Posted in Character Stories

Three Little Words

“It happened again, Sir.”

Back to the door, I glance up from the computer screen to stare at my chief of security. “How many?”

“Just the doctor.”

Another doctor. I nod. “Where is Miles now?”

“We haven’t been able to get into the room, Sir.”

Course. I take a deep breath, careful to keep the disappointment from touching my features. These people have to trust me. They have to believe I have a plan. They can’t know I’m drowning in this predicament just as much as they are. 

“Give me a moment. I’ll be right out to deal with him.”

He shuts the door, closing me in with my thoughts. I kick the extension cord under my desk. Another doctor. Dammit. 

We’re past the stage of throwing things around the room to blow off steam, so I carefully lean back in my chair and stand, leaving my keyboards and papers alone. This was supposed to be easy. It’s the next step up the ladder to power, but I can’t get there without Miles by my side. 

My father is doing everything he can to take power from the world. He’s ready to bloody swords and let his men fall in the face of older, wiser creatures, the kind of beasts that have ruled this world since the beginning of time and aren’t prepared to pull their claws out of its crust. That’ll change soon, though. When I’m ready to step onto the throne, they will hand it to me. 

I step out from behind the desk, buttoning my jacket back in place. Calm thoughts, Matt. A sunrise across the ocean tides. Pine cones with a fine dusting of snow across the forest floor. Miles. Just him. Dressed in sweats and doing something completely domestic in our kitchen. He’d smile or make a joke and the rest of the world wouldn’t matter. 

I have to fix him. 

Out of my office, I walk through the familiar halls of my hotel. My shoes don’t make a noise across the patterned blue tiles. Gold paint covers the baseboards and leads up to light grey walls. It’s a color pattern designed to keep my customers at ease. 

It doesn’t work on Miles. Nothing seems to work on him once the virus takes hold. 

I stab a finger into the elevator button and step inside. Level thirteen is locked for all guests and staff who aren’t scanned into the biometric system. I lay my thumb on the pad and watch the lights flicker. 

I’m on my way, Miles. 

The elevator slides to a stop on his level. Chaos meets me when the doors open. Two women in lab coats pace the space in front of me, their hands full of charts and their mouths full of questions. I raise a hand up, silencing them. Not now. I don’t want to talk about this just yet. We’ve had a failure, a setback, just the like the several dozen before now and I can’t waste a moment on talking about it. 

Miles needs me. 

Breezing by the several security members who already have guns in their hands, I put my thumb on the door scanner. “Nobody enter after me. Do you understand?”

There’s a general murmur of agreement. Nobody actually wants the title of supernatural wrangler. They all would prefer I deal with him myself. 

The tension in the room behind me is nothing compared to the scene in the all white office I made for Miles’ appointments. The carpet in the center of the room is red. Not dyed. Stained. It has soaked up the life essence of the last doctor.

Pity. That one seemed competent.

The door clicks shut behind me. We’re locked in. No help is coming. 

I don’t see Miles at first. Instead, I take a few steps inside and survey the scene. There’s the body. It’s splayed between the couch and the chair. Clearly, the man was standing when my husband attacked. I don’t doubt that he acted in self-defense. The virus is hyper-sensitive, far more trigger happy than the parasite entwined with my own DNA. Someone wanted to make improvements on the vampire virus of the twentieth century and now several doctors are dead. Perhaps science and genetic modification isn’t always the answer. 

Miles is in the corner. Head in his hands, I can see that his claws are still out. He doesn’t show conscious control over the obsidian blades attached to each finger. 

I unbutton my jacket and shrug it off, folding it in half and depositing it on the one couch cushions not sprayed with the doctor’s blood. May Jupiter smile down on my courage today. New vampires are stronger and faster than older breeds. It’s always a risk that I’ll lose a fight if he’s triggered in my presence. 

One step closer. My shoe sinks into the carpet. I’ll have to take them off before I leave this room if I don’t want to trail forensic evidence through the hotel. Miles’ head snaps up. He immediately points one curved claw to the pad of paper by his feet. 

I didn’t mean for it to happen.

I keep my hands at my sides even as my chest tightens. “I know, darling. It’s okay. It was an accident.”

His pupils are too large. I can’t tell if they’re dilated from fear or the virus. I watch him as he stares at me through his curtain of black hair. I don’t know what the right words are now. 

I love you doesn’t seem right. 

I’m going to fix this seems too forward. 

“I’m here to help you,” I settle on. 

He can’t quite close his mouth around the needle-sharp fangs poking into his bottom lip. Carefully grabbing his pencil, he stabs it onto the blood speckled paper to scrawl a single word. Why

“Because I promised to take care of you,” I answer carefully, slowly bending down into a crouch in front of him. 

I watch him pull his shoulders further back into the corner, shrinking from my close proximity. His hand is moving again. Who are you?

Three words. That’s all it is. Words. 

I take a shuddering breath around the sharp pain in my chest. “I’m Matt, Miles. Your husband.”

He shakes his head, vehemently denying my statement. 

NO husband

Fuck. 

I close my fists and open them slowly. Slow and steady. I can’t move too fast or I’ll set him off. 

Someone else was in here. It wasn’t anyone on my staff. They’re all too scared of Miles. They wouldn’t want to be the next casualty. 

No. This is something else. Something insidious and political. 

Straightening, I take a step back from him. “What’s the last thing you remember, Miles?”

He doesn’t have to write anything down. Instead, he flings a hand towards the body in the middle of the room. 

Good point. Death is memorable. 

“Do you remember anyone else coming in here?”

A tear leaks down his left cheek as he shakes his head again. Nothing. They’ve scrambled his memory. He was getting better. It’s been weeks since we had an incident. He and I were sharing our apartment again. Things were looking slightly better. 

Which is bad for anybody against our cause. 

Miles is one of only two new vampires. The second is a girl that has been missing for almost two decades. If he got better, he and I could petition to join the world’s council. We would join the group of powerful couples who control the fate of the world. Old vampires have been fighting the genetically modified groups for decades now. Should Miles control his virus and learn to manage his powers, he would change the world and they couldn’t ignore us any longer. 

Which can’t happen. I know who was here. Someone came in here and altered his mind, undid the years of training and passion I’ve put into his project, and left as quietly as a shadow. 

It seems the princess is trying to regain her parents’ favor. 

I didn’t know Erisa Nabil had stepped into my territory. I hope she had her fun because she’s going to regret it. 

One question answered, I have another problem to deal with now. Miles is still curled up into the corner. He doesn’t know me. There’s blood all over his shirt and hands and smeared on his cheeks, his neck, his forearms. I have to get him out of here. 

I move my attention to the security camera in the corner and wave my hands to get their attention. “Clear the floor. I’m taking him out of here.”

This room is soundproofed, but I know chaos has broken out on the rest of the level. With only the one elevator, people are going to grab their belongings and shove inside. A few desperate individuals will push out into the stairwell to scramble to safety. 

Vampires are dangerous. Especially new ones. Especially Miles. 

I don’t blame them for their reactions. Too many of them have seen him lose control. Too many have been instructed in cleaning up the messes in here. I watch Miles sink his face into his hands again, his body shaking with a silent sob. This can’t keep happening. 

“I’ll be right back,” I tell him, not looking for a reaction or an answer as I back up towards the door and let myself out of the room. 

I can fix this. I have to help him. 

White sheets of paper spill onto the floor from several of the desks situated throughout this room. Pens are scattered among the mess. A few purses were completely abandoned. The staff understood the danger in my request and fled. Excellent. Perhaps they deserve a raise. 

With the floor clear, I carefully open the door again. “Miles, let’s go home.”

