Friday, October 23, 2009
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOTH BITE ME AND HALLOWEEN ROMANCE.
"Dressing Up As Human"
A Halloween Confection by Donaya Haymond
"Come on, Ferdinand, it'll be fun! I dress up for Halloween every year. We don't have to trick-or-treat; we can just walk around or hand out candy. Please? I've got the perfect costume for you."
"Nat...the last time I celebrated this holiday was when my daughter was ten, and then I went as myself."
"But costumes! Sequins! Fabric! Doesn't that make you feel young again?"
Ferdinand stopped typing on his laptop as he sat engulfed in a huge, gray, moth-eaten easy chair with terrible springs. Anyone thin as he was sank right into the cushions and had great difficulties getting out again. His black hair always was a mess and his smoothly shaven, deathly white cheeks were full of small cuts. The whole mirror problem was very inconvenient. Despite this, he had a refined, classically European face; down to the sleek sunglasses he wore to protect his red eyes from the light, and his entirely dark-colored wardrobe. "I've been twenty-two for the past nineteen years. I think that's young enough."
"Bitter, bitter brooding all the time. Anne Rice would love you." Sometimes Ferdinand thought the only reason he and Nat were friends was they were the only two vampires in town. Their one similarity was a deep yearning to be morally upright. The standards were no bites, no scares, no crime, with subsistence on animal blood and holding down a job. Nat was a combination veterinarian, general physician, obstetrician, and psychiatrist. He simply returned to medical school whenever he scraped enough money together to pay for it. In terms of work he ran a nocturnal clinic and drank all blood samples after he tested them.
Nat, too, wore sunglasses, though his were considerably more expensive than Ferdinand's and dated from the seventies. He had bright orange hair, bright orange clothes, porcelain-white skin, and just as skeletal a frame as Ferdinand's. He was several inches shorter, though, which was why Ferdinand said he resembled a gnat, being small, bloodsucking, and annoying. He'd been bitten at age thirty, seventy-two years ago.
As an unsuccessful but passionate historical fiction novelist, Ferdinand had managed to help support a family. Nat moved into his house when his wife was ill, to take care of her and function as a sort of uncle to Ferdinand's daughter Dianne. (Vampires can father children, though their sperm count is rather low and it takes a while. They're not really undead – they're mostly dead, with all life functions slowed down to a near-coma state.)
Nat still paid Ferdinand rent, but there was an unspoken agreement that Ferdinand would never evict him. For all their bickering, they needed each others' companionship to keep from dying of loneliness, now that Dianne was off at college.
Ferdinand said, with a tinge of acid, "No, Anne Rice would not enjoy knowing about me, as I am neither gay nor sexy. Why must you keep infusing me with cheer, anyhow? I think it's within my rights to have angst, particularly after Selene died." He met her at a Halloween party. He said he was a vampire. She forgot to get a costume and so claimed to be a dormant werewolf. It was several weeks before they found out both of them were telling the truth.
"I loved Selene too, but you can't keep using her as an excuse to be miserable for the rest of your life. And I foooouund something in the aaatiiiic." Nat reached over the coffee table – which wasn't even a real table, just a pile of hardcover books with a cloth on top – and straightened Ferdinand's hair.
Ferdinand removed Nat's hand from his head. "Fine, I'll humor you. What is it?"
Nat pulled a paper Trader Joe's shopping bag out from under his chair. From it he drew a long black cape, an imitation tuxedo, white gloves, a fake red rose, and a white mask to cover half the face. "The Phantom of the Opera! You'd look gorgeous."
Ferdinand ran his fingers along the soft cape, remembering the night he ran away with her, the awkward attempt at tenderness from his friends , their caring and hopes for him disguised as a gag gift. Even then he had been too melodramatic for his own good. "Probably still fits..." he murmured.
Nat was either unaware of his friend's nostalgia or determined to steamroll past it. "You could sing as we walked down the street. The PHANTOM of the opera is he-ere, inside my miiiiiind..."
"Don't sing, Nat. It sounds horrendous." Ferdinand typed for a while, and then looked up with an embarrassed smile, fangs showing. "How much digging did you have to do to find that?"
"The better part of a sunny morning when I didn't feel like going to coffin. Nearly tripped over Dianne's old rollerblades in the process. I could have been wounded."
"Well, since you went to the trouble..."
"Indeed." Nat suppressed a grin.
"I need a break from writing, anyway. I've done nothing but drink blood, sleep, and write for the past week."
"Oh yes, definitely."
Ferdinand took the bag and went upstairs. He called out, "Incidentally, what will you be wearing?"
"I'm going to be a Beach Boy!"
When Ferdinand returned, he was a Gothic masterpiece, melancholy, handsome, and elegant. He found the mask a little sticky, but supposed something had to hold it on. "How do I look?" he asked.
Nat had changed too, and he was a holiday monstrosity: a pink Hawaiian shirt festooned with palm trees, bright blue Bermuda shorts, a Jamaican-style straw hat, and, of course, the sunglasses. He pulled a digital camera out of his pocket. "Strike a pose."
Ferdinand, overtaken by the romantic inside him, made a leaping motion with his cape furling out. Nat snapped the photo and handed the camera to Ferdinand, who looked on the screen. He sighed ruefully, but with a quirk to his lips. "Not bad," he said.
"Dashing and perfect, I think. I have a microphone for my costume." Nat put it to his mouth and belted out, badly off-key, "I wish they all could be California, I wish they all could be California, I wish they all could be California giiiiiirls."
"This is who I have for a roommate and my only friend? Wonderful. Where do you want to walk?"
"Around the neighborhood. It's seven o'clock and it's getting dark. I just want to see what everyone else is wearing."
The vampires went out to the sidewalk, Ferdinand with his hands in his pockets and his head bowed down. Nat tried telling jokes, but Ferdinand wouldn't laugh. They passed five teenage girls dressed as Lord of the Rings characters, and one of the unnaturally tall, very chubby hobbits stepped on a piece of glass.
"Ow! Guys, wait up. I think I have to get back home. I can't walk." She sat on the pavement, tears falling down her cheeks from the pain.
