Waking Nightmares

This is part of an ongoing story that begins with The Initiative

Mina shoved her way through the revolving door and burst out into the street, the wind cool against her blazing cheeks. Damn Delancey St. Clair. Damn him. She hunched her shoulders against the gusts and walked quickly down the street, wanting to put as much distance as possible between herself and Del. It was stupid to meet with him—stupid to put herself this close to Holler, Grim, Alberich & Mors. She had given into a moment of sentimentalism and contacted Delancey when she was a bottle of wine deep and alone in her tiny apartment. Del had no idea she was living in Boston—she was sure of that much. Why would he? She had no doubt he remembered her, but she knew better than to believe he still thought about her. She wished she didn’t still think about him, the arrogant asshole. Mina’s jaw ached and she realized she was grinding her teeth.
She glanced up to see the Boston Public Library looming ahead and walked quickly up the stairs to enter the warmth. The two stone lions at the top of the marble staircase stared impassively at her as she passed them, wandering the marble halls until she came to the Abbey Room, emblazoned with paintings by Edward Abbey depicting the quest and discovery of the Holy Grail. She leaned against the doorway, admiring the vivid works and letting her mind drift.
She had finally begun to feel safe, snug in her creaking, drafty apartment. That was before she saw him—she would recognize that face anywhere. The nightly nightmares kept it fresh, undimmed by time. She heard his name—the name he used in daylight—for the first time as the bartender handed him the bill. She shouldn’t have been in that part of town—but the cobbled streets and gaslights of Beacon Hill drew her in, reminding her of home in that small Russian town, of a simple time before her home meant blood pooling on the wooden floors her mother meticulously mopped and the china from her many times great grandmother’s dowry smashed and smeared with crimson.

The wine bar had seemed cozy, welcoming, and she sat at her corner table letting the flow of conversation around her sweeten her wine. She noticed him after a quarter of an hour, sitting at the end of the bar. His silver hair caught her eye and the expanse of his broad shoulders made her fingers go cold. The slightly crooked nose and pointed chin were unmistakable and the smile that he flashed the bartender almost made her drop her glass. She turned her head to the wall and drank as he got up to leave, scarcely able to breathe until she heard the door shut and saw him walk past the windows as he disappeared into the night. Richard Moretti. The name resonated in her brain. She knew him before only as Sinistrari.
She finished her wine and waited for the tremors in her hands and knees to subside before paying and slipping quietly out of the restaurant and making her way back to her flat. She immediately got out her laptop and searched for Richard Moretti. She had no doubt he would be a man of importance. When she found out the reach of his public influence, however, she was floored. CEO of a large XYZ company, he was known for his generosity and charitable nature. Photo after photo showed him shaking hands with someone and flashing his blazing smile for the camera. She shut the laptop as a wave of nausea rushed over her. It seemed to stretch belief that he could be in the city in which she chose to hide. She did not think he would leave Europe. She cursed herself for not checking—but what would she have used? Perhaps Richard Moretti was one of his many names, just because he originated in Italy did not mean he used his real name. She panicked then and opened her computer again, hammering out an email to Delancey St. Clair—a search for him found his cocky grin smiling up at her from the website of Holler, Grim, Albrecht, & Mors. A name she saw over and over in association with Sinistrari—Moretti. His legal counsel.
Despite that, she clicked on Delancey’s company email and sent him a message from one of her many disposable addresses. It was apparently too much to hope that Del would notice the message within her chosen handle. WilHMurray. Wilhemina Murray. As an alias it was obvious to her eyes, but, apparently not to his. The library suddenly seemed oppressive and she turned away from the intricate Abbey paintings and walked slowly down the stairs and out into the blustery day. She couldn’t believe Del was working for the firm that supported such ilk as Moretti—she had to get used to thinking of him that way. The last thing she needed was to go spill the name Sinistrari to someone. Looking up at the gray sky, all the anger seemed to leech out of her. What right did she have to expect Del’s help? She drug him straight into the middle of her mess ten years ago in Budapest and left him without so much as an explanation. Or a goodbye.

