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The Vampire Nymph by Jim Lee

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In the traditional myths taught before the Revolution changed so much, Nymphs were minor Goddesses who manifested themselves in human form as lovely, innocent and above all unattainable maidens. So to my adoring eyes seemed Dominique Benoit!

Cascades of soft brown hair framed a fair-complexioned face which showed a slight degree of north-south angularity—just sufficient, to my way of thinking, to balance the tendency toward the excessively oval that suggested in the other village girls a vapid nature, at least to my Paris-bred preferences and/or prejudices. Said face was multiply blessed, indeed—with warm wide eyes, a sturdy but by no means masculine nose, pixie-like dimples and full, ever-laughing lips.

A pair of high-riding breasts swelled appealingly beneath an array of brightly colored peasant blouses and contrastingly plain shifts. Of modest size they were, yet as near to perfect as nature would allow in both contour and degree of firmness.

Her hips flared outward most adequately, though their curvature was of a subtle nature—thus lingering on just the proper side of vulgar invitation. And yes, my mouth went dry as the proverbial bone, even as a fantastic yearning to feel her toned thighs locked tight around my lower reaches made me sweat that fateful early summer when our briefly restored Emperor led the nation toward final and absolute defeat far to the north—even as Dominque and I both turned eighteen in isolated and blissful ignorance.

I was not alone in admiring her, of course.

Seemingly every male of a certain age in that village—if not in the entire Department, as the Provinces have been styled since 1790, according to the old calendar that would itself soon be restored—felt drawn to her, sure as the compass needle is compelled to seek magnetic north!

Faced with such legions of self-assured competition, the humbled and often tongue-tied son of an equally humbled minor aristocrat turned political refugee and struggling high-country barley farmer that I was, considered my chances almost negligible.

Still, if he is to avoid drowning in despair a youth must dream his dreams; hope his bittersweet and hopeless hopes. Only later, if at all, when faced with ultimate disappointment, must he grow past and beyond them.

This natural process was abruptly deranged for me on that too-warm 15th night of what today is again known as June—even as our ‘Little Corporal’ prepared to lead his doomed army into the Belgian sections of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

That was the night, in the foothills unimaginably far south of Waterloo, that one of the mountain-dwelling Vampires whose existence I once confidently scoffed at paid my adopted village a visitation. What news of the nation’s latest spasm of martial lunacy that had so far filtered to this distant outpost preoccupied all those not as love-struck as I. Additionally, the unseasonably oppressive heat that normally cool region had suffered under that entire preceding week rendered the lot of us at once restless and lulled to near-insensibility.

In short, our guard was down and the legendary creature had all-too-easy a time of it.

In the morning, we took stock of our losses: Old Madame Le Clair and her grandson Henri dead—utterly drained of blood, the both of them—and our beloved Dominque gone missing. “Carried off,” it was whispered in appalled fright by all and sundry.

A search was mounted, armed parties plunging deep as they dared into that region of the central Pyrenees beyond the village. But of course, as per the too-familiar pattern of such infrequent yet recurrent tragedies, no clear trail was in evidence.

Soon enough another potentially deadly night drew near.

The others had to forcibly drag me back toward our homes.

I struggled futilely, not soothed at all by their insistence that by now Dominque “must surely be dead.” I fought them, shaking bodily and crying out—exclaiming that I would not believe it till I beheld her lifeless form.

The one true friend I felt I had among the unschooled country folk I was interned with clasped me by the shoulders. Gaston, who like so many had formerly harbored his own hopes regarding the girl, shook me with uncommon violence. Then he looked back, across his shoulder at the looming, nearly unchartered peaks.

I saw his fear, heard it in his voice.

“Wyatt,” he used the diminutive I’d long outgrown and would’ve never tolerated from any but him and my parents, and very possibly Dominque, should she have ever deigned to speak intimately to me. “Wyatt, you had best pray she’s merely dead! And that you never see nor meet her again! I would have had her too, you know—but not now, my friend. No, most assuredly, I say it—not now!”

I took his meaning, gave my aching skull a nod. Yet I did not share his terrified disgust. Somehow, I could not do so. I felt only loss, and the exhaustion born of despair.

Broken with grief, I followed my companions back to the relative safety of the village.

We heard no more of Vampires for a two full years and five months, at which point an especially brutal winter had already fully settled upon us. Then a village to the east was raided.

Though the attacker escaped, her description was suitably vivid.

All the others quaked in fear and said, “Now we know for sure—she is damned!”

Gaston insisted we go to the tavern and get very drunk. We did so, which only led to trouble. My friend grew ever cruder with each cup of cheap back-county wine. Nearing the evening’s end, he slapped my shoulder and exclaimed loud enough for all to hear, “Pity none of us ever got to stick it to her, Wyatt! But fear not, the opportunity might still arise—only this time, we best use actual wood! Sad but true, a fleshy stake is well beyond her interests now!”

Others looked up, stared at us. Many looked dismayed, even appalled. Others grinned, two nodded. One even dared laugh.

I struck that lout then turned and gave Gaston a matching blow.

And so I was tossed out, into the cold mid-November night.

I wandered off, more than half-drunk and weeping.

How could they be so faithless? How could they turn so easily against one they’d once all sworn to adore forever?

The tart bite of a slightly premature winter wind revived and partially sobered me. Yet it instilled no desire to return and see Gaston or any of the others.

No, none at all!

A wild fancy come upon me, I sneaked past the village watch and headed south. I walked perhaps an hour, till I reached the base of the nearest true mountain. I took a deep breath of icy air then carefully picked my way upward—perhaps twenty of the still-new meters we were now expected to measure such distances by. There I encountered a level area too broad to properly be styled a mere ledge or outcropping. Beyond it, the upslope became quite more gradual for a good distance. There I paused. I could not have told you how I knew; why I felt drawn to that very spot—I simply, inexorably was!

With gloved hand I brushed a thin film of snow from a somewhat flat slab of the ubiquitous granite. I sat, lowered my head into my cupped palms.

Rather than linger there to shiver mindlessly, I began musing on an obscure piece of legend I recalled from before my family fled the Terror—the tale that supposedly explained how this very mountain range received its name.

Like so much of the mythic, it was a story full of lustful passion, betrayal and abandonment, tinged with cautionary horror followed by regret and concluding with a measure of vaguely ironic and incomplete, semi-magical redemption.

The legend held my notice for some indeterminate time.

Then I chanced to look up—if indeed any that happened that night or since was mere chance.

In any event, I saw her in the moonlight. Moving purposefully and sure-footed, she practically glided down the slope and toward the copse of stiff-needled Mountain Pines I sat among.

Pinus Mugo,” I murmured, absentmindedly voicing the Latin name for that particular species of conifer. And it occurred to me that the previous spring I had accompanied Gaston and some others to the crique—the semicircular upper end of a neighboring valley which ended in the more typically precipitous cliffs. It was a spot not too far southwest from where I now sat and we’d come to harvest the young cones, which were then sun-dried before boiling what dripped from them to a sugary concentrate—thus producing the pine syrup I still craved with childlike gusto.

I sat patient—and not as discomforted as I should have been—observing her approach.

She came to me, as pale and diaphanous as the soiled and torn nightgown that was her only garment. I marveled briefly that she seemed unaffected by the chill then laughed at my own foolishness.

What did I know of Vampires? Perhaps they reveled in such conditions.

But for her part, the once-mortal found me a marvel, indeed!

She stood over me, her mouth open and fangs exposed. The latter were displayed thoughtlessly, without guile or pride or pretense.

“You’re unafraid,” she whispered as I slowly regained my feet. “You don’t fight, or struggle—or flee, crying out for mercy?”

“But I do,” I responded quietly, making bold to touch her bare upper arm. It was cold, of course yet still soft, still firm and, most especially still—her arm! “Only I fight and struggle to regain your presence. I flee to your side and the only mercy I seek is in your embrace—not in being allowed to escape from it!”

Her eyes narrowed. “Are you a suicide?”

I shook my head. “I love you. That is all. I would be with you, Dominique—forever if it could be so?”

She stared long at me—as if searching memories so distant they might have been from another lifetime. Then she smiled and that first time—I shall admit—was a weird sight, fangs and all. Merciful Jesus, they were long! And they looked sharp, and deadly.

Yet they too—they too were hers.

At last awareness glimmered in eyes that, in contrast to her previous existence, had till then seemed cloudy and somehow remote.

“Guy!” She cried out and I was thankful that she used my adult name. The childlike Wyatt would have been too much to hear, under such circumstances. “Is it you—truly?”

“Indeed, it is.”

Vampiric arms flung about me, I felt crushed in a preternatural embrace of greeting. At length she released me and stepped back.

“But all the others—why aren’t you afraid?”

I ran fingertips across her partially bare shoulders. “I am,” I admitted. “But I’m far more afraid of trying to go on without you!”      

She met my eyes, saw truth in them and nodded slowly. Then she stared into space for a time. “Come,” she said at length, rousing herself and beckoning.

