Vampire’s Daughter – Chapter 6 WIP, part 4

Vampire's Daughter

Vampire’s Daughter

There used to be a window in one wall. I can see the outline, like a porthole. The opening has been chinked up with fresh-sawn logs and mud. It is new work, and does not have the same craftsmanship of the rest of the cabin.

In the fireplace, a cauldron hangs from a hook that can swing the heavy iron pot in and out of the fire. I smell flesh and blood in that pot and move to look inside. I appears clean and scrubbed within. The outside is caked with soot. He has wiped it clean with water and a rag, but not enough to take the evidence of cooked human flesh beyond my seneses.

I know now there is more than I see here!

Vampires do not cook, and neither do they devour the flesh of their prey. Were-creatures, likewise, do not cook. They eat flesh, but prefer it raw, even when they are in human form.

Someone — something — cooks human flesh over this fire, boiling it in the cauldron, and roasting it over the fire. That thing is dangerous, but I still do not sense it here. I would feel such a predator. I would know the animal if it was in its den. It is not here, but it is not long gone. I smell it. Male: its pheromones speak rage.

The blood is female. The scent in the cabin is male.

And more scents, now. They filter through my conscious mind. Odd that I did not catch them earlier. I must pay more attention. Yet, I taste in the air at least three other human females. Their blood is not as fresh, and it is their blood that I taste. Theirs is older. It has been weeks — months — since any other woman than the first was here.

And she is here.

I taste new blood in the air. She is cut and bleeding. But where is she? This tiny cabin is too small to hide her: the cabinets; the fireplace; the coffin bed. She is not in any of them, and they are the only places to hide. There are no closets or drapes, nothing else to hide inside or behind. But she is here. Somewhere.

There! A groan?

The floor planks are smooth from a century of a hunter’s steps. But some of these planks look new. They fit too well into the grooves.

There it is again. A muffled groan, and it comes from beneath the floor.

These planks move. They come up, not nailed nor pegged into place. She is under the floor. A grave, perhaps? Shallow like those in front of the cabin?

I will find her. These planks weigh nothing.

Now this is a surprise. A basement, hand-dug long after this cabin was built. A narrow shaft, braced with new timber and lights below. The room is off-center to the shaft. Better that way, I know, to hide the cries. But I hear her plainer, now. Still not screaming, her voice is muffled, as though gagged. Mewling sounds.

Goddess, the stench from this hole! This is a slaughterhouse into which I descend. Butchery, plain and simple. But no animal scents: not deer, nor pig. All of carcasses below are human. This is no hunter that lodges here, not even vampire hunter is so casual. This man is an animal. A were? Some of them prefer to butcher even in their human forms. No. Weres do not cook. Whatever this man is, he is human.

The ladder is cut into the earth, and it takes me into bowels beneath the cabin. It angles sharply to one side, then the steps end. I drop into the hole: it is larger than I expected.

Kerosene lamps provide a smudgy light. There must be a vent somewhere, else the lamps would steal the oxygen and go dark. None the less, the air is stale in this hole, rank with blood and sweat and piss. Burning kerosene competes with the meaty aroma.

I see her. The back wall. A cage. She is bound hand to feet. Pulled backward, her belly bows out. She is blindfolded, a rag-gag tied around her head, a sodden mass in her mouth. She is naked and bleeding. Hundreds of cuts, some clotted and old, others fresh — only a few hours old.

She does not hear me. Not yet.

It must have taken years to dig out this room. I am tall, and I have head room. Shovel marks score the earth as though he is expanding the room. Yet, already it is large enough for a butcher’s table, stocks and pillory, and a wall of whips and chains. That explains the headroom: Swinging a whip requires space.

He is not here, yet reminds me of someone.

Jack?

No. I killed him!

Vampire’s Daughter – Chapter 6 WIP, part 1

Vampire's Daughter

Vampire’s Daughter

Closely following the blood trail, I burst out of the underbrush and into a small clearing that was clearly not natural to the forest. Brush and trees had been hacked back to make room for easy access to an ancient hunter’s cabin. The ground around the cabin was muddy from recent rain and with use: footsteps, tire tracks, and evidence of a sharp blade used against brambles and brush marked the clearing. The cabin itself was small, a single room with a rotted roof. Squatting above the cabin was a handmade, stone chimney perching precariously at the peak of the roof. Along the one side of the rotten structure, two small windows peer out of the cabin’s dark interior. Much repair over the years has kept the cabin barely standing; planks nailed over pine logs used in the original construction keep the patchwork of lumber in place.

