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!

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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 and the Snakes

This is another part of Jack’s story – how she was found at birth in an Alabama snake den.


Maude was walking the hot fields of Alabama when she heard the child cooing and giggling in the summer heat. She and her sister had squabbled, and Maude was stomping out her anger in the red dust. With each kick, the dust rose in little clouds around her sensible square toed, black shoes.

As usual, the women had argued about Hoppy. “Little freak bastard,” Maude muttered, and stomped forward. “Carnival freak!” Maude threw her fist out and imagined punching Hoppy. “Always sniffing around my house, trying to get with Jenny.”

Maude hated Hoppy. The evil little man had worked the girly show at carnivals for most of his life. He had thick black hair, a dark complexion and dwarfish features, though Hoppy wasn’t a dwarf that she could tell – just crippled, so he seemed shorter than he was.

“Miserable little crippled bastard!”

Hoppy’s legs bent backward at the knees, like a bird’s, but he could not walk a step without his crutches. He was adept with the crutches, and he caught Jenny’s eye by whirling on one crutch without falling. He was glib, too, and had a running banter that he had to have picked up during those dirty days in the carnival.

“Little shit,” Maude muttered. “I’ll kill–”

Maude paused in her tirade and cocked an ear. “Is that a baby?” She looked around. Maude was more than a mile from her house, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, when she heard another giggle.

“Hello?”

Maude looked around. There were low, red hills covered with sprigs of sunburnt weeds, rocks and a few scraggly trees. “Hello!”

She heard the giggle again. “Hey! Is someone there?”

There was no reply, only more giggles and cooing.

“I thought that I was out here alone,” Maude mumbled to herself. “Now some damn mother is out here with her baby. Jesus! Can’t I get some peace?”

Maude kicked through the dust toward the giggling child. “Damn people,” she said. “They’re just everywhere where they ain’t supposed to be.” Maude clapped a hand to her mouth. “I mean ‘aren’t!”

Maude had a horror of bad grammar and had a habit of talking to herself out loud. She was proud of her speech and had learned those proper Yankee tones by spending hours watching television and mimicking the nasal tones of what she presumed were proper Yankee women.

“Damn kid!” The giggling was closer now – just over the next low hill. “You and your mom have no business out here. This is my area.”

Maude stumbled to the top of the hill, and a low breeze caught her gingham dress as she crested the hill. She smoothed the billowing dress and looked down, then stopped suddenly with her mouth wide open.

There was a small gully below, washed to ragged stones by storms past. There were no weeds in the gully, just red dirt, rocks and a naked, squirming, pink baby girl.

And snakes. Hundreds of snakes oozing around the child, and she held one in each fist, like Jesus.

The child giggled and shook the snakes that she held, while others crawled over her body and swept the dirt clean next to her. They were massed, almost like pillows on either side of her pudgy body. Black, green and gray scales flicked in the sunlight, as did snake tongues tasting the air for violence and fear. They clearly knew the child was there, but none struck at her, nor tasted her flesh.

She giggled and flailed her feet, clapping snake heads with toes and soles. The snakes curled around the child’s fat legs and arms, oozed over her head and stomach. The child was nearly hidden in snake scales and bright red tongues

Maude stood as though stone. Her mouth was open and she emitted a tiny squeak. Several of the snakes turned at the sound and peered at her suspiciously. A rattlesnake broke from the group wrestling on the child’s body, raised itself and stared directly at Maude. It buzzed its displeasure.

Several other snakes looked to what had taken the rattler’s attention. Black snakes and gartners, green snakes and water moccasins: They turned to Maude and saw her bright gingham dress highlighted in the sun. Frozen, she seemed a statue above them.

Now the scream came, and Maude’s faced quickly brightened to a deep red as she gave voice to her horror. The squeak rose to a full-throated roar, and Maude brought her hands to her cheeks. It seemed that she was pushing on her face to force the scream even higher. Maude’s face was distorted by the scream – red and elongated. A wind at her back whirled red dust around Maude. Her dress billowed in the breeze, and with the sun at her back, Maude’s face was hidden in shadow: The shriek seemed to emanate from within her darkened face.

The sudden howl frightened the child and she startled. Her own cries of terror rose with Maude’s high pitched scream. And as the child cried, it shook hard the snakes in its grasp, flailing her legs, beating the snakes around her with her feet.

The writhing mass of serpents appeared the hesitate for only a moment, as though a flicker in time had caught them unaware. They seemed to be frozen for but a blink, like a moment caught in a lightning flash.

The moment passed quickly – a seeming flash and a jerk. Maude backed up a step, and a ball of snakes unwound themselves: The rattlesnake led the way up the hill. Writhing in the dust, threatening and striking, hundreds of snakes oozed upward toward Maude.