"I told you we should have gotten rubber feet," said her friend, in an Aragorn costume.
"I hope you don't get gangrene," the girl dressed as a dwarf, complete with a thick beard. The girls all clustered around the injured one, some consoling, some gawking.
Nat curled his hands into fists, breathing deeply. The smell of human blood required restraint. Forget the vampire, he told himself. Right now, you are a doctor in a very silly outfit. He pulled a small white box out of his pants pocket and rushed over to the girl. "I have a first aid kit right here."
"Why are you carrying a first-aid kit on Halloween?" the injured girl asked.
"I'm a doctor, and you wouldn't believe how many people get hurt on this night." He bent down and swabbed the cut with a disinfecting wipe, then wound gauze around the foot.
"It stings, but thanks," the girl said. Ferdinand entered the circle, trying to ignore the intoxicating blood. "Where do you live? I can carry you home."
"We can carry her," the girl dressed as Aragorn said.
The injured girl said, "No way. I weigh, like, twice as much as the strongest of you. I don't think these men can handle me either."
Ferdinand scooped her up in his frail-looking arms without any visible effort, carrying her bride-through-the-doorway style. "I wouldn't worry about that, miss. Your friends can show us the way to your house and make sure we don't run off with you."
The girls all stared. "You don't look all that muscled," one said.
"Appearances are deceiving." As he and Nat followed the teenage troop, Ferdinand softly sang "The Music of the Night".
"You have a nice voice," the girl in his arms said.
Ferdinand nodded, saying nothing. He and Nat deposited the girl at her doorstep, declining her mother's invitation to come in for hot cocoa. "Just being neighborly," Nat said, tipping his straw hat. "If you ever need a doctor late at night, I have a walk-in clinic downtown. Here's my card."
They set forth again, ambling along Common Lane, Ferdinand's street. Most of the decorations were jack-o-lanterns and witch dolls, without much excitement. One house, however, had what looked like disembodied hands hanging from the cranberry tree in front.
Nat tugged on one hand. "How clever. They filled surgical gloves with popcorn. Too bad the popcorn isn't soaked in blood too, right? Mmm mmm good." He stuck his tongue out at Ferdinand, but Ferdinand failed to smile.
A Captain Jack Sparrow passed by, followed by a Sponge Bob Square Pants, a rabbit, a Mongolian princess, some sort of traveling trunk with six legs, and an alien. A boy dressed elaborately as a television set walked up to Nat. "Mister, why are you wearing sunglasses at night?"
"I'm just cool like that, son. What can I say?"
While passing a tumbledown townhouse with broken windows and peeling paint, Ferdinand pulled Nat to a stop. "I hear something," he whispered.
Nat cupped a hand around his ear. He heard a faint "hisssssss...hisssss..." among the shrubs. "Let's have a look."
Silently they tiptoed around the house, listening to muffled sniggers. Two teenage boys were spray painting "EAT SHIT MR. OPPENHEIMER!" Without the dashes.
"That'll teach the fag to give me an F," one commented.
"Hurry up, hurry up. He might hear us."
Nat nudged Ferdinand. "You're scarier than I am."
Ferdinand shrugged and swooped down on the boy holding the can of spray paint. "That is not acceptable," he said in the boy's ear, pinning him on his stomach on the ground.
"AHHHH!" The caught boy struggled and kicked, and the other made a run for it. Nat grabbed him in a swing dance move, doing "the pretzel", in which the dancer who is following ends up with both hands crossed over the chest and pinned behind the back. He didn't know any dances invented after 1967 or so, but could still do a mean jitterbug, foxtrot, and an attempt at merengue when he'd had a few too many rums.
"We're sorry! We didn't do it!" one shouted.
"I haven't done anything. I don't know that guy. Please let me go!"
Nat lifted the kid up with one arm. The look on his face was priceless.
"Tell us your names, or we'll bite you," Ferdinand threatened.
"But you're not dressed as a vampire, and it isn't – isn't fun-fun-funny," stuttered his prisoner.
"Fine, then, I'll make a giant chandelier crash on you. The point is that you two have committed a crime. Tell us your full names, please."
"George Rubashov," Ferdinand's captive said.
"Barry Terrence," Nat's captive said. He added, "Don't be sure about these guys, George. They're really strong."
"He's just trying to freak you out. We're sorry, mister. Let us go."
Ferdinand let George up, gripping him firmly on the upper arm. Nat lowered Barry and wrapped one arm around his shoulders in a way that held him tight. They marched the boys up the front steps and rang the doorbell.
A man of about fifty answered, wearing a robe and slippers. He adjusted his glasses. "May I help you?"
"Are these students of yours?" Ferdinand asked.
"Yes. Have they done something wrong?"
"We caught them vandalizing your house, sir," Nat answered.
Ferdinand could feel his mask slipping off and pushed it back on. "Do you have any paint remover in your house?"
"I think I do."
"I would advise you to bring it out, along with some sponges, and watch these two clean if off. Call their parents, and press charges if you would like to."
"These guys are creeps," one boy protested.
"Ah, Barry, I wish I could believe everything you told me. You cheated on your last four quizzes, right?" Mr. Oppenheimer shook Ferdinand and Nat's hands. "Thank you very much. I would offer you something to drink, but I'm rather undressed at the moment. Please stop by if there's anything I can help you with."
One boy gave Nat the finger, but Nat gave him the peace sign.
The vampires smiled with closed mouths at Mr. Oppenheimer and left. "I think I'd like to go home," Ferdinand said. "I need to meet that deadline."
"This is the one holiday I don't work, so I think I'll wander a little more, maybe transform and fly around. It will make people so happy to see a bat on Halloween. I'll walk you home, though."
"Are you afraid of someone attacking me?"
"There are an awful lot of picket fences around here. You could stake yourself if you tripped. And there's always angry mobs that pop up out of nowhere."
"Yes, we have to be careful about mobs. You didn't squeeze his throat or anything, did you?"
"Nah. Loosest grip I could have without dropping him. My his expression was funny."
"Don't do it again. It'll lead you down the wrong path. This isn't the Vietnam War where you could go around biting locals willy-nilly."
