Anne Hathaway Speaks

AnneHathawayAndShakespeare

My husband Will was not inattentive to me, though this is what most folk assumed. True he lived in London and I saw him scarce, but when he arrived back to Stratford, O then! Much welcoming and merrymaking there was and I greeted him with open arms.

Will’s true home was the theater, his soul poured forth from his quill and ink pots. When I married him I knew this. How could I not?  He spoke in rhyme when he wooed me. The sonnet sprung from his lips, a stretch of beat and iamb, beautiful words and I trust not a woman in all of Stratford would have resisted young Master Shakespeare. He was tall and handsome, quick witted, dark eyed.  And I?  I was the original summer’s day, Venus to his Adonis.

When he moved to London it was with  that very poem he acquired patronage from the Earl of Southampton.  He had since compromised his words, winking to the the faire youth and dark lady.  Leave gossip for the tongue wagers.  I suspected he had lovers, both women and men.  Of course he did.  After all, his time in London was long. Yet the green monster of envy raised not its head.

One must understand. He was but a boy of eighteen when I married him, and I a woman of twenty six. And though I was with child, I knew his wild oats were not yet sown.  Faithfulness was never expected.  Therefore we lived in harmony.

But I!  Yes I.  Was the mother of his children, the keeper of his hearth. More importantly, not a word of his plays did he scribe, not a scroll did he bring to the King’s Men without my approval.  That was my gift, though none knew of it.

“Anne,” he said to me, “thou art my Juliet, my Beatrice, my Titania in all splendor of the fairies.” His meaning more specific, I was his muse.

merchant of venice pd 2

Consider his play of Juliet. What a botched thing it was,  before I took my hand to it. “The lovers must commit suicide, Will,” quothe I. “Nothing less will do.”

“How so?” he asked.

“By poison of course. And a stabbing, the bloodier the better! In London they crave all means of violence, death, destruction and swordplay. You must give the public what they want, Billie Shakespeare! Else all is lost and the words for naught.”

The same was true of his characters Ophelia, Gertrude and Hamlet. My husband would have written it mildly, trippingly on the tongue as he liked to say. “O no Will,” I corrected. “There must be tragedy. Sweet Ophelia, tormented by madness, will drown herself in a river amongst the heavy flowers and willows that weep.”

“Another suicide?” He shook his head.

“Another, and many more. Trust me.”

Consider Macbeth.  A lame play until I corrected it, making Macbeth a milquetoast to a treacherous and evil woman! She was perhaps the most cunning of my creations.

“The Lady Macbeth must urge the man forward,” I insisted. “It is she who plots killing of King Duncan, she who will bloody her hands most.” His jaw hung and he turned a bit pale at this notion.

“She,” I continued, “will unsex herself, ruthless and scheming. She will drive herself to madness, never eliminating the the damned spots of blood that haunt her like Banquo’s ghost!”

macbeth

He argued with me. “Surely, wife, the gentry will loathe such a vile woman.”

“They will love to hate her,” I assured him. For what better entertainment than an evil femme fatale and what better place to lay blame?

I was correct.

And so it was the box office flourished. “Sell admissions cheap, not more than a penny,” I advised him.

“But Anne,” quothe he, “Baron Hundson will not have it. The Globe itself will be closed should we not turn a profit.”

“You’ll turn a profit and you’ll turn it handsomely,” I insisted.  When the groundlings poured in, seatless in the mud and mire, but not lacking to pay their penny, Will saw that I was correct. I was always correct.

The money pots scattered and we quickly made a fortune. “To tell and sell a story,” I told him, “is the noblest of professions. None will tire of it, for they seek desperately to escape the boredom of their mundane lives.”

And so it was, back home in Stratford, by our fortune I acquired land and houses. New Place was mine, a brace of animals and horses, thriving farms and plenty of servants to do my bidding. When we accumulated enough wealth I urged Will to purchase a Coat of Arms. The motto ‘Not Without Right’ were my own words, because indeed we were not without rights to our own status of Gentle.

shakesepare coat of arms

One day I waited for the clomp of horse hooves upon our pavement. ‘Twas the twenty third day of April, the day of his birth and Will returned home to celebrate. My cooks had prepared a great feast. There would be games and diversions. I smiled as I saw him ride up the road, clothed in boots and britches. He pulled a scribbled parchment from his doublet.

“What’s this?” I kissed him on both cheeks, then took the parchment.

“My latest,” he answered. “It is called Othello.”

“And what story?”

“A marriage between a Moor and a Venetian. Their love will be the purest and they shall live happily ever after.”

I shook my head and tore the parchment to pieces.

“Their love,” I said defiantly, “shall be fraught with tension. The Moor black as jet and the Venetian white as pearl. She a young seductress, he a skilled soldier.   There will be coupling, the mounting of the beast with two backs, they insatiable in their lust!  There will be jealousy and betrayal, one named Cassio who will claim her…”

I narrowed my eyes, thinking of what would enhance this plot. “Add a handkerchief, the most intimate of objects.”

Will popped his eyes. “Surely not a handkerchief!”

“Yes, husband. And ‘twill end in a murder.  Othello driven to savage madness, kills his wife in her very own bed! Then he, driven to suicide, slays himself and falls next to her. Give the people blood and lust and lovers and yet more blood.”

“My dear, are you sure? Such a thing shall be most controversial.” He cocked his head.

“Trust me.” I answered. I then took his hand. “Let the birthday celebrations begin.”

That night we finished revisions. I predicted the story of the Moor named Othello and his wife Desdemona would be among the greatest of my husband’s many tragedies. I predicted the plays would last on into posterity, for hundred of years, maybe thousands, created anew by each generation, constantly revealing human truths, constantly entertaining each audience.

And I was always correct.

“She hath a way,  so to control

and rapture the imprisoned soul

and sweetest heaven on earth display

that to be heaven, Anne hath a way

She hath a way, Anne Hathaway,

To breathe delight, Anne hath a way.”

                                                          — William Shakespeare

Born April 23, 1564, Died April 23, 1616

Birthday-Shakespeare

 

 

Lazarus and the Pink Moon

 

Lazarus 2

My body was rife with boils and scabs, the pain constant, like blue fire to an open wound. My own hands were clamshells, too stiff and weak to aid myself.  My sisters, Martha and Mary, dressed my inflamed skin in cool gauze and oils, yet it did no good. I wished only for death.

“He, Yeshua, the healer,” Martha told me, her young face riddled with lines of worry. “He shall be back. It was his promise to us.”

“You speak of the Rabboni?” I could barely gasp the words. My breath was fast vanishing.

“The Rabboni, Emmanuel, Hosanna,” Mary answered. “Know you, Lazarus, that he has healed many, causing the lame to walk and the blind to see. He will come back to Bethany and heal you as well.”

I moved my stiff body, a near corpse, against the straw mattress. It cut like a blade. No miracle worker could help me, that I knew.  The pox gripped and I was well beyond healing. Yet I had not the heart nor the strength to say this aloud, knowing it would crush my sisters’ hopes.