He doesn’t budge from his position in the corner, preferring to stay curled in on himself like a nervous hedgehog. It’s a good thing none of his extra properties have developed as invisibility. I’d probably never find him again. 

Okay. I’m going to have to move him myself. I can’t just leave him in here. 

Easing my way back into the room, I cross the floor and crouch down in front of him once more. “Hey, Miles. We should get you up in your room to take a shower. How does that sound?”

He doesn’t answer. Obviously. He can’t answer. 

I don’t want to reach out to touch him. I’m not in the mood to ruin a perfectly good outfit by having him claw at me. 

“I’ll get in the shower with you. We have that cherry blossom soap you like and, after, we can sit in bed and eat chocolate ice cream.”

His head snaps up from his arms. I have only a split second to register that his eyes are an unnatural shade of burgundy. This isn’t Miles. It’s the monster. 

No words can save me. I scramble back, falling on my ass into the wet carpet. Blood and fibers stick to my left hand as I hold my right up to fend him away. 

He lunges. I move. It’s a reflex more than a conscious defense. Miles crashes into the couch, shoving the thick piece of furniture several feet away. 

“I’m sorry, Miles. Please, you have to fight this. You have to be okay. I don’t know what they did to you, but we can fix it.”

There’s no rational creature in his head. He can’t hear my words. He doesn’t care. 

Red fills his gaze. Fangs dangle from his upper jaw. 

I’m going to fix him. 

I promised to fix him.

But it won’t be today. 

Fight or flee. Those are my options now. I don’t want to hurt him anymore than I already have, so I push to my feet before his dazed, emotionless eyes can focus on me again. 

“I’ll be back,” I call over my shoulder. 

The door slams shut behind me, muffling the unnatural roar that follows me from the room.

Author’s Note

This is a complimentary piece to the high school prompt a few weeks ago. Miles is my main character with memory problems, but I wanted to give a fresh look on his condition. The vampires in this series are incredibly complicated and versatile, their specific ailments differing wildly between characters, so be sure to keep checking in to see which character I highlight each week as we slowly put together this complex world of flawed and stubborn people.

As always, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to view this piece and be sure to check in with Anna and Bridgette as well!

Anna’s story: https://loscotoff.com/week25-the-factory/

Bridgette’s story: https://bridgettetales.com/2022/06/26/challenge-week25/

Posted in Character Stories

Nobody Said There‘d Be Zombies

Cedric should be here by now. I walk around the rundown room, dirt pluming around my sneakers. He told me to wait before I start to investigate. 

Screw waiting. He should have gotten here on time. 

Moving around the dark room, I watch the dim light of the moon reflect in a broken mirror hung on the left wall. Something bad happened here. It’s why we got the call. We’re supposed to investigate and report back to our base. Rumors of a genetically modified individual have swept over the western border. If it’s true, we might be in more trouble than anyone thought. 

There’s an envelope on a table behind the brown couch. Something big moved through this area, knocking the furniture askew. Chairs are overturned in the corner of the room. This table is perfectly fine, though. 

Odd. 

I’ll have to tell Seymour that it’s too obvious.

Picking up the envelope, I rip it open and pull out a postcard of the Eiffel Tower. There’s two words printed on the back. 

BEHIND YOU

Not funny. I glance over my shoulder. There’s nothing there. It looks like there hasn’t been anything in here for a long damn time. 

“Where the hell are you, Cedric?” I whisper under my breath. 

I turn back around. The envelope is gone. I’m alone in this dusty cabin in the middle of nowhere. Outside, a raven caws. 

Real creepy, Seymour. 

I don’t know what I’m supposed to find here. Evidence, Seymour had said. Keep my senses about me and be adaptable. That’s all the skill I’ll need in the new world. 

I move through the living area, stepping around broken bits of glass from the busted windows. Something was trying to get in. All of the glass is shattered in towards the middle of the room. It crunches under my shoes as I glance at the nearest window. Long, gnarled scratches tear through either side of the wall. Something did get in. Something big, something strong, and something likely still here. 

I hate this mission. 

Moving towards the hall, I duck under a bookshelf that’s been tipped across the space. It’s a good thing I’m not claustrophobic. My shoulders scrape across the small area. I can feel the splintered wood against the blue sleeve of my suit. 

It’s all so real. 

More glass and dirt and pictures line the floors over here. Why anyone would frame a picture of a motorcycle and a buffalo in their hall is beyond me. Since that’s not the mystery I’m in charge of solving, I step past it all after only a moment’s hesitation. There’s a single, red tulip placed in front of the door at the end of the hall. Too obvious again. That’s definitely the door I’m supposed to go through.

“You’re going to have to make this more difficult, Seymour,” I murmur aloud, sure that he can hear me through at least one of the wires attached to my body. 

There’s no reply. There never is. Cedric didn’t show and now I’m in charge of dealing with this all alone. 

So not cool. 

A few more steps, I stop in front of the door at the end of the hall and hold my breath, listening for anything on the other side. Nothing. There’s a draft through the entire house. Outside, I can hear the rustle of the leaves on the sycamore trees. 

No point in stalling. I wipe my palms on my pants. I can do this. All by myself. I’m ready. 

There’s a creak behind me. 

Right hand reaching for the door, I freeze. It’s an old, abandoned place in the middle of nowhere. It’s going to make weird sounds. 

Breath caught in my chest, I glance over my shoulder. Nothing. No werewolves or vampires or men. No monsters lurking in the dark hall behind me. 

Chill, Connor. 

Back to the mission and the door I’m supposed to go through, I look forward. I didn’t hear anything, but the door is already open, gaping like an insidious jaw that has unhinged itself in order to make space for me. 

“Hello?”

Every scary movie I’ve ever seen has made a point to say that talking into the darkness is a bad idea, but I can’t help myself. Maybe it’s Cedric. He could have come in through a window. He and Seymour could have planned a prank. They’ve never been able to get one over on me. 

“Guys, this isn’t funny.”

There’s a shuffling noise. Bare feet across the floor. I’m no longer alone. 

“Cedric? You in here?”

I force myself to take a step into the room. It’s dark. A sliver of moonlight spills into the room through the broken window to the left. I can just barely make out a sturdy desk off to that side. There’s a coat rack on its side in the middle of the room. Shredded pieces of paper cover most of the floor. 

This is what I was supposed to discover, but something else got here first. 

There’s a sucking sound behind me. The door slams shut. I whirl around to face whatever is there. 

Nothing. 

Again. 

This doesn’t make sense.

I have to find the answer and get out of here. It has to be on one of these papers. All I need is the name of the doctor and the chemical formula for the mutated creature. 

Easy, Connor. You can do this. 

I don’t get a chance to, though. As I turn around, a dark shape separates itself from the corner. It’s here. 

The monster. The doctor’s mistake. The reason I got signed up for this stupid mission. 

It’s in the damn room. 

It steps forward, arms dangling uselessly at its sides. No shoes cover its feet. I watch it as it crosses the window. 

Not a monster. 

Cedric. 

His skin peels away in random spots, leaving irritated gaps of flesh across his forearms and over the left side of his face. Most of his hair is gone. His mouth is open. Gaping. There’s no teeth. Only fangs. 

“Ced? What is this?”

My friend doesn’t answer. The monster lunges. 

There’s no time to move, to think, to react. He’s across the room one moment and then on top of me the next. My head cracks against the floorboards. Fangs pierce my neck. I can’t scream or cry or beg for mercy as I watch him spit chunks onto the floor next to our entangled bodies. 

Nope. Fuck this. I’m not playing this anymore. 

Reaching up, I yank the headset off and toss it across the room. 

“Hey! That’s expensive, Connor!”

Whirling to face Seymour, I flip him off, my vision flickering between normal and every shade of red. “You said this was supposed to be like an escape room. I had to find the clues and get out. It’s a mystery, not a horror!”