"Ah, those were the nights." Nat reminisced, a look of serene pleasure on his face.
Someone had forced open the front window of Ferdinand's house. He shook his head and pressed his finger to his lips. They unlocked the door and crept through the living room. There was a clinking noise in the kitchen. Nat's shadow swept across the room and a young voice cried out. Then another one and another one joined in.
Ferdinand entered the kitchen and looked around. His refrigerator was open, with two bottles of cow's blood sitting on the table. No one appeared to be there, but he could smell frightened humanity. He knocked the broom cupboard. "If I am not mistaken in my voice recognition," he announced in a clear voice, "within this hiding place I will find Mark, Luke, and John Spiralli, the younger brothers of Matthew Spiralli, who for two years dated my daughter. Am I right?"
"Be kind to them," Nat said. "They're just kids."
When Ferdinand opened the door, three boys shrieked. They all were scrawny little kids, with the uncommon combination of dark eyes and light, golden-brown hair. Mark was twelve years old and dressed as Luke Skywalker, Luke was nine and dressed as Superman, and John was seven and dressed as a 50's gangster.
"Stop screaming, please. I'm not going to hurt you."
"But you're a vampire," John pointed out.
Mark pulled a cross out from around his neck and held it in front of them. "You can't do anything to my brothers."
Ferdinand took the cross in his white-gloved hands, turning it over and over. "Sorry, son, crosses don't really work." He tossed it to Nat, who made a big show of holding it tightly.
"See, kids? Another myth busted."
"Why are you telling us this?" Mark asked. "It would be better if people thought they worked, so they wouldn't prepare other things."
"Mark, you're gonna get us all killed, and Mom's going to be so mad at you," Luke whispered.
"We're as nice as vampires get, which isn't saying much" Nat explained, warming up a mug in the microwave. "We wouldn't want you to get hurt by a bad one. Ferdinand, can I turn the light on?"
"I'd rather you didn't. Come out. I want to talk to you." Ferdinand pulled three chairs from the dining table into the kitchen.
Nervously, the brothers sat around the table. Luke was praying, and Mark shrank back when Nat returned his cross. "We're sorry. We heard you two might be vampires ever since we moved in, and we wanted to know if it was true. And now we know you are. Are you going to suck our blood?"
"No," Ferdinand said. "It's important for you to learn, especially you, Mark, because you're the eldest now that Matthew's gone to college, that it doesn't matter what you think someone is. Laws still apply, and you still trespassed. So, there will be a punishment."
John started to cry, and Luke tried to stop him. Mark asked, "What punishment?"
"You have to help me rake the backyard this Saturday, and help me move my firewood. All three of you, and you have to be here all day. I will be talking to your parents about it."
The boys all sighed in relief. "That's all?" inquired Luke.
Nat cut in, "You shouldn't tell anyone we're vampires, not so much for our sake but for yours. Your parents are more likely to think you're crazy than to believe your story. It's the same with your friends. If we can trust you, you can come over other times. We could be friends."
"Nat has some great stories to tell," Ferdinand added. "He's more than a hundred years old."
"Cool," John said.
"So vampires aren't all evil?" Mark asked.
"No. Not all. Some are, though, so don't go around looking for them." Nat grinned.
"If you're already a monster, what do you do on Halloween?" Luke asked.
Ferdinand said, "Pretend to be human."
"Yeah," Nat said, "the rest of the time we're just humane."
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I thought as a special Trick-or-Treat surprise, I'd post Chapter Two from Witch's Fire, Book Five of the Winslow witches of Salem. WF is scheduled for release in April, 2010 from Eternal Press.
Happy reading and Happy Halloween!
Chapter Two of Witch's Fire
Beltaine, Beltane, Beltanee: Also known as May Day.
Kirrah Walker soared high in the sky.
On a plain, ordinary, everyday, purchased-at-the-Dollar-Store-broom. A simple item made of straw, wood and a bit of wire.
Nothing magical about it.
Kirrah moaned. “Right, except for the rider.”
However, her lack of control of the magic at her fingertips was pretty ugly. The broom might not have started out charmed, but it was now. So charmed, its entire features had morphed.
The straw was now switches.
The handle was broader, longer and darker, and polished to a shine so rich she could see her reflection in it.
Or she could if it was daylight.
No wire to hold the switches in place. So how did they remain? She had no clue. They were attached to the broom and it was all that mattered.
This broom definitely was not from the Dollar Store.
What happened to the one she’d purchased?
Did it still exist on some other plain?
Not only was this new broom bursting with energy and magic, it had turned into a speed demon from hell. It went from zero to eighty in one point two seconds, a flash across the night sky easily mistaken for a shooting star.
The problem was she didn’t know what she’d done, what she’d said, to hex it.
Kirrah sighed once again. Well, those weren’t the only problems. They were simply part of it.
It was all the broom’s fault!
She hadn’t done a single thing to encourage its crazy antics. For heaven’s sake, she knew very well there hadn’t been one thing special about the broom when she purchased it.
Hah! Try telling it to the ferocious beast racing through the night sky like an over fueled jet with a pilot hell bent to reach his destination.
For a moment, she and the broom hovered above a tree top. Kirrah puffed a tangled curl that drooped over her left eye out of her field of vision.
“I feel the need for speed. Woo hoo!”
Kirrah widened her eyes. “Oh, my goodness, you didn’t just speak.”
“Yes, I did.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“Okay. Have it your way, witch, but you better hang on to your ass, is only warning you get.”
“Ohh! Oh, shit, broom! Slow down!”
“Can’t. Gotta itch for speed.”
Oh! Oh! This wasn’t possible. A talking broom? A flying broom? She’d lost her ever-loving-mind. Kirrah breathed deeply. She panted. She chanted, though God only knew if what she chanted simply encouraged to broom to show off. “I don’t believe in witches. I don’t believe in witches.”
“How you not believe in witches when you one? When you fly on back of broom?”
“It’s a dream. It’s all a bad dream.”
“Real dream. Good dream.”
