Just Add Vermouth

The fantastic and sometimes frustrating Chuck Wendig gifted us with another random plot generator this week*.

         “I don’t even know why I’m telling you,” Elsa popped the olive from her fourth (or was it fifth?) extra dirty martini into her mouth.
         Her companion at the bar simply leaned in closer, inviting her to continue.
         “It’s really embarrassing…” her voice dropped.
         “Go ahead,” he coaxed; his voice was friendly, no mocking undertone.
         “I’ve always wanted to…you know, go home from a bar with a stranger,” Elsa felt warmth suffuse her cheeks and looked down into her empty glass. “I’ve never had a one night stand and…I don’t even know your name.”
         “You don’t really want that.”
         “What?” Elsa dropped the vixen charade and gaped at her companion.
         “I said, ‘you don’t really want that,'” his voice was still light, pleasant.
         “You’re turning me down?” her cheeks flamed.
         “You’re not lonely, you don’t even really want to sleep with someone,” his eyes locked on hers, his head tilted as he observed her. “You’re…determined, yes. But not to take me home.”
         “I don’t…that’s not…” Elsa shoved her empty glass away and stood.
         His hand grasped her elbow, lightly, but with enough force to stop her.
         “Please,” he gestured back to the chair.
         “Why should I stay? I don’t even know what you’re talking about. How do you know that I’m not lonely?” she stated the words baldly, her embarrassment forgotten in her anger.
         “Because, I can sense it,” he released her arm and she reluctantly slid back into her seat.
         “What are you psychic?” Elsa asked; her words were more unsteady than she would have liked.
         “No,” he laughed. “I can neither read your mind nor listen to your thoughts. I do receive…impressions of emotions. If they are particularly strong.”
         “That sounds like almost the same thing,” Elsa countered.
         “Not quite, I assure you,” he said, toying with his beer. “It is a useful little trick, I admit, but it is far from foolproof. I cannot tell the reason behind the emotions necessarily, especially if the reaction is not my doing.”
         “I…see,” Elsa let her confusion color her tone, unable to hide her interest.
         “For instance, I could tell if you were very angry but not why or towards who or what it is directed. Although I have found the strongest impressions usually are those aimed at me.”
         “Are some feelings easier to sense than others?” she asked, leaning forward again, her earlier embarrassment forgotten.
         “Oh yes. And they all have different…” he struggled for a way to explain the indescribable. “Textures. This is not the right word, but I cannot think of a better one. Sadness, for instance, very great sadness feels sort of smothering. It is like suddenly walking through a very thick, very cold fog. Anger is sharp and burns. It always makes me think of hot glass.”
         “Are the bad emotions easier to sense?” she shuddered in sympathy at the thought of feeling stuck in a fog or burned by hot glass all day.
         “No, they are just more common, I’m afraid. The good emotions, the happy ones, are usually more sudden. And like lightning they leave a sort of impression—like a memory. Surprise always reminds me of bubbles for some reason and happiness is like sunlight. So very cliche, I apologize,” he laughed.
         “No, not at all, it’s fascinating,” she looked at him dazzlingly. “So you can read me like a book, then.”
         He shrugged, “I can tell when you’re lying.”
         The sudden change in his tone sent a chill up her arms, making the skin pebble. Gone was the pleasant warmth, the friendly banter. In the dim lights above the bar his eyes looked black. She moved her arm surreptitiously away from his.
         “You’re…hiding something,” he said, his dark eyes narrowing. “And you’re nervous. You weren’t before when you were coming onto me…but now you are.” His words came slowly, considering. Elsa found herself wishing the glass in front of her was not so empty.
         “It’s not every day someone meets a mind reader,” Elsa’s laugh sounded forced even to her.
         He smiled, his teeth looking incredibly white in the half-dark, “No, but it is easier when you’re looking for one.”
         Elsa looked around nervously, noticing suddenly how empty the bar had become; they were practically alone.
         “Elsa, Elsa, Elsa,” he shook his head. “You come looking for me and are surprised to find me? I’ll admit, you were fairly impressive at compartmentalizing your emotions and letting me see only those you wished me to see. You’ve had training; it’s clear to anyone who knows about these kinds of things.”
         “Training?” Elsa said breathlessly. “I don’t know what–”
         “Oh, you can drop the act, Elsa, dear. You’ve put on so many tonight it’s been like a one-woman show. I see why they picked you.”
         Elsa fumbled blindly for her purse, trying to free the strap from the back of the raised chair. She kept her eyes on the man across from her.
         “It’s Fritz, by the way,” he said conversationally, downing the rest of his beer.
         The distraction gave Elsa just long enough to reach inside her bag. When she poked the syringe into his arm, he didn’t even flinch. For a moment, she thought she missed.
         “Let me guess,” he said, setting down the empty bottle and looking at the needle sticking out of his bicep. “Distilled essence of hawthorn, wild rose, and just a touch of garlic in holy water? Wait…and you’ve added mustard seed, too. Covering all your bases, good girl. Is there ground-up crucifix in there as well?” He smiled at her and yanked the spent syringe from his arm, dropping it lightly on the bar. He leaned in to whisper in her ear.”Tell the Firm it will take more than a pretty face and some superstitions.”
         Just before he pulled away, she felt his teeth graze her neck. She felt more than saw him stand and ghost out of the bar.
         “Bartender,” she said, sliding forward her empty glass, “Keep them coming.”

* My scenario: The story starts when your protagonist admits a fantasy. Another character is a vampire who is sensitive to auras.

The Vampires strike again this week.

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20 thoughts on “Just Add Vermouth

  1. ” “Let me guess,” he said, setting down the empty bottle and looking at the needle sticking out of his bicep. “Distilled essence of hawthorn, wild rose, and just a touch of garlic in holy water? Wait…and you’ve added mustard seed, too. Covering all your bases, good girl. Is there ground-up crucifix in there as well?” – I liked this part. Somemight say it is a cliche, but I like how you integrated it into the atmosphere. While this dialogue is going on I am imagining the characters, their facial expressions and it reminds me a lot of when I am having a nightmare I am trying to save myself from and something like this happens. The same frightening, spooked feeling managed to transfer from screen to reality.

    • Thank you! I wanted it to be clear he was a vampire without outright stating it before the end—and make it clear that none of those things do him any harm.

      And I’m glad the dialogue and actions worked for you! Sometimes I’m afraid I use too much description interspersed with the dialogue.

      • It is a personal reader thing I would say. I happen to personaly prefer it above almost every other type of dialogue. I mean, I am reading a story and it has my full attention allready, it will not kill or dull the action for me.

      • I think you’re right!

        I sometimes have to edit myself because I have learned over time the difference between what I’ll call “descriptive action” in dialogue and “dialogue tags”

        When I used to write, no one ever just “said” anything. They muttered, or grumbled, or said + unnecessary adverb.

        I finally learned that it’s better to show someone is nervous through their actions than to say. “so-and-so said nervously.”

  2. What I liked about this story is the vampire was the victim. The girl hunted him out, she targeted him, she tired to lull him into a false sense of security. A nice change from what usually happens with vampire/vampire hunter

  3. Nicely done, as per. I liked how you played out the auras thing, and didn’t have Fritz become a super-powerful vampire capable of reading minds — that would have made it too easy and anti-climactic. The dialogue and action mix worked for me, too. Sometimes short conversational lines work best, and other times they need fleshing out with some action cues. I think you got it spot on, here.

    • Thank you so much! This prompt actually worked out strangely well for me—I’ve had a little vampire story on the far back burner for over a year and the aura reading came straight from that. I was originally afraid of being too twilight-y so I tried to steer away from that.

      I’m glad the dialogue etc. worked! It’s something I’m constantly working on. I’m very visual, so I can picture what characters do as they speak and I want to convey that without it dragging.

  4. Great characterization! I like the mood throughout the story too. It felt very close and private, yet sat on the verge of becoming chaotic. At least that’s what I got from it. Great job! I’m sensing a trend in awesome… 🙂

    • Thank you very much! To be honest, the prompt kind of shoved me that way before I realized that’s where it was going—case of the story writing itself I suppose!

  5. A gradual buildup of anticipation and a very satisfying conclusion make this story quite pleasurable to read. Well done, Wanderer. Write on!

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