Thanks

Just wanted to say a big Thank you to Lee A Wolff for the lovely comment on Amazon books about The Box. It always makes my day when people share how my work made them feel. And thank you again to all of you who reviewed and supported my works, it can be the deciding factor sometimes in whether I indulge in a writing day or not.
Much Love to you all
Blessed be

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Springfeild Author Fair

Had so much fun at the author fair at the Springfield public library on Saturday. Mr. Jaquith the organizer of the event was a true gentleman patient and understanding. It was great to meet so many people truly interested in what The Box was about. I had a bunch of fantastic conversations with passersby about reading, writing, following one’s bliss and remembering to live in the now. Not to mention all the wonderful authors at the fair who’s works covered everything from eye surgery to drug dealing.

All my fellow authors were supportive and encouraging and I think any one of there books would be well worth the read, one however stood out particularly for me. It was a book by a charming lady named Luzelenia Casanova called The Masquerade is Over. It is a captivating story that chronicles her own experiences with abusive relationships from childhood through getting involved in and eventually finding the strength to get out of an unhealthy romantic relationship.  I haven’t has a chance to finish it yet and I already can’t wait for the second book she said she was working on. Luze is also working on organizing a charity masquerade ball for October 2014, all proceeds to be donated to victims of domestic violence of all types. I told Luze I would be happy to help her in anyway I could and I am not ashamed to admit that I am doing that now by letting you all know about her fantastic book and her admirable mission.

If you feel so inclined please help Luze in her mission to educate and eradicate domestic violence by looking up her book online The Masquerade is Over.

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The things I could get done, if not for the free will of others

There it was, the moment I’d been waiting for, that break between challengers when she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, and for just that moment however long it lasts, I am free look at her. If I were the lord of time I would hold this moment still and live in it forever. Spending the rest of eternity sitting across the room from her would be such a sweet torture all things considered. As I indulged in my tragic romantic fantasy I watched her third eye straining against the block we’d put up around her. As much as I knew it had been a necessary evil.  I couldn’t help but squirm slightly in my seat, with my whole being I wanted nothing more than to stride across the room and remove ever layer of obstruction between us, consequences be damned. Except that my Pandora would not thank me for that, not when she learned exactly what the consequences would be and in my heart I knew she’d be right.

I kept that insight in the forefront of my mind as I watched the barkeeps’ uncouth attempt to seduce her. As usual knowing I was on the high road didn’t make the journey any easier,  I found myself rubbing both thumbs across my fingertips to disperse the pent up anger energy before it vibrated this body into a puddle of mush.

Oh and now he was going to have the impertinence to try and throw me out. The hubris of the whole thing would have been comical in different circumstances. As it was it was all I could do to keep myself from smiting him and his establishment. Instead I offered him a banal smile and my full attention while he enumerated the reasons why I was going to leave immediately and never dare to let him see my butt ugly face anywhere ever again.

“Ok Martin.” I said when he’d finished “you’ve laid your cards on the table now it’s my turn. I know.” I told him simply.

His reaction was stereotypical of the kind of man he thought he was. “I don’t know what you think you know jack ass and I don’t care this is my bar and,”

“Yes this is your bar but I know where you got the money for the bar Martin. I know you like to tell people you were a marine, but you were really a weekend warrior. I know as far as the government is concerned you were K.I..A in an ambush that took out your whole squad. I know that it was really a trap and that you were paid off to lead your buddies into it. And I know that when you were trying to decide on your new name you chose Dean because you wanted to sound cool like that guy from the Supernatural show.”

He considered me for a moment before saying.  “That is an awful lot to know sir. Usually when a man knows so much and tells you freely it’s because he wants something in return for keeping his mouth shut.” I smiled in a way that confirmed his supposition.  “What do you want from me?”

Here was the tricky part I couldn’t technically make him to do anything all I could do was offer him a choose of two evils and hope he would stay true to form and pick the one that kept his own ass out of the fire, at least for the moment.. Leaning across the bar I told him, “I don’t want you to do anything Martin not really.” he took a couple steps back eyeing me warily. “But I will offer you a proposition. In exchange for keeping what I know about you to myself all you have to do is not walk Pan out to her car tonight and lock the door behind her.”

“What? Why?”

“Doesn’t matter. But I promise I’m not going to hurt her if that’ll help you make your decision.”

It was agonizing watching him mull it over, mostly because I knew he wasn’t torn about whether or not to betray another friend but that he hated the thought of losing all that potential revenue she could bring in. When he go to the point in his musings where he started calculating his odds against me in a fight I had to stop him. For his own sake. “Martin you have a cluster of berry aneurisms nestled between the frontal and parietal lobes of your brain just above the left temporal lobe. One well placed thump from me and, well it wouldn’t kill you, but you’d wish that it had. But again it’s up to you.” I didn’t necessarily need him to believe me I just needed him to be afraid it could be true. Of course the fear and testosterone driven pissing contest were bound to draw unwanted attention. I really needed to get out of here and see if I could pull it somewhere else.

“Fine” he grumbled. Not good enough I needed him to specify what he had decided.

“It’s a deal then?” I asked. “You’ll do what I asked in exchange for me keeping my mouth shut.

“Yes” he barked refusing to meet my eyes.

“Smart move on your part I think Martin.” I told him pushing away from the bar. “Kudos to you. Oh just one more thing before if you could just keep our little conversation just between us. Please.” He nodded once head still cocked at a hangdog angle.

Now all I needed to do was fend off the God of war. I wish I didn’t have to do this without back up but mom and Selina weren’t convinced that this was the moment grandfather had been talking about and although Artemis had voted with me I hadn’t wanted to ask her to openly defy her mother by coming with me. Maybe I could find a way to use that.

Though I could feel him coming like a storm, it still took him till the place was cleared out to arrive. I needed to get rid of him before Pandora left the building. He pulled up in front of me on a black and silver motorcycle spewing gravel like it proved something about his manhood. “I knew it was you from seven league off.” he said when he’d cut the engine. “Know how? Smelled like someone was burning a roast.”

“Fraid I’m getting a little hard of hearing in my old age Ares, why don’t you get off that motorcycle come over here and say that to me.”

“No thanks cousin, I’m fine where I am.”

“Come on Ares you’re the God of war.  You’re not afraid of little old me are you?”

“Afraid of you. Hah no cousin. I’m not afraid of you. My orders were to observe not engage. Father was very clear about that.”

“Oh so it’s your father your afraid of then.”

“I’m not,,,,,,,,, father will be very happy to hear we’ve finally found her. The Pandora.”

“Have you? Where?”

“I’m not stupid Prometheus.  Why else would you be here?”

Instead of answering I just nodded as if he’d asked a good question and shifted just a bit to block his view of the window more effectively.

“I mean she looks just like her.” I could tell by the pitch of his voice that it wasn’t me he was trying to convince.  “And she’s cut off her own hand before she’d steal a penny from a purse snatcher and her luck. This girl, holy crap, even I feel bad for her. And this place this is exactly like the place she described to Phobia.” He stopped abruptly as though he’d just thought of something, eyes flicking over the nearest shadows suspiciously. “And why else would you be here?”