On the other side of the glass, he puts his hands on either side of his head, bushy wisps of his Afro falling over his forehead. “Okay. You should take a deep breath now.”

“Breathe!” I start to pull all of the wires off of my body. “My breathing is fine! I’m not fine with your sick video game.”

I’m going to destroy it. He’s locked in a separate room. There’s nothing in the way of ripping the motherboard out of his computer and smashing it to pieces. 

“Connor, please, man. Gideon paid for all of this. He’s funding my entire project to use virtual reality technology in order to help transition new vampires.” His face is pressed to the glass. “Please, don’t do this. You said you wanted an extreme version.”

I have a keyboard in my hands. I wouldn’t need to break it over my knee. With the strength that comes from the virus, I could crush it in my hands and watch the pieces fall between my fingers. 

Seymour continues to plead. There’s strict rules, though. In order to protect him from new vampires going crazy in these sadistic games, he has no access to me. Until I unlock that door, he’s not getting in here. 

“Connor.”

That wasn’t Seymour. 

I tear my bloodied gaze off of the computer pieces in order to look at Cedric. “Were you in on it?”

He nods. “Thought it would teach you a lesson about snooping when I told you to wait for me.”

The red seeps from my vision as I stare at his smirk. “It was one time.”

He shrugs, his green eyes alight with mischief. “Well, it’ll be never again after this, won’t it?”

“You’re an ass,” I grumble, gingerly setting the keyboard down. 

“Come say it to my face, big guy,” he teases, walking over to the glass door. 

Seymour slumps into a chair on his side of the room as I move to stand across from Cedric. “I’m going to find all of your secret snacks and tell Gideon about how you go out during restricted times.”

His smile never wavers. “Hey. I haven’t threatened to show anyone the footage of you screaming like a wee girl to anyone. Why don’t we sneak out to a movie and call it even instead?”

“Just us?” I ask, my fingers already flipping the lock. 

He shrugs. “You can’t stay mad at Mour, can you?”

Stepping out of the game room, I glare at the nerd lounging across from me. “You can come if you pay for the snacks.”

Throwing his head back, he laughs. “Deal, Connor. Should we go see a comedy? I wouldn’t want to scare the shit out of you in a theater.”

I flip him the bird again and then loop my arm around Cedric’s shoulders, tucking him into my side. “I’m so going to get you back for this,” I whisper, chuckling at the way he shrugs. 

Zombies or not, I think I have something good here.

Author’s Note

I thought this would be the week I couldn’t incorporate my characters.

After a couple days of sheer panic, I settled on telling the story through a video game, so I could answer the prompt as well as give out another minor character and start to show off some of the relationships between the various vampires in this tangled universe. For timeline’s sake, this takes place in the 2010s era inside Gideon’s compound that exists in the underbelly of Washington. There’s so much more that I want to hit on in coming stories, but I hope this was a fun piece to read this week and I can’t wait to come back next week.

Thank you to everyone who stops in to read these posts and be sure to read from my writing partners, Bridgette and Anna:

Bridgette: https://bridgettetales.com/2022/06/18/challenge-week24/

Anna: https://loscotoff.com/week24-lempire-de-la-mort/

Posted in Character Stories

The Pink Palace

Image found on Pinterest

“Could you put a shirt on?”

Seth flashes me a wide grin, his green swim trunks the only piece of clothing he has conceded to wear. “We’re on vacation, Gideon.”

Vacation. I’ve never taken a vacation. I’m here on business. 

“We’re looking for investors.”

Seth shrugs. “We could have a little fun on the way.”

We shuffle along with the rest of the crowd leaving the boat. A plane would’ve gotten us here faster. A plane is more likely to crash. I have enough government scrutiny riding on this mission. I can’t destroy our chances by surviving a deadly crash and walking away with little more than already healing scratches. 

The beach ahead of us doesn’t boast the autumnal colors of our home. Palm trees retain their green shades. A thin mist creeps along the sand. Further out, scuba divers swim away from the shore, their bodies ceasing to exist once they duck under the shifting water. 

We make it to the front of the boat and a man steps into my way. Dark skin. Dark eyes. Naturally thick, spiraling hair pulled into a bun at the top of his head. Black tattoos swirl over his upper arms and what I can see of his chest around the tank top covering his mid drift. This is definitely our associate. 

“May I take your bags, Monsieur Carter?”

I cock my head to the side, looking over the man standing a few inches taller than myself. His accent isn’t as obvious as his appearance. Proper English pronunciation and he managed to hit the French accent perfectly. Regardless of his origins or any places he has lived during what can only be a long life, it seems somebody studied me. 

Since my brother hasn’t been fluent in French in at least a decade, I opt to continue the conversation in English. “Thank you, Sir, but I think I have this handled. Will you be showing us to the palace?”

The corners of his lips tweak upwards. “To your room in the hotel?”

“I believe your princess is waiting in the pink palace for me.”

His smile widens. “Yes, it’s the largest hotel in Honolulu, Monseuir. Tourism is incredibly popular here. The Princess requests that you are on your best behavior.”

Of course. As much as I try to avoid seeing the news, I know vampire attacks on are on the rise. Too many humans are being affected. The genetically modified virus that created me has evolved into something difficult to contain and even more impossible for an individual to master on their own. It’s why I’m here. To propose my project to someone of authority and gain the backing I need to buy and develop the space needed to help these people. 

“We will be.”

I watch his gaze flick over Seth, but he doesn’t say anything else before turning to lead us to the hotel. It’s a short stroll to our destination through lush paths and past hoards of humans with cameras roped around their necks. There’s so much more here than I anticipated after reading about the small islands. Of course, the France I knew as a young adult isn’t what stands today. Not everything we read can be trusted. 

On our way, we pass small makeshift stalls filled with handcrafted items. People native to the land boast their shell necklaces and beautiful art. Most of the area is too full of tourists to get a great view. I do catch sight of a small girl crouched down under one of the tables, her thin arms wrapped around the neck of a plush penguin. There was a time I dreamed of seeing zebras on the African plain after my father came home with the news of the wild beasts. Time has moved forward, but some things stay the same. We’re all searching for more than simply what is set before us. 

“This way, please,” our guide prompts, leading us towards the pink building dominating this stretch of beach. 

Seth kicks off his shoes, moving further down the sandy bank. His pale skin stands out against the blue sky. My brother smiles over at me. He could be happy here. He’s promised to follow me wherever I may go, but I could leave him here and he would thrive.

The other man leads us up the path to the hotel. We pass under an archway bracketed by potted palms. The Royal Hawaiian. Of course Princess Nabil would stay in such a luxurious resort. She’s protected from outside forces from the sheer exclusivity of this place while still pampered as the sole heir to the throne. There’s no force or invasion that could overtake this island. Mr. Raeleigh sent me out here to make friends with the old world, to convince them that there is a place for a new breed of vampires, but he had no idea what awaited us. 

Hotel staff members straighten up and bow as the man leading us enters the lobby. Silence overtakes the space. I pause, holding my hand out for Seth to do the same. The sweet scent of strawberries wafts over me. There’s a buzzing at the back of my mind I’ve learned to accept as the sixth sense gifted to me through my transition into something more than human. Strawberries aren’t native to Hawaii. This is something else, something insidious and moving quickly for me. 

I step in front of Seth and hold my hands out on either side of my head, my eyes searching the room but finding nothing. “Tell your princess I just want to talk.”

“You could speak directly to her,” a female voice hisses into my left ear. 

