Ryder and the Wolf

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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“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.

 

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“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.

 

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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.

 

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The Train

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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September is Suicide Awareness/ Prevention Month.

Please don’t kill yourself today.

 

When Darkness Falls Part 3

 

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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When Darkness Falls Part 2

 

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Please read Part One here.

 

The silver chain inside me is painful, nearly unbearable. With each step I feel it rub, shredding the walls of my vagina. I had envisioned it to be no worse than a tampon or a diaphragm, but this?  It is thick, akin a chain link fence or a bicycle’s lock.  Yet I’ll need its weight, the rough grid of it, to bring him down.

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I plan to wrap it around his neck, tie it in a knot if need be.  Under such duress the great and powerful Eric will certainly do my bidding.  I have not spent a lifetime studying vampirism only to be turned down but the illustrious Mr. Northman!

Finally darkness falls and the moon appears in the sky, a waxing crescent.  I drive my car to Merlot’s. First stop on the adventure. Here I will pick up my friend Lucy. Lucy, although she does not realize it, is going to be my secret weapon.

Getting past the strong-arm bouncers at Fangtasia will be no problem; this I know because they are human. They apparently get a kick out of working for Eric and Pam, hanging out in that atmosphere of death and ripe blood.  Oh, but they are cowards compared to me!  For all their brawn and bravado they would never imagine crossing the line, asking Pam or Eric to actually turn them permanently.  They do not intimidate me in the least. Best of all they will have no inkling of the silver I hide inside myself.

But also there is Pam. Bothersome little bitch. Nothing gets past her.

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She could be a problem. I have, of course thought of a solution.

My friend Lucy is beautiful. More like cat-walk gorgeous. Long legs, silky red hair and cheekbones to die for.  When Lucy enters a room, she turns the heads of men and women alike. And Pam?  Queen of the lesbian vampires?  She’ll never be able to resist Lucy.

Lucy, of course, thinks this whole thing is a game. I have offered to pay her one hundred dollars to seduce Pam. It won’t even be difficult. All Lucy has to do is walk into Fangtasia, toss back her hair, catch Pam’s eye and it will be as good as done. With Pam thus engaged I will smuggle in my silver chain and approach Eric. I will then make my offer.  It is, as I have become most fond of calling it, ‘An offer he can’t refuse.’  A brilliant scheme. My own cleverness surprises me.

With delighted anticipation I drive to Merlot’s.  Lucy waits for me in the parking lot. Ever the fashion icon, she is dressed in black hose, stiletto heels and a filigree blouse, breasts pouting through the lace and gauze.   I nod approval as she tumbles into the car. “Easiest hundred bucks I’ll ever make,” she quips.

 

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If only she knew. When we leave I will not be driving her home as a human being, but as a true creature of the night.  We pull up to Fangtasia. “OK Luce,” I say. “Just remember, Pam must be NOWHERE near the door when I enter.”

“Will do!” Lucy nods and gives me a mock salute. “This will be fun.”

“You have thirty minutes. That should be plenty of time.”

“In thirty minutes I’ll have Pamela whisked away to the Isle of Lesbos.” Lucy winks. She loves every minute of this.  She walks away from the car swinging her purse and strutting her heels.

Impatiently I watch the hands of my dashboard clock. Ten minutes. Twenty Minutes. The silver chain scrapes inside of me. I can’t wait to get it out.  Finally the clock reads 10:30 pm and I open the car door. I wince as I walk to the entrance, chain snagging at the tender skin of my vagina. Damned thing!  I plaster a look of stoicism to my face. Never let them see you sweat. 

Smoothly I flow past the bouncers. One frisks me, big meaty hands against my rib cage and ass. Another peeks inside my purse. “Clean,” he mutters, and I pass through.  Once inside, I glance around the club. Goth kids stand in groups, whispering like secretive birds, mascara streaming across their eyes, faces powdered pale.

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A band called Night Prowl plays on the stage, the lead singer clearly a wanna-be Lestat. He is dressed in French cuffs with a lion’s mane of blond hair that hangs to his waist. Girls jump and gawk at the front of the stage, nearly fainting before him.