At lunch, she had searched the collected and sophisticated face of the young lawyer in front of her for a sign of the impetuous Delancey—little more than a boy—that she thought she knew. She remembered the last day—the last night. Remembered the chill of the hotel room as she slid out from beneath Delancey’s encircling arm and warm sheets and slipped out of the room. They had gone to the ballet that day—she convinced him and he protested in the Louisiana drawl she found so charming. He hadn’t lost that, at least. He was still charming, of that she was sure. A face like his would win the most stable woman over—and she had been so far from equilibrium. She remembered the faintest taste of his cologne on her lips as she pressed a farewell kiss to his bare shoulder and left when the sun was just peeking over the red roofs of Budapest.
Could she really blame him? She dragged him into a world most people still didn’t know existed outside the annals of fiction. She wouldn’t have believed it herself if she hadn’t seen them herself—jaws unhinging like a snake’s and a double set of sharp teeth descending to tear out the throats of her mother, father, her brother Piotr, her sister Nastia—all snuffed out in gouts of hot crimson.
The certainty she was having a nightmare faded when one of them stepped forward, his teeth receding as his face returning to normal. Normal but for the smears of blood around his face. He bent down towards her, his sharp chin catching the dim light. The strange noises that drew her from her bed had given no warning of this—the floating, nighttime drowsiness only enhanced the nightmare effect. And so, she did not shy away from the man who crouched down in front of her, hands and face dripping with her family’s blood.
He greeted her in Russian. “Hello, little one.”
She stared mutely at him, in dreams, one could not speak.
“What is it Sinistrari?” One of the other men asked, wiping his face with a red handkerchief he pulled from somewhere inside his coat.
“A child, Valac. Only a child.”
“What are you waiting for, then?”
“This one lives.” The man in front of her tilted his silver-haired head to the side and regarded her.
“What?” The one called Valac’s voice dropped to a hiss.
“When she wakes again, this will all be as a dream.” Sinistrari’s voice never broke its deep, gentle cadence.
He leaned towards her and opened his mouth wide again. Mina shut her eyes, certain that there would be a snap of teeth and she would awaken, but there was only a rush of breath across her face—strangely cooler than the warmth of the living room—and smelling of cold earth. She opened her eyes and saw the familiar shapes of her bedroom cast into shadow by her flickering nightlight. It wasn’t until the next morning that she saw the bare, bloodied footprints that streaked her bedroom floor and recognized them as her own. The six year old Mina’s testimony of monsters was discounted with much sympathetic headshaking and murmurs of trauma. Her aunt in St. Petersburg took her in and, once Mina was stirred into the mixture of four cousins, treated her no differently than one of her own.

She walked through the Boston Public Garden—where some of the trees still clung to their colorful autumn crowns—feeling aimless. She didn’t want to return to her apartment. She thought she would meet with Del and have all her problems solved. A completely ridiculous notion–born from some lingering damsel in distress fantasy. If he couldn’t help her, it would be just another disappointment she could pencil into the column reserved for Delancey St. Clair.

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Reflect

Friday Fictioneers: One photo, one story of 100 words.

© Janet Webb

© Janet Webb

There are things you know you’ll miss—for me it was cheeseburgers, that particular satisfaction of drinking a cold beer after a long day out on the lake. Then there are the people; the ones who grow old and fade away, leaving you alone like the last skeletal leaf clinging to a tree when the snow starts falling. That part was harder, watching parents and friends wither into nothing, into food for worms. They didn’t tell me I would miss my reflection, that I would slowly forget my own face. Sometimes, I’m not certain I exist. Then, I get thirsty.

The Initiative

A combination of my first (woefully uncompleted) NaNoWriMo challenge and a Friday Fictioneers piece, along with some other smattered blog postings have muddled together into a lengthy story idea. Since I promised more Jakob Van Helsing, I am delivering. This is only the beginning. 