I don’t move. I can’t. To flinch or flail or fight is a death’s wish. Instead, I take a slow breath and try to ignore the bite of the blade pressing into my throat. Seth is a few steps behind me. No amount of speed or strength can win our situation now. I have to trust he won’t do anything foolish. This isn’t the first time my life has been threatened and it certainly will not be the last. 

“My apologies, Princess Nabil. I had read about your powers of invisibility, but never understood just how profound they are.” I speak slowly and clearly, my eyes forward and my hands unwavering. 

“Profound?” Her accented word is a purr in my ear. “What an interesting word to describe royalty, Gideon Carter.”

Her hold doesn’t loosen. She’s thin, the edges of her body pressed into my back. Far older than me, something not entirely of this world, she and I may be more equally matched in skill than she has considered. 

Of course. I don’t want to test that theory. I came here on invitation. I’m here to ask for a favor. It’s my duty to play nice. 

“Should I be granted the ability to see you, I might speak of your incredible beauty and woo you with colorful descriptions, Princess.” I don’t hide the twist to my lips as I grin. “For now, you have a rather tight grip and a magnificent hold on your knife.”

She lets out a bark of laughter, causing most of the staff to jolt and fidget. It seems they haven’t gotten used to the Princess’ antics. “Lead them to my chambers, Seymour. It seems Gideon Carter is worthy of a moment of my time.”

Her hold vanishes as suddenly as it appeared. The sweet strawberry scent dissipates, leaving me breathing in long pulls of the natural flora and the salty sea. Step one is done. We’ve arrived on the island and might even make it to see dinner tonight. Mr. Raeleigh would be pleased. Not impressed, but pleased. 

Our guide waves us forward, his own mischievous grin making his dark eyes shine. “Welcome to Honolulu, Monsieur Carter.”

Staff members take our bags, leaving us with glasses of bubbling champagne to hold while we wait to be escorted into the Princess’ chambers. “Bet you wish you’d worn a shirt now.” I murmur to my brother. 

His eyes are wide. Still on alert, still unable to comprehend all of what just happened. I knew this wasn’t the right mission for him. Raeleigh insisted. He’s convinced that he won’t be around to see the new world and wants me to invest in my own people. Seth is good. He’ll learn and adapt and stay by my side. 

I have to believe that or the guilt of walking him into a viper’s nest is going to eat me from the inside out. 

“I didn’t work hard to get these abs not to show them off,” he whispers back, his expression void of the humor he’s trying to express. 

I understand. It’s been decades since I started learning about all of this. Conspiracies and creatures that fairytales didn’t prepare me for. It’s a lot. 

“You didn’t work for those abs at all. The virus did all of the work.” I tease, trying to get him to loosen up before we head back into danger. 

He shakes his head. “You’re just jealous.”

That’s a little better. I bump my shoulder into his. The doors ahead of us start to open. Time for talking is over. 

We’re going to get through this. We’re going to walk back out of here. Seth is going to be okay. 

I repeat the sentences over and over in my head. I’ve done enough damage to my family. I won’t let Seth get hurt for me. We’re going to be okay. 

We have to be okay. The entire fate of the world relies on my plans for vampire rehabilitation. Without it, the next world war is coming and humans won’t stand a chance. 

Seth walks by my side as we follow the pink carpet leading to a gold throne. Erisa Nabil is lounging, her legs hooked around one armrest while she rests her cheek in her palm and balances all of her slender weight on that dainty elbow pressed into the other armrest. Dark makeup frames her eyes, daring any man to meet her gaze and fall captive to her beauty. Multiple gold earrings line the edges of her ears and dangle from her lobes. Rings adorn her thin fingers. A slit in her pink robe shows off a knife strapped to her upper thigh. Her entire pose is a delicate combination of beauty and danger.

Touch me, she seems to tempt, all too ready to sever the hand of any man that does. 

I keep my hold loose on my champagne, my other hand resting by my side. “You’re far more interesting than any written piece could capture, Princess Nabil.”

“And you’re only here because you’re charming, Gideon Carter,” she spits out the syllables of my name like they’re sharpened seeds from a spoiled fruit. “What is it you want from me?”

“Help,” I state plainly. “The world is changing. Your people are not the only enhanced individuals anymore and I want assistance in carving out space for those that are being changed today. Money can be found anywhere, Princess. What I’m looking for is an open mind and your word to help those that will need it.”

“My word?” She lets out another harsh laugh. “You traveled land and sea to get my word?”

I let myself shrug. “I’m a very thorough business partner.”

One sharpened canine curls around her bottom lip as she thinks over what I’ve said. “Why come to me and not my parents? It would have been far easier to see them in Egypt, would it not?”

“You, Princess, are the future. Not them. I will gladly accept help from anyone who is willing, but my plan rests in the hands of those who will take over this world, not those still grasping at a single continent.”

She clicks her tongue against the roof of her mouth and unwraps her form from the throne, standing at her full height in front of me as she looks me over. “Is it brave or stupid to comment on my parents, Gideon Carter?”

I’m ready for this question. Back straight, shoulders even, I don’t let my eyes drift from her powerful gaze. “Is it bravery that keeps you from creating an heir, Princess?”

Irritation falls over her features like a veil being brought down over the face of a woman undevoted to the man demanding her hand. “Charm is easily proven as arrogance, Carter. Watch your next words carefully or you’ll watch me remove your tongue.”

Seth stiffens. If I do something wrong, he’ll jump in front of me. He’s a good brother. He’s a stupid man, though. 

Here’s to hoping my research pays off. 

“I believe you should be allowed to live in a world that sees you with love at your side, Princess. You are worthy of power without a child to secure your hold on a throne. To be yourself is terrifying and rewarding.” I take a slow breath, watching my words sink into her stern expression, smoothing out the tension in her forehead and making her nostrils flare. “You, Erisa Nabil, are the kind of person that will be good for the new world.”

Silence rings through the room. I can just barely hear the soft curls of the ocean. This is it. I’ll have to be faster than Seth if she decides to strike. 

Princess Nabil drops her gaze from me to look over at the man who led us into this pink palace. “How could he possibly know?”

Relief floods my system. I let myself take a small sip of the champagne, smiling at the smooth burn of alcohol at the back of my throat. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will our world be. This is only the beginning.

Two Frenchmen and a queer princess. 

Who knows what will come next?

Author’s Note

I’m having a lot of fun twisting these prompts to fit my wide cast. Erisa Nabil will eventually be a very close associate of Lucy Lore from my first blog post. Thanks again to everyone who stops by to read these personal fan fictions of my future novels.

Also be sure to read Bridgette and Anna’s take on this vacation prompt:

https://bridgettetales.com/2022/06/11/challenge-week23/

https://loscotoff.com/week23-paradise/#comment-264

Posted in Character Stories

The Wolf of ‘89

They’ve given me a proper spot where I can see the harbor. It’ll likely be the last time I glimpse the orange shades of the falling sun ripple across the dark blue waves. My hands tied behind my back, my legs shackled, a stake holding up most of my weight, I cannot imagine I have much more time.

There’s a main speaker for the gathering a few meters away from me. A man. Don’t know his name. Honestly, don’t care, either. I don’t remember how long I’ve been in this town or if I’ve seen his face before, but it doesn’t really matter anymore.

Blood trickles from a wound on my head. It was probably that large fellow who hit me. Knocked me out cold and then strapped me to this tree to burn for crimes I cannot remember. It seems I didn’t receive an invitation for this event. I did not even get a chance to run from it before someone hung me up as the entertainment.

The sweet scent of the nearby ash trees wash over me as a strong breeze blows over us. It carries away the voices of the murmuring crowd down below, caressing my cheek in a small attempt to make me more comfortable in my last moments. The sea and the trees are my only companions in this final piece of my life.

