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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Violet Nightmares by Tom Charles

* Fantasy/Urban Fantasy*


“And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.”
The simple act of speaking to and hugging the man who had saved me was too much for my poor body.  I had drifted off to sleep in the man’s arms, and when I woke again, I was alone.  It was still night, but for some reason it was very easy to see.  Everything, all of my belongings, seemed much clearer than they should, almost as if I was seeing them in daylight.  But I could tell by the sounds from the street, and the bright crescent moon shining through my curtains, that it was indeed still night.  I was puzzled; where had the man gone?  I rose hesitantly from my bed, and walked to the window.  Opening it, I felt a breeze blow past me, and prepared to shiver.  But when the shiver never came, I frowned.  The breeze didn’t feel any colder than a June breeze would, even though it was snowing lightly.  A snowy, February night in New York, with the North wind blowing through my window, and I’m not cold?  I looked down, and realized that I was only wearing my nightgown, and my confusion deepened.  I should have been freezing, but I wasn’t.
Then, as I searched the street with my eyes for the man, I began to notice other things.   I realized that I could see the tiny cracks in the brick paved streets, even here from my second floor window and in the dark.  I could see the individual blades of grass from Mrs. Malone’s front yard across the street and down three houses.  I could hear the sounds of carousing from the tavern two blocks away, and pick out individual voices from inside it.  I could hear an owl hooting somewhere in the park three blocks in the other direction, and the sounds of mice scurrying across the floor in the attic above me.
I could smell the scents of trees in the breeze, and even tell which kinds of trees they were from, though they were deep in their winter slumber.  I could smell the dogs that wandered the street below, and the agile cats I saw jumping across the rooftops. I could even detect the musty odor from within the house. 
I could feel the grain in the smooth wood of the window sill as I leaned against it.  I felt the slight indentations where the planning tools had made cuts of different depths--things that I had never noticed even with my eyes in broad daylight as I’d sat at the window countless times before.  Now, I could feel them under my fingertips in the dark.  What was happening to me?  I reeled back from the window, my body experiencing a sensory overload.
I squeezed my eyes shut and covered my ears, started breathing through my mouth--anything I could think of to cut off the rush of unfamiliar sights, sounds, and odors.  But it was no use.  The overwhelming bombardment slowed, but didn’t entirely cease.   I stumbled across the room towards the door.  I had to find the man! Where was he? 
That’s when I caught sight of myself in the mirror.  I froze a moment, staring at the stranger I saw reflected there.  I gasped, slapping my hands over my mouth to stop the scream I felt building in my throat.  That--that couldn’t be me!  My mind wouldn’t allow it, couldn’t handle it.  Whoever she was, she was far too beautiful to be me.  I’d never thought of myself as vain, but I knew that I was considered by others to be something of a beauty.  My father had been trying desperately to marry me off, ever since I had turned seventeen a few months ago.  Of course, no one had caught my fancy, although there had been several men vying for my affections. 
But the girl that stared back at me from my mirror...this girl, she just couldn’t be me!  The urge to scream subsided. I slowly lowered my hands from my mouth, and the girl in the mirror copied me.  Yes, that was me.  I mean, I looked enough like me to know it was me, but it was different…almost unbearable to look at.  My violet eyes were an even deeper shade of violet, and looked as if they had grown slightly larger, making them more noticeable.  A faint glow seemed to come from them as well.  My light brown hair had grown deeper brown and longer.  My body had filled out some, and grown curvier, shapelier.  I put my hands on my face, feeling the utter smoothness.  I looked closer…not a single blemish of any kind marred my complexion, which had become very pale, far more so than my normal fair skin tone. 
I couldn’t stand to look at the inhuman beauty I had somehow been gifted with.  Yes, that was the word--inhuman…too perfect for any human to have.  The change in my looks, coupled with the change in my five senses, overwhelmed me then.  Dear God in Heaven, what was I? What had happened to me?  The man--he would know!  I had to find the man! 
I turned to run from my room, and before I even realized it, I was on the front steps.  I looked down at my bare feet, which were not chilled in the slightest despite the snow that stood three inches deep on the ground.  How had I gotten here so quickly, I wondered?  I looked back at the house.  One second I’d been standing in my room, the next I was outside on the porch steps.  And how long had I stood staring at myself in the mirror?  There had only been a dusting of snow when I was looking out my window.  Now it covered the ground like a white velvet blanket.
Before I could make sense of any of this, I noticed the outline of footprints leading to the street, and away down the sidewalk. Footprints going, but not returning.  They must be the man’s.  And he must have just left recently, since the snow hadn’t covered his footprints yet.  But why had he left?  I began to panic.  Had he abandoned me?  No!  I had to find him!  He couldn’t leave me--I needed him!  I became frantic; but suddenly, I felt dizzy again.