“Why indeed.” Normally I would have left it at that just to watch him squirm, but I needed to get him as far away as possible before Pandora came out of the bar.  “You’re right Ares what would I be doing here, confronting you, if she isn’t Pandora? And where are my mother, sister and niece? I mean with all Zeus’ most staunch and militant supporters here on earth, circling this woman’s family like vultures, where could they be.  What’s that term you coined? Ahh yes. Divide and concur. How long do you think you and your obnoxious offspring will last once Zeus is in Tartaros? I hear there’s a vacancy on a mountain we both know. ”

“You lot  can’t do that.”

“Can’t we?” Just like with Dean I just needed him to think that it might be true. “You know maybe your right. Why don’t you check in with your dear old Dad? I’ll wait.” It was less than effortless to throw up a block around Ares like the one we had Pandora ensconced in. “What’s the matter? Having trouble getting through. What was that first rule of conquest you came up with?” He took off like a bat outa hell. “Oh yes cut off the lines of communication.”

Here she comes. Thank goodness Hephaestus is the brother with the brains. The night was so black that for a moment she stood in a tunnel of light created by the open door. I watched as she casually strolled in the direction of her car shoving the nights take into her bag as she dug for her keys. She was singing, she’d always sung her feelings, most of the time completely unaware that she was.  It used to be a game I played against myself when we were together all those  long years ago, to figure out what kind of lover she needed what she’d been singing that day.  My record had stood at 13,023 for, 692 against when I lost her.

I listened now, imagining. She was singing low and sultry taking innocent phrases and turning them into something salacious. I recognized that mood, if she were mine the ride back to the house would be spent playing with her hair one handed. Once there I’d put on some suggestive jazz and slowly undress her while we danced, gently lay her on our bed once she was nude and massage her entire body before,,,,,

Oh crap the singing’d stopped.  She was staring wild eyed at me looking like she was getting ready to make a run for it. Crap.  My hands came up automatically to in a gesture designed to reassure. “Excuse me.” I blurted out desperate to keep her from running. “I’m sorry, I must have startled you.” She chanced a glance back at the bar no doubt assuming Dean/Martin wouldn’t be far behind her. She did a good job hiding it but I knew her too well to miss the way her posture drooped when she realized he wasn’t. I needed to keep her attention, keep her from coming up with a plan b. “I got to see most of your victories tonight. That’s an impressive talent you’ve got. Pan, isn’t it?”  I moved a few careful steps toward her, not to close for comfort, but close enough for her to be able to get a good look at me. Maybe just maybe she’d recognize me. “That’s quite a lyrical name; a name for a strong individual.” She was staring at my hands. Maybe it could be as simple as that.

“No offense.” She called in a strong voice. “But I can’t help but be reminded of the fox and the crow.” I couldn’t contain a small burst of sardonic laughter at that. Of course she would remember Aesop and his stupid fables but not me. And of course she took advantage of my distraction. She was halfway to her hillock of a car before I looked back up.

No, no I couldn’t let her go. This had to be the life grandfather had been talking about, I just knew it. Even if it wasn’t I couldn’t do this anymore. I needed her back in my life, in any capacity. What could I tell her, what could I offer her that would get her to choose to spend time with me. “Of course. You’re right. I admit this is huuh, stupid on many levels. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” Biting my tongue on my ramblings I looked into her eyes determined to get as much out of this our first conversation in millennia as possible.  “But the bartender told me that this was your last night.” Was that a hint of recognition in her eye? “I’ve tried to get your attention before, but it’s so noisy and crowded in there. Anyway I was afraid if I missed you tonight, I might not get another chance.” To intense, lighten the vibe.  “Which of course sounds traditionally serial-killer, doesn’t it.” Great job idiot. Damage control. Now! “This must be very scary for you. I am truly sorry.” About so many things.  “Please Pan, please forgive me.” Because I don’t think I ever can.

She paused for a moment, studying me, I held my breath not quite dareing to hope but wishing I could. When she said, “So I assume you’ll understand then when I ask you to take about a hundred steps back.” I couldn’t even be upset about it, there was no reason she should not view me as a threat.

All I could think to do was to try to express my grasp of her perspective. “I do, I understand completely, and I will, I will, but,” without thinking I took a few steps forward, reaching out to run my fingers through her hair the way I used to, causing Pandora to retreat even further. I knew it was done in ignorance, but still the slight stung. “If you could listen for just one moment; I realize how bad this looks but I promise, I SWEAR, I don’t want to hurt you in ANY way.”

“Oh yeah, and I’ll just take your word for that, ‘cause that wouldn’t be gullible at all.” She countered. “Everybody knows that villains are required by law to announce ‘I’m planning on killing you in the most gruesome and painful way I can come up with’, right?” the worst part was in any other situation I would be proud of her stubborn refusal to be taken in. Having finally managed to make it to her car she began to fumble behind her back for the handle I had only a matter of moments to convince her to trust me and absolutely no argument to make my case with.

Except perhaps this one, “Okay, yeah, you’re right again. Trust is something that’s earned, not given. And I have given you no reason to trust me, unless you count the fact that if robbing you, or killing you, or hurting you at all was what I wanted, I could have at least five dozen times by now.”

“Is that supposed to be,” she searched for the word she wanted, “reassuring?”

Seriously woman I wanted to scream at her. Instead I forced myself to say.  “I see your point,” biting my lip I dispersed some of the energy that all this nervous tension had built. I glanced over my shoulder wondering how long till either Ares came back or we were discovered by some other deity. It couldn’t be long, time to through caution to the wind. Walking right up to her I said “Now here is mine,” wondering what exactly I was going to come up with.

Maybe if I started by stating the facts something would come to me. “You’re in need of cash, lots of it and fast. Why else would a mother of,” I peeked over her shoulder to make it look like I needed a clue “I’m guessing at least three young children, given the two booster seats and their position in your car, choose to leave them to work these hours, in a place like this? No offence intended to its proprietor.” The bar and Dean suited each other actually. “Now, as lucrative as your particular gift is, you must admit that the situation is not only less than ideal, but also dangerous, as proved by this conversation.” Good appeal to her sense of responsibility to her children.  “Besides, you deserve better than this.” That was merely a statement of fact.  “So here is what I’m proposing;” If I could design the perfect job for her what would it be? “I own a book shop that is in need of a manager.” Yes that would be it, but don’t make it sound like her dream job or she’ll dismiss it as too good to be true.  “The money, I’m sure, is nowhere near what you can pull in here. But it’s consistent; ten hours a day, five days a week and we pay overtime.” I tried not to smirk at what I said next. “I can’t offer you the excitement or glamour you enjoy here, but the hours are more mainstream, and a person is far less likely to get robbed or arrested while working for me. You can start Monday. The address is on the card.” Manifesting one I indulged in a long meaning full look into her eyes to fortify me in case she refused.

She stared back at me, it almost seemed like she was entranced and I didn’t even bother to try and mask the love, longing and desire I felt for her.  “Mother Goddess!” she whispered. Oh fuck that did it. I had no idea which one would answer but I had no doubt one of them would. And when they found out what I’d done there would be hell to pay. “Do I know you from somewhere?” she asked in a soft half aware tone.

Not now Pandora why would you ask me that now.  We are out of time. “TAKE. THE. CARD.” I growled through clenched teeth. She accepted it like someone acting without volition; her tiny, silken fingertips brushed one of my hot tender scars on that hand.