I am deep in the forest. There are no humans for miles around. Only single-minded determination would lead someone to hack through this cruel underbrush and low hanging limbs. Poison oak climbs tree trunks, and nearly every shrub has vicious thorns: Even my own skin bears a few scratches.

Both cabin and trail are nearly hidden by the trees looming tall in the night. Were it not for the moon directly above, at least the cabin would go unnoticed by most.

Yet, I wonder at the humans who chose to build it here, and wonder again at the one who chooses to inhabit it now. The cabin is surrounded by the razor of brambles and thorns, and it appears to have stood in the shadow of these ancient trees for least a hundred years. Cedar shakes bind the walls and roof to rude beams that show through the siding in odd spots. The shakes themselves are covered with moss, and ivy creeps up the walls. In the moonlight it looks less a cabin, and more a shambling green hulk, a great creature slumbering in the forest.

Vampire’s Daughter – Chapter 5

Vampire's Daughter

Vampire’s Daughter

“You’re late.” Tom tapped his beer bottle on the table and glared at Laura. The bar was dark and smokey, and Tom seemed to be a part of the gloom.

Five empty beer bottles were pushed to the far end of the table, against the wall. Tom was drinking more these days. When he drank, he got mean. “Sorry,” Laura said. “Homework and Monica.” Laura slid into the booth opposite Tom. “You know how she gets.”

Tom spun the longneck bottle between his hands. It was almost empty, and the beer in the bottom of the bottle turned to froth. “No, I don’t know how she gets,” Tom said, his voice dropping to a growl. “Why don’t you tell me?” The last was a challenge.

“Don’t be angry,” Laura said, motioning to the bartender. “It’s just–”

Tom reached out and grabbed her hand. He yanked Laura hard into the table so that her face was only inches from his. “I said you’re late.” Tom jerked her arm with each word.

“Tom–”

“Just shut up.” Tom shoved her back into the booth. “I told you to be here at 6, and it’s quarter after.” Tom swallowed what was left of his beer and signaled for another one. “Where were you?”

Laura rubbed her wrists. Tom rarely acted this way. She wasn’t sure what to do. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t think–”

“You’re right.” Tom spit the words out. “You didn’t think. I told you when to be here. You’re wasting my time.”

The waitress came up beside the table. Her voice was high, and had a lilt to it. “Two-fifty,” she said. “You want something?” she added, nodding to Laura.

“She doesn’t want anything,” Tom said, throwing three one-dollar bills onto the table. “But I might, later on.”

Laura’s mouth dropped. Tom had never been so crass, nor so cruel. “Are you all right?” she asked.

“I’m fine.” He bit the two words off one at a time. “I’ll be better after I’ve had this beer.”

The waitress winked at Tom, and slipped him a small piece of paper with the bottle. Laura saw it, but didn’t say anything. Tom took both the scrap and bottle in one hand. He didn’t appear to notice the paper, but when he put the bottle down, the note was gone.

“Look,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’m just wound up. Finals next week.” He tipped the bottle back and swallowed about a third of its contents. he put the bottle down. “And you know my sister is sick.”

Laura watched Tom’s hand, not his eyes. She didn’t see the scrap of paper and thought it had probably fallen to the floor. She looked up. He was staring at her.

“My sister,” he said. “You know, the one with cancer?”

Laura was still waiting to meet Tom’s family. She had hoped for a dinner at local restaurant, or at her home. But one crisis after another had prevented them from sitting down to a meal and conversation. Tom’s grandfather had died just a few months ago. He was a private man, Tom said. The kind of person who wanted only family around the coffin — only family to cry and remember. Laura tried to offer what comfort she could from an emotional distance. She wanted to help Tom get through the death of a man he so plainly loved, but Tom was private about the death.

“He would have wanted it that way,” Tom had said. “It’s family. It’s who we are. That’s what Papa taught us.”