I followed her for hours, upward and around, around and upward and still further upward along winding trail more hinted at than truly evident. At last we approached one of the gaves—the lofty mountain-side waterfalls common here. This one was already frozen by more than half. Behind it hid the mouth of the glacial cave that was now my beloved’s place of residence.

Inside, we sat upon the raw and ragged skins of assorted local fauna—I recognized remnants of ibex, mountain otter and even, to my foolishly shocked eyes, a full-grown brown bear.

I could scarce imagine her taking such creatures on her own, even in her extraordinarily altered state. Reluctantly, I voiced these sentiments.

She admitted it was not all her doing.

The Vampire who abducted and turned her—her ‘Sire,’ she called him with a justification I could not decline to accept though it had an unpleasant temper to my ears, had called this rude and icy palace home as well.

Hearing this, I looked about me with some trepidation.

Dominique laughed at my alarm. She assured me we were quite permanently alone.

Six months after her Transformation—he having overseen her training in her new manner of existence—her Creator had departed for distant climes. It seemed that Vampires, by their usual preference and a practical necessity she did not then explain, were traditionally of a solitary nature.

Even so, I shivered and mostly for my comfort we built a fire using wood supplemented by a few chunks of the low-grade lignite found nearby—for what little good coal there is in these mountains is found to the south, on the Spanish side.

We spoke a few more words then drifted into reflective silence.

I smiled to myself and she inquired as to my thoughts.

So I recounted for her the tale—no more than a side-story to the wider legend, really.

The often dubious hero Hercules once traveled through ancient Gaul in route to the site of one of his Seven Labors—I couldn’t then nor now quite remember which one, but that didn’t seem to matter.

In any case, King Bebrx offered him respite from his journey.

Hercules paused there and that monarch’s virginal daughter Pyrene caught the lusty strongman’s eye. In a drunken frenzy, he raped her and then resumed his latest quest in his usual, thoughtlessly carefree manner.

Pyrene was found to be pregnant.

Worse, when her time came the unholy nature of the situation caused her to give birth to a hissing serpent!

Horrified, she ran off to the woods and hence into these very mountains.

Weeping and crying out, she told her troubles to the surrounding trees. In so doing, Pyrene called attention to herself and wild beasts came. They tore her to pieces.

His task complete, an unknowing Hercules retraced his steps for home and in due course learned of Pyrene’s fate. Now sober and remorseful in his typical manner, the big lout saw her remains properly buried. Furthermore, he arrogantly demanded that the entire locale where she met her fate should forever mourn her and preserve her name.

“And so,” I concluded, “this entire vast mountain range is the Pyrenees—after the tragic Princess Pyrene.”

If I’d hoped to impress the relatively unschooled country girl turned Vampire with the piteously small fruit of my Parisian education, my smug self-assurance was instantly dashed.

She knew the legend as well as I.

“But you tell it well,” Dominique said, kindly stroking my crestfallen ego.

“My one true love,” she said next and sighed, looked at me. “I probably should have known!”

My fingertips met her hand. “Now you do.”

“I could kill you in one blink of the eye,” she reminded. “You and one-hundred like you.”

“But you won’t—will you?”

“By rights, I should.” There was profound sadness in her eyes. “I can’t let you go back, Guy. You’d never betray me of your own will, but—”

“I don’t wish to go back. Simply make me like you! Why else do you think I sought you out?”

“But it is not a simple thing,” she insisted. “The Transformation—I’ve never done it. I’d have to take your blood repeatedly—and just the correct amount each time. It must be enough to make you ready for the Change, weakening you again and again but never quite enough to kill you—until the final stage. Then I must open one of my own veins and feed you my now-tainted blood, and you must suffer through the Change—which is, I must tell you, intensely painful for long hours at a time.”

“I understand.”

“No, you do not!” Her eyes blazed, with no trace of the remote character they now typically presented. She pushed my hand back and glared meaningfully. “Our nature is such that, once feeding there is a powerful urge—no, a compulsion—to continue until the source is exhausted! Each time would be an enormous risk—and one you would face each night for a solid week!”

“The legends speak only of being ‘thrice-bitten,’” I observed, but this drew a scornful snarl.

“As if you mortals know!”

I noted the phrase ‘you mortals’—a reminder that this was a no longer a sweet French country girl—no longer human, even. But still, she was Dominique.

“I agree. After all, you came through it!”

“Under an experienced Vampire’s attention, yes. But Guy, I am uncertain—”

“I, on the other hand, am quite certain.” A firm hand placed upon her shoulder, I continued speaking. “I’ll face the danger, with thoughtful concern but no qualms. And besides, your only other alternative would be to kill me outright. But I do have one request: Love me, Dominique. Let us do so before we even begin, so if it goes badly—at least my greatest desire and hope will have been satisfied?”

Despite her great new powers, I now saw that she was in some ways still strangely vulnerable. She looked aside and spoke softly

“I—have never—”

In some sense I should have felt relief. Yet I was more puzzled than otherwise. “But—the other one, he who made you Undead—surely he—I mean, all the stories—?”

“Mortal guesswork again,” she sniffed, almost haughtily. Then her tone softened; she stroked my face. “He is as a Father to me, now. We have no other means to reproduce. The Change takes away the other possibility—though sexual congress itself is still possible, I surmise. So on occasion, when one of us feels the need and an acceptable opportunity presents itself—”

I nodded, understandingly. “And he would no-more lie with you than with his own natural child,” I said and instantly regretted my choice of words. “But what of you and I—?”

“Different,” Dominique admitted, ignoring my unwitting reference to her current, supposedly accursed condition. “We’re the very same age. And I have known you for some years—ever since your Father came among us, in order to avoid the possibility of a Shave, as they say, from our infamous National Barber! I could never feel as a Mother to you!”

I was glad to hear her speak thusly and gladder still when she did not dismiss my proposal out of hand. Nor did it win immediate and full approval, I must add.

“Stay with me a fortnight or two,” she said. “Observe all that this novel existence entails. Then—should it still be your desire—we can proceed. First as lovers—though I admit such intimacy itself carries great risk, with me not knowing quite how I might respond and the degree to which I can retain self-control. And then—if that part goes well—we can attempt the other, even greater Change?”

Now Dominique paused. Her expression remained thoughtful, yet her voice now conveyed a tangle of emotions—an uneasy mix of awakening desire, honest hope and great fear of the unknown and unknowable.

“But what,” she added with evident pain, “if you should find all this intolerable? If you choose not the Vampiric way, I should be required—”

“Unlikely,” I replied. “But if so,” I added in a rush, lest my courage fail me, “you shall be spared such an unpleasant task. I—I shall—do the deed for you,” I concluded, though I admit the last words of the promise came forth hesitantly and with a quavering characteristic.

The silence then between us was profound and long-lived.

She finally broke it with a sigh, followed by a nod. “You must love me truly. I regret not sensing your dedicated passion beforehand. Though I never acted upon them with another, I have long felt certain impulses—desires?”

A shy smile passed her lips and I felt warmth that had no connection to the crackling fire.

I rose to my feet and circled the fire. She rose to meet me, but did not face me as I positioned myself behind her.

Dominique sighed as my arms encircled her middle.

I lifted my hands to her breasts. I clasped and squeezed them.

She sighed again. “Please don’t,” she whispered.

My hands persisted where they were as I kissed her neck.

“No, Guy—please!”

“Pleasing you is exactly my intent,” I whispered in her ear and one of my hands slowly descended her torso. I found the sweet, sweet place between her thighs and caressed it through her minimal attire. My gentle stroking grew more intense and she moaned; her bottom began to rotate—grinding against the growing prominence in my pants’ front.

“This is dangerous for you,” she gasped.

“Worth the risk,” I gasped with equal passion and began to lift the thin garment with flexing fingertips.

“All right!” she snarled through flashing fangs and turned her head to meet my gaze. “Take me! Fuck me!” Her eyes glowed red with inhuman lust. “But do so from behind. Do not meet my eyes, nor come near my mouth—I doubt I could control myself!”

“Understood,” I growled and she let me ease her down, onto her hands and knees.

She directed her vision toward the flickering campfire as I yanked the soiled cloth up to the small of her back. Her naked backside captivated me and I cupped the perfectly rounded though unnaturally pale flesh-globes with eager palms.

My mouth watered as I contemplated tasting of the folds of flesh protruding from amid her dark curls of womanly hairs. And yes, for an instant I also thought of applying my wanton tongue to the other opening for her enjoyment.

For an absurd instant I wondered if that puckered orifice still expelled solid waste as a mortal’s did—and what form it might be take, given her liquid-only vampiric diet?

“Fuck me, Guy!” she demanded again, breaking me from this bizarre reverie. “Do it, while I still retain enough self-control—so that you might survive it!”

“Immedaitely, my love!”

My hands abandoned her buttocks and thrust my own garments aside. My member was painfully rigid with a droplet of the preliminary fluid already glistening in the pulsating opening at its tip. I guided it against her with both hands then slapped eager fists into place around her flared hips.