I barely had time to revel in the wave of pleasure the small touch had caused when Artemis’ voice came out of the darkness. “Uncle, Unnncle…”

“Here, I’m here!” I yelled back, stepping hastily away from Pandora. I knew it would be better if I kept Artemis and Pandora apart till I had a chance to fill my niece in on our cover story.

“Came as soon as I heard.” Artemis informed me pointedly, and just as pointedly demanded to know.  “What have YOU been up to?”

“Nothing much, had a few drinks, hired a new manager.” I told her as lightly as I could “We’ve needed one for ages. She starts on Monday, and then I was waiting for you.”

Though I knew I was in for a fight with the others it was nice to see the happy surprise on Artemis’ face. She began trying to force thoughts into my mind at a supersonic rate. I caught “Really? How much does she know? How much can we tell her? Am I allowed to take her out and play with her?” before I got a stabilizing hand on her elbow, a gentle reminder that she was in human form and her current enthusiasm was dangerous to it.

I took a last look at Pandora taking the time to read the card I’d given her now that she was safely inside her vehicle. As I watched she ran her fingers lightly over the embossed lettering and a soft smile stole across her face.

Come on Artemis I said leading her away. Not only do we have to turn the sanctorum into a bookstore/ coffeehouse by Monday, but we also have to convince your mother and mine that it’s a good idea.

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Author fair

Will be at the Springfield public library author fair on September 21st from 10 to 4. More details to come.

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“The Box,” First Review

Best of morning to you all my little blog -babies, and I must say that this truly is a wonderful morning for me. I can not think of a better way to get over, around, under, and through my recent bout of malaise than waking up and finding the following in my inbox.

 

KIRKUS

REVIEWS

 

THE BOX

Fedelia, Laura Ryan

AbbottPress (326 pp.)

$37.99 hardcover, $20.99 paperback, $3.99 e-book

ISBN: 978-1458208101; January 30, 2013

 

 

BOOK REVIEW

Misanthropic, hapless do-gooder Pan Blair works through various family and personal problems in her journey of self-discovery, along the way seeing herself not as the everyday stay-at-home mom she expects but Pandora of Greek mythology, with Zeus hot on her trail.

 

Pan is trapped in the last place she wants to be: a surprise party in her honor. The bash was her husband Sedryck’s idea—in reality, it’s a business schmoozing session. The story proceeds through a series of domestic issues. Her husband’s “sure thing” business deal, in which he has invested all their savings, turns out to be a scam, just as Pan suspected. She’s even scammed by a woman named Phobia and her son Damon, a duo that later returns as hostile deities. When her husband’s scheme fails, Pan gets a job managing a bookstore owned by a family of kindred souls who are actually gods and goddesses. Through them, Pan discovers both the frailty of her marriage and her once-and-future soul mate. During this self-discovery, author Fedelia makes use of Pan as an ignorant narrator: Though she tells the story, everyone knows what’s coming but her, which can be a bit frustrating. Regardless, from Pan’s unusual curses (“Crud muffins,” “Boogers”) to her innate distrust of nearly everyone but her three girls, Pan’s character is painted with charming strokes. Her transition from mom to semideity presents a difficult challenge, but Fedelia wisely avoids presenting the gods as intimidatingly godlike or turning the narrative into a mock-heroic farce. The author chooses instead to keep the deities’ language contemporary—a wise decision until Pan learns her true identity by watching memory discs, presumably recorded when the incidents occurred in mythical times. Here, the modern speech rings jarringly false: The centaur Chieron uses the word “wonky,” and the Titan god Chronos, lord of time, says, “you must be tripping.”

 

A captivating, largely successful attempt to meld everyday life, romance and fantasy.

 

 

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Hope

For those of you been trying to trick or in some cases even coerce me into giving up juicy information about book two here is a small taste, a micro bite if you will.

Hope

is

brave

Hope

is

true

Hope

is

strong

Posted in Book Two | 2 Comments

Chapter Four

CHAPTER FOUR

 

 

 

 

We spent a good few hours after that thoroughly picking apart the topic of what we would or would not have done, till Tzumar poked his head in the door asking “Can I come back in now Mommy?”

“Not if you’re calling me Mommy.” Sitka told him, her tone much more harsh than her expression.

“Even if I have a peace offering with me?” He qualified bringing one arm through the cracked door displaying a large white paper bag.

“I suppose I could be persuaded to let you back in,” Tzumar stepped over the threshold making a triumphant whop sound as he did. “if you make us some more tea, please.” She added waving our cups at him.

Without breaking stride he hooked them with one finger muttering, “I figured that was coming.”

“Thank you my uliuli uli.” she sang blowing him a kiss, Tzumar made a fierce growling noise that Sitka ignored, choosing instead to return her attention to me.  “So, what kind of questions do you have for me.” she asked brightly, laying her face on one hand and holding the fingers of one of mine with the other.

“Why could I see myself in the mirror?” I asked, blurting out the first inane question that came into my head.

“Ha, because there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to.” She asserted, I gave her a quizzical look.  “The whole ‘vampires can’t be seen in mirrors thing,’ is the biggest misnomer of vampire mythology there is.” She took a second to let that sink in, then went on with authority. “You’ve already noticed that normal humans don’t see us.”

“Don’t, not cant?” I interrupted to ask

She held up one finger like I had noticed a significant point. “We can be seen if we chose to be I’ll get into that in a minute, but normally the only way a member of the herd,”

“The what?”

“The heard,” Tzumar repeated laughing. “It’s what we call the chattel under our auspice.”

“Excuse me!” I demanded getting to my feet.

Sitka interceded in a less bombastic tone. “Tzumar just means that we are to them, as shepherds are to sheep. Though he certainly could have chosen a less offensive way to put it.” Tzumar acknowledge her point with a ‘whatever’ shrug and went back to what he’d been doing, Sitka pulling me back down, continued her explanation. “Normally the only way one of them can see one of us without our intention is to catch our reflection in a mirror, or” she amended when Tzumar made as if to offer his two cents again, “if one of them is particularly sensitive to the occult they may catch us out of the corner of their eye or if they are passing a room we are in or vice versa.”

“Then how did the mirror myth get started?”  I asked curious despite myself.

“Can’t say for sure but my best guess would be, the first of us to get caught that way glamoured whoever it was that caught them.  It’s what I would have done,” She confessed. “Making someone believe the opposite of the truth is always easiest, especially when the truth is the opposite of what they want to believe.”

“But glamour, that’s real.”

“Oh yes. It’s how Tzumar got us lunch.” She reveled, accepting a roast beef sub and a cup of tea from him as she spoke.

“You coerced someone into giving you these?”  I asked hoping one of them would deny it.

Sitka just looked at me, a slightly uncomfortable expression on her face. Tzumar, dropping a plate and cup on the table in front of me answered simply.  “Yes.”  Then he stood there, arms folded across his chest staring at me as I spluttered my disapproval.  Cutting me off he added. “It’s how we get what we need, clothes, money, food.”  Sensing my judgment he leaned in, using one clenched hand to emphasize his words. “Without so much as a by your leave, our souls were taken from us to ensure the herds protection.  Parting with the occasional donation to make our existence less,” he searched for the word he wanted, “severe. It’s the least they can do.”  I opened my mouth to point out that donations are usually voluntary but he spoke over me. “If it bothers you that much, think of it as a tithe. You’ll find out soon enough it doesn’t even scratch the surface of what we are owed.”  Then he turned on his heal and marched stiff legged to the kitchen, leaned against the counter and ate his sandwich with his back to us.

