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 6 WIP, part 3

Vampire's Daughter

Vampire’s Daughter

Towering around the cabin, coned pine trees crowd needle and branch against thin red oak. But close to the cabin, a tiny circle is clear of even scrub brush or wild blueberries. It is not as clean as the yards in the Southern portion of the country, where tired residents daily sweep the dirt in their yards to keep down the growth. Here, around this cabin, clots of grass grow near the porch.

Even with the bogs so close, it is quiet, but for the constant whine and buzz of flies and other insects. Flickering above, bats are silent, like small demons swooping through the feast.

A dozen yards in front of the cabin I see graves. Ten of them closed, one more lies open. The earth around the open grave is fresh. It has been recently dug, the dirt packed to one side and covered with a blue tarp. Someone means to use it soon.

Now I stop, every sense wide open and alert. Perhaps I assumed too quickly that the hunter has taken a wounded friend to the hospital. I stare hard into the trees and strain my ears for the slightest sound that would be out of place in the night.

buzz. whir. screech. snap.

Normal enough, and the shapes moving in the darkness are all night creatures. A mouse tittering to itself as it chews something tiny in its paws. A fox slinking near the rodent. An owl twisting on a limb high above.

I hold in silence for a moment more, then continue.

The blood trail I follow skirts the open grave, though there is a small pool near what could be the foot of the pit. I remember the perfume and consider the movements of the two. If she was dead, it’s possible that he paused here and considered dumping her body into the open grave.

But then, why carry her? Why not simply drag the body? Indeed, he has a vehicle. He could have driven the woman to wherever he needed. Have they left together?

Something is wrong here. The scent of blood from the cabin. Ten graves, the eleventh open. And the pool of blood by the grave, not near the Jeep track. If he loaded her into a vehicle, the blood should be closer to those ruts, not here on the raw earth.

The scent of fresh blood hangs heavy outside the cabin: It calls me.

A rough-hewn pine door is bolted to the cabin’s door frame. It padlocked from the outside, a hunter’s caution against thieves. I know where I am in this forest. Vandals and looters would be rare this far out of the city. No matter, and with the hunter gone, no need for silence. The lock twists easily against the hasp as I pull it from the wooden frame. My hands are much tougher than they used to be. The lock gouges my flesh, but my skin heals as quickly as it is ripped.

The door swings outward and creaks as it does so. It is silence inside. No one is here. Just one tight room, cluttered with broken wooden furniture. On the back wall, near the fireplace, is a long box. It is a bed, almost like a coffin. From here, I can see old blankets stuffing the box. A warm nest on a cold night. The hunter could burrow down into the blankets and shield himself from the cold.

There is no kitchen, just an area for cleaning dishes. There are a few cabinets on the wall and a small shelf. Two large pots, likely one for washing, one for rinsing sit on a another cabinet below the first two. No dish drainer. A couple of rusty knives held to the wall on a magnetic shelf.

Vampire’s Daughter – Chapter 3 Fragment

Vampire's Daughter

Vampire’s Daughter

Hoppy lay quiet on his bunk, cursing low in his throat. He did not scream: Too much noise would bring the guards and their unforgiving billy clubs. Crippled though he was, they did not mind beating him senseless and silent.

But as frightening as the guards were — as well as the other prisoners looming across the dim hallway — nothing scared Hoppy as much as the women clinging to the wall outside of his cell.

In the back of his mind — that part of consciousness that hides truths too bizarre to be let loose in the day-to-day thinking process — Hoppy knew that the woman was still alive. He knew that somehow, Anna Wright had survived beyond the night she murdered her husband and left with a pasty-white, snarling dog of a man.

Hoppy had never expected Anna to live beyond that day. The man with her, as she butchered her husband, was a predator — an animal. Hoppy could see it in his cold, black eyes.

Anna tried to tell him that night — a warning perhaps, but issued almost as an order: She was a vampire, now, a creature like the man beside her. Anna’s skin had always been pale white, her eyes dark and forbidding. But that night she nearly glowed, her skin as white as the flash of a blade in sunlight.

After ripping her husband’s head off, Anna left Hoppy and her daughter to face the police. Even after that, Hoppy never believed her vampire story. She killed her abusive husband, sure, but she was not a vampire.

Vampires are not real. They are nightmares and bad movies. Bela Lugosi and a cold sweat — that’s all.