My lower body drove forward. Her love-flaps opened around me and we cried out  and I together in bestial joy. I thrust myself in deep, taking her ‘cherry,’ as they say with ruthless abandon. Balls-deep, I ground against her for a long, delicious instant.

I pulled back, but not out. And from there, we rutted together for all-too-short a time—back and forth, in and out—we fulfilled our destiny with a gasping, groaning and mutual frenzy.

I climaxed in her depths and ground my lower body against hers yet again.

We collapsed together and my member slipped from her. I saw it coated with a mix of my mortal semen and her bloody, vampiric fluids.

I joked stupidly, asking if she would care to lick it clean and her head jerked around in fury. Her eyes were even redder than before and her fangs bared.

“Idiot!” Dominique snarled and jumped up, quit our sanctuary before she could do something most regrettable. She was away all that night, returning only just in advance to the dangerously imminent dawn.

“Not again,” she said then, just before throwing herself down to rest. “Not till the matter has been decided, Guy—do you understand?”

I said that I did and hung my head in shame. I tended the fire as she slept away the daylight hours.        

Thusly, our time together began.

The agreed time period passed slowly and yet in another sense too quickly, if you take my meaning?

Now a creature of the night, Dominique slept almost the entirety of each day.

At first, I attempted to keep watch for the vengeful intruders I was certain would come—though in fact, none did. Absolute exhaustion took me after three days of that and I joined her in deep, untouched slumber on the opposite side of the low fire we maintained to shield my mortal form from the cold.

Each night thereafter we prowled for food, traveling in a range of many hundreds of square kilometers and occasionally sighting the tracks of humans in the snow.

Whether any were searching for me—or I dare say us—I could not say.

And now, quite frankly, I hardly care.

She did not go among the humans at all those nights—and that, I learned, was not merely a nod to my still-mortal sensibilities.

Her former brethren were too organized, too dangerous to be standard prey. Foremost on our bill of fare were the wild creatures. In that time she took ibex on three occasions and I roasted, feasted on and quickly developed a hunger-fueled appreciation for those wild goats’ flesh, even as she drained every drop of blood from the animals.

We scouted out the hiding places of future prey, large and small alike, on the other nights. I noted that, if a given meal was substantial enough, she felt no need to sup as regularly as I did.

“We’ll turn to the smaller creatures later, so as not to unduly cull any particular kind of food’s number,” she told me. “A predator must not become focused exclusively on one sort of prey—otherwise eventual starvation beckons.”

I noted my relief that, though she’d also made certain to locate the winter dens of the greatest wild creatures found within her range, she had made no effort to confront any of them.  

“Yes,” she remarked matter-of-factly, “the bears are of course the single greatest source of food—of either the solid or liquid variety—in this locale. In the grasp of their winter sleep, one can catch them unawares. But I know if I chose to take one, you would insist on attempting to help—and I will not risk you, in your present vulnerably mortal state, in such a circumstance.”

I was dismayed to think that Dominique felt obliged to protect me from danger.

She shook her head at the complaints my male pride brought forth.

“Perhaps later,” she said to pacify me, “after the Change—we shall attempt it.”

I grumbled but bowed to her will.

Toward the end of this period, we finally observed what I took for far less dangerous prey, but again she warned me off.

“The Basque herdsmen and their dogs guard their sheep well—especially at this time of year.” Dominique gestured as to a foolish child. “If the winter proves as long and hard as I fear, we may find it necessary to take the risk—but not now, not yet!”

“You raided a human village,” I pointed out. “And before, your Sire—”

“On both occasions, scouting was done, Guy. He and then I noted a laxness in their defenses. Village life can be a challenge, but is for the most part more stable and safer than a herdsman’s existence. The Basques tend to be more wary—and more determined in exacting vengeance for the loss of their property, when it occurs.”

I shrugged and she looked closely at me.

“Why do you think my Sire left this region? Why are vampires—especially ones in areas such as this—mostly solitary?”

I shrugged again.

She sighed, disappointed in me. “I hoped you would see that we must never overtax one district’s resources. To do so leads to desperate measures—which can in turn arouse mortal anger and prove dangerous, even fatal to us!”

I saw her point and suddenly it occurred to me that she might send me away at some point—to forestall such an eventuality.

“We shall be careful!” I exclaimed. “We’ll be all right!”

“One vampiric raider, rare and singular, is a nuisance. A dangerous and deadly one, I concede. But two or more—it becomes impossible for mortal men to put such a threat from their minds. They shall band together, gather their courage and hunt us down—so my Sire claimed and I tend to accept his wisdom.”

I shook my head, finding it a reasonable argument, even as I knew I could not live without Dominique—especially now, having been truly with her once and then spending every waking moment at her side for so long!

“Time for your decision,” she told me the following evening.

I nodded, answered her with a kiss.

She trembled slightly then returned the tender contact.

With no further words, we began to remove one another’s clothing.

Dressed as minimally as she was, my task was far simpler than hers. Yet I compensated by moving extra-slowly, willfully restraining my eagerness by lingering for long moments over each bit of cool, pale and perfect flesh that I exposed.

I trembled as much as she, even my male pride must admit.

Oh, I loved her—I desired her so!

And at last the two of us were naked—gloriously, wondrously naked together!

Again, I touched a breast as fine-shaped and firm as I had imagined. I bent my head, folded my lips with care around a jutting brown bead of nipple-flesh. I suckled briefly then kissed its tip.

More kisses followed—there and on its twin, on my Undead Beloved’s cheek and lips and chin and forehead. And soon after, lower—much lower.

On my knees and unashamed, I clasped two mounds of cool bottom-flesh and kissed, licked and suckled upon the most compelling of Dominique’s woman-parts.

Other acts of love followed—as many performed by her as by myself, and with a building urgency, not to mention eagerness and even, in some measure, confidence.

We loved one another deeply, passionately and—better, not as furiously as that first time. Our passion compensated for our relative inexperience. We coupled often and with undoubted, mutual delight. We shared a rich variety of lovemaking activities—excepting only open-mouthed kisses, which she warned that at the present still presented excessive danger to me.

In fact, on only a single occasion did she bare her wickedly gleaming fangs. She leered at me a moment then threw her head aside and sank the elongated canines into her own upper arm—to stave off the impulse to drink from me.

We held one another afterward, she on top of me and our arms interlocked, our eyes focused on the embers of a dying flame that neither of us wished to take even one precious minute to reinforce with fresh fuel.    

“Make me as you are,” I muttered at last.

“Yes.” She sighed. “We shall begin tomorrow night.”

The week of nights that followed were as Dominique had explained to me.

I found being fed upon a strangely giddy experience—which she told me was normal, the sudden loss of blood triggering a unique species of euphoria. Each time she stopped in time, if only barely so and I was left progressively weaker.

Likewise, the Change itself was as painful as she had warned—yet I bore it without, I hope, too much complaint.

And then I was as my Beloved—a new, potentially Immortal and quite hungry Vampire!

At her direction, we hunted all manner of wild creatures and for a time things went well. My skills grew and along with them, my confidence and daring. We hunted as a team, helping and protecting one another. This was, I thought, just as it should be—even as the passionate embraces we also shared were absolutely correct and normal in my eyes.

Yet as that winter dragged on, as cruel and long-lasting as she had feared, Dominique grew moody and taciturn.

“One of us should go away,” she said once and then several more times, her tone reluctant yet progressively more determined. “Otherwise, we two will utterly denude the landscape of wildlife and be forced to seek the other alternatives!”

But like me, she could not face our parting and we went on, till even so unseasoned a predator as I saw that we must reduce the pressure we put on the wild things’ numbers.

“What can they do?” I snarled with too much confidence and not nearly enough experience, as we observed our old village from a safe distance. “A grown male bear, so much stronger than any of them, we have taken in his den and with little difficulty! Such as they—”

“The watch is well-posted this time,” Dominique remarked. “And armed, in ways no mere animal is capable of. We may not age, but we are not—legends notwithstanding—immune to injury and even death. No—this is not the time!”

“What then? I hunger—and so do you!”

I wanted to argue further, yet the look in her eyes cowed me.

We withdrew to our glacial mansion and a night of gnawing, seemingly unnecessary hunger. We quarreled at the beginning of the next night and for the first and last time we resolved to hunt apart from one another.

I, foolish and arrogant, returned once again to haunt the fringes of our old village.

Again well-armed guards were posting, shivering in the cold.

One was Gaston and my eyes narrowed, recalling the intemperate words he’d spoken that last night of our friendship. I sat on my haunches behind a withered bush, observing him with contempt.

At length, another came to his post—a comely gal whom I recognized.

Nicole was Dominique’s cousin and almost as lovely, though with a superior sniff I remembered that her bosom was too large and often too blatantly exposed for my taste. Altogether, I found her quite distressingly obvious—especially now.

Of course, coming abroad in such weather, she was more properly wrapped—at least until she reached Gaston’s side.