“It is told the Rabboni has walked on waves in the sea of Galilee,” Mary continued. “He calms the ocean’s storms. In Canaan they talk of the man who has changed water into wine. In Tiberias they talk of the man who fed a multitude with only seven loaves and two fishes.  Such are the miracles of Yeshua bin Joseph, and he has stated his undying love for us.”

Drivel and nonsense! My mind screamed but my voice could not utter it. I was thirsty, very thirsty and my head burned with fever. Martha pressed a wineskin to my lips but its taste was bitter as gall. The liquid burned in my swollen throat. “You must drink brother,” Martha said. “So as to stay quick till the Rabboni arrives. It is then he will cure you and you shall be whole once more.”

I let out a sigh in as much as my breath would permit it.  Whole. Did I want to be whole ever again?

Illness is a mad thing. It steals one’s will. I was a young man, younger than the Rabboni, who was three and thirty years. These miracles my sisters spoke of meant little to me. I followed no god, paid Caesar no tithes, was beholden to no man. Death was inevitable. When my time came I had always known I’d accept it.

Not so with my sisters. Their faith was constant as rise of the sun. They’d not give up hope. Mary sat at the edge of my mat, her hands folded in prayer. “When I am gone,” I began, but could not continue as I saw the tears trickle like silent rain from the corners of her eyes.

“You will not be gone brother,” Martha called. She brought bread from the village and begged me to eat but its taste was dust, my ulcered mouth too weak to chew.

lazarus 1

Night fell. Finally my sisters ceased their fussing and took to bed. I was relieved.

Through the bare windows of our hut I saw the moon rise. The first full moon since change of the season. Desert winds were now calmer and pink phlox grew like spun silk across the land. The heat of summer would not be far behind, yet I knew I’d not live to see it.

I closed my eyes. Sleep enveloped me like a womb.

When I awoke it was yet night, the moon outside the window full and pink as the phlox that grew beneath it.

pink moon 2

Stars twinkled all around. I could feel the breeze, balmy against my bandages. Oh, to breathe that air once again! To stand beneath that full moon. If I had but one last request, that would be it. Yet I had such little strength.

Rising on my blistered feet, I grabbed the wineskin, tried to drink but still the taste was bitter. Martha’s loaf of bread sat upon the table, now covered with locusts. The sight of it turned my stomach.

My breath was heavy.  I longed for the night air. I stood on shaky legs. Although I had been bedridden for weeks I now walked outside, compelled by some force, a force as powerful as the moon’s diamond tides.

It was there in the rich darkness that the woman met me.

She was naked, illuminated in the moon’s glow, her skin and lips pink, with streams of red hair hair that fell to her hips.

lillith

“Lazarus,” she said. “Your time is not yet come. Though your body is diseased and imperfect, you are still a young man. The years ahead are many. Your sisters need you. If you will show but a tiny seedling of faith you shall be healed.”

Such perfection I had never seen in a woman before. “Who are you?” I asked.

“Come nearer,” she answered.

I approached her and when I was cheek press close she whispered in my ear, “Lillith.”

I backed away.  Lillith!  It was she who had cursed the earth, she who had left her husband Adam, she who brought death to one hundred babies each day.  This Lillith, a demon! A vixen!  So said all the holy books. My instincts were to flee. Yet when she spoke again, her voice like rich bells beckoning me, I could not refuse.

She placed her hand upon my forehead. Her touch was cool and soft, like moonbeams themselves. “You’d do well not to believe the legends of men!” she quipped.

She then took me into her bosom, placed her teat to my mouth. “Drink, Lazarus,” she commanded. “This is the milk of life, stronger than any wine.”

Her taste was sweet and as I drank I felt my strength restored.  The boils healed on my skin, the ulcers vanished from my mouth. My fever broke and my head cooled.  My muscles, which had begun to atrophy, now took on a new suppleness and flexibility. I stood to my full height. My vision was sharp and clear.

I looked around me. All the ground seemed brighter, the plants green as pine, the flowers grown to the size of wheat fields.  The colors were dazzling. Silver rivers flowed, sheep grazed, trees were ripe with apples. Far in the distance the landscape sprung with all manner of vegetation, the lavender fields a sea of purple before us.  We were no longer in Bethany.

lavendar england public domain

“What is the place, my lady?” I asked. My voice was now deep, restored of its full volume and masculinity.

“This is but a fragment of Eden,” she answered. “And you are here for but a fragment of time. Answer when Yeshua calls. He weeps for you. There is so much more of your life to live.”

The next I knew I was in a tomb, rock walls encompassing like a prison around me.  I was clothed in linen, my head wrapped and eyes covered.  This seemed quite absurd as I had never felt fitter in my life.  They had buried me? Buried me alive, no less!  I unraveled the gauze from my eyes.

Just then the tomb’s boulder was moved. A path opened and yellow sunlight poured in.  I heard his voice, sturdy and pleading. “Lazarus, come out.”

lazarus

Slowly I stepped from the tomb, earth warm on my bare feet. Mary and Martha ran to my side and embraced me. “Brother,” Mary said. “Never did we lose our faith. Though we buried you four days ago, it is as he promised. You live!” Her face was wet with tears of joy.

Four days? Surely she was wrong, for I had been with Lillith but a moment!  Only long enough to drink the milk from her breasts and glimpse paradise.

“Remove those burial linens and let him go,” Yeshua instructed.

Later, as we dined together at our table he leaned in to me and whispered in my ear, “Tell no one of Lillith.”

“But why, Rabboni?” I asked. The woman Lillith had been a vision, a hope and a miracle. I longed to share my story.

“They will crucify me for this,” Yeshua answered. “If they learn the source from which my power comes it will be even worse. You’ll endanger your sisters. You’ll endanger all of womankind. This world is not yet prepared for the Truth.”

I heeded his words and told none of my visit with Lillith.

My sister Mary then took an alabaster jar filled with our finest perfumed oil. She anointed Yeshua’s feet and dried them with her own hair.

annointing feet

The men criticized her. The one called Judas Iscariot rose and gestured wildly.  “This fine perfume could have been sold and its money given to the poor!” he bellowed. “Yet Mary has wasted it on the Rabboni’s feet! She is sinful.”

My sister, unperturbed, continued her anointing.

“Leave the woman alone,” Yeshua commanded. “She is preparing me for my burial. The poor will be with you always, but I am destined to leave you soon.”

All were silent at this. He was correct. When the Sanhedrin heard of my resurrection, they became even more suspicious of him. A bounty was put on his head and the one called Iscariot betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver. He was arrested the following Thursday  at the garden of Gethsemane.

The very next day Yeshua bin Joseph was crucified, nailed to a cross with a crown of thorns on his head.  He died at Golgatha and was buried in a nearby tomb.

Like me, he arose from that tomb. Like me, he never told anyone of his encounter with Lillith.

As time went on many were persecuted. Women were burned at the stake, hung and murdered for their gifts of healing , elemental powers and necromancy.  It was not until millennia had passed that the Enlightenment came.

The world was then ready for the Truth.

lillith 2

 

 

Jack the Ripper

 

jack-the-ripper-pd

Jack: They called it murder but I called it art.