They cannot exist. Not 15 years later, pale and naked, covered in grime, bits of blood and gore, hair matted and claws dug deep into the brick wall outside of his cell window.

Not whispering to him through the bars.

Someone else. Not Anna. She’s dead.

But the woman who hung two stories above the ground growled her name to him: “Diana Trees,” she said. “Anna is gone. Long gone.”

Hoppy could still see her, even though he curled into himself on the bed, sweating and crying softly, his eyes shut.

Vampire’s Daughter – Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Vampire's Daughter

Vampire’s Daughter

Laura Wright looked up from her textbook and listened to the shrill cry of cicadas buzzing in the oak trees outside the living room’s small window. “Such an eerie sound,” she said. “Like a demented prophet screaming over and over again: Believe, believe, believe, believe.”

She turned a page in the book without seeing the words, just blocks of type, black dots and squiggles on a field of white. “So damned redundant,” she said. Her black hair hung like a curtain around her face, and Laura pushed one side behind her ear.

The cries of the large insects throbbed in the small house, seeming to rise and fall as one voice. Laura couldn’t get away from the sound anywhere in their small four-roomed home. Five, if Laura counted the bathroom. But with only a tight shower, a toilet and a mirror stuck to the wall, Laura didn’t think of the bathroom as anything more than a large closet. That left the kitchen, the living room and two bedrooms in the house set close to the railroad tracks — just four real rooms to carry out daily living.

Laura, living with her Aunt Monica, sat in a study area the women had created against a left wall in the living room. Pushed up to the back wall of that same room, opposite the front door, a small, overstuffed couch — salvaged from a neighbor’s trash — stood out brightly against the wood paneling that dominated the house. The two found the sofa just before a rainstorm and wrestled it into the trunk of Monica’s old Chevy. Though the couch hung out of the car, they tied the trunk lid tight and managed to get it home before anymore than one corner was damaged. The sofa was slightly musty, though comfortable, and Monica covered it with flowered drapery, also scavenged from what others no longer wanted.

Laura sat with her back to the couch in front of the room’s only window. She leaned her elbows on an oak desk, rescued from a school’s closing and eventual destruction. BARRY+MARGIE 4EVER was carved into the desk’s top, and Laura took care as she worked on its surface so as not to rip through her term paper.

To her right was the kitchen, dark with the same paneling that covered every wall but the bathroom. Her aunt stood in front of a gas stove and stirred a large pot filled with a bubbling liquid. A lamp hanging from the ceiling cast a harsh yellow light against the walls. Monica gave the contents of the pot another stir, then took the ladle from the pot and tapped it nearly clean. She turned and walked to the archway separating the kitchen and living room. The aroma of garlic and basil followed her. “Did you say something?” Monica asked. “Are you talking to me, or are you having a conversation with yourself?”

Laura turned from the window and sat facing her aunt. For Laura, it was like looking into a mirror that added 20 graceful years of silver in her black hair and small laugh lines around the eyes. Monica was tall and slender with prominent cheekbones, her skin clear and white, nearly to the point of translucence. Her face was delicate and angular, without being sharp. There were times at the university when the two were mistaken for sisters.

“I was just talking to myself,” Laura said. “I’ve been reading about economics for so long, I just kind of lost contact with reality.” She smiled at her aunt and waved a hand at the window. “Then the cicadas broke through, and now–”

Monica interrupted: “I’m making a vegetarian spaghetti for supper. Do you think you’ll be here?”

Laura stopped writing and stared at the book for a moment. “Yes, I think so. I’ve had about enough of the library for this week.” Laura looked up, a sly smile on her face. “I thought it was my night to cook.”

Monica waved a ladle in the air. “I got fresh zucchini at the store today. I thought you might like a break from the drudgery of a hot stove for one night.”

“Does that mean I’m on for tomorrow night?”

“You’ve got something better to do than cook for your favorite aunt?”

“You’re my only aunt, and besides, I have a date.”

Monica raised an eyebrow and held the ladle over her shoulder. A drop of red sauce splashed the bare skin of her neck. “Tom?”

“Yes. We we’re going to go down to Mike’s. There’s a folk band playing, and I’d really like to hear it.”

“Friday’s a school day, darling.”

Laura closed her book. “Everybody needs a break. I’ll never make it to graduate school if I burn out now.”

Her aunt grinned and drew out her words. “Well, I guess it’s okay.”

“What about you, Monica? Aren’t you ever going to get out and about?”

“It’s hard to keep a teaching assistantship if I don’t get good grades.”

“I know, I know,” Laura said, taking on a falsetto voice: “And what kind of teacher would you be if you flunked out of college?”

Monica flicked the ladle down over her shoulder and a tiny spray of red sauce spiraled out from the end of the large spoon. “That’s right,” Monica said, her voice matching the same high tone. “What kind of teacher would I be?”

Laura wiped the splatter of sauce off of her face, got up and walked over to her aunt. She put her arms around her and murmured: “You’ll be an excellent teacher, no matter what.”

“Thanks for the confidence, but you won’t mind, will you, if I pass anyway?” Monica returned the hug. “Now get back to your studies and forget the cicadas.”

Laura walked back over to the table, but instead of sitting down to her textbook, she looked out the window. “There’s something about the cicadas,” she said, raising her voice enough so that Monica could hear her in the kitchen. “They’re so weird. It sounds as if they’re singing something.” Laura snapped her fingers. “Have you ever heard that Eurythmics song?”

“Which one?”

“Annie Lennox singing <i>Missionary Man</i>.”

“You mean the one Marilyn Manson did the remake of?”

“No. Manson did Sweet Dreams.” Laura hummed the tune for a moment. “Missionary Man is much more sensual. I’ll put it on if you want, but you know the one I mean.” Laura looked out the window, her dark eyes staring into the distance. “It’s not a religious song. At least not in the way you’d think. But it’s the one where she repeats herself over and over, kind of like she’s echoing.” Laura took a breath and sang softly: “Believe, believe, believe, believe.” Laura frowned for a moment, and then added: “But it’s tighter than that — almost like it’s one word.” She paused, then added: “That’s what it sounds like the cicadas are saying. It’s what I was saying earlier. Those bugs are like those TV preachers moaning at two o’clock in the morning.” Laura’s frown changed to a scowl, and her voice deepened as if she were trying to reach the back of a church with each word: “Believe, in the Word of God! Believe in what I say!”

Monica came back out of the kitchen and stood in the doorway with her head cocked. She squinted and listened to the cicadas for a moment. She knew the large bugs had only recently crawled out of the earth after a 17-year hibernation. “I hear the believe part,” she said, “but maybe I need to hear the song.” Monica walked into the room, sat down on the couch and picked up a magazine. “But that reminds me. I’m going to let the sauce simmer for a few hours and have a late supper.” She flipped the pages of People, and frowned at a picture of Christina Aguilera: The diva was sheathed in latex, and her face was studded with jewelry.

Monica tossed the open magazine back onto the coffee table. “I think I’ll go down to the church and then head over to Fifth Street to see Preeti while I’m waiting for that magical mix of herbs and spice. Do you want–”

“No thanks.” Laura cut her aunt off in mid-sentence.

Monica leaned back into the overstuffed couch and stretched her arms along the back, idly fingering the stitching of a sampler her twin sister had made 20 years earlier. “I thought you liked Preeti.”

“I like Preeti just fine,” Laura said. “I love Preeti almost as much as you do.” Laura shoved her chair back, the legs harrumphing across the wooden floor. “It’s church I can’t stand.”

“Laura!”

“It’s true, Monica.” Laura shifted uncomfortably in her chair and glanced at her aunt, but did not back down. “Organized religion is a leech. An arrogant, unforgiving leech.” Laura jabbed her finger in the air to make her point: “What do you think the church would say about you and Preeti?”

Monica sat up straight on the couch and smoothed out her skirt. She looked around the small apartment, taking in the photos of Laura and her mother hanging on the dark walls. Monica’s eyes lingered on the tiny tow-headed girl hugging her mother’s bare knees. The picture had been taken in an Alabama cornfield when Laura was just five years old. Red clay oozed between the bare toes of mother and daughter, and they were smiling for the camera. Both of them were pale and burnt by the sun, but they still had an innocent joy in that moment, as if nothing could touch them.

“Where is this coming from?” Monica asked, still staring at the picture. “Your classes? Tom?” She turned to look at Laura, and her niece glared back defiantly.

“Reading. Listening. Talking,” Laura said, biting off each word. “It doesn’t matter. I know you love Preeti, and so do I. She’s wonderful for you. She’s been the best thing to happen to us since Hoppy went to prison.” Laura clenched her fists. “I know what God would say about that. I’ve heard enough, read enough. Jesus, read the editorial pages in the newspaper! Just look at the letters to the editor, and what they’re saying about Massachusetts — about gays and lesbians.”

Monica shook her head. Her shoulder length black hair was tied back in a long, loose ponytail. “I read the paper. I know what they’re saying.” She shifted her gaze, and held Laura with her cool, blue eyes. “But this is about more than me and Preeti.”

Laura got up from the chair, walked over and plopped down on the sofa beside Monica. She took her aunt’s hands in her own and held them, as though the latter were a small child. Not looking up, but rather examining the pores and tiny hairs, Laura said: “That’s part of it. The intolerance.”

“God isn’t intolerant,” Monica said.

Still holding her aunt’s hands, Laura looked up into Monica’s face. Her aunt’s pale white skin was free of flaws and imperfections, though the laugh lines and wrinkles that would come with age. “Christ may be tolerant,” she said. “But not God.”

Vampire’s Daughter – Chapter 2 continues

Vampire's Daughter

Vampire’s Daughter

Laura wiped the splatter of sauce off of her face, got up and walked over to her aunt. She put her arms around her and murmured: “You’ll be an excellent teacher, no matter what.”

“Thanks for the confidence, but you won’t mind, will you, if I pass anyway?” Monica returned the hug. “Now get back to your studies and forget the cicadas.”

Laura walked back over to the table, but instead of sitting down to her textbook, she looked out the window. “There’s something about the cicadas,” she said, raising her voice enough so that Monica could hear her in the kitchen. “They’re so weird. It sounds as if they’re singing something.” Laura snapped her fingers. “Have you ever heard that Eurythmics song?”

“Which one?”

“Annie Lennox singing Missionary Man.”

“You mean the one Marilyn Manson did the remake of?”

“No. Manson did Sweet Dreams.” Laura hummed the tune for a moment. “Missionary Man is much more sensual. I’ll put it on if you want, but you know the one I mean.” Laura looked out the window, her dark eyes staring into the distance. “It’s not a religious song. At least not in the way you’d think. But it’s the one where she repeats herself over and over, kind of like she’s echoing.” Laura took a breath and sang softly: “Believe, believe, believe, believe.” Laura frowned for a moment, and then added: “But it’s tighter than that — almost like it’s one word.” She paused, then added: “That’s what it sounds like the cicadas are saying. It’s what I was saying earlier. Those bugs are like those TV preachers moaning at two o’clock in the morning.” Laura’s frown changed to a scowl, and her voice deepened as if she were trying to reach the back of a church with each word: “Believe, in the Word of God! Believe in what I say!”

Monica came back out of the kitchen and stood in the doorway with her head cocked. She squinted and listened to the cicadas for a moment. She knew the large bugs had only recently crawled out of the earth after a 17-year hibernation. “I hear the believe part,” she said, “but maybe I need to hear the song.” Monica walked into the room, sat down on the couch and picked up a magazine. “But that reminds me. I’m going to let the sauce simmer for a few hours and have a late supper.” She flipped the pages of People, and frowned at a picture of Christina Aguilera: The diva was sheathed in latex, and her face was studded with jewelry.

Monica tossed the open magazine back onto the coffee table. “I think I’ll go down to the church and then head over to Fifth Street to see Preeti while I’m waiting for that magical mix of herbs and spice. Do you want–”

“No thanks.” Laura cut her aunt off in mid-sentence.

Monica leaned back into the overstuffed couch and stretched her arms along the back, idly fingering the stitching of a sampler her twin sister had made 20 years earlier. “I thought you liked Preeti.”

“I like Preeti just fine,” Laura said. “I love Preeti almost as much as you do.” Laura shoved her chair back, the legs harrumphing across the wooden floor. “It’s church I can’t stand.”

“Laura!”

“It’s true, Monica.” Laura shifted uncomfortably in her chair and glanced at her aunt, but did not back down. “Organized religion is a leech. An arrogant, unforgiving leech.” Laura jabbed her finger in the air to make her point: “What do you think the church would say about you and Preeti?”