Giving up on getting a rational answer from Tzumar I attempted to reason with Sitka. “But I still don’t understand, why take roast beef subs of all things. You all may have lost touch with mundane things like making a living, but the cost of three subs is a lot for some people to lose and seeing as how we don’t even need to eat,”

Soft chuckling, tolerant from Sitka, leaning more toward condescending from Tzumar interrupted my diatribe.

 

“I’m sorry,” Sitka apologized, noting my embarrassment at their reaction. “It’s just you know when you’re so used to something it just seems like it should be, well but obviously it isn’t.” She floundered to a stop, took a deep breath and started again.  “I should have explained it better. As vampire you’ll still need to eat, far less than you did before to be sure, once a day really is fine, the higher in protein of course the better.”  With that she plucked a large piece of roast from her sub and popped it in her mouth, as if I might need a demonstration.

Admittedly I hadn’t seen that one coming, but still, “I don’t understand, if we can live on regular food why are we drinking blood at all.”

Tzumar took over while Sitka finished chewing, apparently already past his earlier irritation with me. “Ok, so the blood, it fuels our super natural powers, um strength, speed, fast healing, you know all the things you need, to be able to fight demons, fairy that kind of thing, as well as our ability to glamour, be seen, find those under our protection. The food, the regular food that’s to fuel your body.

“Fuel our bodies for what?” I demanded not as over our disagreement as he was.

“What do you mean for what?”

“Why would we need to fuel our bodies at all?” They both stared at me blankly.   “We’re dead.” I reminded them, I felt unnecessarily.

Tzumar and Sitka exchanged an Ahh haa kind of look then Sitka turned back to me. “Lillian,” she began a secret smile on her lips. “we’re un-dead, not dead. There’s a big difference.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Take your pulse.”

“What? Why?”

“Just do it.” she insisted pulling my left hand over my right wrist and pressing my fingers into it.

“I don’t feel,” I started to say, but then I did. A strong thump under my fingers, a long pregnant pause,  perhaps three times longer than it should have been and then another.

“You see.” Sitka said reading my expression. You still have a heartbeat, a pulse.  Granted it’s a lot slower than it was but it’s there, because you’re not dead, your undead.”

“Which means as far as we can tell; that although the soul has been evicted from the premises the body doesn’t require it to go on. Think of it as an accessory that’s gone out of style, probably better off without it, you’ll get more dates that’s for sure.”

Sitka shot Tzumar a quelling look, clearly expecting his remarks to illicit a negative reaction from me. I however was too busy putting two and two together and getting five to worry about Tzumar’s insensitivity.

 

“How much actual blood do we require?”

I hadn’t asked either of them in particular but Sitka seemed to feel the onus was on her to salvage what was supposed to have been my welcome to our super secret supernatural organization talk. “Not much really.” She assured me, right hand raised in the manner of someone taking an oath. “No more than a, a token amount. Once a week at most.”

“Define token amount.”

“A teacups worth.”

“That is provided there are no imminent threats in the area.” Tzumar felt obliged to add.

“And if there is an imminent threat?”

“Nine times out of ten it can be handled with no more than a single pint taken from a healthy adult?”  Sitka was directing a look Tzumar’s way that crossed the border of quelling and went well into blatant threat territory.

“And the tenth time?”

“Listen Lilly, what you have to understand is we don’t really decide how much to drink.” Sitka was speaking slowly and with an underlying conviction I found slightly menacing. “What I mean by that is it’s more of an instinct, a compulsion that drives us to take what we need in order to protect the people under our protection.”

“Sitka what exactly are you trying not to say.”

“Just that occasionally something will come up that’s so big, like a plague, demon invasion, blight, in other words something so big that it requires a sacrifice to be made, for the greater good.”

“So the stories of vampires completely draining people,”

“Are much more true than the belief that vampires can’t be seen in mirrors.” Tzumar finished for me, something more than defeat and less than triumph in his voice.

 

It was into the ensuing uncomfortable silence that Iollan walked, his face completely healed, beautiful and ageless once more I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone had had to die to make that happen.

Posted in IF | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Chapter Three

Asylum.

Chapter Three

“How?” I breathed still touching my face, experimentally pressing into the skin to feel its elasticity, lowering the mirror I caught sight of him, Iollan, and the corrosive effects of his run in with the holy water, taking in the implications I posed a different question.  “Why” I asked standing up, the  dime to quarter  sized holes on the backs of my legs burned in protest, “Oh my g” the last word got stuck in my throat “That’s what you were doing in the mausoleum you were turning me making me into one of you.”  I accused voicing the realization as it was made. I didn’t remember moving but somehow I was right in his face, fists raised and clenched when I asked again, “Why? “Why would you do this? I was at peace. After everything you put me through, everyone you took from me over the course of my life, you couldn’t leave my afterlife alone?”

“I didn’t make you.” He growled grabbing my wrists “I just fed you. You were made long before your death.”

Wrenching an arm free I slapped the good side of his face yelling “Liar.”

Recapturing my wrist more firmly he wrestled back my attempts to hit him some more while appealing to his friends. “You see what she’s like, completely intractable. This is going to be imposable.”

“Well what do you expect?” Sitka responded. “You haven’t explained ANYTHING.”

“I told you, there wasn’t time.” he countered spinning me around so that my arms were criss-crossed over my chest, his body pressed hard against my back in a reverse bear hug. I stomped hard on his foot causing him to release me but before I had time to turn around and continue my assault he was standing in front of me a murderous look on his face and an open hand raised to strike. Instead of quailing or lifting my own hands in defense I stared into his eyes daring him to do it.

At that moment Sitka stepped between us facing Iollan while wrapping a protective arm around me. “Stop it,” she ordered “This is in no way about you so stop acting like an injured child and take care of your responsibilities. Go. Feed.”

“Aawwwoooee,” Tzumar’s taunting voice came from where he leaned slantwise against the wall, he waited till Iollan glanced his way to add. “Did Momma slap your little pee pee Iollan?”

“Shut up Tzumar.” Sitka spat. Iollan ignoring him nodded at her and jumped back out the window we had come through.

“What the hell is this all about?” I demanded, pulling away from Sitka I punched straight downward onto the metal rail of the closest bed, hardly noticing the small dent I left in it.

Really Iollan should be handling your initiation,” Sitka said rather severely, “but as you two seem to have gotten off to a rockier than normal start I suppose there’s no  harm in me taking over.

“I wouldn’t mind explaining all the ins and outs of her new life to Lillian, Sitka, if you’d rather not.” Tzumar offered, his implied meaning glaringly obvious

“Tzumar go make sure Lillian’s room is prepared.” Sitka told him.

“Iollan took care of that before he left this morning.” Tzumar said clearly unwilling to leave the room.

“Tzumar,” Sitka hissed between her teeth. “Go. Be somewhere else.”

Laughing once through his nose he headed toward the door walking backward , a mischievous smile lighting up his dark eyes and said “I’ll see you later sweet Lilly of the valley.” Winked and spun around just a step before hitting the swinging double doors.