I lurked in the shadows, waiting  for the perfect moment to pounce.  The bevy of beautiful women I selected as specimens were perhaps unsuspecting of my talents.  The good people of London were unsuspecting as well. Yet as that month of September, 1888 passed, after I had skillfully managed to dissect and disembowel four women, leaving their remains to decorate Whitechapel  like human canvasses, it occurred to me; the locals now had great expectations of my work.  I had become a skilled artist in the medium of human flesh.

Why did I do it? Ah, I am quite sure the gentleman at Scotland Yard would love to know the answer to that. Why indeed? I did it with purpose!  It was sublime and beautiful, this sight of torn flesh.  The rushing scarlet that trickled from their necks as I first pricked my knife. The red river that flowed across their clavicles.  Once the blood began to pour I was insatiable in my creation.  Like a painter’s brush I wielded my dagger, deeper and deeper until I hit solid bone. I could not stop till I’d sliced their torsos clean open.

None can say I was not appreciated! The women appreciated me. If you doubt my words merely consider their case:  They were tramps and trollops, living in the squalor of the east end, perpetually drunk on tuppence gin, ever fading into the obscurity of their tragic and unimportant lives.  Never before had they received so much attention as they did after I made human sculptures of them! Were it not for me, I daresay the five of them —  Mary Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly —  would have vanished into obscurity. The life of a penniless prostitute is seldom noticed.

But I, in my sacrifice, had elevated them to stardom! I had edified and glorified them. You doubt me?  Allow me to offer proof:  The newspaper staff came immediately to take photographs of the remains, did they not?  My art was therefore  preserved for all of posterity.  Once the flesh has wasted away what is left?  The image, of course! Forever kept within the confines of  halide and silver, undisputed evidence of my talents, for none could wield a blade as well as I.

 

jack1

If you need further convincing, I beg you imagine: The lovely Annie Chapman. Oh, she was a vision as she lay there in the alley. It was I who took the trouble to skillfully place Annie’s intestines around her shoulders. She was naked, of course. Instead of the fine garments which she could never afford, our dear Annie departed from this earth with the natural adornments of her own bowels. It was quite breathtaking. A sight which precious few are ever privileged to see.

Imagine another. Catherine Eddows. A woman so lovely that I saw fit to remove her uterus. What say you?  I am sick and deranged?  Oh no dear reader, not I.  The uterus, you see, is the very source of life itself.  None can argue that.  There walks not a woman on the face of this planet who would not want her uterus displayed for all to admire! I know this is so, for I, unlike most men, am sensitive to the needs of the gentle sex.

To make things doubly interesting, the womb of Catherine Eddows was with child. A garden of fertility she was, the seed of fetus growing inside her. Therefore when I removed Catherine’s uterus, it was symbolic of life, although she herself had ceased to breathe. I had elevated her femininity to the highest pinnacle.

The fetus? Yes, yes, the fetus died. Of course the fetus died!  What else suppose you? It was a mere casualty of my artwork.

Now consider my last model. What’s that you say? My last victim? You may call her a ‘victim’ if you like, but I shall call her a model.

Mary Kelly knew exactly what she was doing. Of course she did.  The woman drew deliberate attention to herself  by singing out her bedroom window.  She was the nightingale of Whitechapel.  She may as well have cried out, “Notice me! Take heed of me, you inane and senseless world! For I am Mary Kelly, a force to be reckoned with!”

And so. It was when I saw lovely Mary approaching down the alleyway I stopped her. She inquired if I was in need of company for the evening.  A woman such as Mary, who made her living by the animal desire of men, knew full well that each of us was in need of ‘company’. This was the coy, infuriating act they all played!

Mary told me her price was sixpence.  That sixpence, I would of course never pay. Yet I would reward her famously.

 

jack-the-ripper-pd-5

She brought me to her room in Miller’s Court. It took little time, for once I had envisioned my masterpiece, I began quickly. Mary removed her skirt and bodice.  Both were lice infested. It was a liberation for her to be free of them. It was my intention that every woman leave this earth as she came into it; birth naked.

Mary gave me a glance, displayed her privates as she no doubt expected me to partake of her favors. I told her I had no such interest. With that I removed my dagger from its scabbard.

The look on her face was one of pure beauty, a mixture of astonishment and fear.  I pulled her close and felt her heart race. “Mary Kelly,” I said. “Your singing will get you nowhere and neither will your peddling of flesh. But I!  I will now preserve you for posterity and all shall know the name of Mary Kelly forever more!”

She let out a scream, a stifled cry of ‘murder’, as women are wont to do. In the squalor of Whitechapel few take notice, for murder is a common occurrence.  This was to my advantage.

I pushed her to the table and pressed my knife to her throat. I thrust it through her neck, down her spine.  Mary was like a fine capon being carved up for Christmas dinner.  The blood poured like a crimson ocean. Finally her heart stopped. This was always my cue to leave.

I cleaned my dagger on her lice infested skirt and returned it to my pocket. I grabbed my cape, placed my top hat upon my head and exited the hovel.

 

jack-the-ripper-pd-2

 

Mary Kelly: The Ripper?  Oh yes, old Jack.  Sit yourself down and  have a cup of steaming tea, for I’ve much to share about my dealings with Jack.

He thought himself quite smart. No one’s fool.  Consider the ridiculous letters he wrote to Scotland Yard.   Little did he know. I was savvy to his foul acts, what he had done to my friend Annie and the rest.  The man was dreadful, worse than a penny dreadful. I swore revenge before I even met him.

As for me, suffice it to say I needed sixpence for my rent. I bid you judge me not.  Some lived nine to a room, slop pails in the street, ragged children eating eels wrapped in newspaper.  Were conditions not of filth and poverty I’d never have engaged that rutting sod. Besides, I was no lamb in the woods.  I knew exactly what I’d gotten myself into. Each time was a risk but what else, besides thieving, would put coin in my coffer and bread on my table?

And so I took Jack to my hovel at Miller’s Court.  Though I’d undone my tatter of a skirt and displayed my bare cunny straight at him, he said he’d have none.   Oh, I knew  it then. He was no normal sort of man.  Yet I’d had his type before, they that requested only conversation. Harmless, the vast majority.  But not this one. Not old Jack.  It was in his eyes. Something diabolical, something sinister.  In that minute  I told myself “Take hold of yourself,  Mary Kelly lest you be done for.”

eyes-pd-1

I tried to fight him off but he pulled his dagger, gouging me in the throat.  A wound such as this is not so painful as one may imagine.   Fear ate away at my wounds and soon my skin, and all inside me went numb.  Then all I knew was the weak beating of my heart, fading, fading till I thought there’d be nothing left.

But not so! I am a fighter.

A ghost, sooner or later is  destined to leave its flesh body.  I’d not given this any thought up till that moment. I’d been too busy trying to forge a decent living for myself, although my living was never decent. However, in that moment, when  breath left my body, I took on the being of something else entirely.  Something powerful and strong.

I thought of Mister Scrooge’s ghosts. If I’d had my choice I’d be Christmas future, he that stood like a tall black specter, bony hand pointing fingers to a grave.  I’d scare the  daylights out of Jack, had he any daylight to him. As it happened  I nearly got my wish.