I staggered out into the snow, and followed the footprints down the street a way.  Then I smelled something--something so wonderfully delicious my mind locked up and focused only on that scent.  Oh, what was it?  It smelled as good as the medicine I had tasted before.  A policeman was walking towards me, and my mind recovered enough to realize that he was speaking to me.
“Miss!  You shouldn’t be outside on a night like this! And especially dressed as you are!”  His voice changed from a tone of concern to one of reproach.  “Why, that’s indecent, young lady!  Where do you live?  I‘ll have to take you home, and have a word with your parents!  Come along now!  You‘ll catch your death in this weather!”
“But I’m not cold,” said a sweet, seductive voice that came from my mouth.   “I am hungry, though.  Oh, so hungry!”  My voice, but not my voice; just as the girl in the mirror had been me and yet not me. 
I walked toward him, my head slightly lowered.  The sweet smell grew as I approached him, and my mind started to recede again, the dizziness returning.  I was only a couple feet away from him now.  His face grew surprised when he saw me, and his eyes widened.   A low growl reached my ears from somewhere.  Probably one of the stray dogs that roamed around our neighborhood.
“What’s wrong with your eyes, miss?” The policeman asked.  “Are you drunk?”  I lurched forward at him, and he caught me before I could fall. 

I must have blacked out again after that, because the next thing I knew, I was about a block farther down the street.  I didn’t know where I was, or why I was there.  I heard footsteps approaching from around the corner, and then I saw him, and remembered.  It was the man, and I had gone out to try and find him.
“Daddy!” I cried, throwing myself into his arms.  His face registered surprise for a moment, and then he held me at arm’s length, staring at me intently.
“What are you doing out of the house?” He had a worried tone in his voice. Taking my arm, he hurried me back along the way I had come, looking furtively left and right the whole time. 
“I came looking for you,” I told him in that new, honey sweet, voice.   “I woke up, and you were gone!  I panicked!  I-I don‘t want to be alone!  What‘s happening, Daddy?  What‘s happened to me??”        
“Thank the Creator the snow’s keeping most people indoors tonight,” he muttered.  Suddenly he stopped dead.  I had been staring at his face, memorizing his features and noticing his kind, fear filled eyes.  Now they were looking with horror at the ground in front of us.  I looked too, and gasped.
It was the policeman I had met earlier.  But he was lying on the ground, his throat torn out, his eyes wide and staring up at nothing.
“What happened to him?” I whispered tremulously.  “I--I just saw him a little bit ago!  We talked.  He was upset that I was out in the cold, but he was fine!  Wh-what could have happened?”
Daddy stared at the corpse a few more moments, then looked at me.  He sighed, and rubbed his eyes.  He mumbled something in a language I didn’t understand, and looked back at me.  I looked down at the body of the policeman, and tried to remember what had happened when I’d met him.  But I couldn’t.  I looked back up at the man.  “Did I do something wrong, Daddy?”
He was busy looking at each and every house along the street.  “No, you didn’t do anything wrong.  I did.”  Then he focused his eyes on a particular house--the one next to Mrs. Malone’s house--and he stiffened.  I followed his gaze, and saw a woman looking out of the front window at us.  Her mouth was hanging open.  One of her hands was over her heart, and with the other she was making strange gestures at us. I couldn’t make out what they were exactly, but also she kept crossing herself over and over.
I frowned.  “She’s from Russia or someplace. I don’t like her, she’s weird.  Sits on her porch all day, watching people go by.  She’s creepy.”
“Of course. It never fails…stupid superstitious witnesses. There’s always someone.”  Daddy took hold of my arm then.  “Come on.” He hurried me back into my house.  Going to my room, he looked in my closet and pulled out a carpet bag, tossing it onto the bed.  “Get dressed, throw some things in that bag, and be quick. We’ve got to go!”  He moved to the window and stood to one side staring out into the street.
“Why?” I felt the fear returning.  “What’s happening?  Where are we going?”  I was firing the questions out so fast I’m surprised he could hear me.  Or that I could talk so fast.
“Listen,” he said softly.  I stopped and did as he told me.  I could hear the old woman yelling in a mixture of English and some other language.  I could hear shouts and running footsteps, and the frantic blowing of a police whistle. 
“Daddy?  What is it?  What happened to that man?”
He turned to me.  “What’s your name, kid?” he asked, gruffly but not unkindly.
“It’s--” I started to answer, then stopped, frowning.  What was it my mother had called me?  “A-Abigail!  My name is Abigail.”