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 In the middle of all this chaos, Eric Northman sits upon his throne. (Yes a throne. That ought to give you an idea of his arrogance.)  He looks at me, slightly annoyed but also amused. “What brings you back?” he asks. “I thought I deemed you unfit!  Don’t take that personally, of course. I am just not in the habit of turning mortals into vampires without good reason.”

Oh the stubbornness of him!  But still.  I gaze into his glacier blue eyes and imagine what it will be like to spend eternity with him. I long for his darkness, his  eclipse   of my own humanity.  I must have him! That is final.

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“I have given up on the idea of being turned, Eric,” I answer flippantly.

Folklore claims that one can never lie to a vampire, but I have practiced this routine time and time again in my mirror. I am able to actually slow my own heartbeat, lower my own blood pressure, and convincingly lie through my teeth to anyone.  I return him the same cool serene look he gives me.

“Then what brings you here?” he asks. “The band? You are partial to Lestat Lioncourt?  Or perhaps you require a shot of V.”

“I am no junkie, Eric Northman,” I say, pressing my face close to his. “I come bearing good news. Tidings of great joy.  Something you may be quite interested in.”

“I am seldom interested in the dull affairs of humans.” He smiles, one side of his mouth dimpled in sarcasm. He looks at me as if I were a lost dog.

“This is not news of a human affair!” I peer at him, narrowing my eyes.  “I was just at Merlot’s. The local vampire council had a meeting there. I heard rumors. It seems  you are being considered for a promotion. That is — if you play your cards right — you may be moved from Area 5 Sheriff to President of Louisiana. The position right under the Grand Vampire King himself. What do you think of that?”

Eric arches an eyebrow, now fully interested.  I KNEW this would get him.  Eric Northman may be able to resist my feminine charms, even my blood itself, but one thing he CANNOT resist is a chance at acquiring more power.

“Would you like to hear more?” I tease.

He rises from his throne. He leads me to the same underground chamber where we had been the night before. Ah, but little does he know. This time the result will be much different.

As we walk down the corridor I feel the chain move,  now near to my uterus.  Somehow, Eric has not yet figured this out. I have the silver buried deep, and mixed with the secretions of my body fluids he cannot smell the poisonous metal. Not yet. But Eric is clever, with a thousand years of vampire sensitivity under his belt.  It will only be a matter of minutes before he detects it. I must act fast!

Secluded in the basement chamber I bolt the door. I reach to my crotchless panties and in one millisecond I pull out the chain. It stings, but like a quickly pulled bandage, I ignore the pain.  Then, while he is still gawking at me I wrap it like a lasso around his neck. His eyes bulge in  terror.

“Sneaky fucking bitch,” he hisses.

“Now will you do it? Turn me into one of your kind! I command you.”

He lowers his head. The silver has already begun to make a mark in his skin. It has weakened him and he is now powerless under my grasp. He sinks to the ground, long legs splayed yoga style on the concrete floor.

“Will you do it?” I persist.

“You have no idea what you ask,” he says. His voice is dust.

“Oh but I do! I have done my research Eric. Immortality is my goal, no matter what the price.”

He glares at me, a blood tear falling from his eye. “You ask for a living hell. You ask to be a predator, a killing machine with no choice but to prowl night after night with an endless hunger that will only be satisfied by another’s death. And for us there IS no death, only the disgraced wasteland we leave behind. You think this is some game, some lark, some —  fashion statement?” He spits the words. “Do you realize I have been upon this earth for twelve hundred years? This earth!  And it gets no better. An endless barrage of human stupidity. Wars and fighting and sex and bloodlust. All to no end, all for what?  I am only an observer. An observer of  hell, who night after night is forced to feed on the likes of you.”

 

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I watch the blood tears  trickle down his cheeks. My throat clenches and I fear I too may cry. But no. I will not show him my sorrow, will not show any emotion. I tighten the grip of my chain. Large welts have now begun to form on his back and shoulders. “Remove it!” he groans. “Please remove it.”

“Give me your word!” I shout.  “Say you will turn me! Say it!”

(I also happen to know that once a vampire has given his word to transform a human, he cannot take it back.  This is a little known fact that only those privy to the grand teachings of Vlad Dracul would be aware of. As I said, I have spent a lifetime studying this stuff, and with good reason.)

He looks at me in astonishment. “How do you know that?”

“You think you are the only one who reads Vlad’s Sacred Book of Secrets? Come on now Eric. Just about anything is available on the internet these days.”