Somehow,  removed from my flesh body I  rose. Old Jack had donned his top hat by then and escaped out to the street. I slithered after him,  my vapor passing through walls.

ghost-pd-2

 

I was angry, carrying the wrath of the four others who had died before me.  My unbridled temper would see justice!  “You Ripper,” I shouted. “You’ll pay for all this slicing and dicing and mutilating of our wares! You are no man! You are no artist either.  You are but a cruel miscreant and I shall have my revenge upon you!”

Though I knew not how my spirit looked, I must have been terribly frightening, for even the great Ripper cowered at my words.

I chased him. My arms were long shadows that brought gusts of wind, my voice a huge echo that rung inside his ears. I’d have driven him to madness had he not already been so.

I followed him through the blackened streets, his feet clopping like horse hooves on the cobblestone. I pursued him all the way to the river.

There he stood on the bridge, teetering back as my ghostly presence pressed against him. He pulled his knife and attacked me but it was akin to slicing air.  He bellowed a scream but none heard, or if they did they were wise enough to ignore it.  I laughed a diabolical laugh as he trembled in terror beneath me. “Not so clever now are you, Ripping Jack?” I hissed

With the force of a hurricane my ghostly arms pushed.  He tumbled off the bridge to the icy water below.  I watched as his legs flailed, his top hat floating down the Thames.  I then flew, hovering above him as his body, still breathing, drifted to an estuary . The tide  then carried him off to sea.

There he bobbed like a cork in the waves till a swarm of blood thirsty sharks swam in, fins racing.   The big fishes closed in and with blade like teeth ripped Jack the Ripper to pieces. Yet he remained conscious and alive through it all, just as Annie was conscious when he disemboweled her. Just as Catherine was conscious when he cut out her uterus.

Some of his bits were swallowed like Jonah in the whale’s belly.  Some scattered and ran like  water colors, bleeding through the ocean.

The sharks, I am told, fancy themselves to be great artists.

Great White Shark Opening Mouth

Ryder and the Wolf

 

nature-little-red-riding-hood-and-the-wolf

As I stepped to the forest path the moon was platinum full, bathing its pale light over the changing leaves of October. The Native tribes called this moon Hunter, and sure as I gazed at it, I knew Diana’s strength embraced me.

In my basket I carried victuals, all manner of  which would aid my ailing Granny. There were sweet cakes spilling with honey. Wine pressed from dandelion and elderberry. Ginger root to be brewed in a strong tea and garlic bulbs to be steeped in milk. All of it was surely enough to cure any grippe or fever. My poor Granny suffered. Her health and well being were the most important things to me in all the world.

The night was gray, a thick fog rising, air soft as early autumn’s gauze.  There was a stillness to the wind, an eeriness like the calm before a storm.  This night was odd, I felt it in my bones. Strange things were portended, and if it weren’t for my ailing Granny I would scarce have left from my cottage.

Yet the Hunter moon beckoned.

Halfway through the lupine pass I spotted the wolf. A coat black as ebony and blue eyes that gleamed bright as sapphire.

 

blackwolf-pd

 

No doubt the animal had sniffed out my victuals, or even, I daresay, my own blood. I was not a-feared. Humankind surely has dominion over the beasts of this planet. Still, I knew I’d best keep my distance.  I made myself scarce among the heather and pine. I even scattered a few cake crumbs so as to throw the beast off my trail. I then proceeded in another direction entirely, forgoing the shortcut yet proceeding to Granny’s cottage all the same.

My dodging was to no avail, for some three leagues down the road I encountered the wolf again. This time the most wondrous of things happened, so much so that you gentle reader, may doubt my words. I assure you it all is true, sure as my name is Ryder Redd and I dwell in the forest of Galbraithe.

The wolf spoke to me, in a voice clear and stern as any man. “Ryder Redd,”  quothe he. “What brings thee to the forest?”   I was, of course, taken aback.  And yet, in the pale light of the moon, where all manner of wondrous things  happened, and in the still of the fog where metamorphosis morphed, a talking wolf seemed, in that instant, not so very strange at all.

“I bring remedies to my Granny, black wolf,” said I. “For she ails in fever and such victuals are sure to cure it.”

The wolf then sniffed, stuck his snout in the flannel napkin of my sack.  “Have you no meat, woman?” he asked, a rise of tension in his voice.

“Nay sir,” said I. “So sorry to disappoint, but it is medicine I bring. Honey cakes, ginger, strong wine, and garlic, noxious enough to clear any head.”

“Bah, what good are you?” said the wolf. With that he bounded up the path. I silently thanked Diana, for she had no doubt protected me. As the Huntress keeps her animals at bay, so humans are free to wander the earth.

By and by I came to Granny’s cottage. I knocked upon the door. No answer. The house was still as rock, no sign of stirring within.   Granny was, no doubt, in slumber.  I opened the door. The house was dark and I fumbled for some candles.  Having lit them I checked the bedroom, looked beneath the sheets, lifted the dust ruffle and even peeked under the bed. “Granny?”  I called. She was nowhere to be found.

Just then through the window I heard an earth shattering howl. Then more howls joined in unison. My heart quickened, for, confronted with one wolf I was able and competent, but this – a whole pack outside my Gran’s door? For this I was not equipped.

Still, curiosity got the better of me and I went to the window.  What I viewed, gentle reader, you will surely not believe. Yet I saw it with the eyes in my head, a steady gaze not tempered by imagination nor spirits. I even pinched myself to make sure it was so.

There, under the light of the moon I saw the pack of black wolves.  Nay wolves!  I say wolves – but not these! These were some strange form of animal, heads and bodies like wolves but with spans of feathered wings that fluttered from their backs.  They were like Pegasus, if such a creature existed.  Like Gryphon, were such a creature true!

 

wing-wolf

 

By my wits and my troth I should have been frightened. Frightened white as Diana’s moon. But no.  The winged wolves stared at me with eyes of interest. Something was so enticing, so inviting about them.  And so I opened the door, left the safety of the cottage and joined them in the field.

The one whom I had seen in the woods came forward. He  now had sprouted wings but when he spoke, the voice was exactly the same as I had heard it before. “Ryder Red,” quothe he, “we are pleased to see you.”

The wolves then swarmed in their circle. I moved closer.  And then! Such a hideous sight I have never before beheld.  Between them they shared a large carcass of meat, marbled  with gristle and tendon.  Upon closer look I recognized it as the torso of a human chest. The flesh was bloody, severed at the waist, spiky bones of a rib cage protruding. The air smelled of iron and meat.

I watched mesmerized as the gryphon-wolves, with dagger sharp teeth, ripped at their prey.  They growled and squabbled, slithered their tongues to lap up the pouring red blood. Finally one beast, the leader of the pack, dug his snout deep into the torso, gnawing until he pulled out a heart. Greedily  he chewed at it, a stew of scarlet veins, aorta bursting and even more blood that splattered on his fur like liquid roses.  The others consumed all  the leftover bits, licking remnants from the grass. I took a step back.

Pleased to see me? My ears burned.  Had the wolf  actually said ‘pleased to see you’?  And where o where was my Granny?