“Well, Abigail, I promise I will answer all your questions, but not here and not now.  Now, we have to go.”
 He helped me into a coat.  “But I’m not cold, daddy,” I protested.  “Why do I need to wear a coat?”
“The First Rule--always keep up appearances,” he said, smiling.
“What? Which rule?  Keep up what appearances?”
He laughed dryly, and shook his head.  “I said I’ll explain later.  Here, these too.”  He handed me a hat and scarf, and I put them on.  
We descended the front steps, and headed back the way we’d come.  A small crowd had gathered around the body of the dead policeman, which had been covered up with a blanket.  Other police were trying to keep curious onlookers away.  Daddy walked towards the crowd gathered on the sidewalk.  Then for a moment, he slowed a little.  I looked up and his face registered a mild look of disgust.  He was frowning, like he saw something that he didn’t like.  I looked back to the crowd to see if I could figure out what it was, but nothing looked unusual.
“What is it, Daddy?” I whispered.  “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” He whispered back.  “Keep going.  Act like nothing’s wrong.” 
The Russian woman was talking to one of the officers, gesturing wildly, and babbling in her mix of languages.  She kept pointing at my house.  Then she saw us heading towards the crowd, and her yelling got louder.  She started pointing and gesturing towards us, crossing herself over and over again.  I narrowed my eyes at her.
One of the policemen saw us and came over.  “Evening, folks.  Bit late to be out on such a nasty night, isn’t it?  Where you off to?” He eyed the bag Daddy was carrying suspiciously. 
“Ah, don’t you know my great aunt has come down sick?” Daddy adopted an Irish accent to match the officer’s.   His voice hinted at the same sweet tone of voice that mine had recently acquired.  “I’m a doctor, and so she finds it a comfort to have me come stay with her when she has these spells.  The poor woman isn’t well atal.”  He smiled at the officer, who frowned and pointed at me. 
“And who’s this, then? Your nurse?” 
Daddy laughed loudly.  “Faith, no, man!  Why, this is me daughter!  She doesn’t like to be left alone whilst I’m gone at night, so she’s coming along to help mind the house while me aunt is laid up.”  Then Daddy gestured towards the covered body and the still yelling and pointing old woman.  “What’s all this then, officer?”
The policeman looked at the body and shook his head, his face hardening.  “Terrible thing. One of our officers was attacked and killed here earlier this evening.”  He looked back at Daddy and I.  “Did either of you two see or hear anything tonight, by chance?”
“Sure and we didn’t, that’s a fact!  What happened to him, then?  Shot?  Bludgeoned?”
The officer shook his head again.  “Nope.  Looks like he was attacked by an animal or some such.”  He looked at me, and then leaned close to daddy and whispered softly in his ear.  But I could still hear him clearly.  “His throat was torn out, poor devil.”
A horrified look spread across Daddy’s face.  “No! Well, I have seen some stray dogs roaming around here from time to time.  Never heard of them doing anything like this, though.”
“Yes, but tis strange,” the officer mused.  “There was barely any blood around his body.  Can’t seem to find an explanation for that.”
“Yes!” The old woman yelled in heavily accented English.   The officer and Daddy turned to stare at her.  “Yes! I already give you explanation!”  She pointed right at me.  “That girl!  That girl right there!  She is evil!  She is of Devil!  She drinks his blood!  She is Strigoi, she is--” then she broke off into a stream of words that I couldn’t really make out.  But there was one word amidst all her silly babble that I managed to understand, and that word was vampire.  I wasn’t really sure what it meant, but for some reason it sent shivers down my spine. 
“Ah, hold yer whist, ya mad woman!  I’ll have no more o’ that from you!” the officer called to her.
Daddy slowly turned back to the officer and raised an eyebrow.  “What’s her problem, then? A wee bit loony, is she?”
The officer shook his head.  “Ah, she’s been saying that since we got here!  Crazy old Romanian…claims a young girl attacked our man and drank his blood.”  He looked down at me and narrowed his eyes.  “Still, your daughter here does fit the general description she gave us, and she was pointing at your house when she gave us her statement.”  He looked back at Daddy.  His voice was suddenly brisk and official sounding.  “Where have you both been for the last hour or so?”
Daddy smiled, and leaned towards the officer slightly, so that their faces were only a few inches apart.  “Oh come now, Officer Kelly,” he said very softly.  I noticed with a start that Daddy’s voice had lost the Irish accent, and had fully taken on the same sweet tones that mine now had.  He was staring intently into the officer’s eyes, and the officer was staring back at daddy like a man in a trance.  “Surely you don’t think a beautiful, innocent young girl like this could be capable of something as vile and evil as what this plainly superstitious woman is babbling about, do you?”

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