Raymond rode the moonbeams from the city until he arrived at the abandoned house in rural Upstate New York where Tiberius his Sire and the rest of The Family lived. It was Nightthanks – the most important family gathering on the vampire calendar.
image: Sudhamshu Hebbar
Into the house, then down into the cellar, and through a secret door in the floor. Then, a spiral staircase down into the dark, across an expansive subterranean gallery, and into the shadowless corridors of the Bloodline of Tiberius Aquilus Undermansion into the dining room. There they all waited, Tiberius at the head. Alba Agrippina his First-Bride was on his right, Brother Stephen on the left, and an assortment of cousins lined up on either side of a long, ebony table.
On the table lay three humans, still alive, and each attached to elaborate siphons and tubes that led to each place-setting. It was a sumptuous repast by the standards of most vampires. Continue reading
Assignment: “Against All Odds”
Now, this is a theme to be found in a lot of heroic tales from Beowulf to The Expendables. But, I wondered about how this theme plays out in the life of someone who only thinks he’s a hero, but who is actually a self-mythologizing egotist. What would be the most unlikely thing someone like that might face and triumph (wait for it) against all odds?
Well, I thought that it might be this: self-awareness, and the ability and willingness to change his ways. And being a self-mythologizing egotist, I figured his revelations would be steeped in metaphor. Of course, the fact that it takes place under a river with his lungs filling up with water might make things interesting where the odds are concerned, too …
When Jane left, I took the car, drove it to the Gateway Bridge just outside of downtown Oakview, got out, and threw myself over the side into the Spencer River.
I went a little bit crazy, I guess. But, as I felt the wind rushing upward at me as I fell, a spark lit up from somewhere inside, up from the inky darkness of my mind, or my heart. I found that in spite of it all, I wanted to live.
So, I had something of a problem to solve. By the time I hit the icy churning waters, I was only just beginning to think about the fact that I didn’t even know where to start.
Lester McNab stepped out into the dirty sunshine through the blurry glass doors of the UpTown Mall. After his weekend shift, he smelled of fat from the fryer, which he’d stooped over for the past seven hours at the local ChickenLicken outlet. Still, it was money, although not much. Once Steve got there in the car to pick him up, they’d swing past Daryl’s house and buy a baggie, then go back to Steve’s, get baked, and watch UFC. Then, Lester would watch Steve play X-Box for the rest of the night.
It was Saturday.
He’d got the job at ChickenLicken just after he dropped out of high school a year before. School just wasn’t for him. He just didn’t get the point of all those books, the math, the science. He couldn’t figure out how it applied to him, or to life in Oakview. That’s what really counted, right? What else was there?
Lester didn’t consider himself to be very smart. But, he was smart enough to know that he’d do just like his parents had done. They grew up here. He was growing up here. They’d got long-term jobs here, with benefits and everything. So would he, although since the plant shut down, that wasn’t a sure thing. But what was sure to Lester is that he would die here.
That is, unless something like a miracle happened.
Sitting in the park on a sunny day, Frederico picked up the white pawn in his gnarled hand and placed it gently two squares away. Then, he did the same with the black pawn on the other side of the board.
He’d learned to play chess in Cuba. His father taught him when he was a boy. Years and years later, after Marco died, he taught himself to play both sides, upside down. Now at 87, he was certain that he was unbeatable.
image: Paolo Neo
Frederico wore a green fedora, and a purple scarf around his neck. His overcoat was olive, and his shoes were mirror-shined. His ash wood cane with the silver handle leaned against the stone chess table. He wore fingerless gloves so that he could get a good grip on each piece, loving each one as it played its alotted part.
A cool breeze blew. It was Autumn in New York, just like the song.
I took the piece of wedding cake out of the freezer. Then, I put it on a plate on the kitchen table. I put it there so that I could watch it melt.
Because, my wife has left.
Photo: Ali K
When I was eighteen in the summer of 1962, I had an important meeting with a childhood friend of my father. That friend was Mr. John Oliver Sharp, the hotelier. He owned several hotels and restaurants up the Eastern Seaboard even then. Sure, he’d been born into wealth. But, he was one of those guys who everyone knew was a master of the universe. Unlike the media-whore moguls today, he had class as well as money. He carried himself with a certain grace that is not seen today. It set him apart.
So, my Dad called Mr. Sharp to tell him about his smart and ambitious kid. It was all on the pretext of catching up, but it was mostly about getting me a leg up into the world of John Oliver Sharp. With my Dad’s help, I was to meet with Mr. Sharp and convince him to let me become an intern at one of his hotels, as a manager’s assistant. I was assured that I would have a good future under Mr.Sharp’s wing.