Nicole had brought a steaming pot of tea and a cup—her excuse for this late-night rendezvous. But having looked about to confirm their illusion of privacy, her true purpose manifested itself. She put the pot and cup aside, leaving them to melt the snow around them. She abruptly wrenched multiple layers of garment aside. The grinning Gaston propped his musket against a nearby tree and welcomed her into a lewd embrace with gloved hands flexing eagerly.

Nicole threw her head back as he sank his fingers into her recklessly exposed breasts and the two fur-lined hats stacked upon her head tumbled to the snowy earth behind her. Her mouth puckered open in a silent yet undeniable expression of ecstasy.

Gaston’s mouth, gaping likewise, covered hers and they surged together—as profoundly distracted and unaware as any could have wished. Their hot groins exposed to the cold with sudden frankness, they surged together in frenzied and freestanding lust.

I could easily have eased past them stealthily, yet I had another idea—a mean impulse that I acted upon.

I jumped out, broke one neck and then the other with heartless efficiency.

Yet the second one to die—it was Gaston—did have time to scream in protest.

The balance of the guard came running from the village perimeter—running and, soon enough, shooting!

I snarled in scornful laughter when one musket ball tore into Gaston’s already lifeless form. I had no time to feed, yet I was unwilling to abandon all hope of a meal of rich human blood.

Accordingly, I tossed Gaston’s corpse aside and hoisted Nicole’s body onto my shoulders by the wanton’s dirty-blonde hair.

One of her dangling breasts absorbed most of the force of the next shot, though the ball did pass through to break my skin and painfully damage my left shoulder-blade.

I staggered once then took off running.

I knew from the shouts behind me that more armed men were coming—boiling out of the village, weapons in hand. I pressed on through the snow, but though stronger than any mere mortal and normally able to run faster, the burden of my prey slowed me so that the swarm of angry men began gaining on me.

I was about to decide I was doomed unless I gave up my burden—until a bestial snarl came from my right and in front of me.

Eyes glowing with a fierce and mindless rage, Dominque rocketed from the darkness—a wild and wondrous thing, speeding out to protect her mate!

She took the first man with fangs full in his throat and threw him aside, already dying. The next lost his heart to her—but far more literally than I, as she plunged a powerful fist into his chest and tore the still-beating organ from his body with one mighty jerk.

However, others were upon her by then.

Men armed variously with firearms, torches and, perhaps worst of all, pick-axes and stakes turned from pursuit of me to surround and bring down, slaughter my Beloved even as I staggered to undeserved and cowardly safety in these now-bleak and empty mountains.

Not halfway to our icy lair, I stopped and hung Nicole’s remains upside down from the branches of a tree. And yes, I fed on her. I drained every droplet of what was left in her bleeding, cooling corpse.

It filled my belly, but provided little satisfaction.

Taking two great fistfuls of blonde hair by the roots, I twisted and pulled until Nicole’s head dislodged itself from her neck. “Worthless thing,” I snarled at it—though I might as well have been addressing myself. Then I flung it with all my considerable vampiric might as far from my sight as I could manage.

That done, I trudged home through the snow—making certain that, failing a fresh snowfall that my expanded senses told me was unlikely, my trail would still be plainly visible to even mortal eyes come morning.

Thus I returned to crouch at the mouth of our cave, as I do this very moment. Thus I shall await the coming of dawn and of a pack of vengeful villagers. In the daylight, they will have every advantage and I shall accept my fate—while taking as many as I can with me.

I see no further point to my existence beyond that—not with my Dominique gone.

Yet it is only the rash and foolish act of attacking blatantly when stealth was more properly called for that I regret—that, and what inevitably followed.

I sit reflecting upon all the long, sweet, tender and blood-drenched nights we had.

And I know what the lowly mortals only dimly sense, if at all—that love can make most anything beautiful and right!

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Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors Anthology
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Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature, lovecraftian literature, or erotica. The darker the tale the better. take Snoflower for example, a story of necrophilia and kidnapping entwined with love and infidelity. If you’re thinking where to submit horror short stories then consider Deadman’s Tome. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.

 

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Snoflower by L.K. Scott

img_20161001_142233.jpg
Enhance your coffee

Snoflower by L.K. Scott

The mornings after Ben stayed out late, but arrived before the sun rose, he found Kristy still in bed asleep, or at least she pretended to be. She never slept so quiet, and after he awoke, there would only be enough coffee in the pot for her—never for him. That didn’t stop him from returning late and he never missed an opportunity to kiss her upon his arrival and again in the late morning.

Ben arrived before four am. The sun wouldn’t rise until eleven thirty when the icy tundra would sparkle beneath the full yellow sun. Plenty of time to get some rest before chores. Darkness swallowed their austere home and shedding his clothes he slid into bed beside her. He kissed his wife softly on the cheek who in return pressed her warm naked body against his, despite her taciturn behavior towards him the previous night.

“I love you, snoflower,” Ben told her. In the darkness his face was black like a withered apple, and almost destroyed from the unforgiving winters; his sloping forehead was dark, sun damaged from the long summers when the sun never set and the snowy mountains focused the beams like a magnifying glass across the blustery lands. His sickle-curved posture made him appear decades older than his natural age, and a thick scraggly beard protected his neck from exposure; a secretive, hairy, hunchbacked lecher. She smiled, still half asleep and said, “I love you too.”

At ten thirty in the morning, when the skies were dark and hinted the first flush of deep blue dawn, Ben ate breakfast at the table, a dish of salmon and potatoes with leftover bitter coffee warmed on the stove. After breakfast, Kristy stoked the fire, adding fresh wood that Ben had stockpiled and chopped during their brief Nunavut summer, while Ben gathered warm furs for the long evenings to come. Then, once settled, he retrieved a book from the shelf and settled into his rocking chair beside the warming comforts of the fireplace.

She leaned against his rocking chair after coffee and when she sat down beside him her eyes fluttered and he felt her body heat radiating off her body. She was a spirited-looking woman with hollow dimples on the corners of her lips that grew cavernous on the rare occasion she smiled. She had a short stubby noise and big fleshy cheeks, pinpoint, fig-shaped eyes with skin colored to match, but unlike her husband, Kristy’s was creamy like the fluid from a springtime milk thistle.

She watched him and the dancing flames until the hot water was ready once again and she hoisted herself up to fill their mugs and refill the kettle. As she moved about the room she left a rosy scent behind her with sage and pine with a tinge of salt and lemon from the fish she had prepared earlier. And again, after she retired for the evening and pretended to be fast asleep, Ben would depart until the earliest hours of the next day, and like usual she would empty the coffee pot until there was serving left for only one. Not just as a punishment, but to show him that she knew.

The following day while Ben was hunting for caribou, Kristy went outside to gather wood for their stove, several hauls that would last them through another bitter night. The sun had been down since just after lunch, for which she served a rare polar bear dish they had received from visitors who lived in a small village north, with a side of fireweed and more leftover potatoes. She wanted to surprise Ben with sage tea as soon as he arrived, but upon hearing a strange noise beneath the porch floorboards she dropped the wood onto the permafrost ground.

Beneath the porch, a dugout had been made behind their normal storage of usual meats and frozen grasses, large enough that Kristy could comfortably stand, but not for long as the air was dry and carried a deep Canadian chill. The ambient glow of the northern lights reflecting off the early snow allowed Kristy to see the round young face of the missing girl from a nearby village. Kristy didn’t remember her name, but the young woman had been missing for weeks, approximately nineteen years old and very beautiful though her eyes were ripe with fear. How she had survived the weather, Kristy didn’t know. She could only imagine that Ben had kept her alive—fed her just enough to keep her weak and away from death. There was a small heater in the corner, but not large enough to keep out the chill. The girl was alive now, Kristy could see the shallow rise and fall of her exposed breasts, blue from the cold. She muttered a plea to which Kristy replied, “I’m sorry, I just can’t.”

Kristy stood watching the girl, rigid with early signs of frostbite in her fingers. Her wiry, brittle hair covered her face and the dirt floors beside her. Even close to death, she appeared enchanting and fresh with pure skin like new-fallen snow and white with the natural illumination of the pale moon and northern lights.

As Kristy looked around the makeshift cell, other frozen bodies came to view. Four other girls, dead and frozen, each perfectly shaped youthful creatures preserved like bluish ice sculptures in the freezing temperatures. Some had perished with their eyes open, their irises frozen over and glassy, as if to be content with watching the shimmering starlight through the open cellar door. Ben loved them, Kristy knew. He spent more nights with them than he ever did with her. They were his collection and he chose to be with them. Did he touch them the way he refused to touch her? Did he make love to them, even after they froze? How could he choose them, how could he stray from her tenderness for an ice sculpture that would never touch him back, never love him the way she did.

Please,” the girl croaked. If dirt had a voice.

Kristy said nothing and returned to retrieve the firewood she that had spilled to the ground. She’d burn them in her kitchen stove to warm the kettle that would make Ben’s favorite sage tea. Ben arrived home several hours later. Coffee for one again. The tea would be late tonight. She thought of the young woman frigid below and Kristy wondered if her footfalls could be heard below the floorboards as she moved about the kitchen and into the living room to greet her husband with a kiss. Was the taste of the dead women still on his lips? Would she smell her between his legs if he allowed her close enough?