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         “Jakob.”
         Jakob grunted and opened one eye. The world tipped sideways and he felt a moment’s alarm before realizing he had fallen asleep with his head on the bar. He wiped saliva from his chin as he sat up, trying to move as slowly as possible.
         “How did you find me?” he asked in English, looking at the man who had woken him.
         “Your uncle tell me this place is your favorite.” Frans carefully removed his felt hat and twisted it in his big hands.
         “Shame on Uncle Hendrick, using precious Initiative resources to track me down.” Jakob looked around for the bartender, but he was nowhere in sight.
         “I send him home,” Frans said, his misshapen face splitting in a grotesque parody of a smile.
         “On his own two feet?” Jakob asked.
         “Natuurlijk.”
         “Not natuurlijk, Frans, You’ve sent plenty of upstanding men away in boxes.” Jacob groaned and rolled his neck, trying to ease the cramped muscles.
         “This bartender not so upstanding, Jakob.”
         Jakob considered a moment before shrugging, “Perhaps not. Well, Frans, don’t just stand there, tell me what dear Uncle Hendrick wants from me today.”
         “Amerika.” Frans pronounced it with what Jakob thought was far too much undue reverence.
         “Hellfire and ashes, America? Mijn god does he want me in that speelhol of a country. I’ve just come back from Transylvania where I almost got blown up—twice—and did get shot!” Jakob felt the side of his neck where a makeshift bandage was still in place.
         “Is only a graze.” Frans shrugged.
         “The hell you know. Fine, fine, I’ll go to Amerika.” Jakob retrieved his coat from a nearby bar and shoved his arms through the sleeves, concealing the bandolier that crisscrossed his chest. “Jezus Christ, just once I’d like to have a full week in once place before Hendrick ships me off to fight another demon.”
         “Your uncle, he not like you speaking the Lord’s name so.”
         “He can take it up with the Almighty, then. Although, of the two of us, I’m more likely to see him first.” Jakob found his hat hanging on a lonely coat rack and tipped it on his head over his eyes. The weak morning sunlight already hurt his pounding head. “Lead on, Frans.”
         As Frans held open the door, Jakob double checked that his best pistol was in the concealed pocket in his coat. He rubbed his thumb over the letters etched into the polished wood handle, remembering his sixteenth birthday when his father presented it to him. Jakob Abraham Van Helsing. The V engraved below his name was not the Roman numeral but instead stood for the Latin Venator. Hunter.

         Jakob was hoping to catch up on some sleep with something other than a dirty bar for a pillow on the flight, but the briefcase Frans handed him as he prepared to board the jet would keep him occupied for the duration of the flight into Boston. It was a compendium of everything the Initiative had on a coven of Nightwalkers led by a leech known as Sinistrari. He leafed through the yellowed parchments, some of which were so stained–by what he hated to guess–that he could barely decipher the writing. Half of it was a mixture of law enforcement documents and speculation, half ancient lore, and none of it digitized. He sighed. Hendrick was the current head of the Venator Initiative and despite the old man’s hunting acumen and otherwise quick wit, Jakob could not convince this grandfather to use a scanner. He snapped photos of the documents on his iPad and managed to decipher some of the more difficult passages once he had manipulated the images. At this rate, half the Initiative’s documents would be digital from Jakob’s missions alone.
         He sipped a sparkling water as he tried to dredge something useful from pages torn out of old family bibles, cramped journal entries, and annotated newspaper clippings. The stewardess had the water and a bottle of Advil waiting and he regretted—again—that he didn’t know her name to thank her. You’d think if they were going to keep putting the same girl on his flights, they’d at least let him know her name. She had to be involved in the Initiative in some way. They didn’t hire just anyone for these transatlantic flights. Sometimes he flew commercial, but when he had this much research to do, it was best done away from prying eyes.
He got up from his seat and stretched, pacing down the aisle of the small jet. The stewardess looked up at him and asked if he needed anything. He thanked her and said he just needed to rest his legs and eyes. The information seemed seared into his corneas when he shut his eyes against the light streaming in. Nightwalkers were nasty by nature; blood-sucking parasites that were better off rotting in the ground before they became revenants. He had heard the name Sinistrari whispered by older members of the Initiative in his youth–the bogeyman that hid behind crumbling mausoleum doors. He could hardly believe this leech was the same, but the lore seemed to indicate that Sinistrari was one of the ancients. The last recorded attack by the coven was in a small town in Russia–a man and woman and their young son and daughter were slaughtered and drained, but he left one alive, the youngest daughter. Mina Volkov, age six.
         He reached for his iPad and opened the crime scene photos. The bloody footprints tracked across the wood floors looked like something from a bad horror movie set. If he hadn’t seen the work of Nightwalkers before, he would have hardly believed there could be so much blood. Where is she now? Jakob wondered. The documents indicated that she had been sent to live with an aunt and uncle. When the case was finally closed–blamed on an enraged psychopath that would never be found–there were no further notes on her. He looked back at the photos. There was one of Mina, the day after her family was slaughtered. Her dark eyes looked huge and her delicate ankles hung off the side of the bed as an investigator knelt beside her, measuring her bloody feet. It wasn’t the first time Sinistrari left a single victim alive, Jakob knew from the dossier, but it was the first time he had left one behind. Little Mina would be in her thirties now, if Sinistrari had not returned for her already. Jakob pulled out the satellite phone he kept for emergencies and dialed the Initiative.
         “Hallo Frans. Ja,  Jakob hier.” He glanced back at the stewardess, his habitual paranoia making him lower his voice as he continued in English. “I need you to find someone for me. Name: Volkov. Mina Volkov.”