The wolf I’d made acquaintance with moved away for the circle and approached me.  He studied me and inasmuch as an animal can smile, he smiled at me.

“What name sir?” I asked nervously, for it seemed the beast must have a name and I should use that name to address him. “And what know you of my Granny?” I added. She was the most important!

“I am called Lycan,” he answered. “As for your Granny, she is changed. Never to be the same again.”

“Changed how?”

“She ails not.”

“Not how so?”

“She is well.”

“Well how so?”

“She is different.”

“Different how?”

“She is changed.”

“Aye sir!” I screeched. “Bring an end to this riddle! I am to tend to my Granny.”

“She needs not tending,” quothe he.

Then, with all the grace and ease of the moon and all the obscurity and blur of the fog, one magnificent gryphon-wolf flew forward. “I am she,” said the voice and I knew it was the voice of my Granny.

“To what form have they brought you?” I gasped. Yet as I watched her I was not frightened nor disgusted. Inasmuch as an animal can smile, she smiled at me.

 

wolf_with_wings

 

“My eyes child,” she said, “are all the better to see with. And my teeth all the better to eat with. My ears hear as never before. Sharp as an animal’s.”

In that moment I heard a scurry of feathers, the loud beating of wings.  A glitter of silver like so many falling stars scattered across the sky. All the gryphon-wolves, save for Lycan, disappeared quick as cats, vanishing into the fog.

“My Granny is no more?” I cried desperately.

“She is no more for you to see as such,” answered Lycan.

My heart fell although Lycan assured me it was for the best. He then guided me back to the cottage. Once inside, he bid me open my basket. “The honey cakes need not go to waste,” he insisted.

By then I had grown quite hungry, and so I devoured the cakes.  I had also grown quite thirsty and so I drank the wine. I felt my head go light. I became very sleepy and stupid, still unable to grasp what had happened. My world was a prism, a split of fog and moon, a mixture of fear and compassion. The fire blazed in its hearth, surreal in its ever changing facets.

 

red_riding_hood_has_the_leash

 

“Time for bed Ryder Redd,” said Lycan. With that he pressed his paws to my chest and unbuttoned the stays of my red cloak. Yet in that unbuttoning, his hands somehow changed. They were no longer the paws of a beast. The fingers that pulled at my stays were graceful fingers, with well manicured nails. The hands of a human and a wealthy one at that, the hands of fine breeding.

He pulled the cloak from my shoulders and pressed his face close to mine. It was not the face of a wolf, but a man with a mane of black hair, a face chiseled, cheekbones that glowed bronze and healthy.  His sapphire eyes glided over me. His touch was gentle upon my shoulder, gentle upon my waist.  He unlaced my camisole, slid my pantaloons off my buttocks and I, docile and sleepy with elderberry, complied to him.  I fell into the sheets of Granny’s bed and Lycan climbed beside me.

“You have not eaten, my lord,”  I said, for in that moment it occurred to me; I had been most inhospitable, gobbling all the tarts and chugging all the wine. “Of the honey cakes, I fear none are left,” I added sleepily.

“Ryder,” said he, “I am a carnivore, consuming only blood and meat.” His kiss was warm on my breast.

 

red-riding-hood-amanda-seyfried-shiloh-fernandez-photo

 

Needless to say, he did not devour me, for if so I would not live to tell this tale. Yet suffice it to say he did not go hungry. That night, and every night thereafter I spent with my wolf- man.  He was an agreeable sort and a perfect gentleman toward me, save for once a month at Diana’s full moon when he transformed.

It was then that a pack of black wings fluttered over the forest. It was then that the gryphon-wolves feasted, the poor body of some disease-ridden human finally rescued from its illness. It was then that the flesh became silver stardust, spread across the sky like a flurry of crystalline diamonds.

The saved one would speak of new eyes, all the better to see with. And new ears, all the better to hear with. And of course, new teeth. All the better to bite with.

 

012111_red_riding_hood_04110121133556

Halloween Jack

 

halloween-jack

I first met the Devil in a pub called the Boar’s Head on Old Cork road.  The night, as I recall, was all hallows eve.  Having spent my last farthing on ale I tried to barter the barkeep for  one last drink.  My mouth watered but he refused me.  “Go on home boy,” he ordered. “Get you a good night’s sleep. Come the morrow all the world will be brighter.”

He was wrong. My world was darkness. I had no intention of retreating home to my bare and filthy hovel where paint peeled off the walls, rats basked in the waste bins and I had drained every ounce of my whiskey bottles dry. I knew not where I’d wander, yet the barkeep bid me leave.  And so it was to my great fortune that before exiting through the pub’s swinging door I encountered Lucifer himself.

 

undead 2 pd

There he stood, hands crossed at his chest, a blithe smile on his face. He was oddly graceful, a strange dignity about him.

“Your days are numbered Jack,” he told me. “A life of thieving, gambling, drinking and whoring. What have you to show for yourself?  Well now. It seems time has expired and I’ve come to take you to the iron gates.”

The Devil. He may think himself wise, but I, Sneaky Jack Skrumpington, was much wiser!

“You don’t look like the Devil to me,” I challenged. “If you are true, then prove it. Change yourself into a shilling!”   One shilling, I reasoned, would buy me a fresh pitcher of ale.

Lucifer scowled. He laughed at my challenge, and yet, he could not resist a good dare. In an instant he transformed himself into a shiny silver coin which I did not hesitate to snatch. I quickly hid it in my pocket, right next to my rosary’s shiny cross.

 

rosary-pd

Everyone knows the Devil cannot abide a cross. He was thus under my spell. Yet I was not entirely unmerciful. I  made a bargain with him. In exchange for his freedom he would give me the sum of one million ducats and another ten  years to live upon this earth.  He agreed. After all, he had no choice.

During my next ten years I lived a life of decadence.  I dined at the finest of inns, drank wine under crystal chandeliers. I slept in silk sheets upon feathered beds, beautiful women accompanying me at every turn.  I spent much of my time gaming, cheating and winning, caring not a fig for those I left in debt.  I steadily increased my ever growing fortune.

gambling-pd

Finally it all came to an end.

It was upon all hallows eve, ten years later when the Devil returned to claim my soul. He found me sprawled beneath an apple tree, sleeping off a long drunk.

“Skrumpington!” he barked. “Your time has expired.”  His lips formed a wide smile, green teeth reflecting the light of the moon. Although he attempted his best of horrifying theatrics, commanding streaks of lightning across the sky and claps of thunder, he did not scare me. I knew better.

“Lucifer,” I pleaded, kneeling before him. “Can you not give a damned man one last request? Do it!  Do it, so you prove yourself a creature of mercy, not the evil demon they paint you!  Do it, so you prove yourself a being of justice, not the slithering snake they claim.  Forget not, Lucifer,  you were once a son of light!”

He stared at me. This remark had struck a chord.  I moved my face close to his. “Aye,” I whispered in his hairy ear. “Once, dear Lucifer, you sat at the right hand of the Father. You were his favorite, were you not?  The brightest star of the heavens, Luz the light. Oh, but  that was long before your great sin of pride, wasn’t it? You banished yourself from the heavens, fell from grace into your own lonely cavern of hell. Surely you remember?”