She back up another step. Then another. Maude flung her hands out, still screaming, turned and fled. Her howls seemed to echo across low red hills. Maude’s mind filled with her own cries, and she ran blindly, stumbling over rocks and catching herself low to the ground.

In her mind, a single vision; a babe wrapped in snakes.

Maude pushed on through dusty fields. Tears, now, streaming down her face. Her screams had dwindled to a babbling cry – a mutter of fear. She twisted her head to look behind herself: The gully of snakes and child were in the distance, but Maude still seemed to feel the flicker of tongues, the suffer under the doll-like black of their tiny eyes.

She moaned as she stumbled to the ground and raked her open hands across sharp rocks. There was a dull raspberry of pain in her palms, and she lifted one hand to stare at it. Maude was on her knees in the dust, holding that hand in front of her face. She saw blood filling the creases in the palm, coursing down her wrist to her bare arms. Maude opened her mouth again in a low cry. She rocked back so that she no longer had one hand on the ground and clutched her bleeding hand. Only then did she notice the other hand, too, was torn – a gaping wound.

“Maude!”

Maude whirled at the sudden sound of her name. “No! No!”

“Maudey! Are you okay? What’s wrong with you, woman?”

Maude held her hands above her head and looked toward the sun. A woman was silhouetted in the brightness. “Help me?” Maude croaked out the plea as a question. “Please. Help me?”

The woman stepped to one side, out of the sun, and Maude could see her through her tears. “Angel! Oh my God, Angel.”

Angela’s name had been shortened to Angel when she was still a child. It was her father’s way of acknowledging her bright smile, as well as unconditional love of life and the people the people passing through.

Angel crouched in the dust and gathered Maude’s bleeding hands into her own. It was a dichotomy of Maude’s soft pink hands covered in blood, and Angel’s own calloused and dusky fingers. “Maudey, what happened to you?”

Maude blubbered and tried to pull her hands close to her face, but Angel held them tightly in her own. “I was running. I fell.”

“Someone’s chasing you?”

Angel let go of Maude’s hands long enough to tear a piece from her skirt. Maude’s hands flew to her face, almost of their own accord, and smeared blood into her hair and across her mouth. It appeared as though she was scrubbing her skin.

Angel grabbed Maude’s wrists and pulled her hands down. She tried to look into Maude’s eyes, but the latter dodged her gaze. Angel struggled a bit, but managed to wrap Maude’s hands.

“Who’s chasing you?” she asked again.

“Sn- sn- snakes.” The words came out in stutters, and Maude kept her gaze on her hands. “Sn- snakes. Thousands of snakes.”

Angel rocked back on her heels, still holding Maude’s wrists. “You found a den?”

“N- n- no.”

“Thousands of snakes?”

“They were all over her!”

Angel’s eyes widened. She shook Maude gently by her arms. “Her? There’s a dead woman out here?”

“Not a woman.” Maude’s head bobbled on her neck, and finally she looked up and into Angel’s dark eyes. “It’s a baby. They were on a baby!”

Vampire’s Daughter – Chapter 5 WIP

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.”

Vampire’s Daughter – Chapter 4 WIP

Vampire's Daughter

Vampire’s Daughter

It’s rare to find human blood this deep in the Pine Barrens. Animal blood is common enough in this primeval forest. Creatures often tear one another apart, feasting on still twitching remains. It’s a brutal and dangerous life for the unwary, and so a little scattered in the rotting bed of pine needles isn’t unusual. If you move faster than the scavengers, you’re likely to stumble across a blood trail sooner or later.

But much of this forest and murky swamps are virginal — inaccessible to any but beasts and insects with the will to kill and survive. Yet, splattered there plain to anyone with keen sense are a few drops of humanity on ragged leaves and pine needles. Three tiny splashes, nearly lost in brambles and the browns and blacks of the Pine Barrens’ floor. Even in the dark, I see the edges of each bloom of blood and how those drops have spread like a flower.

I love the scent, and I take a long, slow breath. I do not need human blood to survive. I got over that myth years ago when I learned that any animal will provide me with what I need. Two legs. Four legs. It makes no difference. It is the blood – so long as it is red and rich – that sustains me. I have lived in forests for most of my new life as a vampire, taking the lives of creatures and living safely in solitude.

It is only the taste of the blood that differs, like the difference between a hamburger and steak. Both give me what I need, though one is admittedly more desirable. Yet, I am not above taking the solitary hunter in the forest. Careful in my bloodlust not to arouse suspicion, I take those humans who poach what would be my meal.

Now that taste for humanity beckons; it’s the blood that calls me.