But, my meeting with him wouldn’t go quite as planned, to say the least. Scratch that. It would be a total disaster.
Photo: Dr. Caesar Photography
“This situation has gotten more complicated”, said Clee.
“How? We’ve got the tiger. You said it yourself; she just walked right into your cage there. You didn’t even have to use that tranquilizer gun. It’s time to bring it to Mr. Hodge. This isn’t your call. I’m in charge here!” said Anders angrily.
His men began to gather in a tight circle across from the tall woman tentatively, as if she was a tiger also. Dr. Singh stood by the truck, his arms crossed, and his eyes shifting nervously from left to right.
“Up until now, you people thought this animal was just some roaming killer. But, she isn’t. She belongs to Ebilard Stakes. Tell me you’ve heard of him.”
Anders smirked. “Yeah. I’ve heard of him. He’s the roommate of Santa Claus, isn’t he?”
His men laughed at that, and drew closer. Continue reading
Clee approached the door of the school where the tiger was suspected to be using as her lair, remembering what Hodge had said, and how he’d said it. “The animal is not to be killed. If anything happens to it, you won’t get your bonus. And I’ll be very, very angry. You don’t want to see that. Get me that tiger alive and bring it to me. I’ve got plans for it.”
There was something ominous in his voice. Clee knew that there was something out of whack with the guy. He wasn’t like most of the Council members at Green City they’d said, which she supposed is why he’d left to set up a new town. But, she’d heard that same tone of voice, that same quality of intent in the voices of raiders that she’d dealt with and exchanged fire with when she was in the army. Her opinion of Hodge upon meeting him had been that he was a less than trustworthy person. But, in those few sentences, she knew her client was a breed apart, that he could be capable of anything. This was a bad job in a bad place.
She thought of her two little girls Cissy and Bea back in Green City, sleeping in borrowed beds at the Parent’s Network Centre. She wished they were all at home in their small apartment instead. She wished she’d never come to Hodgetown. Continue reading
When the burlap sack put over my head was finally taken off, I looked up into the eyes of Joey Bentz, the bankrobber. He looked a little older than the pictures on the wanted posters in Wichita, but I suppose he was only thirty or so. He had that same stare; black eyes, not brown, not hazel, but black. He had black hair to match that came to a widow’s peak on a wide, pale forehead. His looked like the face of death. Before any sense kicked in, I was sure he was going to kill me right there. But, when it did kick in, I figured if he wanted me dead, he wouldn’t have had his guy lift me off the street, bag me, and drive me out to the house where they were holed up.
And who was I to them anyway? I was just a scribbler, an artist who worked for a magazine in town. I was no Rockwell. But, I wasn’t too far off for a kid working for a local magazine. But, I guess I gained a reputation for realism around Wichita, and I’d got a job with the magazine there almost right out of high school because I had a good eye for detail, and a good drive to do good work. It was the summer of 1928. That was the thing at that time, not like now. You had to draw and paint as if you were capturing a real moment in time, just like a camera, and you had to do it fast by hand.
“What do you want?” I squeaked. I was pretty scared, and never a tough guy.
“You the painter?” said Bentz.
“Well, I’m one of them.” I said.
“Then you’re gonna paint me.”
I said “Sure.” Continue reading
Adapted from a photo by: Bernt Rostad
After my grandfather passed away in the year 1854, my grandmother came to live with us in Baltimore. I was eleven. The move was against her will, having lived in Virginia for many years after immigrating from England with her husband, and arguing the point with my father with many sheets of parchment and veritable gallons of ink that comprised their correspondence.
But, my father insisted that she should leave the empty estate in Virginia and join us all in Maryland. He was a successful accountant for a textile firm, while Mother dedicated all of her waking hours rearing us. My grandmother was to join her in that role, with time for her quilting, and for her watercolors, while mother made social connections in town. Father was seeking to rise in the ranks, and Mother intended to help him through the wives. As for my Grandmother, it was the promise of the company of us children that convinced her to acquiesce to my father’s wishes, she told us later.
At age 65, my Grandmother retained the fiery spirit of someone much younger. According to my father, she’d always been outspoken, without any thought to the consequences of her words. She was impulsive. In my father’s world of carefully observed social discourse, it was something that we children greatly admired in her. To us she’d had always seemed to us to be an adventurer, even if the adventures she had pursued by the time she’d come to live with us were of a more subtle nature. There was something of the pixie about my Grandmother. It was as if she was not of her time, not because she belonged to the age previous as so many of her generation did, but more that she belonged to an age to come.