Kirrah decided it wasn’t so much the flying that created problems, although that too, had its moments. The problem was landing. Now that she was higher than a kite on the Fourth of July, she hadn’t a clue how to get herself and the maniac broom back on the ground.
So here she was, racing among the clouds, looking down on rooftops, treetops, feeling dizzy―with no earthly idea how she got here.
Apparently her plain, ordinary, run-of-the-mill broom was in no hurry to cooperate with a landing. Even if she knew the right words to bring it down, it had stopped listening to her commands the minute it soared away with her.
“Ahhhhhhh,” Kirrah screeched as the broom revved up its speed another notch. She hadn’t known the broom had warp speed. “Ohh! Oh, damn, broom. Slow down! I’m getting dizzy.”
“Told you to hang on.”
It totally ignored her.
In her mind, she heard its evil cackling. The broom was up to more tricks. It streaked across the sky faster than a speeding comet. Sure, it was frightening, okay, a lot frightening, a little on the chilly side, and every now and then she had to spit out some kind of attack bug, but it was fun, energizing, exhilarating―even if it was scary.
She wasn’t used to flying. Ha! That was saying a lot. It was even scarier when the broom rocked unsteadily, like now, and kicked in passing gear.
Kirrah choked her fingers around the scrawny handle, which only seemed to make the broom even more unsteady.
Was that a gagging sound she heard?
“Release me.” Cough. Splutter. Cough. Cough.
She thought her eyes might bulge right out of their sockets. “You really do talk? It wasn’t my imagination?” She stared at the handle. No mouth. “Nah, you can’t talk.”
“Oh, oh, poop―poop―poop! You can talk.”
“Told―you. Re―lease―me,” the broom said in a strained voice.
Kirrah eased the choke-hold she had on the handle.
“Weeee,” the broom chortled excitedly. It whirled and spun as if it’d been given a new lease on life and climbed even higher.
Kirrah controlled the urge to tighten her fingers around it again. What if she killed it? Then they’d crash.
What was she thinking?
It wasn’t like the broom was actually alive. Was it?
What a miserable night this had turned out to be. One minute she’d been standing in her kitchen doorway gazing up at the dark sky, intoxicated by the frigid night air and admiring the tiny sliver of moon playing peek-a-boo with the clouds.
She’d been talking to herself―a terrible flaw she’d recently developed―and wishing aloud for a closer view of the moon. The next moment―the mundane little broom propped in a corner transformed and swooshed beneath her butt. It took off in the night with her perched precariously on top of it.
“Good heavens,” she’d shrieked, so startled, she barely had time to grip the broom handle before it soared off into the dark and zoomed over the treetops with her held captive. That was when she realized…she was a for-sure-and-certain witch. It was one of those Ah-ha moments she sometimes had.
Oh, yeah, she’d suspected for a month or so she might be a witch. Might be. Maybe. No proof, though, other than hearing a man’s deep accented voice summoning her for the past week. Yeah, that had raised her suspicions. But hell, she’d read every single one of those Christine Feehan vampire romances. She thought a fanged creature was using a mental link to summon her. She wasn’t about to acknowledge a real live breathing vampire. She frowned. Or a real dead non-breathing one, either. Eeeww.
Kirrah tried hard to convince herself the fireplace didn’t roar to life every time she walked past it, flames shooting up the chimney like happy fireflies. Candles didn’t light up for any apparent reason and the burners on the stove didn’t flare to life.
What was it with fire…and her?
It was like she had some kind of mysterious power over it.
But it wasn’t just fire. Light switches flipped off or on. Inanimate objects floated through the air simply because she wished for them. Now that had spooked the poop outta her the first time it happened. But she’d convinced herself things were merely short-circuiting around her.
But here was proof. Genuine proof. Oh, yes. It was a red-letter day―er, night. Yes, siree. She was a fricking-screeching-cackling-full-fledged-certified-broom-riding-witch!
Should she wear black?
Wear a pointy hat?
Blacken her teeth?
Search for ruby slippers?
Kirrah shivered as the cold night air whizzed through her tangled mop of hair. Nervously, she gripped the handle of the broom a little tighter, but not so tight she strangled it. Every now and then her ears popped with the change in altitude.
Her skin felt clammy and cold.
She bet she was pea-green. Oh, heavens. Puke-green and vertigo didn’t go well with her outfit. Oh. Oh, dear. If she fell off the broom, she’d be nothing but a little puddle of―dizziness swept over her.
Kirrah choked the broom.
It coughed. Sputtered, but charged on like a rocket.
“I want down, broom. Now!”
She was deathly afraid of heights. The way her stomach bubbled, she was sure to throw-up. Again. Kirrah prayed the broom from Hell wouldn’t decide to do another loop-de-loop.
Uh-oh. Too late!
Satan’s little toy-of-joy must have read her mind, because it shot straight up, did a stunning acrobatic spin, belly over belly, and left her belly somewhere behind.
“Oh-my-God,” she wailed. “Go down! Down, I say! I want down!”
The broom performed another spectacular gyrating spin, then plunged straight down in a suicide spiral, before leveling off at the very last second. It wove through the woods like an out-of-control rocket―straight toward a man who stood innocently gaping at her and the wild-ass broom.
He wore one of those, I-don’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing expressions, eyes wide, lips parted with utter disbelief. Speechless.
Oh, yes. He was properly impressed, all right.
He was also standing in a danger zone.
“Get out of the way,” Kirrah yelled, flapping one arm, motioning for him to move, but the warning came too late. She slammed into him at a peculiar angle, side-swiping his head and smacking him on the side of his forehead with the broom handle.
Heavens. It sounded just like a watermelon struck by a baseball bat. Eeewww.
“Oops.” Kirrah wrinkled her nose in dismay. Squeezing her eyes tightly shut, she clenched her teeth together. She really didn’t want to see this, but knew she should check on the man. Kirrah opened one eye and shot a glance over her shoulder as she barreled past him like a speeding bullet―just in time to see him do a perfect flip-flop, head over heels.
“Ohh! Oh, dear.” But she didn’t have time to consider the injuries inflicted on the poor soul. No. She needed to concentrate on the wicked broom. It sputtered, hacked, sputtered. She eyed her hands. She might wish to, but she wasn’t choking the broom, so it must be running out of gas. “About time, too.”