I stroked his neck, moved my hand across the small of his back.  He quivered at my touch.  “Show me now you have not lost all your goodness,” I urged.  “Grant  me but one last request.” I moved my lips to his cheek, kissed him gently and tasted the salt of a single tear that fell from his eye.

He nodded, for even the Devil had some shred of decency.  Besides, he knew a pacified soul would be more useful to him. He clutched my hand.  “What then would you have from me Jack Skrumpington?” he asked.

“Only a simple apple,” I answered. “Ripe and sweet, picked from this very tree.” I pointed to the top bough, heavy with fruit.

 

apple public domain

Lucifer nodded and like a lizard he shimmied up the bark, entrenching himself between the branches. He reached up to pick the largest, reddest apple the tree bore.

I wasted no time! In one instant I pulled my knife from its scabbard. Quickly I carved a cross in the trunk of the tree. Lucifer’s eyes widened in terror. He was now stuck on the branch of the tree, unable to descend, for everyone knows the Devil can never approach a cross.

I grinned up at him. He spat down on me. “Skrumpington,” he hissed. “You have deceived me again!”

“I will release you,” I said. “If you make me but one single promise.”

His body writhed and wrinkled, now blending into the wood of the tree. He wheezed, struggling to breathe as the tree’s tentacles closed in around him. His eyes were frightened and white. A knot in the bark swallowed him whole, then spit him out again and he hung like a folded fish on the branch.

“Very well Skrumpington!” he gasped. “What bid you this time?”

“This time…” I sighed a sigh of deep satisfaction, strolled grandly in a circle, watching him the whole time.  “This time you shall agree to never take my immortal soul, regardless of whatsoever evil deeds I may perform.”

He nodded slowly.

“Swear it!” I commanded.

“I swear it, Jack Skrumpington. I will never take your immortal soul.”

He was a defeated thing, weak and gray, his body now sliding like a stretched lump of clay . I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

 

For what remained of my life I continued my ways of debauchery, drinking and whoring myself  into an inevitable grave.  I was a liar, a user and a sycophant. I frequented gambling dens and houses of ill repute.  I lived only for myself and my own gain. It would later be said of me “Jack Scrumpington  never once performed a selfless act nor did any kindness toward his fellow man.”

Yet time waits for no one and even I was not immune. My body grew old.  My back bent, my bones ached with arthritis. Finally my unbridled whoring caught up with me and the syphilis pox set in.  My hands shook.  My walk became a staggered, struggling gait.  My penis withered like a crumpled twig.  My liver became diseased, bloated with cirrhosis, swollen from years of hard liquor. Yellow jaundice enmeshed my flesh.  Death, when it finally came, was a mercy.

I then found myself at the gates of Saint Peter.

pearlygates-pd

The Saint shuffled his feet, looked at me and  shook his head. “Can’t take you Jack,” he said sadly, “for never in your life have you performed a single selfless act. Not once have you done any kindness toward your fellow man.” Peter leafed through his book of souls, double checking as if there might be a chance he would still find my name.  But no. He closed the book.  “Sorry Jack.” He shrugged.  “Not once.” He caught my eye with a look of genuine sympathy as he locked the white pearl of the deadbolt.

 

book-of-souls-pd

 

The wind gusted. I felt a chill up my spine. Winter was coming and it would be a long, merciless one.  Ice formed on the pavement beneath me.  I wore only the sack cloth I had been buried in.  My teeth chattered.

What to do?  What to do?  I’d go to the Devil! Of course I would!  At the very least, it should be warm in hell. Yes, it would be an eternity of misery, the lake of fire, but I’d embrace it, punishment for the damage I’d done in my waking life.

Lucifer peered through the gray mist that surrounded his iron gate. Upon recognizing me, he furrowed his brow and shook his head. “Oh no,” he said. “I’ve no want for you here, Jack Scrumpington.  I promised I’d never take your immortal soul and I’ll not take it. A promise is a promise.” He clasped his hands together and bowed his head.  “I may be a lot of – er – unsavory things.  But Lucifer Luz is a man of his word!” He stomped a foot and pounded his own chest.

Not fit for heaven, not welcome in hell.  I was the lowest of souls, left to wander on the brink of nothingness. I turned away from Lucifer’s gate. The thick mist clouded my eyes. I stumbled like a blind man. The night was black as pitch. I could see not one outline, not one shadow.

Just then I felt Lucifer’s warm touch upon my shoulder.

 

dark 9

“You’ll need something to light your way,” he said, not unkindly.  He then handed me a hollowed out pumpkin.  A lone candle burned at its base, blackening the inside rind.

“Take this lantern, Jack,” the Devil said. “May it guide you through the darkness.” He then handed me a knife.  “You may want to carve some designs in it. Allow extra light.”

It was an act of unmerited kindness, considering what I’d done to him.

In that moment I felt guilt for the first time. I was sorry I had treated him so badly.  I realized my skewed values.   But alas, it was by then, too late.

With Lucifer’s knife I carved a face in the pumpkin, triangle eyes and nose, even a smiling toothless mouth.

From that day on I was left to wander through the land of spirit. I am usually unseen but sometimes, upon all hallows eve you might find me. It is then the veils are lifted and humankind may enter our realms. Look for me in the alleyways, in your dark streets of trick-or-treaters.  I am the ghostly figure who carries a lone pumpkin of candle light to brighten my sad path.

They call me Jack of the Lantern.

halloween-pumpkins-pd

The Train

 

train-suicide

Slicing a wrist was too messy. Besides, I had heard it was ineffective unless one got the proper angle of the vein. I imagined it as slow, tedious and painful.  Forget shotguns. I did not own one and even if I did I would not know how to fire. There was drowning. But I knew I was much too good of a swimmer.

What then? To put my head in the oven was not fair. It may cause an explosion leaving a mess for others to clean up after I was gone.  Pills? Again risky.  I’d have to take a boatload of something and even then they might not do the job.  Cyanide, I had read, was the most effective poison, but that was of course nearly impossible to obtain.

That left only two options: hanging or the railroad tracks. Hanging would be cleaner, no blood. But still it was atrocious. Someone must find me, neck bruised and face white, swinging from the stairwell.  They’d get the shock of their lives, a vision so hideous they may not be able to erase it from memory.

And so the train. It happened all the time. At least once a month I heard about suicides by train.  The Metro ran non-stop. The Metro can NOT stop. It’s not like it  would be anyone’s fault except my own.  Oh sure, it would be bloody.  But my blood would soak the land, maybe even seep to the grass as fertilizer, wild violets blooming relentlessly within cracks of the sidewalk.   Dead on arrival they could quickly do away with my body. Simple. A tiny blurb on the news, if that. I hoped not. I hated the news.

I sat on the tracks. Remembered my family. My friends. How I had given no inkling to anyone of my desire. They would be deeply grieved. But they would get over it. Maybe.

Then of course there was my cat. No one to feed him. No one to clean his box. Yet cats are resilient. Nine lives. I pictured him, wandering the house. He’d wonder where I had gone. He missed me when I went away, yet this time I would not be coming back.  I wondered if he’d howl in desperation. My cat, usually so quiet, only let out a yelp if in pain.  This would pain him.

cat-on-tracks

I heard the warning horn of the train.