What would I give to sleep under the cedar of my mam’s house once more? I used to visit for the annual soccer games she held with my cousins. They were a noisy lot. Too large, too loud, too full of energy and life and laughs. They were probably some of the best people in my life.

Of course, that could be false. My head pounding, mouth dry, eyes wet, I can’t remember the last few days, weeks, perhaps a year. I’ve lost important time, things that could save me now, but I remember Mam.

She had a cottage in a forest where we all gathered for holidays and sports. It was just her and I for most of my life. On good days, the house smelled of cinnamon from cookies baking in her oven. Others, the subtle scent of mildew was never far off.

I can’t remember what happened to her. It’s probably for the best. Hopefully, she went first, so she never gets the news of what’s to happen to me tonight.

The crowd lets out a united roar. They’ve come for a show and they’re expecting more blood.

Mam raised me to be respectful of the powers of this world. Not just the Catholic deity, but any other smaller creatures that could be listening. The fae are never far from the trees. They can disguise themselves as owls and deers or wrap themselves in nightmares meant to scare children far from the safety of their homes.

I don’t care what they look like. They can have gnarled teeth and boils on their cheeks. They can be green or blue or orange or yellow. They can have feathers or only wear leaves for clothing. If any of them are listening to this now, I will hand over my life to their capricious capture. They can have my name, my soul, my eternity. I’d give anything to be released from this spectacle.

There’s another shout from the crowd. They’re not looking at me. Just at the man leading this mob against me. It shouldn’t be long before they’re up here with torches and pitchforks.

I wish I knew what I did wrong. I do not think I’m the kind of man to sleep with someone’s wife or daughter. I’m not a thief. At least, there would be a good reason if I was out stealing, right?

I don’t recognize this town or these people, but they’ve come together to agree I’m guilty of whatever happened. This entire ordeal is likely more interesting than anything they get on satellite television. Whether or not I did something isn’t really the point. I’m going to pay the price for their bad fortunes and then their lives will go back to normal and mine will be over.

Plain and simple, isn’t it?

I let my head fall back against the stake at my back. This is it. Nobody is coming to help me. I’m going to be burned alive or left strapped up here to die from exposure to the elements. Honestly, I don’tdon’t know which one is worseis worst.

A hand clamps down over my mouth. Struggling to breathebreath, I don’t fight back. Nobody at the end of the hill has moved or looked up my way in several minutes. This is something different.

“If I let go, you must not scream.”

Are the fae typically French? The man’s breath is on my ear. It’s warm in contrast to the cool air.

“Nod yes or no.”

Yes. Of course I won’t scream. This is the best thing to happen to me all day. I conjured a fae with my mind and I might be enslaved to its creative pursuits, but I probably won’t die today.

I nod quickly and the hot palm falls away from my mouth. The man doesn’t walk around to my front. He stays at my back, his voice low as he fiddles with the ropes keeping me bound.

“Can I have your name?”

Oh. I’ve heard these stories. When the fae ask for a name, you’re not supposed to give it up. They can take over your whole world with that simple trick.

My mam raised me right. She knew of the fae, encouraged me to not fear them, but taught me their tricks. My da was an English man who wasn’t home much. He laughed at her, but I think her stories might have just saved me.

My voice comes out in a hoarse whisper. “You may not have it, but you may call me Cedric.”

“Alright, Cedric,” he sounds confused, probably thrown off by my specific wording. “I need you to tell me why you’re here.”

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t know or can’t remember?”

I sigh. “Does it matter?”

He grabs the ties around my wrists. “The people down there think you’re a werewolf. They say you ate several sheep and attacked a human.”

“Wolves died out of Ireland in the 1700s.”

It’s not an answer. I know that. I’m stating the obvious in order to gain time to comb through the memories I don’t have.

Wolf. I ate sheep? I wouldn’t have hurt someone.

I’m not that kind of guy.

At least, I don’t remember being that kind of guy.

“Well? Having memory problems?”

I nod. No point in denying it. I don’t know how long I’ve been tied up here, but my hands are tingling and the cold has sunk into my bones. I don’t recognize a single person in the crowd down there. I don’t even know what town is off in the distance. I’m a stranger in a strange land being tried for crimes I can’t remember.

“It’s typical for someone who has been recently exposed to the virus.”

The ties around my left wrist startstarts to loosen as he saws through the thick rope. “I’m not sick.”

“True. You didn’t catch the common cold, Cedric. However, there’s been abe a recent rise in the virus out here.”

My left hand is free. I wiggle my fingers to try to get the blood moving again. With the ropes around my chest, I can’t step forward or move at all, but it’s a small bit of progress towards my escape.

“You a scientist or something?”

There’s a deep chuckle at my back. “Some would call me an antiquarian. I like to collect things that will eventually be very old.”

Okay then. Definitely an odd answer. Something a strange creature would say. He’s probably trying to gain my trust just enough to get me to agree to some horrible bargain.

This is it.

I want to ask for clarification, but we don’t have time for such things. The mob has changed direction. Thirty pairs of eyes are focused on me. The man at my back has stopped moving. For all I know, he’s gone.

Me against a mob that has now lit torches in order to make their way back up the hill. At some point, the sun fell completely behind the horizon. Night, it seems, will be my final companion.

Maybe I’ll live long enough to glimpse the full moon once more. I could settle for seeing a few stars. Anything would be better than staring out into the darkness that is coming quick to take me from my earthly existence.

The procession climbs the hill, their voices mingling together into a single message: My time is up.

Panic flares in my chest. The bindings have somehow tightened. I can’t breathebreath. I can’t move. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.

Dammit.

I can’t die like this.

.     .     . 

The world is upside down. A red mist lingers in front of me. It’s dark and I’m not breathing.

They’ve killed me. Why did I wake up just to die?

“Cedric. Up here, please.”

The voice of the creature from the woods. Is he here to take what remains of my soul? I’m already so cold. My chest is tight. My arms are limp at my sides. Bits of grass tickle my cheeks as I try to focus on the pair of legs standing just to the side of me.

“You need to breathe.”

Scuffed sneakers, legs wrapped in jeans, the creature looks entirely normal. I gasp in a breath of air as I push up from the ground to get a better look. Tanned skin. There’s scars around his wrists and on his hands as he reaches towards me.

“We need to go, Cedric. Can you stand?”

Black hair tied in a tail at the back of his neck. Green eyes. A slightly crooked nose.

“Cedric. Focus. We don’t have much time.”

I peel my eyes away from his face and the concern swimming in his gaze. The scene behind him takes away the little breath I had managed to contain. Splintered wood sticks up out of the grass. There’s smoke drifting away from a smothered fire. Nobody is standing. Instead, the men and women of this town are on their knees. There’s wounds. I can smell the tang of blood and hear moanshear a moans amongst the crowd.

“Cedric,” the creature from the woods snaps his fingers in front of my face. “We need to go now.”

I don’t look at him. I can’t.

There’s blood on my hands. It’s splattered across the front of my shirt. I don’t remember anything happening, but the proof is spread across me.

I did this. I don’t deserve help. I likely never did.

“Everyone is going to be okay, Cedric. I’m a doctor. I already checked on everyone before I came back to you. They’re going to stay still and wait for us to leave. That’s all.” His hand is still extended towards me. “Let me help you now.”

This can’t be happening. I wish I could see my mam or throw myself into the arms of someone more capable of dealing with this. I’m a monster. I hurt people. I should be burned and left to rot in the open as a warning for these people to be careful of what lurks out in the world.

“Who are you?” I croak.

He doesn’t waver in his stance. “Gideon Carter. I have a facility designed to help people like you. We just have to walk away from this.”

How?

How am I supposed to walk away from the blood and fear coating the faces of these people?

Why is this something I have to remember?