Sitka made an exasperated noise in the back of her throat, rolled her eyes and snatched up the rucksack Iollan had left. “Come on.” she said, in a tone that implied we should forget about Tzumar for the moment.  “Let’s get you cleaned up then we’ll talk.” She preceded me through the still swinging doors as though it was a given that I would follow and not knowing what else to do, I did.

“Where are we going?” I asked scrambling to keep up, my new body worked so much more efficiently than I was used that I plowed into Sitka on the other side of the doors.

Smiling gently she griped my upper arms, steadying us both. “There is a staff dorm in the center of the building, it’s perfect for us because it cannot be seen from the outside at all and anyone exploring on a dare or something, loses their nerve long before they get passed the outer rooms.

I thought I’d take you to the showers and then show you, your room. I know when I was new born the first thing I wanted after blood of course was to get clean.” A wistful look came over face and she seemed to be talking mostly  to herself when she said “I was filthy, absolutely disgusting.” Then catching me watching her she brought herself back to the here and now with a little shake, smiled and put her hand on my arm like we were girlfriends exchanging beauty secrets. “You’re lucky you were in a mausoleum, not to mention that there are showers now. I had to refill my bathing tub three times before I got all the grave dirt out of my hair.”

Then she took off again moving at a steady clip, past unused rooms like the one we’d just left down one hallway after another decorated with peeling paint, moldy corners and crumpling plaster, till we stopped outside a door with a blacked out window and no handle, sticking her index finger where the knob would go Sitka gave a small grunt and a twist and the door sprung open. The room on the other side was so contrary to what I’d seen so far I gasped taking a step back as though its luxury frightened me.

Sitka laughed softly at my reaction. “An improvement on what you were expecting I gather.” She commented moving forward, I followed nodding and dutifully taking note as she pointed out amenities. “We call this area the UN-living room,” she told me, one half of her mouth quirked up in a grin,  indicating the room we had come into, good quality furniture and high end electronics decorated the space. “Over that way,” she went on, moving us forward and pointing to her right, “are the bed rooms. Around that wall is the kitchenette and down this hallway is the shower area.”

I followed her down the hall to another swinging door and into a large tiled room the middle of which was taken up by maybe a dozen cubical like partitions each with its own large, industrial no nonsense type shower head hanging from the ceiling. Sitka stopped in front of one four spots in. “We each have our own stall.” She explained “we set this one up for you a couple of days ago. The shampoo and soap, I know there not your favorites but I think you’ll find them more suited to your new senses.” Taking the proffered rucksack from her I nodded without really understanding, she nodded back smiling a little too broadly and pushed open the stall door revealing a small changing area protected from the shower by a thick plastic curtain. “Towels are hanging on the hooks,” she said pointing them out “and there are clean clothes in the sac.”

With that she turned to leave. “Wait.” I called thinking of a question.  “What about these?” I asked hitching up my dress to reveal the speckled burn pattern on the back of my legs.

“The water won’t hurt them and as soon as Iollan gets back he’ll fix you right up.” She assured me giving me a tiny shove into the stall.

Feeling out voted I started to striped down turning the water on as I did. I heard Sitka’s bare feet scrape on the tile as she turned to go and suddenly couldn’t bear to be alone. “Wait.” I called again, then asked the first question that came to mind. “What did you mean earlier when you said I was one of you?”

“Exactly what I said Lillian.” Sitka’s naturally mild tone sounded a bit exaggerated as if she knew I needed her patience just now. “That Iollan, Tzumar, myself and now you are vampire.”

“How do you say his name again.” I asked

“Tzu-mar” Sitka answered “like tsar.”

“No, no not him the other one,” I corrected “the one who brought me in.”

“Iollan?”

“Yes. Say it slowly for me please.”

“Uh-lann.” She pronounced each syllable separately and distinctly for me.

“Uh-lann.” I copied

“Yes that’s it.” She said “It’s Irish it means,”

“He who worships a different God.” I said stepping into the shower.

“Yes” She said again this time with a note of surprise. She went on but yes was the last word I listened to suddenly completely overwhelmed by the feel of the warm water cascading down my skin, the sight of my own once again firm and beautiful body, even the way the slightly metallic smelling water mixed with the lightly fatty smelling soap to create a whole new aroma that meant, clean. It was captivating.

It wasn’t till I turned the water off some time latter that I noticed Sitka had gone. Not that she was hard to locate, after getting dry and dressed I padded out to the un-living room and found her bringing a couple of cups of tea over to one of the sofas. “Come, sit.” She invited, folding her legs underneath her and holding out one of the cups for me.

“So,” she began jumping right in as I took my cup and a seat. “I was thinking while you were in the shower, perhaps it is best that I give you the history of your new people instead of Iollan. A woman should hear it from another woman. But first I want to ask you a question.”

“Ok.”  I said inhaling the steam rising from the cup, it was calming somehow and I wondered if this was some kind of coping method vampires used, going through the motions of something familiar and comforting from their previous lives.

“Why were you so mad at Iollan?” I looked up at Sitka through my eyelashes. “When I first told you what you are now. You attacked him.” She clarified mistaking my discomfort for confusion, or so I thought, but when I didn’t respond she answered the question herself. “It was because you were ready for death wasn’t it. You wanted to die, probably had for some time, isn’t that so?” Swallowing painfully I nodded staring into the depths of my tea. “That’s what I thought.” She said not unkindly. “Do you know how I knew that?” I shook my head still staring at my tea. “Because that’s exactly how I felt when it happened to me. Like there was absolutely no point to drawing even one more breath. I was trapped in a broken body  and an ailing mind, surrounded by people I knew but couldn’t remember, the smallest noise reverberated on my ear drums, the slightest touch sent unpleasant tingles all through my body, and even my favorite foods just didn’t,”

“Taste right?” I finished looking up at her.

She nodded “That’s how we all felt; it’s how it is for all of us. It’s the transition phase between human and vampire, when one is neither and both. I’ve often wondered if caterpillars go through something similar inside their cocoons waiting to become butterflies.”

“But why us, is it something we did something we didn’t do. I still don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t I haven’t explained anything yet. But I will now.” She said taking a deep breath, then seemingly interpreted her own train of thought to say. “You can drink that you know.” Pointing at my rapidly cooling cup of tea.

“Honestly I hadn’t thought so.” I admitted taking an experimental sip; it was so good, I found myself gulping it down.

Sitka smiled her gentle smile and shook her head. “Sorry that’s my fault, I should have said. We still eat and drink to fuel our bodies though admittedly we can run on a lot less. We only need blood to fuel our supernatural abilities.” Shaking my head I gave her an openly incredulous look, she took a long pull from her own cup as if drawing strength set it down decisively turned to face me and launched into my history lesson. “Vampirism,” she began “as we understand it began somewhere between the late 6th and mid 7th centuries by what would be termed to today as a coven of devote pagan witches, though at the time they were viewed more as powerful tribal priestesses.”

I quirked an eyebrow at her, she continued as if she’d expected just such a reaction. “They were matriarchs from nine strong families who lived in the general vicinity of Kent who had formed a coven, working together for the collective wellbeing of all under their protection. They were a powerful and gifted group of woman and word soon spread in the surrounding country of the priestesses who’s connection to the goddess was so strong that their men folk were never harmed in battle, their woman never died in childbirth, sickness and vermin were virtually unknown within the circle of their influence and even in the worst of droughts they could coax enough bounty out of land and livestock to keep starvation at bay.

The priestesses were generous and never stinted to help any and all who asked, giving potions and simples charms and amulets without asking anything in return knowing as they did the value of contented neighbors. Still, however good things were for the villages that surrounded them there was no denying that things were always better in the villages where they lived. And is the nature of humans the neighbors soon became jealous. Whispers and rumors started to fly that the woman used dark arts to steal the rightful blessing of their neighbors and keep them for their own. The priestesses who had been petitioned in spring to preside over the fertility rites of field and farm were by summer called witches and cursed for using black magic and by the time the leaves had started to turn it was clear to all that the Kings new church of the Christ had become involved and would soon be moving against them.

They knew their families would fight to defend them, but they also knew that, that would only cause unnecessary slaughter on both sides. They voted unanimously against fighting. They then discussed simply turning themselves in knowing it would mean months of torture before eventual public execution, but it would also leave their families completely unprotected and at the mercy of there enemies. So once again they voted unanimously against it.

Then the high priestess came up with a plan, it was something that had never been done before and she wasn’t’ sure it would work but at worst they would be dead and their families would be no worse off than if they had chosen either of the other two options.

That Samhain, when the walls between the worlds are at their thinnest, the priestesses of Kent gathered on their sacred hill, mixed their blood with the earth they stood on and offered up their souls in exchange for the power to protect all who sprang from their blood till such time as the earth herself should fade away.

It was a simple and quiet ritual, nobody even noticed anything strange until the next morning,  all souls day, when the Holy Father backed up by two dozen christen solders showed up to arrest the priestesses.

Their bodies were found on the hill, drained of blood and it was declared that they had killed themselves rather than face the churches wrath. The bodies were put in wagons to be brought back to the church elders as evidence that the witches of Kent had been dealt with, but they never arrived, neither solders, nor priest, nor bodies. Over the course of the next few months the solders and priest bodies were discovered in various places along the route they were to take but the priestesses never were and by the time a contingent could be sent to their families they had, to a man all moved away.

And so that is how Vampires came to be, we are the descendants of those original priestesses who gave up their souls to protect their families.”

I stared at her dumfounded, the mug containing the cold dregs of my tea feeling like a lead weight in my hand. “Sitka, why did you feel it would be better for you to tell me this than Iollan?”

“Because,” She said, “just between us, woman to woman, tell me wouldn’t you have done the same thing?”

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Chapter Two

Chapter    Two

My whole body ached especially my head. The birds were chirping too loudly for so late in the morning and there was a strange smell in the room, an odd combination of mildew and iron that mixed unpleasantly with the chicken soup’s salty residue. Despite all that, I was nauseatingly hungry, it didn’t help that I could hear a cat nearby eating with gusto licking and sucking and gulping. Must be that awful tiger striped thing Ruthy had badgered her mother into keeping. It wasn’t supposed to be in my room.  I considered opening my eyes long enough to throw something at it, but the thought of all that light on my retinas decided me against it. It sounded like a much better idea to stay put and wait for this migraine to pass or someone to bring me some aspirin, whichever came first.  Until I heard a pained voice whisper, “That a girl, good job, ooch don’t hold back.”

My eyes flew open of their own accord filling my head with punishingly sharp light. Crying out I tried unsuccessfully to move my head away from the source. “Shhtshshtsh,” the voice soothed, “It’s ok, don’t panic, everything is fine.”

Desperate to see I blinked frantically, still unable to move my head, all the while, words intended to comfort and encourage came from whoever owned the voice. Slowly the purplish black mass blocking my vision dissolved, bringing into focus, first an unfamiliar stone wall yards away and then a pink toned muscular forearm right in front of my face.  I tried again to jump back to push away, but was held in place by reinforced pressure on the back of my head. “Nope, not yet just take a little bit more. I promise everything is going to be alright.”

It was then I discovered the sounds of greedy feasting were coming from me, licking and sucking blood from the wrist pressed to my mouth. Writhing I fought madly all the while lapping furiously at the freely bleeding wound, I was disgusted and orgiastic. Overcome by both I bit down hard, which worked more effectively than struggling. “Little bitch.”  He swore jerking his arm away.

I was free. After being momentarily frozen by the sight of the ageless man hanging upside down in front of me, I attempted to escape. Scrabbling at the covers at my knees I fought to throw them off, only to discover the fabric balled in my fists belonged to a dress I hadn’t worn in years. Why would I have gone to bed in such an absurdly formal dress and my best shoes as well, even more befuddling, why were they both so tattered and dingy. Reminding myself that these riddles were the least of my worries I refocused on getting away, realizing when I tried to swing my legs over the side of the bed exactly what was off. “I’m in a coffin.” I shrieked looking wildly at my surroundings. “A coffin inside a mausoleum.”

Screaming incoherently and scrambling madly I fell to the floor taking the coffin with me. Crawling out from under it I made for the door, he caught me effortlessly, lifted me to my feet and shaking by the shoulders snarled “Shut up.” Twisting, kicking and scratching I kept up a steady stream of screaming, calling for help as loudly as I could till he punched me square in the face. I shook it off quickly; it wasn’t like this was the first time I’d taken a punch.  In the quiet that followed I could make out voices outside the mausoleum.

“You can’t tell me you didn’t hear that father.” Rumbled one.

“Yes, yes I heard it.” Answered another in a higher register.  “I think it’s much more likely to be cats fighting somewhere up in the woods rather than restless spirits.”

“It wasn’t coming from the woods father,”

“Calm down I’m still going to do the blessing. It’s not like it’s going to hurt anything to re-consecrate the ground if it will make you feel better.”

My capture had clamped a hand over my mouth wrapping himself around me like a python during the exchange. Now throwing us both to the floor he swore. “Damn it Lillian.” Pinning one of my ankles under his knees he bent to the ground filling two bags with dirt while I continued to struggle and yell. “They can’t really hear you.” He informed me pulling me to my feet and shoving a bag in my hands. “Hold this.” Wrenching free from his grip I bolted for the doorway, only to be thrown back from it with explosive force. “That’s right.” He growled pointing a finger and grabbing a rucksack I hadn’t noticed before. “You see what you’ve done. We already can’t get out that way. Now unless you want to be trapped in here for years follow me.”

Then he jumped straight up onto the ledge of a large window set thirty feet above us, holding out a hand for me once he landed. “Hurry up, hurry up.” he ordered. Flabbergasted I looked from him to the doorway and back again, but made no move in either direction. Losing patience he swore again jumped down grabbed me round the waist folded me over his shoulder and jumped back up and out the window almost all in the same motion. Just as we landed in the grey leaf litter a priest came round the end of the building mumbling prayers and flinging holy water, spaying us both lightly. Only it wasn’t holy water it couldn’t be, it had to be lava, tiny droplets of hungry molten lava that ate through the fabric of my dress and into the flesh on the back of my thighs.

We both shrieked with pain and he threw me off of him. I landed on my backside in the dirt, legs stretched out before me I sat up, frantically rubbing and tearing at them, some vague notion of ripping them off completely filling my head. On hands and knees he howled like a thing possessed, the priest apparently oblivious to our ordeal continued his prayer now aiming the vial of holy water at the building, just to the left of where we writhed. Grasping my ankle the ageless man used it to pull himself to my side just before the priest sent another wave of burning liquid where he had knelt.