The night was dark, tiny sliver of a moon glinting in the black sky.  The new moon, so they say, holds new beginnings. Oh but I had tried this beginning so many times before, all to no avail. My life closed in upon me. “Failure,” the voice said. “Failure! Loser! Burden! Not worth the ground you walk on.”

Traffic ran along the boulevard. Drivers stopped at the red light at the bottom of the hill. Cars parked at the Chinese restaurant, passengers staggering with bags of late night chow mein. Voices cackled, television blaring from open doors of the Blackthorn pub.  Were all of them oblivious to the grief of this world?

“Four thousand deaths in Chicago,” Mr. Trump had said in the candidates’ debate. “All by gun violence.” He was right of course. Somewhere in my city, someone was being shot  at that very moment.

I’d pay a banger to kill me if I had the money. If I thought he would do it. He would not. That’s the irony.

“Seven billion people and every single one has a problem,” my neighbor Mrs. Gotti had once told me.  I thought of Mrs. Gotti in her kitchen, apron dusted in flour, hair woven in a bun.  Homemade pasta, she made it from scratch through an old fashioned press. And Christmas cookies, wafer thin, laced with sugar.  I’d never learned how to make my own. What else had I never learned?

The second warning horn blared, deafening my ears.

My cat. Green eyes.  My friend Bjorn. Scruffy jeans, red wisp of a goatee. He had once told me,  “You are an inspiring person.” We’d read tarot together, walked in the woods at solstice, stopped to admire trees.  We played music till dawn, Bjorn beating his drums, me pounding my keyboard like the punk rock Carpenters.  But now. Inspired to die.

The third warning horn sounded, louder than the others.

My thoughts raced in synch with the horn. The shriek taunted.  Now or never now or never now or nevernowornevernowornever

Now.

dark-lady-10

I rose from the stones, gym shoes slipping. Laces untied, they could just as easily have bound me, wedged in the rails like that boy in Fried Green Tomatoes. Then I’d tremble in the few seconds before my self destruction became inevitable.

But no. Not today.

Maybe someday, but not today.  Suicide was a business best left unfinished.

 

to-anyone-who-has-had-suicidal-thoughts

suicide-quote-1

 

September is Suicide Awareness/ Prevention Month.

Please don’t kill yourself today.

 

When Darkness Falls Part 3

 

river-at-night

 

Please read Part Two here.

I stare into the black water, thick with mud and sludge. The night is cold, wind whipping in icy gales. People think Louisiana winters are mild, but here in New Orleans we get the worst of it, boxed in by the drafts of Lake Pontchartrain and the river.

It has been five years since I left Shreveport. I only laugh when I think of myself back then, silly, strong willed, flippant. How stupid I was, to create a fiasco with Eric Northman.  I’d succeeded in nothing, only embarrassing myself by trying to attain the unattainable. I was a laughingstock, known all over Shreveport,  not as a mere fangbanger, but as something worse. An impostor. A pathetic loser. Shunned and ostracized from both the vampires and the humans.

All of this means nothing now.

My stomach clenches in nausea as I think of the doctor’s voice, deep, slow and methodical.  His sympathy was surely feigned. He did this every day, it was part of his regular work week,  a routine.

“Mina I am afraid you have breast cancer.”

I remember the examination room, the distance of the doctor’s face like a tiny oval in the white wall. I remember the terrible shudder that went through my body. Tears welled in my eyes and I fiercely scrubbed them away.

It had happened.  This, the same disease that had taken my mother and my grandmother and who knows how many other females in my blood line, had now come to claim me.   My choices, the doctor informed me, included a complete mastectomy followed by treatments of chemotherapy, countless medications and a rehabilitation process.  “This is not an automatic death sentence,” he assured me.

Choices? He has the audacity to call them choices?  Little did he know. I’d not undergo the knife, nor would I endure those dreaded treatments. I am not some guinea pig, subject to their silly games!  I have witnessed the worst of it; my mother, wasting away on her death bed, head bald, cheeks sunken, nostrils bleeding.  I have never been able to figure out, just what sort of ‘cure’ makes one go bald?

After my mother’s death I left Shreveport. There was no reason to stay. Oh, sure, I could have continued to petition Eric, but what good would it do? Northman would not budge. Besides, I no longer had the strength nor the inclination.

I then found myself with nothing. No family, no job, no money. I was not even speaking to my best friend Lucy. Well, can you blame me?  It was I, not she who was supposed to be  transformed that night. But no! The smug Eric Northman had foiled my plan.  Then, to add insult to injury, Pam decided to take a bite out of Lucy and bring her into the fold. Oh the sick irony of it! It was my pride as much as my sorrow that forced me to leave Shreveport.

My life in New Orleans had been sporadic at best. A barrage of makeshift single rooms, community toilets and lumpy mattresses, none of which I would ever call ‘home’. I took one meaningless job after another.  The visions of blood and death and bald cadavers haunted me. My anger overwhelmed me.  I could not eat or sleep. In my desperation I even saw a psychologist who diagnosed me with ‘depression’. Oh yes, that was genius! It did not take a psychological evaluation to know I was depressed!

My disease was thought to have a chemical cure.  I devoured prescriptions of Lexapro, Zoloft and Xanax.  I then graduated to Depakote and Oxycodone, enough drugs to anesthetize a small horse. But it meant nothing.  A  mere doling out of chemicals which served to make rich pharmaceutical companies richer and turn humans into drug dependent zombies.

All I needed was a good excuse. I have known for a very long time I do not belong in this world.

The river is deep and churning. Many a body has gone missing here.  I wonder if anyone would even come looking for me. I doubt it.

I feel in the pockets of my trench coat for the rocks I have packed in. Large and smooth, heavy as boulders.  I cannot swim but I am told the human body will automatically float to the surface. I have taken precaution against this. The rocks will sink me. Down, down to the depths of the muddy Mississippi. An elegant and much desired exit.  I will sleep with fish.

mermaids-pd

 

I rise to my feet, stand on the bridge where patches of ice have formed.  My mind is calm, blank as the slate sediment. One foot, then another slips off and I land on my back with a  plop in the water.

Like a frigid blanket the waves encompass me. Hypothermia will  soon set in. How fortunate for me that the season is winter!  I sink quickly, boulders weighing and pulling me, down, down to the river’s ebony depths. Cold fades to numbness and then to nothingness.

 

*      *     *     *     *

 

“Blood pressure ninety over seventy. She’s slowly coming around.” I hear the voices but cannot recognize the blur of my surroundings. My body aches. Crisp cotton sheets cover me. I try to move but my legs are lead. Slowly my vision clears and I begin to see the outlines of their heads.  One tube has been inserted down my throat, nearly gagging me. Another pricks at my arm, a needle attached to a plastic bag of  liquid. A nurse moves to further inject me, rubber gloves sliding against my skin.

iv-pd

 

“Welcome back to the world of the living Mina.” The nurse smiles. “For a while we thought we might lose you. You are a lucky woman, first spotted by the riverboat captain, revived by paramedics, and now your blood pressure fully on the rise. You had a bit of trouble breathing and you needed  potassium, but I predict you will be fine.”