“It’s not easy to be labeled as a monster, Cedric. You will survive this, though.” 

I want to cover my head with my arms and melt away into the grass, to truly be taken by the fae and never seen again. “What about the next time I black out?”

His hand stays in front of me, a current offer to change my life. “I’ll be there next time and every time after until we have this under control.”

“How can I trust you? What if I kill you? Who’s going to stop me then?”

Gideon crouches down to my level, his voice low to keep the conversation just between the two of us. “I’m the first vampire of the latest generation. I made it without help, but I won’t let anyone else go through what I did. You’ll be safe with me.”

Vampire. Not fae. 

My mind is spinning even as I slide my hand into his warm palm. This is real. It is very, very real. 

Mam would never believe I talked to a creature of the night and lived to tell the tale. 

He pulls me to my feet, slipping my arm over his shoulders in order to support my weight. Together, we walk away from the townspeople and the ocean I watched as I held what I thought to be my last breaths. I don’t know where we’re headed. I don’t even know if it’s the best place for someone like me. 

It’ll be a story, though. 

Something worthy of telling Mam if I ever do see her again.

Author’s Note:

Cedric is a minor character in the landscape of vampires I’ve compiled for one of my larger novels. He, however, as all good side characters should, believes his story is just as important to share. Going through these prompts and shaping them to characters I’ve known for years is a great way to add in shades of depth I hadn’t taken the time to do previously.

He and Gideon will return along their protagonist, Tamyra Raeleigh, in a story that parallels Lucy and Miles from the previous prompts.

Thank you for taking the time to read this week’s story and be sure to check out my writing partners, Bridgette and Anna:

https://bridgettetales.com/2022/06/04/challenge-week22/

https://loscotoff.com/week22-secrets/

Posted in Character Stories, Uncategorized

High School Nightmare

I’m in a white room with white curtains and a white couch. I’m in here a lot. It’s a no distraction room. Sitting with my legs crossed in the center of the couch, I stare down at the question on the first page of my spiral bound notebook.

Who were you in high school?

I don’t get to leave until I put something on the paper. The dull tip of my pencil rests on the page, but words don’t come. I can’t reorder my thoughts because there’s nothing up there in the foggy expanse of my brain. 

They should have laid off of the medication before this exercise. I can barely function. 

High school. High school. High school. What do I know about high school?

I like to watch a lot of movies. High school kids always end up talking to each other inside a hectic cafeteria. They talk about the cheap food and toss slices of cheese at the next table, cheering when it plasters itself across the chipped, blue surface.

The cameras pan around the wide space, making it clear for the audience that each table has its own click of kids. Those closest to the door are wearing cowboy hats and talking about the next project for their class inside the future farmers program. They’ve already decided that tending chickens and growing crops is going to be a good path for their lives. It must be nice to be so sure of what’s ahead.

In the center of the room are guys pushing extra tables together, their jerseys sporting different numbers as they make space for the whole team to sit together. They likely play football. They’re the coolest kids in the school just because they can catch a ball and have a mob-minded posse to back them up. Girls from the cheerleading team flit around them. Their captain, the girl who stands on the top of the pyramid, lays across the lap of the quarterback. She’s all smiles and innocence, her outward persona covering up the mischief simmering behind her hazel eyes.

A girl like that runs the school. She’s the top of the proverbial kingdom. She’ll wear the crown at the school ball and kiss that boy in front of the school. 

That’s not who I am.

I let my mind’s eye trail over the rest of the picture I’ve created. There’s the kids who like anime. They’ve spread out their notebooks covered in amateur artwork. It’s all bright colors and action scenes. They are close to the bottom of the high school power network, but they can’t care less. They’re happy with their oddball friends. 

I wish that was me. I don’t remember having friends. Of course, I’m in therapy because I don’t remember anything, but that’s besides the point. 

Who else? 

That girl in the corner. She has an untouched lunch in front of her and a book open. She’s just a green flannel and brown hair around the edges of The Odyssey. It’s her hiding place and current salvation from reality.

I think I might be a bit like that. I don’t really care for episodic poems, but I read plenty of books in my spare time. 

My pencil at the perfect angle, I press it hard enough to put a dent into the page, but my hand doesn’t move any further. That’s not who I was. It’s who I’ve become. A man in need of hiding from my life by slipping between the comforting pages of a fantasy. 

How did I get here?

The door across from me opens and this week’s therapist walks in. I didn’t bother learning his name. Matthew will fire him by the end of the week if he doesn’t figure out what’s wrong with me. Since nobody has done it yet, the odds are truly not in his favor. 

“How’s the progress?”

I cross my arms over my chest, pressing the blank page to myself, so he has no way to see that I’ve failed yet another writing prompt. Why does it matter who I was? I have amnesia and I can’t access those memories anyway. Why do I need to know who I was in high school?

The dark-skinned doctor takes a seat in the white chair across from me. He doesn’t pull out a pad. He likes to take notes on his phone. He probably thinks it makes him look cool or hip or less confrontational. It doesn’t. I wish people would stop writing about me. 

Since I haven’t given an answer and he has probably assumed that I’ve gotten nowhere in my writing, he presses ahead. “You still function as an adult with a proper education, Miles. From your file, I know you have no problem remembering details of previous literature and you quote old films easily. Fiction isn’t a problem for you, but reality is.” He taps the screen of his phone several times. “There’s a patchiness to your memory that’s uncommon in most amnesia patients, so we can’t treat you with the usual practices. You need to be open to alternative healing exercises.”

Yeah. I’ve heard that before. Something’s wrong with me that hasn’t ever happened to someone else. I don’t know how long I’ve been doing this, but it’s been a long time. The faces of the doctors blur together, lost to the depths of my memory just as much as the facts of my life. 

“Let’s try this same question, but together. Sometimes talking helps.”

Screw talking. Arguing and debating and talking haven’t done anything for me yet.  I want to crawl into my bed and pull my blue comforter over my head and pretend like there’s nothing wrong. Talking is the last thing I want to do right now, but fighting against the doctor’s suggestions doesn’t get me out of this room. The only way to get from here to there is to answer the doctor, play nice, and act as though any of this matters. 

Matt wants me to get better. My husband is slowly going mad and he has paid too much to all of these doctors to get no results. I’d like nothing more than to give Matt some good news at dinner tonight. I don’t know how many more times I can watch disappointment cloud his dark gaze across the table from me. It’s for him that I lean back against the couch and nod to the doctor. 

“High school, Miles. Tell me who your friends were.”

I put my pencil to the pad, making my writing big enough to take up several lines so he’ll be able to see it from his seat. I don’t think I had any.

I hold the pad up between us. His eyes flick over the words. He nods and then jots a note into his phone. “Did you play any sports?”

Blowing a hard breath through my nose, I shrug. There’s no point in writing an answer out for that. I have the physical build of a pool noodle. I get winded coming up the stairs to our apartment. There’s no way I was on an athletic team. 

The doctor holds his hand up for me to calm down. “Hey, we have to keep our minds open to any possibility.”

Whatever. Not an athlete. I was definitely more like the girl hiding with her nose in a book. I was probably the kid who never left the library. A bottom feeder in the high school aquarium, that’s what I was. The kind of disabled guppy that nobody notices until it ends up floating belly up near the top of the tank. 

“Family? Did your mom drop you off at school? A sister pick you up?”

I shake my head. My family is Matt. I don’t remember anyone else. 

He doesn’t push me on that question. I’m sure my file details how I can’t remember anyone before coming to live in this hotel with Matthew. I know lots after that. Julien usually runs the lobby counter. He has a nice smile and always remembers how much creamer I like in my coffee. Then there’s Stephanie who manages entertainment. Her fingernails are always an odd color and she never speaks directly to me. Paul delivers our laundry from the laundromat. Jessica brings me lunch everyday. 