Kirrah yelped and clutched the broom handle. Swear to the stars, the thing suddenly swerved, rocked unsteadily, then shot straight toward a giant Ark tree like a heat-seeking missile.
“Oh, no. No, broom. Change direction. I command you to change direction.”
The broom, as usual, ignored her. She tried pulling up on the handle. No use. There was only one choice left her. She bailed. “Ouch!” Rubbing her bruised and aching backside, Kirrah watched the broom make a big loop and head straight toward her.
Quickly, she ducked and swore under her breath. It whistled past her head and crashed head-on into the massive tree. “Tyrant! Maniac! You could have killed us,” she yelled.
The broom wilted. It clattered to the ground at her feet, gave one final sputter, then stilled.
“Don’t you ever do that to me again.” Kirrah shook her finger at the dejected broom, eyed her finger and thought better of it. What if she hexed it again? Magic lay in her fingertips. Crazy magic she’d never been able to control and that always involved snakes, spiders or other nasty little beasties. Now, runaway brooms.
She couldn’t help herself though. She laughed and clapped her hands in delight. Her body felt exhilarated, her face flushed. The sheer joy and the incredible thrill of the wild ride had to feel like getting struck by lightning. Every nerve in her body tingled. Pumping a fist in the air, she cheered, “Woo-hoo! Oh, my, but that was fun, broom.” A low moan snared her attention and snapped her out of her cheering mode. “Oh, goodness.” She’d forgotten all about her hit-and-fly-victim. “Uh-oh. I think we might be in a spot of trouble here, broom.”
Hmmm. How was she going to explain flying on a broom? She didn’t have Aunt Penell here to put a hex over her latest victim.
And she was simply awful at casting spells.
Kirrah pushed herself up and limped over to where the stranger was laid out cold as a corpse on a mortuary slab. She cut her gaze over him. “Holy smokes.”Her eyes widened in appreciation. “When the gods passed out bodies, you ordered a big one.”
At least six-foot-four, the man’s biceps bulged, bared by a loose fitting brown leather vest. He looked scrumptious. Thick hair the color of a ripe wheat field and lightly sprinkled with a cinnamon color fell across wide shoulders. Tawny-colored stubble dusted his chin and jaws. Apparently the man wasn’t into shaving regularly. He looked rough, untamed and like a big lion.
Snug brown leather pants hugged his lower body. A smattering of dark blond hair lightly furred his chest where the vest fell apart. The trail of silky hair narrowed into a straight line to the waistband of his tan leather pants and disappeared.
Kirrah licked her lips. Holy crap. The man was seriously ripped, a sexual beast in leather. A soft head though, for the blow from the broom handle had knocked him out cold.
Still, he was rugged. Raw, sexy, take-me-home-with-you-and-I’ll-give-you-my-babies, alluring, wicked male.
Huh. What was she going to do with him? Kirrah chewed on her lower lip as she puzzled over this latest problem in her life. He reminded her of someone. Who? She gnawed on her upper lip and mulled it over. Travis Fimmel! A Calvin Klein underwear man, oh, yeah, baby! Talk about a hottie! She should know. She’d drooled enough staring at pictures of the Auzzie cutie on the Internet to last a lifetime. Man, she’d had the biggest crush on the hunky male model a couple of years back.
Oh, but this man looked even yummier. More mature. Muscular. Sexy. Had she thought sexy already? Never mind. Her mouth watered. It was just incredible the handsome hunk was served up to her a-la-carte―and only slightly damaged.
First chance she got, she was taking a bite of this forbidden fruit. All she needed was some whipped cream. Or she could just go for licking the ice cream cone, lots of slow, delicious licking.
Kirrah moved closer and leaned cautiously over him. “Oh!” She gasped as his lids suddenly snapped open. He stared at her, but his eyes didn’t really look all that focused. He blinked and moaned deep in his throat.
Uh-oh. Oh, dear. He really looked confused. Sounded baffled. This wasn’t good.
How bad were his injuries?
Would her automobile insurance cover the damages? Shit. She’d have to go over her policy when she got home, but she was pretty sure there no were clauses covering accidents while flying on a broom.
Should she abandon him and leave him as a hit-and-fly victim? The thought had possibilities. In her mind she saw the imaginary ice cream cone melting into a milky, useless puddle. No sweets tonight, she thought. Anyway, he probably thought she’d tried to kill him.
“What…happened?” he asked, lifting a hand to his forehead.
He didn’t remember? How cool was that?
Kirrah grabbed his hand. “Don’t touch it. You’re bleeding.”
“Only a little.” She squeezed one eye shut and sort of clenched her teeth. Damn. She hated confessing her responsibility, but her inner devil insisted she come clean. Drat the little guy, always interfering in her life. “Oh, well…there’s also a―a teensy-weensy bump.”
“Teensy?” The man winced as he touched his head. “What the hell does teensy mean?”
“Ooh. You don’t understand English very well? Teensy means uh―uh, miniature, smaller than miniature…sort of.”
“I speak proper English, not the jumbled-up butchered words you speak.”
How insulting! Butchered-up, indeed. Kirrah’s temper―which she swore was always mild―revved up a notch. Well, she wasn’t a redhead for nothing she thought. “Jumbled-up? Butchered? Ha! You speak proper English my patootie.”
“It doesn‘t feel tiny.”
“Huh? What doesn’t feel tiny?” She gave a half-hearted shrug when she realized what he was talking about―and it wasn’t her patootie. Guilt slapped her again and her temper deflated. “Well, maybe not so little, but not real big, either,” she quickly added. “It might be somewhat…er―bigger than a…duck egg?” she ended with a questioning note.
“Bigger than a duck egg? Is that your idea of tiny?”
“Well, that’s better than it being large as a goose egg…right?” There was no call for him to yell. She decided to ignore his rudeness. After all, his slight injury was her fault. She’d forgive him for being grumpy, too…he probably had a slight headache. “Do you remember what happened?”Please, say no.
“Better yet, have a long lasting case of amnesia,” she blurted before she could stop herself.
“What?”He glanced around as if trying to figure out where he was and why she was praying out loud for him to have amnesia.
Did he know what amnesia was?
The man looked very discombobulated to her.
Did amnesiacs look discombobulated?
“Uh…let’s try this again. Do you remember what happened?”
His tawny brows knitted in a deep scowl. “No. I haven’t a clue.”
No? The man said, No? Yes. Yes-yes-yes! Kirrah grinned. Happy days! She barely stopped herself from jumping up and dancing a jig across the forest floor. Amnesia! Her new best friend. Woot-woot! Oh, yeah. This little problem was going away real fast.
“Aww, what a shame,” she clucked sympathetically. “I’m so sorry you have no memory and all because of a lit-tle lump the size of a chicken egg on your poor, too soft head.”
Kirrah frowned. He sounded bewildered, but since he agreed that his head was soft, she decided she loved his strange accent. He thought her English was jumbled? His words were so thick he sounded like―like―who? A little like―yes, that was it―Count Yorga or was it Count Dracula? Oh, dear. Weren’t they both vampires?
In any case, he sounded just like the male voice in her head the last few days. The male voice she’d totally ignored, but been crept out by. So far as she knew, only vampires entered a person’s head uninvited and chatted with them.
Maybe he’d been following her. Stalking her?
Why else had he been here, right in her flight path?
What if he was an ax murderer?
Kirrah glanced around. Until now, she hadn’t noticed just how creepy it was in the forest. They were in the woods, the dark woods, and except for the big ole’ shiny full moon hanging like a perfectly round, gigantic light bulb between the nests of clouds, very little light penetrated the inky black around them.
Could he change into a bat? Would he?
Did he have fangs?
Shit! Did he bite?
“Are you a vampire?” She narrowed her eyes. “I’m warning you, mister, I have powers that would scare a demon. Yes, I―I can conjure snakes and red-eyed spiders, the kind that bite. Hard.”
“Ah, a man of few words.”
Darn it! Her mystery man didn’t seem to have many words in his vocabulary. He sounded more bewildered by the minute. He struggled to sit up, but collapsed back onto the ground, groaning. “Are there any other kind?” he asked a bit drunkenly.
“Any other kind of what?” Kirrah bit her lip worried about the slur in his voice. Blast it! She must have knocked him for a loop. Oh, Lord. He was moaning so pitifully. All the color had bleached from his face, except for the little lump that was honest to goodness, barely the size of a bird egg―a humming bird. Admittedly, it looked ghastly with all the purple-grape color spearing across his forehead like a wine stain.
“Snakes and spiders? Don’t they all bite?” he asked, falling back again.
“Oh. Yeah. All mine bite. Rabidly.”
The glance he flashed her clearly stated he believed she’d lost her mind. Ignoring his speaking look, Kirrah frowned, and assisted him to sit up. “Are you sure you don’t remember anything?”
“Yes,” he snapped, sounding quite cranky. “No, I don’t remember a thing. Yes, I’m sure. And dammit, my head hurts like hell. You hit me!”
“I thought you didn’t remember,” she said accusingly.
“I don’t remember. But you did. Didn’t you? You hit me...with a―a club.”
“I did not! Why would I hit you with a club?”
“I don’t know, but you hit me with something. Didn’t you?”
“I can’t be sure. My memory, you know, a bit out there.”
“A bit out there? Female, you’re a bit out there!”
“No need to get nasty just because you have a slight headache.”
“Slight headache?” he muttered. “Did you or did you not whack me with a broom?”
“Boy, for someone who can’t remember, you remember too darn well.”
“Did. You. Hit. Me?”
“I’m. Not. Admitting. Anything. And you can’t prove I hit you. No witnesses.” She glanced around, shivering. “It’s awfully dark out here. So-oo, Mr. Vampire, let me help you to your feet. You can be on your merry little way. No harm done.”
Once he was on his feet, he leaned heavily against her. “I’m not a vampire. I’m a wa-wa…” he paused, drawing a shaky breath.
“You’re a wa-wa? What’s that?”
“No. I’m a wak-wak…”
“A wak-wak? Are you spoofing me?”
“Not―spoofing…I’m a wa-wa…”
“Yeah, I think I got that part.” Kirrah grinned. “Come on, Mr. Wa-Wa. Let’s get you to the house. I can‘t leave you wandering alone in the woods when it’s plain you don’t know if you’re a wa-wa or a wak-wak.”
“I don’t know what I am,” he admitted, stumbling against her. “Oh, sheeahta!”
“Sheeahta? What does that mean?”
“Shit. It…uh…means shit. I―I’m going to―” he broke off, retching.
Kirrah screeched, did a little side-step jig and wrinkled her nose at the awful sour smell now clinging to the front of her white cotton tee-shirt. “Eeewww. Well, Mr. Wa-Wa, I think we may have a teensy-weensy problem here.”
“Uh―no. We aren’t going to the jumbled, butchered English thingy again.”
“I think maybe you have a concussion. Not a big one, you know, little, like the lump on your forehead, but still, maybe, a―a wee concussion. How many of me do you see?” Kirrah waved her hands in front of his face when he didn’t answer right away. “How many, Mr. Wa-Wa?”
He lifted a brow and directed a steely gaze at her.
Gosh, he had pretty eyes. They glittered like topaz jewels now that they weren’t quite so cloudy with pain.
“I see half,” he said.
“Half?” Kirrah wrinkled her brow in consternation. “I don’t think seeing half a person is part of the test. Oh, dear. Maybe I accidentally fractured your very thin, frail skull. Now look closely and try again. How many of me do you see?”
“You’re supposed to see double.”
“Yeah? Well there are barely enough of you to see a half, so how could I see a whole, much less two of you? Not much to you, button.”
“Huh.” Kirrah tossed an accusing glare over her shoulder. “This is your fault, broom. You’re just plain evil. You knocked Mr. Wa-Wa plumb cuckoo.” She frowned, watching the broom fall into step behind her. “Stop pouting, broom. I am not taking responsibility for this. I told you to stop doing all those insane zigzags and belly rolls. Did you listen? No. You’re the one who crashed into him, dashing about like―like a winged creature of the night, except, you haven’t any wings. If you were flying for crap, you wouldn‘t get a turd.”