Then, not long after, Tom’s brother was hit by a car and spent a week in critical care. “It’s his face,” Tom said. “He doesn’t want anyone to see him this way.” Apparently the boy’s face was crushed in the accident. He would live, but with scars that would make living a normal life difficult at best.

Tom was depressed about how his brother would have to live, and he drank more than usual through the time his brother was in the hospital. Tom was angry and unforgiving of mistakes. But nothing like this.

Tom swallowed another third of the beer and sat the bottle down carefully on the table. “I’m sorry, Laura,” he said. “I just–” He stopped and toyed with the bottle again. “I don’t want anything bad to happen. When you were late, I thought–” He pushed the bottle around in the wet circle condensation had left on the table from earlier drinks. “I just thought, well, that you didn’t–” He looked up at Laura. “I love you, Laura. I don’t know what I’d do if you ever left me.”

Laura’s ribs hurt from being pulled into the table, but she put out one hand. “Tom, I know it isn’t easy. If I could do anything to help, I would.” She took his hand in hers and thought about Monica. “I don’t know what I would do if I ever lost my aunt. I know–”

Tom interrupted her: “You don’t know,” he snapped. “You don’t know what it’s like when someone you love dies.”

Laura gripped his hand tighter for a moment, and her eyes glazed. Something she almost remembered — something she almost knew: someone close to her had been murdered. But the memory eeled away.

“I’m sorry, Tom.”

Jack Climbs a Tree – a story fragment

For years, I’ve toyed with writing a story about Tater, Jack and Onion – a sister and two brothers from my youth. They were an unusual group, and lived a hard live. Below is a character sketch of Jack. She was the toughest of the three children.

Think of this short bit like you would a pencil sketch, prior to putting oil to canvas.


Jack was high in the tree when she looked over the fence into Old Lady Hibbard’s withered garden. There was only one tree in her backyard worth climbing. She was 12, strong and lithe. Anything shorter than 40 feet wasn’t worth trying to prove mettle and daring.

And this old oak towered over 50 feet, though most of it’s limbs were dead, sticking out at odd angles, bare of bark and slippery. But for Jack, that made the tree easier to climb. Her sneakers found the grip she needed, and her hands were like hooks. Above 20 feet, she would hug the tree like a lover and shimmy up to the next limb.

Leaves are a nuisance to tree climbers. They hide the view, or give the false impression of a stronger limb. Life doesn’t always mean strength. Jack had learned that years ago. And she had decided that trees and humans weren’t that much different.

For every time she climbed the tree, Jack learned new things about its texture and gradual death. New cracks appeared weekly — tiny and easy for the unwary to miss. Cracks in the armor of the tree, showing its weakness and gradual decline.

Sometimes the splits in the tree grew quickly, running up several feet in only a few days. Most times, though, they were tiny — barley longer than a finger’s span.

Still, each part of the tree had to be tested with careful weight, but not so much as to give the impression of fear. Her brothers were always watching, and they depended upon her strength and courage. She was their barrier, their rock in life.

If everything around her was in decline and dying, Jack was alive. Nothing in her mind, nor body gave a hint of death. She was unlike anyone she knew, for even her scent was life. No decay in any way.

Jack was high in her favorite limb, one no other child dared reach when she saw Jessie lead Frankie Wyman through the garden, towing the boy by the front of his shirt. Jessie’s voice was high-pitched and giggly. She switched her skirt back and forth as she tugged on the boy.

Jack didn’t like Jessie. That girl didn’t know anything about work or srugggle. Everything she had, from her clothes to the fancy watches and rings she wore were given to her by her parents.

Jack was sure Jessie had never worked a day in her life. Probably didn’t even have to make her bed, or do her own laundry.

Frankie was different. Jack wasn’t sure how she felt about him. He was mentally challenged and sometimes acted silly.

The Bones of Delilah

I want to twist the bones of Delilah
free of the mouths of worms and myth:
Take her beyond barbering and let her stand

between the pillars of the sun; let her weave
the righteous plait of Medusa; let her speak
with the red tongue of Kali; let her drink

Jesus as his blood spills. She has borne
the false crown of traitor from Old to New. It’s time
for her story.

Medusa001


photo credit: dirk kirchner [www.unforgiven-art.de] via photopin cc