Lucy. 

She’s my favorite. A dancer and singer who runs her own club somewhere else in Vegas. She always says hi to me after performances. If Matt is busy taking care of clients and business partners, she stays by my side. Her makeup is always beautiful and she shares the details of her handmade costumes with me. Someday, she promised, she would teach me how to sew. 

I suppose if she and I had gone to high school together, Lucy wouldn’t have seen me. She’s the center of every party, the light in every room, the reason to show up and smile. We’re a very odd pair to become friends. 

“Hey. I can’t read your thoughts, Miles. Can you write down what you’re thinking?”

Right. The doctor is still here. I shake my head. Lucy is my friend, not the topic of my therapy. Next question, I write instead.

His lips press into a line. He’s frustrated. Good, so am I. 

“You like to draw nowadays, Miles. Did you take any art classes back in high school?”

I pick at the blister on my thumb. Matt lectured me last week about taking care of myself. Sometimes I start a project and I don’t stop to eat, to rest my hands, or to think. The world disappears when I sit down in front of my sketchbook. Graphite sinks under my fingernails. Ink stains my palms. Paints smear up my arms and occasionally find a home on my cheeks or forehead. It no longer matters that I can’t speak, that I can’t remember, that there’s something wrong with me when I start an art piece. My hands work just fine and I can create beautiful things. 

Can’t remember. I’ve always liked drawing.

The doctor lets out a slow sigh. We’re not making progress and he’s feeling discouraged. Hopefully, that means I’m out of here sooner rather than later. 

“Did you get good grades?”

I shrug. Not good at tests, probably B or C student.

He adjusts to lay his ankle across the opposite leg. Crap. It’s never good when they start to get comfortable. It means they want to stay for hours. 

“First sexual experience, Miles? Lots of people have them in high school. Tell me about your first partner.”

The pencil falls out of my hand. It clatters to the ground, sending ripples of sound through the room, announcing to the doctor and anyone else in ear shot that I’m nervous, caught off guard, and actually surprised by a question. Sex. Nobody has ever dared to ask me about that before. I’m with Matt. Nothing else should matter, should it?

The doctor latches onto the break in my passive position, spitting his next question before I can lean down to pick up my pencil. “Was it a woman? Are you worried Matthew would be upset? Is there someone else you like more than your husband?”

Bent in half, my fingers inches from the yellow pencil, I freeze. When did this become an inquisition? Is he here to help me or here to make me look like a fool?

“What are you scared of, Miles?” He starts berating me once more, his voice higher pitched and his words fast. “Do you think someone is going to find out that you’ve faked your condition just so you can continue to live off of your husband’s money?”

His words ring through my ears as heat rushes to my cheeks. This can’t be happening. He’s a doctor. A doctor can’t talk like this. My eyelids burn. My nose tingles. Tears are coming and I can’t stop them. 

“Answer me.”

I pick up the pencil, barely able to hold it in my trembling fingertips. I press the tip of it to the pad. I’m going to write stop and he’s going to get out. I’m done with this. We’re done. 

Just one word and this is over. 

The doctor is on his feet. He snatches the pad out of my hand. “Use your voice, Miles.”

I can’t. I haven’t spoken since the accident. I know for damn sure that is in my file. 

He’s not done. Dropping the pad, he leans into my face. “Anything, Miles. Talk.”

I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. 

My mouth is open, but no sound comes out. Not a whisper, not a cry. A hot tear streaks down my cheek. 

“He’s going to find someone better, Miles, if you can’t get over this.”

I know. Snot drips to my upper lip. 

I’ve known that for a long time. He takes pictures with plenty of other people. He was in a celebrity magazine last week as a bachelor. A different report bragged that he had been seen leaving a bar with a woman named Victoria. I’ve been cooped up in our home for so long that everyone has forgotten that Matthew Quinn is a married man.

I’m going to lose him if I can’t get better. I didn’t need a doctor to tell me that. 

Red starts to bleed into my vision.

No. No, no, no. 

This can’t happen. Not here. Not now. 

Matt says it’s a bad reaction to my medication. 

Breathe. Please, just breathe. 

I squeeze my eyes shut. I can stop this. I won’t let myself be a victim to the hallucinations.

The pencil in my right hand snaps. My eyes open. In front of me, the white room has been bathed in maroon. The doctor is on the floor, his face frozen in a look of horror. There’s claw marks through his suit. 

No. This isn’t real. Breathe, Miles. 

High school. That was the question. Think about it. 

Who was I in high school?

I push off of the couch and stumble across the doctor’s still body. I’m seeing things. The room isn’t red. That’s not blood on the floor. Somebody is going to come in here and sedate me and I’ll wake up with Matt by my bed. 

I lift my hands in front of my face. Black claws extend from each of my fingers. 

High school. 

Who was I? 

Not the cool kids at the top. Not the nerds and outcasts at the bottom. 

What was I?

A monster. A nobody. A danger that wasn’t contained in time.

Author’s Note:

This week’s creative writing prompt was “high school hierarchy.”
I wanted to spend some time with another character from my future novels. Miles Quinn has gone through a hundred revisions. A decade ago, he was a cliche vampire who got the girl at the end of a very basic, supernatural romance. Today, he, as well as a mix of other characters from my cast, is redefining what it means to be a monster, a vampire in his case. His story will deal with a lot of psychological trauma, black outs that leave him at the mercy of the vampire virus raging through his system, and a challenge to find love even when he doesn’t understand what that looks like. If you read last week’s prompt, you’ll recognize Lucy. Someday in the future, they’ll share a novel detailing their troubles amongst the hectic layout of Las Vegas.

Thank you for reading this far! I hope you have a great week.

Make sure to also check out Bridgette and Anna’s stories:

https://bridgettetales.com/2022/05/28/challenge-week21/

https://loscotoff.com/week21-hierarchy/#comment-250

Posted in Uncategorized

Little Lucky Star

Mama and I stay together in a cavern. It’s always wet. Bits of moss and sea kelp cling to the walls. Mama adds driftwood over the front most days. It doesn’t keep out the water, though. The ocean laps at the entrance, curling its frothy fingers in my direction.

Not today, I think.

Not ever again.

Not if I have anything to say about it.

I throw off my blanket and stretch my fingers up towards the moist ceiling. There’s a starfish lingering in the uppermost corner. Mama either hasn’t noticed it or has deigned to let it live with us. Little, lucky star.

It’s quiet today. Just the subtle purr of the ocean and me. Mama must have gone out early to get breakfast.

In the furthest corner of our camp, Mama has filled in the bland, wet walls with paintings. There’s all sorts of fish in every color. I run my fingers over the tails and their shiny fins and wonder what it must be like to like everyday stuck under the water. Mama says she used to live that way. Swimming forever, swimming and searching and swimming some more. She says she still hasn’t found what she’s looking for, but she had to stop long enough to take care of me before she continues on her journey.

Amongst the fish are all sorts of plants. Mama loves everything green. Ferns and weeds and winding bits of ivy. She paints the fan-like leaves of the ginkgo biloba tree with a long brush. They grow in a place called China. She says the people there were nice to her until they learned the truth. Nobody may ever know the truth of what we are. It’s important. It’s imperative. It’s the only thing keeping us alive.

Since she’s still not back, I walk over to the chest where she keeps her makeup and take in the little round containers full of sparkling powder. Mama is always pretty. She says the colors help attract potential mates. Like a bird from the jungle or a fish from the Great Reef, sometimes we need special colors to attract the right people.