Still growling at his pain the ageless man tossed me back over his shoulder and took off running, not stopping or slowing down till we came to the old cholera sanatorium at the edge of town. Shut down nearly a hundred years ago the brick of the building was barely discernible amid the tangle of vines and moss attached to it. Without hesitation he leapt through a glassless third story window and straight into what had obviously been one of the wards.

The low narrow bed frames typical of the time still stood in two mostly straight rows many of them even sported mattresses, sheetless and stained with rampart rodent damage, but still.

“Stupid bitch.” he yelled flinging me down on one of the least disgusting beds.

“Stop swearing at me.” I yelled back pressing my still burning thighs against the cool damp mattress.

“I apologies it’s just that having half my face melted off for no good reason makes me a bit cranky.” He bellowed, turning to display his injuries, the sight finally succeeded in shutting me up. The burn pattern created an irregular border outlining the left side of his face. The skin round the edges was blacked and curling like scorched paper, the flesh, muscle and fat appeared to be liquefying. It sizzled and bubbled and stank, as I watched globs of flesh ozzed off his chin hitting the floor with a mucus like splat.  Cheekbone, jaw and teeth shone through in spots, the eyelid was completely gone exposing  all of the white, it roiled and bucked, a stream of tiny clear bubbles formed and broke at the corners, adding to the overall gooiness of the area.

“You mean there’s a good reason to get half your face melted off?” The rhetorical question came from the far side of the long room where a big man and a slight woman, clearly friends of my abductor strolled toward us.

The woman’s bearing; coloring and body type put me in mind of Hawaiian royalty while the man had the squat broad structure of a mountain warrior, complete with a bushy black beard and sparkling dark eyes. Grimacing he examined his friend’s injured profile close up.  Though the ageless man looked down on him from a good six inches above his stocky muscular frame made him seem far more threatening, physically anyway. The new comer lacked the brooking sense of menace that seemed to be a part of my nemesis as much as his green eyes or golden brown hair. “Wow Iollan.” The shorter man exclaimed.  “I mean I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s improved your looks but it hasn’t exactly hurt them either.

The ageless man, Iollan apparently, rolled his good eye. ‘Come now Tzumar,” the woman chided “don’t provoke him, he’s having a hard enough day already.”

Laughing unpleasantly at his friend’s predicament Tzumar’s survey swept over to me. “Then again,” he murmured sitting on the bed next to me he took my hand,  “if there ever was a reason to get half your face melted off it would be you my lady.”

Snorting I pulled my hand away, wondering   how or if I should bring up the fact that the back of my legs were still burning fiercely.

Leaning closer Tzumar reached as if to cup my face whimpering in mock distress, “My lady is not beguiled by my charm. Why?”

“I have never found it charming when handsome young men tease wrinkly old woman.” I told him slapping his hand away.

“She thinks I’m handsome.” he announced to no one in particular.

But the woman turned to Iollan with a look of confused disapproval. “You haven’t told her, shown her?” she asked.

“Between trying to contain her and dodging flying holy water it must have slipped my mind Sitka.”

As he spoke she picked something up from a
nearby bedside table, dusting it off she shooed Tzumar off the bed and took his seat. “Lillian you are one of us now.” she explained gently, putting a small shaving mirror into my hand and guiding it up for me to look in.

The face that looked back at me was one I hadn’t seen in almost eighty years. Clear sharp blue/green eyes, full pink lips, shinning reddish blond curls and most shocking of all luminous, unwrinkled, porcelain skin.  Literally not believing my eyes I put a hand up to my face for conformation, sure enough the image in the glass mirrored my actions. Dazed beyond coherency I turned to Sitka silently begging for an explanation.

“Yes,” she said smiling, “You are one of us now. You are Vamp-ire.”

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Chapter One

IF

If a person is still a person no matter how small,

Is a virus still a virus no matter how tall?

Is a pillow still a pillow no matter how lumpy?

Is a person still a person no matter how grumpy?

Is left still left even when it turns right?

Is the dark still the dark once you’ve turned on the light?

“Those were the words he whispered to me the first night I saw him my little Lilliputian.”  The child in my lap was rapt, gazing up at me in an open mouthed stare, cocoa brown eyes wide as saucers, the rather pungent tang of milk breath particular to little children drifting up to me.

Closing her mouth she sniffed wetly and asked “Really Great Nanny.”

“Umm hum.” I assured her pulling a handkerchief out of my sleeve to wipe the partially crusted green snot rimming her nose. “ Just those words.” I confirmed “and nothing else. “He whispered them ever so softly right into my ear, with one cold powdery smelling thumb pressed against my lips.” I showed her what I meant with one hand smoothing her russet colored flyaways with the other noticing as I did that she was still in pajamas. “Are you home sick today little dove?” I asked

Instead of answering she drew my face down to hers with a pudgy little hand on my cheek and rubbed her slightly moist nose back and forth across mine giggling “uga muga muga.”

I didn’t like the thought of the little one being ill, it distressed me. “Where is your mother?” I asked her in an effort to make sure the child was being taken care of. “Is she here?”

“What did you do then Great Nanny?” She lisped

“What did I do when child?”

“After the man said the poem to you, don’t you remember Great Nanny?”

“I remember it like it was yesterday.”  I confirmed giving her a little squeeze “I was too terrified to do anything right away. I waited till he’d been gone from my room for a little while, I remember it seemed like hours then but I don’t think it could have been more than a few moments really.”

Then what did you do?”

“I screamed bloody blue murder.”

Then what happened?”

“My mother came running in, my little brother in her arms. At first she couldn’t be heard over the both of us crying.” The little one in my lap smiled at that, nodding and bouncing her encouragement for me to continue.  “Then Mrs. Tashos from down the hall bustled in, she was staying with us while my mother recuperated from having the baby.  She was a strange woman always so flousy and flustered and she never stopped talking about her teeth. Who does that I ask you. Anyway she bustled in and my mother handed my brother off to her and I told her what happened. At first my story seemed to scare her, but after she’d checked and found no one in the house and nothing amiss she lectured me about waking people up in the middle of the night especially when there was a new baby in the house and most especially knowing how early my father had to get up for work.

And then we all went back to bed.  The next morning it was my mother’s screams that woke us.  My little brother had passed away in the night. That was the first time I saw the ageless man.” The little dove in my lap sniffed again looking quite serious and subdued. “And the next time I saw him at my aunt Geani’s house was just before my cousin Sarabeth got lost for three days taking a short cut in the woods. She was never the same. After that I knew, I just knew, whenever that man turned up there was trouble coming, I used to try to warn people but nobody ever listened to me, I suppose because nobody else ever saw him.”

“When does he come Great Nanny? Does he come once a year like Santa?”

“No, there is no telling when he’ll turn up. Could be half a decade could be less than a week. He can turn up anywhere too, in your house, at a friend’s, in the store, on vacation. One minute everything is normal the next there he is, propped in a corner, watching you, his green eyes following every move you make. Like a predator.” Suddenly I found I simply couldn’t say anymore.

“He is not here Great Nanny I promise.” she told me with a child’s firmness, coughing thickly she smashed the back of her hand into her nose, smearing the moisture there.