Kristy served him leftovers from breakfast with fresh potatoes and bittercress. She spent the meal in silence watching Ben as he raised the spoon to his mouth and licked the thick meaty drippings from his lips. His tongue slipped back into his mouth and she watched the muscles in his hirsute neck swallow, his adam’s apple swell, rise in his throat, then fall. He took a sip of his tea and when he caught her staring, he said: “I love you, snoflower,” and she blew out the lantern for the night.

He kissed her, but only on the cheek. She longed for more, to have him kiss her where her where her skin was sensitive, his rough hands in places where her body ached, places he only touched the missing girl, yet the only affection she had received was from the pet name he had given her that continued to echo in her ear long after he went out for the night.

In the veil of darkness she listened to Ben’s snores. She imagined packing her only suitcase with the few clothes she owned, and trudging through the snow to the nearest village, ten kilometers east. Donning the warmest caribou and seal skin coats, she could only voyage so far before submitting to a winter’s icy death touch. Beyond the snow-swept tundra, she still could not survive on her own. Even as the guilty thoughts drifted through her head like the lights that moved through the starry night skies she felt her betraying body pressing against his, his breath on her neck, the warmth of his bare skin against hers, his fingers which brushed against her thigh, and she knew she could not leave him. She missed him. She missed him like the winter snowflowers miss the springtime sun.

The following morning, Ben found the coffee pot still warm, its contents enough for one; for her, never for him. There never was. The sky was still black and would remain that way until spring. Ben looked forward to the cold season; it preserved the bodies and kept them firm.

Kristy leaned against his chair, handed him the mug of coffee, a nice change, but what was the occasion? It wasn’t until he drank the last of it and placed it in the wash basin and then stepped outside when he noticed the footsteps—his wife’s footsteps—leading under the porch and into storage. Through the kitchen window, he glanced at her, studied her care-free expression as she prepared the last remaining bits of polar bear for their evening stew. Below he saw his latest girl dead from hypothermia. She would still provide release for him all winter, but he was never truly satisfied. Not with them. The intimacy that he wanted was unobtainable and he suffered from a lust that could not be filled by any but one. What he wanted, what he truly wanted, was to love his wife in the most intimate way he knew.

“I love you, snoflower,” Ben said, though she could not hear him from the window. He disappeared from her sight, following the bank of snow under the porch. In the kitchen she heard the storage door creak open on rusted, frozen hinges. He was gone no more than a minute this time instead of all night, long enough to see the frost over her dead eyes. Again she heard the storage door groan and he emerged from outside. He stood in the doorway.

“How old is she?” Kristy finally asked.

Ben swallowed hard. “Eighteen.”

Kristy brought the spoon to her lips, her eyes blinking away the tears. The polar bear stew burned her tongue, yet she still felt frozen. “Is it because she’s prettier than me?”

His expression crumpled and his eyes filled with hurt, and the feeling that she had done or said something wrong made her feel heavy and ashamed in her chair. She let her eyes droop to the floor in hopes that he hadn’t seen her tears.

Ben crossed the room to her and dropped to his knees. His hands reached for hers as they rested in her lap. They felt like snowballs around her molten fists.

“No, honey, you are the prettiest one of all. Whenever I’m with you, I fall more in love. You are my soul mate. I love you more than anyone in the world, Snoflower.” He stared into her eyes, but that look of hurt remained.

“You don’t love them?” she asked.

“I love you and only you.” he replied.

Kristy stood up and moved to the coffee pot. She placed a mug next to it and faced Ben, her eyes pleading for affection, her mouth pleading for his. To be kissed passionately like how he kissed those girls. “There’s coffee for you in the morning,” she responded.

Ben kissed her, on the lips, but still just a peck.

“I love you, snoflower.” he said.

“I love you too,” she replied. Even after his confession, his reassurance, he still did not show her the affection she desired. She began to cry.

Ben raised the coffee mug over his head and smashed it into her skull.

The frozen air forced Kristy awake. Each breath filled her lungs with temperatures that crystalized in her throat, her breaths becoming shallower with every inhale. Drums and bone mallets like the ones she saw at the village equinox festival last year seemed resound within her skull and with each beat she saw explosive white and brown veil her sight. Thick coagulating blood spilled from her ears and dripped across her face, sealing the right one closed. She reached out, her fingers scraped against frozen dirt. Darkness surrounded her and above, her husband’s heavy footsteps shook the icy cavern. The hinges creaked as the door opened. Beyond his silhouette, the sky gleamed a curtain of emerald from the northern lights. The door shut and all became black again.

“I’ve always wanted to know you this way,” he said. Kristy clawed at the dirt, her arms weak, and her legs refused to move. “Even more than the others. I never thought I could have you this way. I’ve wanted it for so long.”

Ben smelled of pine chips and sour bear meat.

“Is this how you made love to them?” Kristy’s voice cracked, her throat felt like razor blades in the dehydrated freezing air. She was naked, caked with dirt and dotted with bruises over her bluish skin. The other girls stared wide-eyed and envious. Kristy could give Ben what they couldn’t.

“I wait a week. They are usually dead by then. The winter preserves their body in perfection and it helps with the smell. There’s almost no decay at all.” Ben stood wrapped in the warmth of his elk hide over her, blocking the hatch door. “You’re almost there. Another day, maybe two. You’ll die of dehydration if the temperature doesn’t kill you first. It will hurt, but only for a little while, and in a few days it’ll be over. Then I can have you just like I’ve always wanted. In the summers, we can travel to the permafrost territories of the north where you’ll stay preserved. Think of it as a vacation. Just the two of us. When winter comes, we’ll return.”

“Except I won’t be there for it.”

“Sure you will. You just wont experience it the way I will. I’ve never brought any of the others there, but now that I have you, I won’t need them ever again. We’ll be intimate just as I always wanted. Just like you’ve always wanted.”

Kristy’s body relaxed as she gave in to a new kind of warmth that overwhelmed her body. Her limbs fell still and her eyes stopped seeing. Just as she drew in her final breath, she heard her husband say with a final, heartfelt resolute, “I love you, snoflower.”

“I love you too,” she replied, and succumbed to the icy winter’s night.

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Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors Anthology

https://deadmanstome.net/2016/05/21/deadmans-tome-book-of-horrors-pre-order/

Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature, lovecraftian literature, or erotica. The darker the tale the better. take Snoflower for example, a story of necrophilia and kidnapping entwined with love and infidelity. If you’re thinking where to submit horror short stories then consider Deadman’s Tome. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.

 

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Deadman’s Tome LIVE Show 10PM (CST)

 

Technical Issues Hell: The show was pushed back due to technical issues. Ironic that when contacting with the authors they all seemed amazed that someone even uses Google Hangouts. Ironic that I was toying around with the idea of using OBS to live stream while screen  grabbing different Skype calls, but I didn’t. Good news is I know why it got fucked up and what to do in the future. So strange that it took the fourth live show for this sort of issue to come up. Damn it, Google. When I send an invite for a handout and they click it, it should work! In fairness, though, I had two different google logins going at the same time, but I’ve done that in the previous streams, but whatever. Thank you for those that watched and apology for no Rebecca Dempsey.

Meet horror authors Rebecca Dempsey, Clive Carpenter, and Cain Miller as they talk about their stories, reveal their inspiration, and share their other projects.

Rebecca Dempsey is the author of They Shall Rise, a spiritual odyssey of lost love and that blends the realm of the living with the dead…
https://deadmanstome.net/2016/06/02/they-shall-rise-by-rebecca-dempsey/

Clive Carpenter is the author of Confession, a dark and twisted story about the world’s evilest mother. A mother with a nasty passion of killing her children in various way, and the confrontation that is bound to ensue.
https://deadmanstome.net/2016/06/02/they-shall-rise-by-rebecca-dempsey/

Cain Miller is the author of Blithe Town, a dark reminder that there are some places, some towns, that no one should dare drive through.
https://deadmanstome.net/2016/06/01/blithe-town-by-cain-miller/

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Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors Anthology
https://deadmanstome.net/2016/05/21/deadmans-tome-book-of-horrors-pre-order/

Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.
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They Shall Rise by Rebecca Dempsey

 

Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again

Though lovers be lost love shall not

Dylan Thomas

 

When late stern Neptune points the shaft with death:

To the dark grave retiring as to rest,

Thy people blessing, by thy people bless’d!

The Odyssey

 

August 1833. I’d never considered writing. I surfed Bells. Wrote up lab work. However, this is something different, because I am someone different. Likewise, I was never a reader. That was Issy, the English teacher, but her stained copy of Ulysses, rescued from the wreckage, remains my touchstone, despite needing its precious pages for my letters.

Issy, through that book, taught me that one person’s story is worth telling. That and my circumstances compel me to attempt this because I, like Ulysses, long for home.

There are no gods to rely upon for my return, but I hope there’ll be a reader.