There’s a ton of other stuff littering the corner: clothes, shards of broken dishes that Mama uses to craft jewelry, a half of a yardstick she once salvaged just to show me how to measure shells, and several bottles of aloe for when we lay in the sun too long. Mama says she’s a bit of a clutter bug. She likes pretty things and useful things and doesn’t have the heart to let them go before their time.

She’s still not back. My stomach lets out a rumble loud enough to alert any nearby whales. It’s time to eat. I guess I’ll have to go out and get something. I’ll bring back extra for Mama. She’s probably just busy today.

Slipping on my green jacket, I creep out of the cavern. We don’t wear shoes. There’s no point. Everything we need is always somewhere along the beach.

I’m careful about making my way along the rocks near the front of our home. The world is dangerous and even more difficult to manage with hurt feet. It isn’t long before the slick, black rocks give way to the shifting sands of the nearby beach. Not many people are out right now. The moon is high in the sun. It’s the perfect time for creatures like Mama and me to be out on our own.

A salty smell drags me further up the beach away from home and safety and Mama’s return. Popcorn. One of my favorite snacks. It must be the weekend already. Hopefully, one of the moviegoers left some in their bag and I can save it from the sand. Popcorn is not very good with a crunchy texture.

I walk up the short dune to the marked off area that humans come to for their movie nights. It’s a big event. Lots of talking and laughter. I like to lay at the front of the cavern and listen to them when Mama is away. Sometimes, they even blow up huge balls of colors in the sky and I can see them without having to get close to the humans.

That’s rule number one. We don’t ever get close to humans.

Checking left and then right, I make sure the platform is clear before I sneak around the beach chairs. Humans always leave lots of trash. There’s blue cans all over the sand. I once found one with some liquid left in it and decided that it is not a very good drink at all.

Today is no different. I snag a candy wrapper from the cup holder of a chair and unwrap it. There’s still chocolate smeared in the corners. I hold it up to my face and lick it clean before putting it in my pocket to throw away. If I see trash, I should throw it away, so it doesn’t go into the ocean.

We always have to protect the ocean. 

More cans. Some empty chip bags. There’s a crumpled movie poster caught under a chair leg.

Superman.

I let my finger trail over the big “s” in the center. Maybe I’ll tell Mama that I want letters on my clothes. Something green with a big “L” for Lucy.

Lucy Lore. Mama says it’s the best name. The kind that won’t be forgotten.

A little further. I stuff more trash into my pockets. There’s a full water bottle stuffed into the sand. It’s warm, but the water is still good. I open it and take a big drink.

I hope Mama is having more luck than me. Usually, there’s more out here to pick through. The seagulls probably beat me to it.

I start on the next row of chairs, bending down and looking under them. A tiny, red crab wriggles away from me. He burrows further into the sand, clacking his large claw at me. Click, clack, click.

“Okay, Mr. Clicker. I won’t bother you anymore.”

Moving over to the next aisle, I finally catch sight of the red and white striped bag. Popcorn. The bag is bunched up and stuffed under one of the chairs, but I can reach it if I just lay on my stomach. There’s not much. I shove a couple pieces in my mouth. Still salty. A little chewy. I wonder what it must be like to have it fresh.

It must be hotter. Is it less chewy? Is there more butter? I really like butter. It’s good on fish and Mama mixed it into pasta for us once. Obviously, it’s great on popcorn, but I want to know what other foods it would be great on. Is it really something all humans like?

I’ll have to wait until I’m grown up to find out those kinds of questions. Mama hates talking about the humans. It’s my fault she left home so early this morning. I start on the next aisle of chairs as the memories from last night come back to me.

I just wanted to know if human girls spend as much time learning from their mamas as I do. I didn’t think it was a bad question. Mama has taught me how to build a fire and make a camp. She has walked with me along every beach and shown me how to catch our dinner. I listened very closely when she told me which animals are sacred and which can be sacrificed for the greater good of our species’ survival. There aren’t many of us left in the world and sometimes we have to kill in order to live.

I thought it was usual for girls to stay close to their mamas. Baby birds stay in nests and learn to fly with their mamas. We’ve sat together on a cliff and seen schools of fish. We once were further up north and had the chance to see a mama bear with her cub.

Yesterday, though, I stayed out late. I saw some human girls near the movie area. Their parents were nowhere near. I watched the three of them braid the others’ hair and share snacks and sit together on the edge of the crowd. They had bags of food they shared with each other and they never seemed worried about being away from their mamas for too long.

I just wanted to know that I was normal, that I was good, that Mama felt the same way about me.

She didn’t.

Knees weak, I slump over into one of the chairs and hold my bag of popcorn to my chest. Mama wasn’t mad. She was more than that. I could see the fury in her dark eyes like it was a tempest over the sea.

Her lips pressed tight together, making the pink gloss she’d worn disappear as the lines in her face deepened. Eyebrows scrunched together, hands on her hips, she yelled. Mama yells a lot, but never directly at me. I felt as though a ship had slammed into me.

Even when I said sorry, she kept at it. She stepped towards me and I backed away. She wasn’t acting like Mama. She was someone else, someone scary and mean and angrier than a great white after it has lost its meal.

Somehow we made it outside. We were at the edge of the rocks. The ocean was icy under my heels, urging me to take another step back as it nipped at my bare skin.

“You have never appreciated everything I have done to raise you.”

My heart pounded in my ears. I do. I did. I just had questions.

Mama was in front of me, a looming force. She said more angry things. Her hands were on my arms and she squeezed hard enough to make me cry.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

I don’t know if she could hear me. Snot trickled down my face. We stepped further back. The ocean was at my knees.

I didn’t ask for it to help me. I really didn’t, but Mama was yelling and I just wanted it to stop.

The water swelled up from my knees, to my thighs, and then to my waist. We hadn’t moved back. The water was rising, its surface bubbling along to my pleas for her to stop. When she shook me again, the ocean retaliated.

The wave that crashed between us flung me backward from her. I tumbled under the water, gasping for air, flinging my arms out to try to stop my continuous rolls. Nothing I did mattered. I had no control. Mama had told me not to touch the water until I was ready and I didn’t know what she meant until that moment.

Shaking the thoughts from my head, I push up from the chair. The water put me back onto land shortly after. I was fine. Mama didn’t say another word last night. She merely watched me, a thin line of blood running down from her lip. The water came between us, stopped the fight, and we went to bed.

She was fine. I was fine. We were fine.

I make a game of stepping back into my own footprints as I take my bag of popcorn home. Mama should be back by now. She’ll have found something else to eat. We can sit by the fire and share some food and I won’t ask questions and everything will be just like it was before last night.

The sand turns into rock which leads me to the front of our home. Everything seems fine until I step inside. Mama isn’t here. Her things from the corner are gone. Everything is gone besides the paintings on the wall and the starfish in the corner.

I stumble to the middle of the cavern. This is a game. Mama is going to jump out and surprise me. She’s trying to make up for last night. We’re okay. We’re supposed to be fine. It was a fight, not the end of the world.

Right?

It’s not fine.

I walk to where her things were and touch my fingers to the message written in red paint.

You’re officially a Syren

Her necklace is hung on a rock jutting out just above the words. A black pearl in a silver, crescent moon. The symbol of our people.

My people.

I sink down to the ground and let my eyes fall on the starfish. Maybe he’s not a lucky, little star. Maybe he’s just a problem Mama didn’t want to deal with.

Like me.

Author’s Note:

I was invited on a weekly writing challenge with two brilliant writers, Bridgette White and Anna Loscotoff. This week I spent time working through the prompt by detailing a background to a character I’m using in a future novel.

Prompt: A young child makes a discovery

To see the work of the other writers, click the links below:

https://bridgettetales.com/2022/05/21/challenge-week20/

https://loscotoff.com/week20-Superman/

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