Kirrah stilled, her footsteps dragging to a sudden halt. “For Pete’s sake,” she gasped. “You probably don’t even have a pilot’s license.”
“Who Pete?” the broom asked following behind her. “Don’t know any Pete. Is this big fellow Pete?”
“No! I don’t know,” Kirrah snapped. “And stop talking. You wanna get us both in trouble?”
“Who are you talking to?” Mr. Wa-Wa asked.
Kirrah jumped and pasted a quick, innocent smile on her mouth. “No one. Are you hearing things, too?” Drat, the man. He’d just scared ten years off her life by being inquisitive. “See? There’s no one here beside me but you, nothing in front of me, but the trees.”
“Uh-huh.” He leaned heavier against her.
Kirrah gave a delicate shudder as wariness tripped down her spine. “Are you feeling sick again? Please don’t throw-up on me again,” she requested earnestly. “Could you give me a little more warning besides the words, Oh, dunghill? Which simply aren’t informative at all as to what to expect is coming up? No pun intended.”
He slanted a disbelieving gaze at her. “Dunghill?”
“Yep. Instead of sheeahta? Dunghill is the word my friend Hannah uses, instead of,” she shrugged. “You know.”
“I’ll try,” he assured her. “No promises, though. It’s a foreign word to me. Won’t come naturally.”
“Well sheeahta is a foreign word to me.”
“Who were you talking to?”
Kirrah sighed. “What?”He sounded suspicious to Kirrah. She was certain he thought she was up to some kind of trickery. “Back to that, huh?”
The man had a one-track, cracked mind. Should she tell him? She could hope he wouldn’t remember their conversation, but honesty compelled her to tell the truth. She never lied. At least, she almost never lied, except in an emergency and that didn’t count. “The broom that’s following behind us,” she blurted, before she could change her mind.
“The broom that’s―”
Mr. Wa-Wa attempted to glance over his shoulder, wobbled unsteadily, then moaned and clutched his head. “Oh, uh…dunghill!”
“What? No! Don’t you dare,” she shrieked.
“That’s the word you told me to use it when I’m feeling―”
His sentence broke off sharply. His eyes bugged and Mr. Wa-Wa blinked like an owl at her. Then his eyes rolled to the back of his head. He promptly passed out, slumping heavily against her.
Kirrah winced as the full force of his weight toppled hit her. She wasn’t strong enough to hold him up, and she wasn’t about to let him crash-land on top of her. She’d be buried beneath at least two hundred twenty pounds of pure muscle.
She let go and jumped back.
Mr. Wa-Wa hit the ground like a felled tree.
Kirrah’s jaw dropped. She covered her eyes with her palms and scrunched her shoulders. “Oh! Oh, this awful. Forget sheeahta. Forget dunghill. This is an, Oh shit day!” Slowly, she dropped her hands to her sides and opened one eye. She made herself look at him. His face was pale as death. A ribbon of blood trailed past his ear and along the right side of his neck. From where she stood, he looked horrible. “Oh, goodness gracious, broom,” she wailed. “I think I killed Mr. Wa-Wa.” She kneeled beside him and slipped her hand beneath his head. “Oh, shit, broom. This is bad. Stop snickering, broom. It isn’t my fault he hit the back of his head against a protruding rock. I didn’t see it when I let go of him. I swear I didn’t.” She looked up, saw the broom dance a little jig. “Stop that,” she scolded. “Why are you so happy? I could get the electric chair for this. This is just awful. At least it didn’t make that splat sound this time. He didn’t even moan, broom. No, you―you couldn’t really call it a moan. It was more like a―a―long, drawn-out, Ooomph.”
Kirrah lifted one closed eyelid and examined his pupil. “Oh, dear, I think maybe he’s really concussed this time.” She wrung her hands. “Of course he’s concussed. Why wouldn‘t he be? Don’t panic, Kirrah. It’s not like you killed him. He’s alive. It’s really too dark to tell how his pupils are reacting. Maybe he’s not concussed. Maybe he’s…”
She bit her lower lip. Of course it was too dark to be certain about anything. “The blood, well, maybe he’s a bleeder. No sense making snap judgments. Maybe he isn’t concussed. Maybe he’s just a big softie with an even softer head.”
And maybe brooms could fly.
Oh. Yeah. Brooms could fly.
“Well, broom, we’ve certainly done it this time. He’s out for the count.” Kirrah turned him to his side and gently rubbed her fingers over the knot on the back of his head. She drew back her hand, aghast at the amount of blood on her fingertips. “I hope you have a sense of humor, Mr. Wa-Wa. I think you’re going to need it.”
Wrapping her arms tightly around the man’s broad shoulders, Kirrah spoke quietly to the broom, “Take us home, broom. No dive bombing. No loop-de-loops. We wouldn’t want Mr. Wa-Wa to awaken and be frightened out of his slightly addled mind. Or toss his cookies all over me again, so no showing off.”
Kirrah held the man close. If he remembered anything at all when he woke, he’d be frightened enough. He’d probably shout and cringe with fear when she confessed she was a real live, cauldron-stirring, spell-casting witch, one prone to minor accidents.
He’d probably run all the way to the next town. He did seem to have a weak constitution. Two teeny-tiny blows to the skull, and he was out like a light bulb. The only thing in her favor was the fact he’d had difficulty remembering she’d flown into him. She winced. With any luck at all, maybe this time when he woke, his memory would be worse. Maybe he’d never recall what happened at all. She grinned. Yeah.
Kirrah smothered a moan and considered whacking him on the head again just to make sure he retained his questionable amnesia. “Better not.”
She’d be in enough trouble as it was when he regained his memory.
“Home, broom,” she ordered tersely, dragging Mr. Wa-Wa to his feet. “Gods, he weighs a ton,” she grunted. “Take us home. And don’t even think about showing off or I’ll ground you. If you had wings, I’d strip you of all flying privileges. Yeah.” She sniffed with righteous anger. “I’d rip off your wings.”
“Witch mad at broom?”
“You could say that, yeah.” Kirrah tossed her tangled mass of auburn hair over her shoulders and sighed.
She swore she heard the broom heave a disgruntled moan and mutter, Well, dunghill.
As much of a disappointment as it might be to those who know me, truth be told, my favorite paranormal creature would have to be the ghost. Don’t get me wrong, I love werewolves and will always feel a kindred pull to the families of lycanthropes roaming the worlds of fiction, but ghosts…Ghosts are the monsters of our world that could or could not really exist. There still has yet to be scientific evidence proving they do not exist and as years go on, you can always find a “ghost hunter” show of some sort with people trying to prove or disprove their existence to no end.
Why ghosts, you might ask. It deals with the hope of life after death. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to spend my eternity roaming the earth pulling pranks on unsuspecting victims long after my family has moved on. But if there are ghosts, there is existence after death and I don’t have to fear the thoughts of dying and there being nothing after I close my eyes for good.
Have you ever thought of death in the sense of “we are nothing more than animals roaming the earth?” Really stop and think about it. You die…nothing. What is the purpose of living if there is nothing at the end? Why sustain consciousness? Why have consciousness? Now I know religion is a touchy subject with people, so I keep from that direction, but I want some scientific though about this. At this time, man seems to be the only conscious being on the planet (philosophy, art, music).
Now let’s drop some ghosts into the mix. Now you have the idea of no darkness after the long goodnight. You close your physical eyes, but your spirit moves on or stays to cause some hell after death or continually search for your keys in an after-life-loop. Either way, the thoughts of “nothing” when it’s all over is gone.
With that said, here‘s my question for you:
Do you believe in ghosts?
Friday, October 9, 2009
I never intended to write "Bite Me" until the night before I started. This is the only one of my novels where that was the case. I had been planning the novel that ended up following it, "Waking Echoes", for two years, and fully expected to begin it the weekend after I wrapped up Halloween Romance.
[Brief aside: I do not have a deal with Eternal Press for "Waking Echoes" at present, but it explains the odd things that are happening to Taylor Calvin, the Anghels' next-door neighbor and Dianne's older friend. Many of the events in the
two stories are simultaneous.]
Lying in bed considering Ferdinand and Selene and where I left them, living happily enough for a while, I needed to know what happened to their daughter. I got to thinking about consequences of old deeds, the seldom-explored phenomenon of a modern teenager who fiercely loves her parents, family relationships under pressure, and dealing with change in oneself. And I realized that moping, to a certain extent self-pitying, romantic vampire Ferdinand seriously needed a foil.
So I came up with Doctor Nat Silver, the jovial, learned, and terribly dressed vampire. With Dianne changing partially into a wolf in moments of strong emotion and Ferdinand struck with some strange malaise, the Anghels find in Nat both medical help and a dose of enthusiasm.
At age fourteen, which is when I began the first draft, I could have used a Nat
myself. Dianne's journey through dealing with her involuntary shape-shifting paralleled my own growing awareness that something was "wrong" with me, and the tension between the loving Anghels came to echo the strain my own three-person family went through when I was diagnosed with a mood disorder. "Bite Me" went on hiatus for about three months of deep depression, the only complete writer's block I've had all my life. Things improved marginally when I could write again.
The final two chapters of "Bite Me" were written in severe, anxious jet lag. My doctors in China - I have been an expat much of my life - had concluded that my family needed to move back to the U.S. on a five-day notice so I could receive better care. The hopeful yet realistic resolution was a sign of health on my part, despite the doubt that swirled around me at the time.
Now I am far, far better, though I have come to accept that the touched with fire are never fully "normal" and happiness is more tenuous than I had supposed as a child. This peek behind the scenes is not meant to tug on your heartstrings and drum up sympathy - it is hardly unique among stories of trial. But I want you to know that though the characters in "Bite Me" have magic in their blood, they are woven out of the same mundane, flawed, hurting, and terribly beautiful threads as you and I.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I find this subject fascinating in my quest of the History of Halloween. Samhain is one of the Sabbats (holiday) celebrated by the pagans and witches of today and yesterday. As the sun sets on the world October thirty-first, this most important of days, a new beginning comes forth.
Scholars haven’t come to a unified opinion if Samhain means the end or the beginning of summer, because when summer ends on this plane, it has just begun in the Underworld. But the word is thought to refer to the daylight portion of November first.
The Celts believed summer came to an end on Samhain and the New Year began on November first. They followed a lunar calendar, and the celebration began the night before.
The veil between the worlds is lowered at this time, weakened to allow the spirits passage from one realm to the next. It was the perfect opportunity to communicate with lost loved ones, to ask advice and receive solace from them.
As tradition, it’s a time to clean their homes and lives. The crops and cattle have been taken care of, and any loose ends left unfinished would be tied. They would shed everything to face the coming winter, to enter the start of the rebirth fresh from the past year.
The formal celebrations would include a large bon-fire that fit in with the cleansing of the past and looking forward to the future. In sacrifice, they would give crops and animals to their Gods and Goddesses. The Celts would adorn their bodies in costume to honour both the dead, and the Deities they asked favour from in the coming seasons.
Tying in a little with my last post, it was said that once the community celebration was over, each family would take a torch or a burning ember from the sacred fire to take home with them. These fires would be kept lit twenty-four hours a day throughout the dark, endless winter. It was said that if a home lost its fire during this time, misfortune would soon follow.
To appease the roaming spirits, food and drink would be placed outside their door. If not, the spirits would commit trickery for the slight.
Trick or Treating: It was said that fairies would dress as beggars, going door to door asking for food. Those who didn’t show them hospitality would be dealt with by trickery. As well, in later times when the holiday was christianized on All Souls Day, ‘soul cakes’ would be given to beggars in exchange for them praying for other’s dead loved ones. Food, ale and money were also given. In the UK, children would go door to door asking for pennies on ‘Guy Fawkes Day’.
Apple Bobbing: The Apple is the symbol of the Roman goddess Pomona. It was thought that Apple Bobbing and peeling might foretell the future on this night of Samhain.