Having made it thus far through this vague introduction, you’re owed an explanation. Furthermore, should you be reading in the appropriate circumstances, you will find it commensurate to your own understanding. Should you find this, and deem this fanciful, then overlook its crudities and paradoxes as whimsy. Then, I beg you, come to it with older eyes. Or leave it to your heirs.

From where I am, this is as complicated to explain as I’m finding difficult to experience. There is time and distance between us. Nethertheless, my name will be Rod and my wife will be Issy. This will be, and yet it also has come to pass, when I was Rodrigo and she was Isabel.

I apologise for the tenses and language. Your understanding will be proportionate to the age in which you live. To wit, to you, I might have not been born yet, so, should remind you once more, I am not the writer of my family.

In another life, I was a scientist; then a Portuguese ship’s doctor, wrecked in time, with a tale taller than those told by the sailors in the tavern of a winter’s night. In 1833 I am an apothecary in this whaling outpost. Without my skills I would be a pariah, even amongst this coarse assortment. And here, my means are few: this unnamed settlement is famed only for the Antarctic winds that whip up the stench of carcasses from the bay, beyond which lies the treacherous ocean that extends to the Pole.

Despite understanding logic and hypothesis, I say treachery with cause. Science is indifferent, but since my entrapment in someone else’s experiment, there’s only suspicion and superstition. The sailors jeered as I wept over their whales. Either their beatings inured me to their ways, or I’m losing what formerly defined me. Writing by the light of whale oil, all are infected with death. Thus, I can describe what happened to me and trace the changes in me through the scars left.

It will begin in October 2011. Rightly, I should be in 2016, but for this curse, I’m writing this in Portuguese, English and in the benighted settler patois of 1833. This is the seventh letter in English, and I keep going, in small script, using as little paper as possible. I cast my precious jars from the wharf as the ships come in, trailing carcasses in bloody wakes. My letters bob up and down in the red water. When conditions are right, I bribe sailors to take the bottles beyond the breakers.

In 2011, Issy was tricked. Perhaps, like others before her. Soothsayer, Isabel was told, psychic. Fortune teller. No. Our medium wasn’t a card reader or palmist. She was a thief.

It was the last day of my life. I remember it clearly:   

I didn’t know what I expected of her shopfront or whatever such people call their workplaces. But this was like a small town general store after a big supermarket opened: a study in shabby anachronism. Dusty glass bottles lined shelves and I couldn’t tell if their contents had decayed. Towers of hard covers in foreign scripts formed walls, while a fringed curtain hid closed doors. I was examining the ornate cash register when Issy closed the door, the bell jingling behind her. She said we had to sit at the dining table. She smiled and beckoned me over; I pulled up a chair, crossed my arms and waited.

I remarked about how hard they’d worked to make it authentic. With a shake of her head Issy shushed me. She knew the ways of these places.                  

‘Fact is,’ whispered Issy ‘it’s not like movies; they don’t dress like Gypsies and call themselves Madame. Mediums don’t need to, they’re just people.’ Isabel was nodding, head tilted. I didn’t respond. Issy forgives the depth of my scorn, and yet encourages me to follow her – even here – when I’d rather be surfing. Gritting my teeth, I squeezed her hand.

Issy’s medium pads in, pulling her brown cardigan tight, nods at her assistant, and steps bow legged around a circle of salt. Incense is burning. Arranged around the circle is stereotypical gear: a dagger, a large flat stone, an undressed branch, lichen still green, and a candle, with its plumed glow reflected in metallic surfaces. The assistant closes the curtains. I cringe at the crassness of the affair but am careful Isabel doesn’t see my expression.

Isabel and the assistant are each caught up in the magic. Always a believer, Isabel’s fallen for angels and UFOs. Everything New Age is sacred to her. This was her idea to distract me after mum’s round of chemo. I struggle to understand how we work sometimes – we’re opposites – but we do. She readies her phone to record. I smile; I’d told Issy I was here in a professional capacity as a control sceptic.

Eventually, Isabel, the medium and the helper are ready. And nothing happens, Issy fiddles with her blouse button and winks at me. The lights dim. There’s sulphur as the matches spark to light yet another candle.

As she stares, it seems the mouselike qualities of the medium gradually become less evident, she takes several deep breaths and seems to pale or perhaps it is the candle flickering in a draft. Her long, black hair moves like a separate entity, crackling with static electricity. Her parlour tricks don’t fool me; her fingers tense and tap: nervous? Or, communicating to her assistant? But then she sinks and loosens up. Issy relaxes with her. In the gloom the woman’s skin is translucent, tinged blue around her lips and eyelids. Breathing exercises – a yogi trick. She can’t keep at it, and her breathing evens.

Without warning, the sinews in the medium’s neck and hands go taut, her mouth gapes and water gushes from her throat as if from a dam breach. We recoil, but remain stunned into silence. The flood stops like a tap is turned off, and the medium, rigid no longer, slumps to the floor in convulsions.

There’s screaming. In my periphery vision Isabel is shaking, camera in hand. The assistant lunges forward, while motioning us to keep back, like we’re disturbing her.

A briny odour fills the room and I retch. The assistant props the medium against a chair. Her eyes are closed, but her hands float fish-like through the air.

The medium’s voice, once quick, quiet and staccato is throaty and low: ‘Shafts of moonlight sheaved our bodies in silver as we sank, heavy with terror, down and down. I grasped through the silence while I watched the last globes of life rise from my mouth and break the surface above. I locked into his eyes as my lungs burst. I gulped down salty death, eyes seeing no more.’ The medium shudders and a soft gurgling sound comes from her throat. ‘Now I am summoned from the deep to answer your demands?’

Abruptly, the medium sits up, opens her eyes and stares at each of us without recognition. Were her eyes a different colour? They’re silver-grey I’d thought they were green. ‘You who want to fathom the secrets of my grave: treasures, minerals and rare beasts. I am dumb with saltwater and seaweed. The ship went down. No one heard my silent screams.’ Her eyes glitter as she speaks. ‘My spirit drifted the cold wastes.’

The medium shivers as this new voice continues: ‘I search for my Rodrigo, my lost Rodrigo.’ She pauses, eyes closed, and her hands clench into white fists. ‘You summon me, but I am here to raise him. Rodrigo, where are you?’ The medium sways. She points at me. ‘Rodrigo is you.’ I can’t move. She floats toward me; her damp hands seize my shirt. In one motion she pulls me up and forward out of my chair. She kisses me with her bitter blue lips. As a reflex I push her away, but the life has gone out of me. I trip over my chair, hitting my head. The medium swings around and I hear her arm knock Issy’s phone. The assistant pulls the medium back. Isabel looks from me to the medium: shaking her head. I sit up, winded. ‘Rodrigo?’ Isabel mouths.

The medium shrinks to the floor, whimpering, ‘Rodrigo,’ before she snatches the dagger from the circle and draws the blade over her the palm of her left hand. I wince at the droplets clinging to the knife’s edge. She clenches her fist and blood oozes between her fingers. It trails down her white arm, and mingles with the pool of salt water, which begins to bubble. A white mist rises. Amid the incense and smoke, I’m dazed.

Issy is shaking her head. The assistant flaps and whispers around the medium. But the mist grows thicker and the spirit is not leaving. She shrieks and raises the knife once more. She pushes her assistant back and crawls out of the mist towards me. She yanks my right hand and draws the dagger across my palm. The wound stings of salt water. She smiles with pale blue lips and presses her palm to mine. She chants: ‘I bring Rodrigo forth.’ My hand throbs, but her grip doesn’t lesson. I see grey waves in her eyes. My hand and heart ache in time to the rhythm of her words, as our blood runs together. All fades with her smile: Issy scuffling with the assistant, the incense, the room, everything but grey waves. The candle flickers, and a gust from somewhere blows it out.

 

That was my life. It was the last time I saw Issy. We are candle flames, we flicker and die out – sometimes the flame is passed on. The medium passed me on. It wasn’t my choice, but I made it. But nothing is linear.

Every night, I relive the arrival, a water birth into full awareness. I’m at the edge of somewhere familiar. Waves lap with kitten tongues at a shelf of black rock that runs in broken leaps to the ocean. Waves leave white salt traces of their kisses upon this rock, only to return to wipe them away. Further up, shallow depressions capture circlets of sky staring unblinkingly. Occasionally, there’s a splash, and then tears in runnels make their way down the face of the black rock. Each time the language is the same.

In my dream, despite the shrieking wind there’s no air. Clouds hunch brooding over the tide. The shelf’s sand hillocks are blasted apart by crashing waves. With seagulls fled inland, the shelf was alone, until successive waves heaved broken timbers of my foundered ship up onto the rock.  

Coins in shallow pools adding glint to the scene as dark materials dripped in shreds from splinters and nails. Broken barrels spilled over the stone, only to be washed clean. Canvas, iron and wood were thrown up to decay. Waves rolled a form in. Edges of her dress trailed with the tide. And then, from above I watched him – me – head bloodied, hair and beard matted, facing the sky, a shoe missing. I see me and I knew my wife drowned, as the medium said.