He scoffs in anger. I force him to lie on the floor. He stretches beneath me, his six foot four inch frame cowering like a beaten animal. “Say it!” I scream.

He says nothing but only nods with a sigh of resignation. That is fine. I do not need the words, only the action!   I know he is too weak to puncture my jugular, so I reach for a razor blade in my purse.  I slash my own neck and bend into him. Finally!  I will now enter eternal life, bound forever to this  glorious Scandinavian god.

Just then the door bursts open with a flash of white light so powerful it knocks me to the ground. Near blinded, I squint through the blur. This is not sunlight, of course it is not!  But what?  A rich silver glow, such as could only come from the stars or the moon. In the platinum mist I see her. The outline of her hair, Merlot’s waitress uniform, her fingertips radiating the light.

Sookie Stackhouse? Sookie Fucking Stackhouse?  The fairy girl. What is SHE doing here?

“I read your thoughts a mile away,” she says coolly. “Hell, I even read Lucy’s thoughts at Merlot’s two hours ago. But I didn’t think you’d have the guts to go through with it. No one has ever defeated Eric Northman.”

I feel nauseous, still half blinded by the fairy light. I squirm on the floor. Sookie kneels and removes the chain from Eric’s neck. Lamely, I reach to stop her but the silver light holds me back.

Within seconds Eric’s welts disappear. He is restored to his former strength. Standing, he towers over me, extends a hand to help me to my feet. “I think you’d better go now Mina,” he says. Oddly, his voice is patient, not unkind. This is the very first time he has ever called me by my name. Mina.

Oh, he is KILLING me. The wheels of my brain churn. It cannot be finished, it cannot be over!

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Sookie  then nods in agreement. “You’d better go,” she repeats. She waves her fingers and I know if I do not leave I am in for another dose of her fairy light.

 

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Dammit! After all my meticulous research, only to be defeated by that mind reading fairy? Ha. That is what they think.  I will go now, but Mr. Northman has not seen the last of me. Reluctantly, I plod upstairs. I walk toward the exit door. In one dim cobwebbed corner I see Lucy and Pam, shamelessly groping one another, back buttons of Lucy’s shirt undone.

“Hey Luce!” I shout. “If you want a ride home you’d better step to it.”

But no. Lucy looks at me, her eyes half lidded. I see the trickle of blood where Pam has taken a gouge from her neck. Lucy parts her lips in a smile.

Then I see them. Lucy gapes her mouth wider. They glint in the darkness, white as pearl and sharp as my own razor blade. Proudly, Lucy displays her brand new set of fangs.

 

female-vampire pd

Juliet at Lammas Eve

 

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My name is Juliet and I was born to the House of Capulet in fair Verona where my story begins.  My birth was on Lammas eve in the night, or so says my wet Nurse, and she ought to  know, having suckled me from her own teats, changed my dirt rags and weaned me with wormwood before my second name day.

The good Master Shakespeare would have you believe I stabbed myself to death for love, unable to live without the lad Romeo after he had foolishly swallowed a measure of poison. Suicide?  Me?  Well now.  If that were true I would not live to spin this tale, would I?

Come closer.  Sit by my side and I will tell you what really happened.

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It was my wet Nurse that cared for me most, for in those days aristocratic women were lack to give attention to their children, save for our wedding prospects and the marriage mules we eventually became. My true mother, the Lady Capulet, had none of me.

“Juliet,” my Nurse told me. “You were born under the star of Leo, on the thirty first day of July, the eve of Lammas or Lughnasadh as I call it.   Because of this your heart will be overwhelmed with love, for Leo the lion knows no boundaries.”

This was my blessing and also my curse.   For better or worse my affections were boundless. Deep as the sea. The more love I gave the more I had for me.  This is the one truth I have always known: love is infinite.

And so it was I fell madly and deeply in love with young Romeo of House Montague.

I had been raised as an aristocrat and it was understood that I be wed before my sixteenth name day. There was a fine man that bid my hand, name of Count Paris. A good enough match this would have been, but when I saw the young Romeo at my father’s masque I was completely smitten. It was as if Cupid’s very arrow had struck my back, never to be released.

 

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Romeo and his cousins had attended my father’s ball in false pretense, for everyone knew a Montague had no business delving in the affairs of Capulet!  Our families were arch enemies. Our feud, however, was so ancient none could remember whence it started, nor what it was even about.  And so when I fell in love with young Montague I could see no reason why we should not be wed.

Romeo had his surname and I had mine.  Montague and Capulet. What of it?  What’s in a name?  A rose, were it called by any other name — say ‘lily’ or ‘weed’ or even ‘shit’ —  would still, of its very essence, smell as sweet.   There was nothing to a name, and none could convince me otherwise!

It was the good Friar Laurence, a well meaning (but somewhat vacant headed) man of the cloth who agreed to wed us in secret. We had a proper ceremony in a proper church, with only my Nurse as a witness.

 

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Alas, after our wedding the real troubles began.

Street brawling was forbidden in Verona. Yet a fray could easily start with a malicious word, a wayward glance, even a biting of the thumb!   Anything at all could bring out the temper in  dramatic  rival foes such as our families were.  So often I had begged the men not carry blades in the street!  But  what was I? A mere female, a fluffy thing of ornament. My requests were dismissed, quickly as the sun sinks a horizon or the wind whistles a breeze.  Yet all who lived would regret this!

 

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It was my cousin Tybalt who acted first, slaying Romeo’s friend Mercutio,  who fell to the ground shouting “Worm’s meat! They have made worm’s meat of me!”    With his quick temper Romeo then chased Tybalt, pursuing him to the top of a cobbled road, finally stabbing him straight in the heart.  Tybalt was instantly dead.  Our Prince Escalus, keeper of the peace, was enraged.  Escalus then banished Romeo from Verona, the act of murder  unforgivable.

The benevolent Friar Laurence and my Nurse, in their mercy, arranged that Romeo and I could spend one night together in my chamber before his banishment. For that I have always been grateful.  My maidenhead was hitherto untouched and our act was one of purity.  Lust unfolded, slowly and delicately, flesh touching beneath those bed sheets, later marred by my own blood and the reek of his salt and sex.

With much grief I let him go as the sun rose and the morning lark sang.  If it were not for the strict orders of Escalus, I would never have released my dear Romeo from the passion of our bed chamber.

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My father, in his sadness and panic (and knowing nothing of my marriage to Romeo)  then insisted  I marry the Count Paris immediately. With Tybalt slain I was now the sole heir of Capulet blood, and my father wanted I bear children in haste.  Naturally I refused.  “If you’ll not marry the Count Paris,” my father bellowed, “you shall go to a nunnery! Or live in the streets. Die, starve, I care not what happens to you!”

All of this, mind you, occurred before my fourteenth name day at Lammas eve.

Friar Laurence then came to my aid. Or so he thought. His plan was a silly one at best. Listen close, for this twist in the tale will surely cause you amusement: The Friar bid I take a potion that would make me appear dead!  He said I would lie comatose, without breath for three days.  My family, thinking me no longer quick, would bury me above ground in Capulet’s tomb. After those three days, the potion would wear off and I would rise again,  like Christ himself.  During this time, Romeo would be informed of all and he would ride back to Verona to claim me.

When my Nurse heard this preposterous idea, she would have none. “A fake death?” she scoffed.  “The Friar!  Though he fancies himself a worker of dark arts, he is naught but an amateur.  Juliet my child, you will leave this to me,” she said, her cool eyes deep in thought. “I have a much better plan, one that will serve us well.”

 

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My Nurse then told me of the doppelganger.  This being a double spirit that takes on human countenance.  The doppelganger would look like myself, act as myself, seem in every way to indeed BE myself.  But I, the real Juliet, would be elsewhere.

It was my Nurse who gave me the true potion, a noxious mixture of tansy, vervain and mugwort, with frog sperm and another secret ingredient she refused to reveal.  Upon drinking the potion I could feel my body split, like two halves of a walnut shell.  Then, standing  before me was my double Juliet, a picture of myself in every way; the same hair, the same wide eyes, the same birthmark upon my shoulder. Myself but NOT myself!  Had I not seen this with my own eyes I’d not have believed it.

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The doppelganger was obedient. She could  do only as she was told, for that was part of the Nurse’s spell.  This worked out well, for my father adored the docile new Juliet who would adhere to his will.  This Juliet could easily forget the Romeo she had never known, swallow the Friar’s death potion without a blink, even be buried alive in Capulet’s tomb.

As for the real me, I was sick. Devastated.  I wanted my Romeo back and I knew not the outcome of all this.

“Your situation here is hopeless,” the Nurse told me. She peered in a stone of crystal and continued.  “The Friar has sent a messenger to Romeo in Mantua but I assure you, he will not arrive in time.” The Nurse put down the crystal and grabbed my hands. “Juliet, hear me! Your Romeo will never get this message. He will die of grief , and at his own hand.  Yet you can still save yourself!  We will journey to Venice.”

The Nurse’s prophecy came true. Romeo was told only of my so-called death. So distraught was he that he purchased a poison from an unscrupulous apothecary in Mantua.  He then rushed back to Verona. Upon seeing the doppelganger in Capulet’s tomb and thinking it was me, he hastened to imbibe the poison, and so, killing himself.

It was the doppelganger who awakened and, seeing Romeo dead, in turn stabbed herself with his sword.  Her purpose, I must admit, served well; it brought an end to the feud between Capulet and Montague.  Our parents agreed to have us buried side by side, forever ending the silly war that had caused so much grief to all.

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As for myself, I stayed on in Venice with my Nurse. She taught me all her tricks of prophecy and potion. Together we created a thriving business.  Oh! The price men would  pay for a doppelganger, one that allowed them to be in two places at one time! The price men would pay for a prophecy, as we scryed our crystals, predicting the future with accuracy.  Soon my Nurse and I acquired a fortune much bigger than all of Capulet and Montague put together.

My one night with Romeo had left me with child. A boy whom my Nurse delivered, though I suckled him myself, changed his dirt rags and vowed never to partake in the cold ways of  my mother, Lady Capulet. My boy grew strong, and I vowed also to teach him of prophecy and potion, just as my Nurse had taught me.

 

Through all of this I still missed Romeo terribly. Then on one rare, rainy day  as we not often had in Venice, there appeared at my door a stranger dressed in  a hooded cloak and robes.

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I thought at first it was the Friar, come to beg my forgiveness. But no. The stranger moved closer and whispered in my ear, “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” There was no light on this gray day, but I’d know the voice anywhere. With haste I removed his hood.

“It is the east,” I answered boldly. “And Romeo is the sun!” With that I fell into his arms. My own dear Romeo! But how so?

Unbeknownst to me, the good Nurse had given Romeo a doppelganger of his own!  It was that who drank the poison from Mantua, that who now lie in the coffin with my double.  When enough time had passed so none be suspicious my Nurse arranged this reunion.

I was shocked in joy and ecstasy.  I could not be angry with my Nurse, for her plan had worked only to my benefit.  My love, as ever, was boundless as the sea.  The more I gave of it, the more I had for me.

Ah Master Shakespeare!  If only he’d known the truth. Then mayhap he could have written a tale worth reading!  For you see, I was never the star-crossed lover who took her own life. Oh no.  I am Juliet, with Romeo and our son by my side, with potions and prophecies, my great Venetian mansion and enough gold to last  a lifetime!  I am  Juliet —  who in time and with experience became known as none other than the true Merchant of Venice.

 

Romeo and Juliet

 

 

 

Tripping the Green Fairy

 

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To the audience who watched us upon the stage we must have appeared carefree, smiles of red wax plastered to our faces, legs high in can-can kicks. We moved in synchronicity like mechanical scissors while the orchestra led a bombastic dance.  The men clapped and cheered, often losing their oculars as we stretched our thighs. exposing loins beneath fish netted garters.  Our breasts jiggled like soft melons. The Moulin Rouge was a playground. But not for me. Oh no!  I was no better than a trained pony, a paid concubine who did all but the prurient deed itself in my tiered skirt and high heels.

Monsieur Toulouse attended the cabaret nightly, perched at his table side stage, top hat askew.  He was, apparently, a very important person for he received not only the best seat in the house, but the best of service. It was later that I found out he had been commissioned to design a series of posters.  He sketched constantly, ever bent over his charcoals and parchment, stopping only to sip his absinthe which was brought to him in jar sized glasses with regular replenishing.  Monsieur Toulouse carried a cane and — strange as this may sound —  he sipped from the cane as well.  Later I was to discover he had hollowed  out the middle and filled it with absinthe also, so as to never be without the beverage.