NEXT

 

Graduation

If you’ve been following along, you may recognize today’s protagonist from a previous Friday Fictioneers (one photo, one hundred words, one story) piece. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing him again–as he will almost certainly return, whether in another FF challenge, or something else altogether.

Photo by Jennifer Pendergast

         Jakob pulled his hat low, shading his eyes against the sun. The archway was unchanged. A stone portal that held no meaning for ninety-nine percent of the students who passed through it. But he remembered his walk beneath it, the eve after graduation.
         His grandfather waited beyond the arch, dark eyes and hollow cheeks emphasized by the glowing light of a small brazier at his side. Jakob remembered the goose-flesh pebbling his bare chest before the fiery brand seared into the flesh over his heart.
         The V had a double meaning–V for Van Helsing and for the Latin venator. Hunter.

If you enjoyed this and want more, go here

Toasted

Helena (you know Helena, dahlink. Tall, cool blonde with a razor sharp tongue and a wit to match. I mean that affectionately, of course) always hints that we might one day collaborate and today was the day I decided we were going to. Whether she approved or not. I read her piece today (which is a treat, as always) and have added my own as a sort of continuation. They can both be read alone, but I think they’re quite fun together. *tosses vampire gauntlet*

In case you’re unaware of the spark for this little fiction fire, it’s a weekly jaunt called Friday Fictioneers. Click the link, look at the photo, write 100 words (or so) and link back to share and read other’s stories!

Photo by Sandra Crook

       “Hellfire and ashes,” Jakob swore.
       The turrets of the quaint chateau flamed merrily. The onlookers cries were decidedly less festive. Jakob ducked back into the shadow of a nearby building. His face was too recognizable and you never knew who belonged to the Count these days.
       He slid from shadow to shadow—difficult even in the waning daylight. Difficult for anyone except Jakob. He groaned at the name on a burning tractor. Van Helsing Bros.
       It wasn’t the first time someone used his family name—and certainly not the last—but must they light his favorite Transylvanian B&B on fire?

1,000 Word Story in V parts, part IV

If you haven’t been following along, Chuck Wending is having us write a 1,000 word story in 5 parts–each part is written by a different participant each week. You can see my contributions here, here, and here. This is week 4 so we’re drawing near the end. I decided to continue “Cold” by Shane, Courtney, and Adrienne.

COLD

(Shane)

He is cold. It’s always cold around this time of year. The sun decides it’s had enough and pops off for a quick solstice nap. Not that he minds. He’s used to the cold by now.

He props his collar up, puffs his scarf to cover all exposed skin; all that dead, gray skin. He tucks his gloves down over the wrists and sucks on the butt of his last cigarette. Damn things never last. His wife used to say it’d give him cancer, not that it matters now. He lowers his woolen packer hat over his brow and stares at his reflection in a shopfront window. He used to recognize himself, now what is he?

It had all happened so fast; the heart attack; cracking his head on the tile floor; the ethereal sensation that he was losing life, as though it were seeping out of a hole somewhere. And then the doctors. The nurses. The scalpel. He saw it all, from outside his body. He watched as they operated, trying so heroically to save his life, but in the end the line went dead.

So what the hell is he doing back on Winthrop street in high Winter, and how did he return?

(Courtney)

He shuffles down the sidewalk, leaves skittering at his feet. They’re as dead as he, but at least their hop-skipping gives a pretense of life. The cold slows him, as though he’s walking through vats of the red gelatin his daughter snacks on. Childish giggles echo in his memory.

He wonders what his funeral was like. What they wore. How they sat. If her tears were as loud as her laughter.

Did his grave the next morning warrant an investigation?

His sluggish foot kicks a loose rock at a passerby. The woman glances at him, frowning. But then her eyes widen. He already knows her thoughts. Too many other well-meaning lips have spoken them. Sir? You look ill. Can we help?

And in undertones: Is he contagious?

That question always makes them back away. Even now, the woman veers aside, covering her mouth and nose with her hand. Just in case. Can’t be too careful.

If only he could tell them this is no illness they can catch by breathing his air. He shies away from them, too. Even in the cold, they smell too good. He places his hand over the scarf covering his own mouth. Even through the wool, he can feel the fangs.

(Adrienne)

He had forgotten how hungry he is as he studied his reflection in the shop window. Now, as he turns and watches the woman scurrying away, he wonders if anyone would notice her absence. A sharp pain brings him back to reality. He was clenching his jaw tightly, piercing his lower lip with his fangs. It wasn’t the first time he’s done this. Luckily he heals quickly. Shaking his head, he turns away from the woman, now a small dot a few blocks away. Now is not the time to slip up.

He keeps moving, fighting the cold breeze as it assaults his legs and threatens his pace even more. Behind him, a shadow flits under the yellow street lamps, quickly concealing itself in the shadows once more. He smiles. His lengthy pause in front of the shop window had done the trick. His plan is working beautifully.

Every move he had made since he dug himself out his own grave had been witnessed by that shadow, and it was now time to find out who, or what, it was. He turns the corner and immediately enters through the first door he comes to. The house has been vacant for years, and it is the perfect place for a predator to trap his prey.

(Wanderer — Me)

The house smells slightly damp and musty. Strangely comforting, he thinks. It reminds him of the cool dark earth and the way it clung to him as he clawed his way out of the ground. A cracked mirror hangs crookedly on the wall and he unwraps his scarf, looking at his face in the spider-webbed surface. His skin looks like the cracking dried mud of a riverbed. He turns away, sliding into an alcove in the entryway. It wouldn’t do to have his pursuer spring the trap too soon.

He swallows against the wave of hunger that comes over him. No. He only wants answers. Why should a thirty five year old man with no history of heart disease drop dead of a heart attack? And why should that same man refuse to stay dead? There was a slight tickle in his gums and he consciously breathes through his nose until the fangs retract. He has a good idea why he isn’t dead or, more accurately, why he is undead, so the question is how?

He hears the front door creak and lowers into a crouch, reminding himself he only wants answers. The aroma of warm blood fills the foyer.

By the pricking of my thumbs…

…some scary stories this way come. 

It may not be a deviation from the daily here on this humble blog, but since it is both October and I’m currently living in a state rife with legends of witches and whatnots, I hope you’ll enjoy some tales of terror, stories of the supernatural, and even some creatures from the crypt. 

I state this as a declaration of intent, since I have been sadly absent here in WordPress-wood. I won’t make excuses, but, don’t say I never gave you anything. If you need a little tease to tempt your tastebuds, to tantalize your taste for terror, try a tale or two already written that may have escaped your eyes.

Tenderly Turned to Dust

Requiem Æternam

Roadkill

Pieces of the Puzzle

Holy Crossover, Batman! It was bound to happen sooner or later, so sooner it is. Our not-so-dynamic duo, Royston and Talan are interrupted by an unexpected and unwelcome guest. To catch up read this, this, and this.

        Royston stared morosely into his nearly-empty pint of beer, counting the rings of foam. His arm burned like the dickens and he kept rubbing it as though it would make the stinging sensation go away.
         “They sent us to the wrong place,” Talan said for the third time, disgusted.
         “Bloody wankers,” Royston agreed, wincing as fresh pain shot up his forearm.
         “Two more,” Talan gestured to the bartender.
         Roy nodded gratefully at the American.
         Once they realized there was no way around the pit in the floor, Royston called his handler. Felix Crowley then informed them that the parchment detailing their task had been mistranslated. Royston’s company mobile was now, for all he knew, still plummeting towards the core of the earth after he flung it into the hole–Crowley’s voice still screaming out of it. They walked back through the doors, which opened at a flash of Royston’s tattoo and, following Talan’s brilliant suggestion, went straight to the nearest pub.
         Royston took a gulp of the new, frothy beer the bartender brought after clinking it dissolutely with Talan’s. The American really wasn’t so bad. The accent, of course, was ridiculous and he had no concept of proper manners, but he did know how to shut up and drink a beer. It was a talent, Royston realized after weeks with Shafer, that not every man possessed.
         “Now what?” Talan asked finally, eyeing the telly in the corner as though he cared about the football match.
         “Well my mobile’s in the pit of the bloody silver pyramid where we were supposed to go and Crowley hasn’t tracked me down yet, so for now, we wait. I’m sure someone’ll turn up to claim me,” Royston said glumly.
         “How can they find you?” Talan turned away from the match, his blonde eyebrows shooting towards his hairline.
         Royston rolled up his sleeve—on the non-tattooed arm—and pointed to the tiny lump just above the crook of his elbow.
         “Tracking device. They can find me anytime, anywhere,” he grinned and swallowed another mouthful of beer.
         “Jesus,” Talan said, impressed. “Did they do that when they decided you were…y’know, him?”
         “No, mate. I’ve had this since I was nineteen, since they first offered me a post. They take their employees seriously, they do.”
         “They should, considering how much it costs to replace one of you,” a new voice interrupted their murmured conversation and both men froze.
         A blonde, Slavic-featured young woman slid herself into the stool next to Royston. She wore a black suit and her shapely legs were covered in black hose. Even Royston could tell it was expensive. A wiff of her perfume floated past him as she caught the bartender’s attention and ordered an extra-dirty martini.
         “Excuse me, miss,” Royston began.
         “It’s Elsa. Elsa Obrecht.”
         Royston blanched. Talan regarded Elsa with undisguised admiration.
         “I see you’ve heard of me,” her red lips curved in a smile and she took a sip of her martini, eyes focused on Royston.
         “I don’t b’lieve I’ve had the pleasure,” the American shouldered Royston to the side as he eagerly reached across him to shake Elsa’s hand.
         “Talan Davies, yes, I know who you are, too,” Elsa delicately took his hand in the briefest possible handshake.
         Talan looked pleased rather than otherwise and Royston dug his elbow into the beefy man’s side before he knocked Royston off his stool.
         “What’re you doing here?” he asked, scooting away from Elsa.
         “I know the Council has been making one mistake after the other and that you’re the fourth al’Uttarak they’ve declared in fifty years. The Firm is…displeased,” Elsa fished an olive out of her martini and rolled it between two scarlet-tipped fingers.
         “Bloody hell,” Royston said faintly.
         Talan jogged his elbow, demanding an explanation. Royston shoved the man back, waving at him to be silent. Had he thought the man wasn’t so bad after all? Wrong. He was an interfering prat.
         “There’s a certain…asset they are rather desperate to get their hands on. They think he can help unravel some of the tangles the Council has put in our plans. He may even be able to confirm whether or not you are the real al’Uttarak, or just another mis-read prophecy,” she smirked.
         “And this bloke, the Firm wants us to find him?” Royston asked, grasping for any crumb that might save him.
         “Oh, we know where he is,” she examined the olive before popping it into her mouth. “But a previous mission to…persuade him to partner with us did not go as planned.”
         “Who is he? The bloody President of the United States?” Royston ignored Talan’s grunt of disapproval.
         “He’s a vampire–” Elsa began.
         “Oh sod off. You come in here, interrupt me and my mate having a well-deserved pint and then say you want us to convince a bleeding mythological creature to partner with the Firm?” Royston laughed. “This is complete bollocks.”
         “You don’t believe in vampires?” Elsa raised one perfectly groomed brow.
         Royston’s laugh faded.
         “You’re not…you’re bloody serious? This is….oh sod it,” Royston put his head down on the sticky bar.
         “This particular vampire, Fritz, has the unique ability to read emotions, and, we believe, auras,” Elsa continued.
         “What does that mean, exactly?” Talan asked, his voice unsteady. “What’s an aura?”
         “Auras are like halos of light and color around people—not everyone can see them, and very few people can interpret them. We believe Fritz can. And, if he can, he can tell if Mr. Humphreys here is the real al’Uttarak or not.”
         Royston lifted his head and drained the rest of his beer, staring at the back of the bar as though facing a firing squad. He could feel Talan and Elsa’s eyes on him as he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand; Talan’s mouth hung open slightly. Royston closed his eyes for a moment and then turned to Elsa, resignedly.
         “Well, looks like we bloody better find this vampire then. What do we need to do?”
         Elsa tossed back her martini and smiled.

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.

Friday Fictioneers Flash Fiction – Mirror On The Wall

icon-grill-ted-strutz

The lurid painting above the bar fascinated him. The vivid colors were such that he paid no attention to what was depicted. Slanting sunlight glanced off the rows of bottles behind the bar and made the rose colored lampshades glow. The leather seat was cool against his arm as he rested it along the back, craning his neck. Waiting, watching. For her. He saw her reflection in the mirror above the bar; tight black pants and silk top that caressed every curve. He stood to greet her and she flung herself into his arms. She was alone in the mirror.

First Fictioneer