I’m in my body and a metallic tang taints the beach. I touch my head and my hand is bloody. My lips crack with each breath battling in my chest. I crawl to her, pushing back a veil of matted hair. Her face is blue and her pale eyes are open, vacant.

It’s too late.

Though lovers be lost.

This Isabel is dead. But she’ll wait; we’ll meet. Our lives and deaths are entwined, they ebb and flow and encircle our world like the ocean. Therefore, I hope, even at the limits of the world.

On quiet afternoons I go to the cemetery. There, by your stone, this sceptic prays. I pray to my one and future Issy: come find me, my wife yet to be born, so we can rise again. And I pray, thief of all my lives: uncurse me, enchantress of the changing eyes. Or, fatal Siren, whenever you are, curse this marooned madman further to forget the pain of a future foregone because though lovers be lost, love shall not.

Many mornings I wake choking, prayers unanswered to return to the vain toils of letter writing. Then I comprehend. Reader, perhaps it is not up to you, because of Isabel. I opened the book to the pages I needed. Luckily I had not used them.

It took weeks to beg, trade, buy and steal everything required, and month before I found the location. It was remote, where the sand dunes petered into black earth. The sailors shunned it, refusing to say why. I suspected blood was spilled. I waited for the full moon and using the book. I dug a trench, poured in milk, rank tavern wine, and spring water, just like the instruction. Then, I sprinkled flour I compelled the dour travelling priest to bless.

The difficult part was not overcoming my fear it wouldn’t work, or fear of the unnumbered dead I was about to invite, but the sacrifice. I’d stolen the old cutlass from the tavern, sharpened the blade and bought an old ewe from a squatter. It was huddled in a rough pen I’d built a few days earlier, doped on one of my preparations. I grimaced, imagining the drunken taunts of those ill-favoured whalers. Or would they string me up for witchcraft?

With a swig of rum, I take the sheep by its halter, and with the short sword, slit its throat over the trench. The sheep struggled and was still as the blood pooled, glinting in the moonlight. I dragged the poor creature back up, after some time, and heaved its body on branches I’d built into a pyre. The old me would not recognise this version of myself. I dare not consider if the dead will.

Sweating, and faint, I returned to the trench, where something disturbed the air. Even then, after everything, I trembled as I drew the bloodied cutlass. My voice nothing more than a croak, I held back spectres of the long dead, until the one I needed came forward.

As my eyes adjusted, the dead made themselves known. I saw my mother, Andrea. I wept, yet for all my grief, I suffered her not to draw near to the blood. Then I saw Issy and cried out. But she shook her head. My heart broke and she died another death in silence.

The witch appeared. I drew up my sword. Through her bloody smile she said: ‘thou art asking of thy returning, and through many troubles ye may come home, if thou take a ship to find Helios at night. Yet, I foreshow ruin for thy ship and its men. Though thou shalt thyself escape, late shalt thou return in evil plight, and thou shalt find sorrows. The sea again shall end thee. This is sooth.’

Before I could question her, she disappeared, and my mother took some blood. I tried to hold her but she shook her head. ‘You were lost. My heart couldn’t endure the cancer treatment.’ I fell to my knees.

I looked up as Isabel approached again. The light of the moon shone through her blue eyes, and there was the faintest odour of salt water. She smiled as I attempted to brush her cheek. She said we will be together. I dropped to my knees but believed her, whoever we were and will be.

Others came forward, but I had not the heart to hear them. Benumbed, I filled in the trench, lit the pyre, gagging at the odour of seared wool and eucalypt. Spirits disappeared into the smoke. Once the fire was spent, burying the remains took up the rest of the night.

With a hint of daylight making my steps easier, returning home was a dream. I startled at my own hollow laugh – home. Even here, I was changing: time’s flotsam, apothecary, raiser of the dead, and villager.

The fog burned off as I neared the bay. The whalers would head out. The scar on my hand throbbed as I made for the jetty.

I was going out with the dark-prowed ship as my witch instructed. The captain rubbed his brow, accepting my coins. With that I had the freedom of the deck, as long as I didn’t interfere.

The ship headed east, as my witch predicted. Despite low clouds on the horizon, we kept on, towards a pod the captain seemed sure about from the helm. The wind increased, and I grabbed some rope. The swell whipped up and the ship’s tempo changed. Harpoons were abandoned for rigging. The coast disappeared, and all our ways darkened, yet by my reckoning it was midday. I lashed myself to the mast as clouds and sea merged. Rain pelted into the canvas as the vessel pitched beyond control. Visibility was nothing as cresting waves ripped timbers apart. Thunder cracked and at a higher pitch, so did the mast.

I was again in the nightmare I fell into. I cackled at the storm in this genial hour. I would survive this shipwreck. I will rise.

With what’s left of her book against my heart, I see her, us together. Hand in hand, sun darkening the freckles sprinkled across her nose and haloing Issy’s yellow braids, as we head up from the surf.

I screamed her name.

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The Chasm Bridged by Carson Winter

In the walls, I hear her voice. She speaks very plainly. It was the same voice she used to ask me for a kiss. To invite me into her bed. To say she loved me. And finally, when the sickness had reached her mind, to ask “Who are you?” over and over again.
I put my ear to the drywall, and I could still hear her, speaking the garbled chant of a dead language. It’s a constant sermon that family and friends dismiss as a problem with the plumbing. Pipes being pipes. But they don’t listen closely. Those syllables touch upon something primal, like a surgeon poking along at the folds of a patient’s brain, pressing on the uncanny and fleshy crevice that makes you feel like you’re being watched.
Brian looked at the walls closely, glasses resting snugly on his nose, eyes darting behind the glass. “And you’re sure it’s not the pipes?”
“Positive.”
While Brian was always my most skeptical friend, he was also the most empathetic. In the face of a thousand curt grimaces and I-just-don’t-know-what-to-say’s, true empathy was a rare commodity. He looked at me seriously, as if to say that he was taking this seriously and said, “Okay. Then we wait.”
In the past, before Elizabeth died and I became a morose wreck of paranoid visions, Brian and I used to talk about our problems over a six-pack. He had brought one today, as much a gesture as anything, and as we settled down into the living room chairs, he popped the cap off of two and gave one to me.
“Here,” he said, “Drink up.”
I didn’t want it but I took it with as much grace as I could, out of appreciation for the gesture.
There was some heavy silence as we both took sips of our beer. Brian kept looking at me, like he had something to say, or there was something he wanted to say. Probably a thousand things. But, without the business of the noises, the forced professionalism of a friend making a house call to check on the plumbing, there wasn’t much to be said. Elizabeth was dead and I was sad. And that was that.
He cocked his head as if he heard something, or as if he was trying to hear something, or as if he wanted me to think he was trying to hear something, but I knew there was no chanting right now. It was silent except for the shuffling of our bodies and the clink of glass on wood.
Finally, he said: “When did it all start?”
“Right, after she passed,” I said. The words were hard to muster. As the word ‘died’ choked my throat, I discovered the utility of euphemisms. “As soon as I got back from the funeral, I could hear her.”
Brian nodded politely, and ran a hand through his wavy black hair. He studied the condensation on his bottle and said, with difficulty, “Are you doing okay, man?”
I thought a moment, and said, “No.”
“I’m so sorry any of this happened to you.” His eyes looked as sad as my own.
I thanked him and we sat there a little longer in silence, sipping on our beers. I stripped the paper label from the bottle with my thumbnail to honor the silence.
And then, low, but intelligible, the voice came. It was plainly Elizabeth. But the words were unpronounceable perversions of language. Brian’s eyes widened, and I could see that he heard them too.
His eyes were a question mark. I nodded curtly. “Yes, that’s it. That’s her.”
I sprung up from my chair and went to the wall, pressing my ear up against it. “She’s in there,” I said. The unique timbre of air passing through her vocal cords was almost too much for me to handle, and I was on the verge of breaking down. I didn’t care what Brian thought or saw, I wanted to break down and cry, just as freely as I did alone. I wanted to smash a hole in that wall and climb in. Anything to be closer to Elizabeth.
Brian had stood up. He was behind me now, watching me press my ear to the wall with a mixture of curiosity and pity. “What is that?”
He said it to himself, but I couldn’t help but answer, “It’s her, Brian. It’s her.”
He took a step back. I couldn’t tear myself away from the wall. “I think it’s coming from below,” I muttered.
Brian might have nodded, or might have just been staring dumbly at me. I was drunk on those enchanted incantations. I’d heard that the sound of a deceased loved one’s voice is the first thing you forget. I was working hard to never let it happen for me. I studied every lilt of her cadence for a desperate taste of the past.
“Does your house have a basement?”
The thought never occurred to me. “No,” I said. But I tore myself from the wall, painfully, and looked at the floor. Brian was looking too.
“Is she down there?” I asked aloud, to myself mostly.
Brian answered, “Something is.”

#

I had a toolkit that my father gave me when I bought the house. “You’re gonna need it,” he said wryly. I was never much of a handyman but I accepted it with a smile, as a joke.

Now I was armed with a flat-head screwdriver, hammering it into the creases where the floorboards met, splintering wood with every levering motion. Brian was on the other side doing the same. Two city boys tearing at the work of real workmen with the feverish intensity of armageddon street preachers.

One end of a board came loose, rigidly bent upwards. Brian and I pulled on it together, snapping it in half. I tossed the board aside and looked down.

A window, with a jagged, splintered bottom– staring deep into impenetrable blackness. We looked at each other, then back down at the hole in my floor. I felt silly for a moment. We were grown men hunting for ghosts. I was grieving. I probably wasn’t in my right mind, I should–

And then, it was Elizabeth’s voice. Louder than before. That same impeccable diction learned in an east coast boarding school, speaking impossible sounds.

“I can hear her, Brian.”

“Me too,” he said.

His face was growing worried, pale like the blood had been drained from it. He looked older now.

“I need to go down there,” I said.

Brian looked at me like he had already become acquainted with the eventuality of our actions. “Do you have a flashlight?” he asked.

I rummaged around in a kitchen drawer for a moment, back in the living room, he explained, “Before anyone goes down we should shine a light in there, see if there’s anything dangerous.”

Logic trumped excitement and I agreed. We stood over the hole in the floor, almost ceremonially. He had the flashlight turned downward, but not illuminated yet. His eyes turned upwards at me, locking with my own, “Alright, are you ready?”

It was a silly amount of suspense for a hole in the floor. It was probably just earth, or maybe a rat. Maybe it was nothing. But we were tense nonetheless, jittery with curiosity and fear. Behind this tiny black window could be nothing, but the other possibility was that it could be anything. It was looking straight into the eyes of the unknown and we both felt the nervous energy shudder like electricity through our limbs.

“Let’s do it,” I said.

He flicked the light on. He was shaking so much he missed the hole at first. Brian apologized quietly and steadied his hand and moved the beam of light to the jagged black rectangle.

Nothing, or anything.

As soon as we saw it, Brian jerked the beam away. I jumped backwards; awe and revulsion cooking my consciousness. Brian was braver, or perhaps more foolhardy. He stood over the six-inch wide sliver of black and shined the light into it again. Even having prepared himself for whatever was down there, he couldn’t handle it any better a second time. He  dropped the flashlight onto the hard floor, looking numb and scrambled. I was having trouble breathing, my lungs were filled with rocks, I leaned up against the wall. Brian stepped out to the kitchen, out of the corner of my eye I saw him with his hands on the counter, vacantly staring down into the brushed metal of the sink.

When I finally caught enough air to keep me moving, I staggered to a chair and sat down. Elizabeth started chanting again. It filled the house, louder than ever.

“What did we just see?” Brian said, finally.

I didn’t have the words to describe what I saw in the black hole in the floor, and judging by his reaction, he hadn’t either. It fried every nerve ending I had, and sent me caterwauling into an abyss I could scarcely conceive.

I shook my head. My tongue was thick and dry in my mouth. Brian re-entered the room and sat down opposite of me. I saw his eyes. His irises were rimmed with blood, his cheeks and nose had the impression of frostbite.

“What was that?”

He started to speak, then stopped and slumped back into the chair and stared into the ceiling.

Elizabeth called from the blackness, dread words of an unknown origin. Perfectly pronounced and impenetrable.

“I understand everything,” Brian said finally.

I looked at him curiously. And then he repeated, “I understand everything. Literally.”

He took a deep breath and stood up and said, “I’m sorry, Paul. I can’t live like this.”

And I saw the red rim of blood around his iris spread and overcome the whites of his eyes. “There are forces… They stretched me like putty, man. I understand everything. Elizabeth isn’t dead, Paul!” He was raving now, frothing at the mouth. His lips twitched when he spoke.

He was tearing at his own face and eyes, all the while he kept saying he was sorry. He stood up, and for a moment I forgot about my grief. I was genuinely scared for my friend. “I can’t do this,” he kept saying. And then he laughed, “They understand everything and nothing.” He looked me in the eyes, with his own blood-red orbs, as if this were of particular note. His pacings kept bringing him closer to the hole in the floor.

And then he stopped, standing over the broken floorboard, “I can help you.” He got on his hands and knees and started stabbing his wrists into the sharps splinters of shattered wood. He grunted athletically until both wrists were an ugly, battered mess of torn flesh and fresh blood. I got up to stop him but he was too quick, he had both hands down into the blackness of the floor before I could get to him. I heard his bones crack.

He was being reshaped. Crushed and dismantled inside the shell of his skin. His skull was first, turning his face into a slack and bloodied tube of meat. He was being dragged into the blackness, through the half-floorboard opening. He didn’t scream, the new dimensions of his body didn’t allow for extravagances like air.

In a matter of seconds, the only thing left of my friend were the remnants of a six-pack and a pool of blood seeping down between the crevices of the floorboards.

#

The toolbox sat lonely on the floor next to the hole, and I decided to give it some company. I rummaged through it idly, not sure yet whether I was searching for anything in earnest. Maybe I wouldn’t know until I found it.

As I poured over the tools I was keeping my mind busy, counting the degrees of separation between myself and tangible reality. It was like everything I knew was painted on a flimsy sheet that I could see billowing in existential winds.

Elizabeth was still speaking an impenetrable essay in that same casually affluent tone. Even with Brian dead, sucked into the chasm below my starter home, I still grieved for her first.

My fingers found themselves on a hammer. I gripped the shaft of its handle solidly, its absurd weight brought me careening back to earth. It hurt to breathe. My muscles ached. I was eerily aware of my own heartbeat. But, I was here, and just like the hammer in my hands, I had weight and purpose. I looked at the hole in the floor and was overcome with the desire to make it larger. To stare into madness again, if only to get a glimpse of Elizabeth. I started swinging the hammer, the sharp thwacks could probably be heard around the block. I didn’t care. Let them hear, I thought. Let them complain. The widower is at it again, they’ll say. And they’ll be right.

I ripped out floorboards like weeds in a garden. I tossed boards aside, soon there was a pile. The blackness lay in front of me like a slab of lightless eternity.

Without taking my eyes off of it, I reached for the flashlight Brian dropped and switched it on without hesitation.

Beneath my floorboards was a nightmare of colors and inverted flesh– a phantasmagoric menagerie of life and light that pulsed and swelled on a scale as large as the universe. And there, floating in membranes and fluid, was my Elizabeth. The pool she lay in looked like the giant pupil of a massive eyeball. Just like Brian said, she wasn’t dead. They were putting the finishing touches on her skin, her hair was growing. Her lips were moving, chanting those awful syllables.

I wanted to look away. I could feel my eyes burning with hot and salty blood. I knew I was seeing something I wasn’t supposed to. Like a child walking in on intimate parents. But she was there. She was alive, and breathing. And yet, impossibly, I knew she was not. She was in a churchyard in northern Connecticut. She was decomposing. And yet, she was also here, born again in a kaleidoscopic web of organs beyond my capacity to comprehend.
I was piecing together the secrets of everything. Overloaded with stimuli, it was like identifying ingredients you’ve never had in foods you’ve never eaten. I stared into the abyss, never taking my eyes off Elizabeth. If you concentrate, you can pick out the broad strokes of anything. Meat. Broth. Sauce.

I knew what Brian meant when he said he knew everything. I knew now why he laughed.
They reconstituted a vessel. But not a living one. They made from scratch a person who’d already been alive. I shuddered excitedly at the thought, smiling broadly while my irises began to bleed.

I reached down into the corporeal cosmos and grabbed Elizabeth by the wrist, she floated up with my touch like a balloon. And soon she was gripping the edge of the floorboards and I was helping her out. She lay naked on the floor, amniotic fluids pooling around her new body as she gasped her first breaths of air.

They needed a proselytizing sack of organs and bone.

They didn’t realize they were performing a miracle.

I was very lucky.

#

In the coming weeks, we started a new life. We moved quickly to a place we’d never been; a place where the sun shines. There were questions about Brian, but the floor was repaired and there was no trace of our sacrifice. I discovered a bevy of loose ends could be tied with a shrug and an earnest, “I don’t know.”

She only remembers what I told her.

I’ll keep her as long as I can, before she’s urged away to do their bidding. Even now, she has strange intrusive thoughts, but they haven’t consumed her yet. Next time, I’ll be more prepared for her leaving. For now, we’ll enjoy lazy days and Sunday mornings. We’ll laugh and kiss and cook dinners. We’ll make new friends, people who never had the pleasure of meeting her. In some time, there’ll be another funeral, with an entirely different group of mourners, lucky to have loved her. I’ll be the only one who was there for both services.
Elizabeth was reborn to spread the gospel of those strange and wonderful Ancients, but for now, she’s mine.

We lay in bed, close to each other, high on each other’s warmth. My fingers brush her hair to the side, just like I did the first time I kissed her. When she sleeps, her lips move in those old, impossible shapes. I smile and hold her close, thankful for God’s folly.