Folding my hankie I cleaned her face asking again. “Where is your mother?”

Not hearing me at all the little girl jumped off my knee declaring, “And if he ever shows his face here I’ll kick and I’ll punch him and I’ll chop him.” she demonstrated as she spoke.

“No no, no you will do no such thing.” I told her rising as fast as my rusty knees allowed and then dropping back to the floor on them in front of her I took her shoulders in my hands. “If you ever see him you are to run, run right in the opposite direction do you understand? As fast as you can.”

Just then a man barged into the room wearing a sour expression. “There you are. You know you’re not supposed to be in here. Come on Lilly, let’s go.” He demanded beckoning the little girl with one hand. She backed closer to me unwilling to go with him and I didn’t blame her I’d never seen a less endearing fellow in all my hundred and one years.

“Over my dead body are you taking her anywhere.” I informed him clutching the child to me.

“Ruth,” he called over his shoulder making and even more nasty face, “come talk to your grandmother. She is refusing to let me parent our child again. RUTH.”

“I’m coming I’m coming,” called a young woman wiping her hands on a dish towel as she entered the room.

“Margret” I called out lifting the child and myself from the carpet. “Margret sweetheart what are you doing here why didn’t you tell me you were coming?” I asked pulling her into a one armed hug while the other held the child.

“Not Margret Nanny, Ruth, Margret is gone, I’m her daughter.”

“Ruth, oh yes of course.  I am sorry; you look so like your mother did at your age.”

“It’s ok Nanny but it’s time for you and Lilly to get to bed.” She said taking the little girl from me.

“Bed? But I haven’t even gotten dressed yet I exclaimed looking down at my night dress.”

“You did get dressed this morning Nanny right after breakfast; we just put a fresh night dress on after you had your bath do you remember.”

I didn’t but the little girl was nodding and I had no reason to distrust her. “But we haven’t had dinner.”

“Yes we did.  We had chicken soup and salad.”

“Oh yes, the soup was very salty dear.”

“You mentioned.”

She walked over to the twin bed on the other side of the room and began turning the covers down one handed; the little girl hitched to her other hip. “That man,”   I whispered “the one out in the hallway, the man who came looking for the little girl.”

“His name is John Nanny, he’s my husband, Lily’s father, it’s ok for him to be looking for her.”

“He doesn’t like me very much”

“He doesn’t know you the way I do.”

“Tell you the truth I don’t care for him very much either.”

“Well you don’t know him the way I do. “

“Humph” was all I had to say to that.

“All right Nanny that’s enough of that tonight.” she said walking back over to me. “say good night to Great Nanny.” she told her daughter holding her forward so she could wrap her hands around my neck, kissing my check she transferred some of the slime from her nose.

“She’s sick.” I told her mother cupping the little girl’s cheek. “She’s getting a temperature.”

“It’s just the sniffles Nanny; it’s nothing to worry about.” She said turning to go

I grabbed her sleeve. “The little girl.”

“Lilly”

“Lilly, is she baptized?”

“Nanny,”

“Because my little brother James he wasn’t baptized and,” I lowered my voice so as not to scare Lilly “I think that’s how he got him.”

“Nanny,” she began tiredly, but I put my foot down.

“Don’t sass me about this Ruth you haven’t seen the things I’ve seen I know what I’m talking about.”

“Nanny, James was your son, George was your brother and you had James baptized in the hospital, he still passed, because he was sick and they didn’t have the medicine back then that could have saved him,  not because of some evil spirit that haunts the family that only you can see. Now it’s late I need to put Lilly to bed. Ok? She needs a good night sleep so she can get better right?”

“Of course dear,” I agreed.

“Ok.” Ruth confirmed kissing my forehead. “Are you alright to get yourself into bed Nanny?”

“I can get myself to bed. Yes.” I snapped.”

Smiling sideways at me she sighed and nodded, “Love you Nanny. Good night.” She said and leaving the room she closed the door behind her.  I stood there for a moment, wondering what to do for the best, before shuffling weakly over to the bed. Slipping my house shoes off and slowly lowing myself onto the bed I listened to the conversation passing on the other side of my door.

“I’m not going to store her in a nursing home, John waiting for her expiration date come up.” He must have tried to interrupt her, for she went on more forcefully. “If you knew the kind of life that woman has had to live the sacrifices she’s made.”

It sounded as though they paused for a moment right outside. “I know I know Ruth trust me I know I’ve heard it all about a thousand times. The story gets more biblical each time I hear it. All I’m trying to get you to see is that that person is already gone. All that’s left in that room Ruth is a centuries worth of half remembered anecdotes and closed minded opinions.”

“You just don’t like that she’s so open about her opinion of you.”

“I wish that was all it was. This is not healthy for you Ruth It’s too much for you to handle.” I heard a scoff but he went on. “And these stories she is telling Lilly there not healthy they’re not good I don’t want her growing up with these things in her head.”

“John your exaggerating there impact”

“Ruth the other day I found her baptizing herself and her baby dolls in the toilet bowl, just to be on the safe side she told me.”

With that they moved out of earshot.

Leaning my back against the head board I pulled the covers over my lap and prepared for my nightly battle. I couldn’t tell of course how many nights we had spent staring each other down but it was enough that the sudden sight of him lounging in my rocker, though still unnerving was not surprising. Tonight I decided to open with a threat. “You go anywhere near that little girl and so help me God I will find a way to kill you.” Just like any other time I could recall addressing him my words drew no verbal responds at all he merely shrugged his shoulders adjusted his slouch and settled in.

By ten I had decided that it was the sameness of him that disturbed me most. Not the way his glittering green eyes never blinked, not the way he could keep completely still, or his ninety six year silence after our cryptic introduction, but the way absolutely nothing had changed about him since then. Aside from the fact that his face remained unwrinkled his body firm and lithe, his hair never seemed to be in need of a cut or his nails trimmed or new clothes. It was preternaturally uncanny.

Around midnight I started throwing small items from my night stand at him, but stopped when I heard the little girl in the next room tossing restlessly. Somewhere around two I started to doze only catching myself when some movement from him startled me awake. At dawn I unintentionally gave up the fight.

Only to be woken a few hours later by a cacophony of light and sound.” Moring Nanny”   A girl who looked like my Margret but wasn’t called cheerily, pulling the drapes back to the window frame. “Time to get up sleepy head.” she added holding out a hand to help me. But I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak it was all just too much. “Nanny” she said again a little tensely, then again with a bone jarring teeth rattling shake of my arm. I cried out at the pain of it.  “Oh my god John, John call the Dr. John.” She shouted running from the room.

And then for the first time since I was five he spoke to me. Rising from his seat he strolled across the room, perched on the side of my bed and took my hand tisking as he did. “I know, I know, it hurts to move, the lights too bright, the noises are too loud, and you can still taste the salt from last night’s soup can’t you.” I couldn’t answer I could only stare at him terrified.  He didn’t seem to need acknowledgment, turning my hand over he ran his fingers over the creases in my wrist. “It’s going to be ok,  trust me Lillian Ruth Launtner this is what we’ve been waiting for, it  means it’s almost over. With that he raised my wrist to his mouth and bit hard and fast.  “Mmmmm” he sighed, slurping a little he wiped his chin with his hand. “Sweeter than honey.”

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