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Monsieur Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec ingested liquor as if it were the very air he breathed. Yet for some inexplicable reason he never appeared intoxicated.

As for his commissioned posters, he took no interest in them. It was portraiture that  he considered his true art.  And so it was one rainy evening that Monsieur Toulouse approached me on Montmartre and asked if I would  consider posing for him.  I  did not like the idea. Toulouse was a spooky, peculiar little character. It disturbed me to even speak to him.  I refused but he persisted, approaching me every night until finally out of sheer exhaustion I agreed.

I followed him to his chambers which  served as an art studio.  Large water color drawings and half finished canvases filled the room, which reeked of oil and turpentine.

Toulouse asked me to disrobe. This was not offensive to me as I knew he often painted nudes. Can-can dancing had made me free with my body and I had no qualms nor embarrassment as I removed my garments.

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Toulouse, however insisted that I must have something to calm me and offered his liquor.  This was ridiculous and I told him so. “Brigitte!  Mon cher!  I insist,” he said, handing me a flute of green absinthe.  It looked so pretty, shining with an odd, preternatural glow. I  became quite mesmerized with the sight of it and I could not refuse.  Upon the first sip it was so delicious that I quickly finished it off.

After drinking the liquor I immediately felt lightheaded and dizzy. Silently I cursed myself for accepting this peculiar man’s peculiar hospitality. I knew well the dealings of his sort!  He was known to frequent the street girls , dirty and syphilis ridden. I was much better than that, certainly! If he planned on procuring any service from me, he’d pay for it,  and he’d pay handsomely,whether he drugged me or not.

It was then that the dizziness subsided and there appeared in the room an entity. She was female with green skin that glittered like the dewdrops at dawn and chartreuse hair that sprouted from her head in tendrils. “Coletta!” Toulouse greeted her, as if this were the most ordinary of circumstances.

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I’d have thought this was a hallucination, but I pinched myself to make sure I was awake, then realized if I’d had the wherewithal to pinch myself, how inebriated could I be?   The woman he called Coletta pulled  a vile from her pocket. She shook it, unscrewed the top and poured to her hand what appeared to be glittering grains of sand. She sprinkled them upon me. My eyes and head burned in fever. The room appeared blurry but I saw Toulouse throw away his cane. He commenced to dance with the green woman, both of them waltzing around the room as some orchestra played through the open windows.  They then tumbled to the bed, pawing one another and laughing the laugh of the insane. The ringing of their voices was the last thing I heard. The two immersed in bed sheets like white waves of an ocean was the last thing I remembered seeing.

When I awoke I was on the stage of the Moulin Rouge. I snapped myself alert, for I was now dancing the can-can in line with the others!  My skirts were green. I kicked my legs higher than I remembered ever kicking them. I looked for Monsieur Toulouse  but he was not seated at his usual table.

During my break I asked the manager what had become of Toulouse. “Monsieur Henri?”  He arched his eyebrow as though I had uttered some obscenity. “Why, he passed away last week!  You stood graveside at his very funeral!  Brigitte, are you quite well?” He looked at me, narrowing his eyes as though I were some strange creature. “You do not look  like yourself.”  He advised I take the rest of the night off. That, of course, was ridiculous!  I had never felt better in my life and I told him so!

Later that night, my body craved absinthe and I ordered a carafe from the Maitre d’.  Upon drinking it I felt my legs go weak and rubbery. The skin on my hand turned a shade of  dark emerald, the exact color of the liquid.  My hair sprouted in tendrils that fell down my back. It was then I heard the voice of Coletta. “My duties here at Moulin Rouge  are done Brigitte,” she said. “You will now carry on and you will be quite good at it.”

I was confused. “But what are my duties?” I asked.  Coletta smiled. “Only to assist our good clientele in the tripping of the green fairy,” she answered. “You are adaptable. You shall soon master this talent.”  She curtsied and then vanished into a stream of green glitter.

Coletta was right. I adapted well to my new duties which sometimes involved life and sometimes involved death.  I never danced the can-can again.  I never felt more carefree.

Forrest Green Fairy Girl pd

 

This post was inspired by the Daily Prompt Carefree