contend with a tabloid journalist he doesn’t even know is on his tail…
OUTLAW SOMMELIER VAMPIRES FROM OUTER SPACE tells the stories of Sansuig, a vampire alien looking to save his job, Henry, a human boy pulled into the mission, and Gasun, a tabloid writer trying to make his fortune on an actual scoop. It is complete at 30,000 words.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
I look forward to hearing from you,
The Year 264
As the edge of dawn began the daily struggle to beat back the deep
darkness of night, the intruder felt comfortable enough to stand after
crawling unseen and unheard inch by inch for hours. A nightbird sang
out a few nervous notes and the call was echoed in the far distance.
Audvakr never heard the approach, he never heard the slow stealthy soft
footfalls, Adosinda; his wife, merely stirred and rolled over. The
tip of the razor sharp knife held by the intruder hesitated only for
a moment and then pricked the pulsing artery in Audvakr’s neck.
Instantly awake, his battle honed instincts commanded him to freeze
and in that moment, his life was saved. Audvakr struggled mightily
in the battle of emotions; one of rage to leap and destroy the enemy
who had invaded his yurt and the other to remain utterly still and
accept his fate.
The knife blade was laid gently on Audvakr’s neck as the intruder
leaned in close. It was the smell that gave him away. Audvakrs’ eyes
flashed with anger as his older brother Ricimar, leaned in and whispered,
“We will have no more argument, you and your clan have one season to
leave. This time, next year, I will kill you” And with little more
noise than a gentle zephyr, he was gone.
In the long minutes that followed, Audvakr subdued his rage and
replaced it with a chilling calm as he considered his options;
challenging Ricimar for supremacy was foolhardy and most likely
suicidal as most of the clans considered Ricimar as the Ric or king
already, so leaving these lands with the clan became the only option.
The question of where to go plagued Audvakr’s mind. He had always
been good at remaining calm in battle in order to see the larger
strategic positions. Now he must be calm and brutally honest with
himself so that the options could be properly considered.
To the East, lay the lands of the deadly Alans and Saspirii, who fought
great battles while mounted on fast and nimble, but small horses. The
daunting prospect of carving out a homeland against the Alans, who never
took hostages and relished the idea of tying prisoners to a tree and
setting it alight, did not sit well. Audvakr thought of his childhood
friend Tucovar’s fierce border fight several years ago that left him with
a useless left leg and dependent on the women for his every need.
To the North, lay the Vandal people and utter destruction. The Vandals
and Goths of late had tolerated each other as long as there were long
distances between them, but as the number of people had grown, so had
the accounts of attacks and a few burned settlements. Of all of the
places that Audvakr and the clan could go, this was the most dangerous.
South, across the great sea, called the Euxine Sea by the Romans, lived
the dark skinned and fierce Phrygians who were ruled but never subdued by
the Romans. This too could end in disaster, if he and his clan survived
the sea voyage and tried to establish a settlement with unknown farming
and hunting resources on the far shore, and a counter-attack occurred
while his back was to the sea, disaster was assured. The Romans might
spare him and then enslave him, but the Phrygians would not.
Seemingly surrounded on all sides by enemies, Audvakr mulled the Romans
over in his mind, well organized and well equipped, but reports from the
spies, told of many new Emperor’s in a short amount of time. This must
mean that there was a leadership problem in the Empire.
“I wonder how that affects the loyalty of the Legions?” mused Audvakr.
Shaking his head to force himself back into considering the options,
caused his wife to stir, roll over and drape her arm over his chest.
To the West, over mountains and another sea, lay the great Empire of the
Romans with their highly disciplined, fast moving and extremely well
armed legions. Audvakr closed his eyes and allowed himself to relax into
the barely awake stage of consciousness where the Gods could speak to him
of their intent.
Audvakr dreamed that he was trapped in a bear fighting ring armed only
with a small spear. His opponent, instead of a bear was a Roman Centurion
fully armed in heavy armor. Anytime Audvakr tried to make for the side of
the ring, the Centurion was there to block him. What had been cheering of
the crowds for him had now become jeers and catcalls. There was only one
way out; directly attack the Centurion. Gathering his courage, he charged
the Centurion. As he approached, the armor no longer seemed quite so new,
the sword no longer quite so bright, shining and sharp. The closer he got
to the Centurion, the older and more aged it appeared. When Audvakr was
finally within combat distance, the mighty Centurion was merely a collection
of twigs and branches that fell into dust at the first thrust of his spear.
Beyond lay the exit in the ring that he had been searching for. Finally
relaxing, he felt the tenseness leave him and then, then the sweet embrace
of nothingness. With his wife’s warm body offering solace against the early
morning chill, Audvakr, struggled to remember the dream, something about
being trapped, fighting a Centurion, and fighting an old Roman.
The Gods tired of playing with him, and stuck his mind as lightning would
detonate an old gnarled tree. Audvakr snapped wide awake and understood
that the Romans were politically weak and a quick thrust would deliver the
Empire into his hands. Smiling at his good fortune, Audvakr considered the
problem of his people. The Gothic people had always honored those chieftains
that split off and established their own kingdoms. Trapped between the Euxine
Sea and foreigners who desired their land, the Goths were perpetually at war
with each other to expand each clans land. Audvakr realized that his problem
lay not with the ability to fight; instead it lay with the lack of land.
The Romans, although larger in force were weaker in substance. His father’s
advice rang in his ears “Avoid the strong and attack the weak” he had always
said when in his cups. Audvakr needed to split off and become a chieftain,
Rome was politically weak; why not become the ruler over Rome?
It was a vision as clear to Audvakr as anything he had ever experienced;
invade and conquer the Roman Empire. The Goths had the men to overcome the
Legions natural advantage in movement. If one group were to secretly travel
west across the land using the Romans own roads and another large group led by
Ricimar to the south by sea… The Romans would naturally respond to the large
seaborne attack with Legions from Rome led by one of many Emperors eager to
prove himself to the people of the Empire. With the Legions racing south to
fight Ricimar to the South, Ricimar would be desparate for help but Audvakr
would instead swoop across the land and seize Rome. With the capital occupied
by Audvakr, the Romans would become disheartened and would surely submit. And
if Ricimar should happen to fall… Audvakr smiled and the vision of Audvakr
living amongst the golden palaces of the Romans unburdened by Ricimar lingered
long enough for him to slip into the most restful sleep he had ever known.