“I’ll go inform Doctor Bombay!” another nurse calls excitedly. “Oh this is the best news we’ve had all day.”

Best news they’ve had all day? If I were not so weak I’d spit in her eye. Another plan foiled! Was I doomed to walk this earth, stuck in my diseased body, not even a whole human? How dare they? I wanted OUT.  Damn the river boat captain, damn the paramedics. Damn the hospital.

The nurse removes my throat tube. I sink back to a twilight sleep, awakened sporadically by vague thermometers and the squeak of blips on a monitor. I am, I suppose, still alive. I do not know how many hours have passed when I hear the next conversation.

“The patient is resting, doctor. Her body has undergone quite a trauma. Maybe you had better – leave this interrogation for another time?”

“This will only take a minute, I assure you. I’ll do nothing to jeopardize her recovery. The questions, I’m afraid, cannot wait.”

“Very well then.”

I hear the plodding footsteps as the doctor enters the room. Probably here to discuss my treatment options. Why oh why can’t they let me die in peace??

I do not look but listen as he closes the door behind him. He pulls up a chair, sits beside me and shines a beaming light into my closed eyes.  Why do they always shine a beaming light into your eyes? What, exactly do they hope to find?  Dilated pupils? Crazy ocular activity? Signs of my own insanity? I am sure they would find it all.  I wish they would just leave me alone!

“Mina,” he says. I am starting to hate my own name.

“Mina, you must open your eyes.”

Very well. Like peeled lemons I raise my lids. “You should have let me die,” I moan.  Even my words are an effort.

“Oh no. That would be too easy.” There is a mockery in his voice. I widen my eyes. Now fully awake I see him. The outline of his head, the blond hair, the ice blue eyes.  He wears green hospital scrubs, sleeves rolled above his elbows.

“What are YOU doing here?” I try to shout but my voice is weak.

“I am Doctor Northman. I have been assigned to your case for the purpose of a special interrogation. My questions will be brief.”

“What the fuck, Eric! Is this supposed to be some kind of joke?”

“Shhh, calm yourself.” He lays a hand across my forehead. “None of this will work if you become overexcited.”

“What the fuck!” I repeat. “You’re no doctor. How’d you get in here? Where’d you get those scrubs?”

He smiles. “Mina, I am twelve hundred years old.  Do you think it is so very difficult for me to masquerade as one of the medical profession?”

I stare at him. He has succeeded one more time in making of fool of me.

“What do you want?”

He shuts off the light beam and pulls his chair closer.

“You once asked me for the dark gift.”

I nod. It seems a century ago when I asked it. Too much has happened since then. I have become a cynic, the worst kind of cynic, bitter and beaten. I would not even make a good vampire. Eternal life no longer interests me.

“If you still want it, I can offer it to you.”

“Now? Now you come to me? Northman, your timing is terrible.  I am attempting to get OUT of this world, not stay here eternally! I will ask you —  not to turn me but to kill me!”

“I won’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“It would be immoral.”

I scoff. Morality!  Coming from him that is rich. Since when does the great and powerful Eric care a lick about morality?  I study him. There is more to this offer than meets the eye. He is up to something. This is one vampire who never lifts a finger unless it is to his own benefit.

I peer at him, narrowing my eyes. “What’s the real story Eric? Out with it.”

He sighs. “If you must know, I am bored.”

“Bored?”

“Yes, bored. You see, I have released Pam from her bondage to me.  She is quite fond of her protégé Lucy. Your friend I believe?”

“Lucy is no friend of mine!”

“Be that as it may. The two are Siamese twins, joined at the hip, a youngling and maker, no separating them. Pam no longer needs me and I no longer need her. “

“What about your Sheriff-dom? Surely that should keep you busy.”

“I have given my office to Pam. She will do a much better job with it. Shreveport is tedious. I am leaving to travel the world. For the first time in one hundred years I am free, no obligations, no dependents, and it occurs to me I would like a companion.”

“Why me?”

“Because you are strong willed. You have proven yourself. It is only a human who attempts to take their own life that is worthy of the dark realm. I once told you I would never turn a mortal without good reason. I now have good reason.”

 

giphy-1

 

 

I stare at him. Five years ago I would have been elated, but now he only angers me.

“Make your decision quickly.” He stands, towering over me. He glances out the window. The wall clock reads 2AM.   “I’ve not much time. There are only a few hours until sunrise and I am leaving tonight.” He crouches down, presses his cheek close to mine.
“You once told me you’d stop at nothing,” he whispers, breath hot on my face. “Now prove it. Or are you too much of a coward?”

Prove it? Coward?  He has challenged me! Oh the unstoppable arrogance of him!

“Go ahead then!” I hiss. “Do it! Turn me into a monster.  Make me one of  your kind and  I will destroy this miserable world, drain bodies one by one, leave a wasteland of corpses and endless death behind me! I will not give a damn about any of them!”

“That’s the spirit.” He smiles and lifts the tubes from my  arm. He bares his fangs and bends down to bite my neck.

eric-gif-5

The feeling at first is not unlike drowning. I could just as well be in the murky Mississippi, sinking under the sheets of cold gray water. I see nothing but vague darkness. But then. I feel his open bloody wrist pressed to my mouth. The blood!  It does not taste like blood but like something marvelous, something delicious. A sweet liquid. Chocolate? Tiramisu and hazelnut. Oh!  Leave it to Northman to hold the sweetest of temptations!  My teeth, now canine fangs gnaw his flesh. I cannot stop myself and I drink, drink, drink, filling my entire body, filling every inch of my bloodstream.

“That is enough!” He pulls his wrist away.  I am satiated, my body warm, blood pulsing through me although I can no longer feel a heartbeat.

The nurses are knocking on the door. “Doctor? Doctor Northman? Is everything alright?”

“We must depart,” he says. He lays a hand on my shoulder. In the blink of an eye we fade from the room, leaving my bed empty, tubes and circuits lying in a tangled mass of sheets.

empty-hospital-bed-300

Within seconds we are flying through the night sky. The air is crystalline fresh, vast masses of fluffy clouds below us.

“Where are we going?” I ask.

“Lapland is nice this time of year,” he says. “Very few hours of daylight with winter set in. We could make it our home. For now.” He glances at me, gives a hint of a smile, wind whipping his hair.

I cling to his back, dig my nails to his flesh. Lapland.  Our home? Had he said “Our home’?  Ours. The idea is enticing, enthralling, almost surreal.

In the distance I see a glittering of stars. They spill in muted colors like a magnificent ribbon, a night rainbow of red, green and purple.  “The Aurora Borealis,” Eric says. “It is — but one small vision of the many you will now behold.”

I stare silently.  Its beauty stuns me, colors richer than any I have seen before.  The  twinkling  Northern Lights beckon as we ride the black sky, delving deeper and deeper into its velvet abyss.

northern-lights

 

In this instant I feel no sorrow, no regret, no anger, no link to the past nor to the future.

I am what I am.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA