author, Cereal Authors, Excerpts, Fantasy, Fiction, Life, paranormal, Romance, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized, YA

So New, It Doesn’t Even Have a Title

A work in progress:

The juice box was definitely against me. Its resistance was punctuated by a taunting titter.  My efforts to open it were futile, it mocked.

 

WIP copyNo, wait. The snickering was not the juice box. It came from down the lunch table.  I didn’t even have to look their way. I knew who was laughing, and I didn’t want to see if it was me they were laughing at.  In my heart, I knew it was.

 

I continued to stab at the little cellophane covered hole with the sadly beveled end of the hard plastic straw like Van Helsing at the climax of a bad B movie. The final strike bent my straw, but rewarded me with a squirt of lukewarm apple juice in the face. An arterial explosion worthy of the best special effects artist in the business.

 

The laughter from the perfectly coifed girls at the other end of the table could not be ignored this time.  My life was not a bad horror movie; it was a comedy and I was the hapless victim of a situational schtick.

 

Staring down at the lunch tray, I watched the juice drown my stale, rectangular pizza slice.  At least, I wasn’t hungry anymore anyway.  My appetite was ruined by the whispered jokes about me destroying the little paper box with my brute strength.

 

I closed my eyes and swore that if I heard one more comment from those four makeup-slathered, social media celeb wannabes about me being a “she-male”, I’d flip this table on their heads.

 

Not that I hold any direct animosity for She-males, or what have you, but I do resent lies being spread about me.  And, I resent those who start the lies.  Namely, Brittany.  My mom says I spend way too much time worrying about Brittany, her crew, and what they think or say about me.

 

Mom says it doesn’t matter what others think, only what I know about myself.  Yeah, she’s full of inspirational poster stuff like that.

 

Sorry, Mom.  But, it’s hard not to see myself reflected in the eyes and jeers of my fellow students.  My peers.  What a joke.  I have so very little in common with them that I hesitate to call them peers of any sort.  Alas, for the next year or so, I must.

 

Of course, using the word ‘alas’ in casual conversation is one of the things these girls would tease me about.  Can I help it if my grandfather read Shakespeare to me for the last fifteen years of his life?

 

The siren-like bell blared from the hall to announce the next class would begin in five.  I gathered my sloshing tray and stood, never glancing at Brittany once.  Fifth period was next.  Gym class, right after lunch.  Brilliant scheduling.

 

When was this nightmare going to end?

*****************************************************************************

I woke up the other day recounting my dream several times as I did to try and remember it. The sights, the feelings, the familiar trappings of high school. I often dream that I’m back in school, but never had I wanted to write them into a story. This one was fun.  Well, to me, running for my life and fighting creatures while possessing an unnatural strength in a dream is fun.  Others may call it a nightmare.  Either way, it spawned this new character. This is a little beginning snippet from what I will call my first Urban Paranormal Young Adult story.

It is such an infant at the moment that it has no name.  Heck, I just came up with the protagonist’s name this morning.  I hope you enjoy!

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Cereal Authors, paranormal, Rachel Rueben, Uncategorized, Writing Process

Where On Earth Did Miss Mary Come From?

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Image via Pixabay

Last month I shared an excerpt of my recent novel Miss Mary Mack and I’m sure some of you are really confused.  I understand after Fedelta, Miss Mary seems very different and maybe even strange but I followed the muse and she took me in a different direction. A very different direction.

Miss Mary was based on an experience I had one hot, summer’s night.  In fact it was so hot that I decided to sleep with the window open and as I was falling asleep, I heard giggling and a little girl singing, “Miss Mary Mac, Mac, Mac all dressed in black…”  At first I thought I was dreaming but it was just some silly neighborhood kids who had snuck out and were playing around at 1 a.m.  Yeah, I live in that kind of neighborhood.  When I realized what was going on, I was angry but also, inspired.  I wondered, how would these kids have survived back in the days before child abuse was considered a bad thing?  What can I say, I was having a Stephen King moment!  As my mind swirled, it was then that I saw her.  A woman, standing at the end of my bed and she was dressed in a matronly 1930’s style dress with granny boots.  As she looked down on me, I could see the scowl on her face and I knew immediately what was going on.  The muse was speaking.  So I got up and scribbled on a piece of paper the words: Miss Mary Mack and went to bed.

The next day, I did write a brief paragraph outlining the idea but did nothing with it.  At that time, I just started writing for this blog and Fedelta was born, I was also finishing up Eternal Bond, so I didn’t have the time to start yet another project.  But fate has a funny way of making you do things because over the next few months, I started hearing stories about Orphan Trains on Youtube as well as ghost stories from the Civil War.  The spark that lit the flame was a story I read about a woman by the name of Rosa Carmichael who ran an orphanage and was alleged to have abused the children in her care.  So I sat down and grudgingly wrote a few paragraphs which I finally shared last month.

I don’t have any idea as to where this story is going, but I know it’s going to lead me down paths I’ve never explored before.  Most books do.  What a lot of readers don’t know is that sometimes our stories surprise us (the writers) as much as it does them.  Actually this is the fun part of writing where characters become real, and situations uncertain.  In any case, I hope you stay tuned for the next couple of excerpts from the book because something tells me that Miss Mary is going to be one of my most challenging characters yet.

Bio: Rachel Rueben is author of YA, supernatural as well as romance books.  Her work can be found her on the Cereal Authors blog as well as Wattpad.  She is also a blogger at Writing By The Seat Of My Pants where she discusses self-publishing and rarely refers to herself in the third person.  😉

books, Cereal Authors, Fiction, Heather Poinsett Dunbar, paranormal

Snippet from One Fat Witch by Heather Poinsett Dunbar and Christopher Dunbar

A few weeks ago I posted a quote from this scene.  Here’s the entire piece from one of the manuscripts we’ve been working on lately.

Hazel, an Archaeology prof as well as a solitary eclectic witch decides to visit a new age story called Bunny’s Garden with a coworker and picks up a new piece of jewelry that catches her eye.

For those in the know, the term ‘bunny’ or rather ‘fluffy bunny’ has a lot of connotations in the Pagan/New Age arena.

However, this piece of jewelry is anything but ‘fluffy bunny’.  😉

It’s a first draft, so please be gentle.  😉

****

They exited the sushi bar and headed towards Bunny’s Garden.

“Okay, you were right about the sake,” Hazel admitted.  “It was much better than a margarita.”

“Hey, the Japanese have been pairing sake and sushi for generations.  They know their food and tequila may not mix,” Steven said.

They approached Bunny’s bay window.  Hazel stared through the window and blinked at all the sparkly things.  There were crystals, little statues of angels, with a few Buddha, fairies, and various gods and goddesses scattered amongst the glittering items.  A lone unicorn stood by one of the angels appearing to be somewhat out of place.  A box revealed some odds and ends. A sign in the window advertised aura readings, tarot and rune readings, reiki healings, and other services.

Steven pointed out the aura reading.  “Do people really believe in this?”  He asked.

Hazel smiled a little.  “I suppose it’s possible that some people can sense beyond the visual spectrum and it may appear to be an aura, but I personally don’t believe it that.  My mom does though. In fact,” she leaned in closer to Steven.  “My sister does the readings.”

Steven chuckled a little and opened the door.  The door chimes rang a welcoming trill of notes.

Within seconds a red-headed woman pranced into view.

“Hazel!  Give me a hug!”

Quinn was as beautiful as Hazel found herself plain and somewhat fat.  Quinn had a slender svelte figure, long legs, and Hazel was simply just never quite as sparkly as her much younger sister.  It was as though the Gods or Goddesses…whomever, decided that Hazel was a test run on a prototype and Quinn was version 2.0.  Hazel was a five-year-old slide phone that handled things reliably and efficiently and Quinn was the latest and greatest iPhone that still suffered from a glitch or two.

Hazel returned Quinn’s hug.  Then released her sister.

“Ooooo,” Quinn touched a strand of Hazel’s hair.  “I love this.  Is it teal?”

“Teal, purple, and blue,” Hazel answered.  She had added strands of funky colors to her plain brown hair.  “You only live once, right?”

“In this form,” Quinn grinned.  “Wanna see my latest ink?”  She rolled up her sleeve.

“It’s lovely,” Hazel touched the rainbow of colors decorating the merman. Quinn as usual was as colorful as a gay pride parade.  One never knew what she’d have next.  Last time it was a nose ring, but Quinn decided it emphasized her nose too much.

Quinn looked over at Steven and smiled.

“Oh sorry, Quinn you remember my colleague and lunch buddy, Steven, right?”

Quinn rushed over and embraced Steven as if they were old friends.

Steven looked a little uncomfortable but returned the hug.  “Of course, we met a few months ago at the tea shop next door.”

“Oh I better get back to my customer.”  Quinn released Steven.  “I’ll be right back.”  She ran back to the woman standing by the cash register.  “I’m so sorry.  My sister came in and I just had to give her a hug.”

“Is there anything new?”  Hazel called out.

“We just put out some new jewelry today and some books on the new book shelf,” Quinn responded.  She returned to checking out her customer.

“Is your sister always this friendly and open?” Steven asked.

Hazel strolled over to the jewelry case.  “Only always,” she answered.  “Quinn has the charm, the looks, and energy.  However, sometimes she isn’t exactly sensible.”  Hazel paused as she focused on new items with Steven.  “I remember one summer Quinn was convinced she was otherkin.”

Steven smiled a little.  “That’s when someone thinks they’re an otherworldly or mythical being trapped in a human’s body, right?”

“I think so,” Hazel nodded a bit. “Quinn thought she was an elf.”

“Really?” Steven looked a little surprised.

“She changed her mind that fall,” Hazel answered.  “Quinn gets odd new age-y beliefs sometimes that have little to do with reality or real mythology.  Usually she gets out of it quickly, but she’s working on her MBA now.  I’m sort of proud that she decided to do that.”

Steven smirked.  “If you and I had done that we might have been rolling in money at this point instead of grasping for tenure and research grants.”

“True, it may have been another type of misery though.”  Hazel turned back to the jewelry.  “What are you going to get the wifey?

“Probably something with angels,” Steven admitted, “but I’ll pick up some booze and chocolate after work.  She and I need to celebrate next.”

Hazel nodded and began looking through the displays.  She passed up the usual crystals, mermaids, pixies, and other cutesy items.  Then something unique captured her attention and she could not look away.

A necklace with a red stone of some sort in the center laid amidst all the other usual offerings at Bunny’s Garden.

It was very striking and appeared to have a dark metallic finish on the embellishments.  On closer inspection she could see intricate metalwork around the red stone.  The cut stone or crystal revealed many facets of the large gem.  It was deep red through and through, yet slightly opaque with a strange inner glow.

Hazel couldn’t tell if it was a special treatment or what. The stone, metalwork, and necklace exuded a sense of timelessness and strength.

Hazel smiled at the necklace and barely noticed Quinn’s arrival at the jewelry case.

“I know that look,” Quinn said.  “There’s something here you can’t live without!”

“Huh?” Hazel said.  She pointed at the bauble.

Quinn looked down.  “Ewwwww!” she exclaimed.  “It’s so ugly and dark.  It feels so angry to me!  Why on earth do you want such an ugly necklace?”

Hazel smiled and stared back down at the necklace.  “I just do.”

“It’s not…” Quinn sputtered for a moment.  “Well, it does practically match every one of your black outfits.  I still don’t know.”

“How much,” Hazel asked.  “It doesn’t have a price tag on it.”

“Huh, that’s weird,” Quinn commented.  “Let me go find Bunny and she’ll be able to tell us how much and something about it.”  Quinn pulled out some velvet pieces, picked up the necklace, and placed the necklace on the counter.  “Hazel, can you keep an eye on the front for me until I get back.”

“Yeah, sure,” Hazel agreed, not really hearing what Quinn said.  Part of her felt some strange trepidation about touching the necklace.  The stone beckoned her to reach out a finger and stroke the elegance.  She reached out her right hand.  Every inch closer a strange confidence grew within.

“Oh that piece.”

The interruption broke Hazel’s concentration. Bunny, the proprietor of Bunny’s Garden walked towards Hazel in a long dress and several pounds of crystals and silver do-dads.  Once she had been a Catholic sister.  The idea of that was most amusing.

Bunny looked at her as if perplexed.  “Are you alright, dear?”

Hazel knew she would normally be somewhat annoyed.  She had to get back to work soon and to her lovely meeting with Peyton, but something made her feel a little bit positive about the rest of her day.

“I’m doing really well, Bunny,” she replied.

Hazel collected her thoughts.  “Can you tell me about this piece?”

Bunny looked down at the necklace and pursed her lips as if confused.  Then the elder woman frowned.

“It’s the strangest thing,” Bunny began.  “I’m embarrassed to say that I know nothing about this necklace or stone.  It’s in the locked case.  Either Quinn or I put it in here.  Quinn dear, do you remember putting this necklace in the display?”

“I would remember putting that icky thing out there, ewwww,” Quinn replied.

“Perhaps another employee put it in the case.” Bunny shrugged a bit.  “It’s not something we’d normally sell.  I’m a little surprised to see it here.”

Hazel rubbed her hands together.  “You can still sell it though, right?”

“Absolutely,” Bunny answered.  “I just don’t know the price.  I don’t even remember what I paid for it.”

“Well,” Hazel studied the necklace again for an all-too brief moment.  “Just tell me what you think is a fair price for it.”

Bunny picked up the necklace, ignoring the velvet piece Quinn used to touch it.  “It’s metal and the weight feels like silver, but it’s dark.  The stone is a garnet I think.  A pyrope garnet.  It’s probably worth $100.  How’s that?”

Bunny met Hazel’s eyes and grinned.

“I’ll take it,” Hazel pulled out her debit card.  “I’ll wear it out.”

Steven walked over with a pair of angel earrings and examined the necklace and pendant.  “Fascinating.  You’re getting it right?”

“Yes, it’s a treat for me,” Hazel grinned and put on the necklace.

“It matches your clothes perfectly.  Mysterious…” he paused, “but exquisite.”  Steven blushed a little.

Hazel found the expression on Steven’s face a little odd.  Then he looked away and his redness faded.

“It’s lovely.”  Steven put the earrings on the counter.

“Oh this is a beautiful choice,” purred Bunny.  “The silversmith lives in Colorado and says the angels inspire all his works.”  She continued talking as she rung up her other sale.

Hazel kept touching her new necklace and imagined herself as empress of a distant land, wearing her new otherworldly jewelry.  She found the imagery intoxicating.

“Here’s your receipt and card!”  Quinn interrupted her fantasy.  “I can’t believe you got that, but it does sort of suit you.  It’s just so negative feeling though and it makes my head hurt.  Bye sis.  I’ll call you soon as soon as I get a break from work and studying.”

Quinn hugged her for a moment and walked off.

Hazel didn’t even realize when Steven completed his sale and picked up his bag.

“Hey Hazel, we gotta get back to USM.”

“Yeah, right.”  She followed Steven out.

He went to the driver’s side of the car.  “Yikes, I’ll drop you off at the building and then park.  Hopefully we won’t be late.”

Hazel looked at Steven and smiled.  “I’m fine.  Despite the horrible morning, I think the rest of the day will be fantastic.”

****

I hope you all enjoyed.  Have a great rest of the week!

 

Fantasy, Fiction, paranormal, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Uncategorized

The Blood Seed – a flashback chapter

by Ruth Davis Hays

Circa 1645:
The music and candlelight attracted Keegan. He wanted to slip into a side door and join in the festivities. No one would notice him; Phillipe was the only one in the Family Gathering that knew him. He could easily fade in, unrecognized by anyone of importance because of his anonymity. He also desired to see Phillipe mantled in one of those long, ridiculous curled wigs that were so popular now. That would definitely make his risk worth the effort.

He crept along the maze of hedges that spread just below the rear balcony in the massive garden of this noble’s Motherhouse. The stone steps crept up to the open French doors looming elusively above him. He was deep in the ocean of green. Soft, crisp notes from the lively harpsichord tickled his ears and brought a playful smile to his lips. It made him cheerful. He stopped stalking and listened to the cascade of merry music. The tune hummed and giggled inside him, and he found his toes tapping in time with it. Smiling wider, Keegan closed his eyes and let his body wander into the melody with a blissful abandon.

Hopping and skipping about in a raucous, mock minuet, he began plucking the waxy leaves from the hedge and tossing them into the air. They fluttered down upon him with so many pleasant little caresses. He was laughing aloud and his mind spun recklessly through the flow of music. He crashed and cavorted up one length of the tall, green maze without opening his eyes. The short branches poked him like indignant spectators shoving an intrusive drunken man away from them. He did not care; the joy tickling him inside was a welcome change. The fact that he could be lost in this jumbled path of greenery never even made him balk. He simply followed the music of the harpsichord up one limb of the labyrinth and down another.

It might have been an hour or two before he emerged from the garden maze; he neither knew nor cared. All he cared for was the bouncy melodies from inside the house and the delicious, lighthearted mood they had struck in him.

Now, more than before, as he exited the leafy walls a little way from the balcony stairs, he wished to enter this sparkling carnival of laughter and chatter. He wanted to dance. He wanted to talk to others of his kind; he simply wished to see another vampire’s face–besides Phillipe’s. He was so dreadfully tired of Phillip.

Ever since Oliver ran away, Keegan had no one to talk to, except humans. And humans, no matter how interesting their stories are, always end up making better food than they are companions. He hated getting personally involved with humans. It was heartbreaking and disappointing.

Thinking on this began to make him feel cold and callous inside again. He decided to stop. He should not think when he was happy. It always ruined the feeling.

He blocked the words that whipped around inside his head and drown them in music. Soon, they were dead and floating near the bottom of his skull, and he was feeling giddy once more. The air around him vibrated, tingling with the echo throughout his skin. Emotions flowed along his limbs and seeped out in an invisible pulse that living creatures could feel and be affected by. He felt the thick bush beside him answer this pulse with a trembling that only another vampire would be able to see. This excited him more. He smiled broadly, his sharp canines flashing in the moonlight. This was to be a wondrous night.

He tentatively mounted the wide, stone staircase that curved up towards the house. He felt the small, inch-high heels of his fashionably styled shoes creak under his weight. They clicked softly on the steps. Keegan felt that most fashions of this day were ridiculous. It was almost impossible to look serious or threatening in the garments. He usually scorned the large, bell-like cassocks and gartered stockings, but he knew that tonight it was important to blend with the Fashion Hounds that these vampires were.

He had mocked his reflection in the mirror as he had slipped into these cumbersome, pompous clothes. The coat hung well on his tall frame, but the shoes looked feminine and silly. The large ribbons dangling off him at every joint, and the ruffles at the neck. He had felt like Pantaloon in the Commedia as he gazed at himself. He had stolen the foolish rags from a rich fop who had mistaken him for a beggar. The man’s corpse had lain on the settee and stared with disapproval as Keegan had paraded before the gilt mirror in the man’s own house. But, the dead man had had no words of refusal, as the vampire had stripped him of his ornaments. Keegan had donned the man’s outfit, right down to the face patch, but he had flatly refused to wear the dead man’s long, overly-curled wig.

That would have been too much, he thought. Keegan had politely refused the dead man’s mute offering of the wig; though, none had been made. But, as the man’s glazed eyes continued to stare at him, insistently it seemed, Keegan had grown irritated by the corpse’s blatant ignorance of his sense of dignity and style. So irritated that the vampire had smashed his fist into the dead man’s blank, staring face. And then, he had marched out.

“Bloody French shoes,” Keegan cursed the breaking shoes as he climbed the steps of the Motherhouse. They must have been ill-made to come apart so quickly, he had thought. As expensive as they had looked, they did not hold up. The delicate silk had broken apart as his weight had danced within it, and now the wooden heels were cracking below him.

As he neared the top step, he paused. Two vampires had come out into the cool evening air and were having a polite conversation on the balcony, near the statues that he saw standing as sentinels on the far end. He crouched down and listened to their talk. Silently, tense and excited to hear a new voice, he glanced between the short, carved, stone balusters.

He saw them. Two tall, dark-clothed figures standing at the far railing; their pale faces glowing against the clouded night sky. One was Phillipe. Keegan recognized the Spaniard’s smooth profile and taut jaw. He was in a black, heavily buttoned cassock and a dark brown wig that fell about his shoulders. Keegan smirked. The other one was also in black and wore a black wig. It was obviously the Head of this French Household, for the look on his face was one of authority and strength. A new face. Keegan was mesmerized. Then he looked over to Phillipe again, a movement caught his eye.

Phillipe turned to look at him with the most menacing glare, that Keegan’s heart fell into a pool of ice. In the next instant, Phillipe calmly pulled out a pistol from his wide belt and shot Keegan in the right shoulder.

He was shocked. The pain spilling with blood as the vest and cassock seeped up the juice. The threat from the pistol had hurt him, but the look in Phillipe’s eyes was a clear promise of more punishment to come. A warning. The muzzle of the pistol still pointed at him. He heard Phillipe say to the other vampire, “Only a small animal, nothing more. It’s dead. Or soon will be.”

Keegan vaulted the railing and dashed quickly off into the garden to hide from Phillipe’s anger. But, he knew he could not. Phillipe could track his fear like a hound tracks a rabbit. It had happened countless times before. It perpetuated the hold he had over Keegan; the power. He felt he could never escape. Phillipe was stronger, bigger, older, and seemed to take great pleasure in designing tortures. Punishments, he called them. The drawback to immortality, as Keegan saw it, was that one’s body could survive devastating depths of pain, even if the mind could not.

So, he ran. As he always did. The blood poured from his wound. He held it tightly with his other hand, to try and cut the pain. His shirt pressing to him with the spreading red stain. He knew better than to cry out. He bit down hard against the hurt and ran deeper into the garden.

The close bushes slapped his legs and grabbed at his coat. One low branch snagged the ribbon that held his long hair back and pulled it free. The hair gently licked his cheeks and collar as he plunged into a woods. His heartbeat pounded with his running feet. Faster and faster he went, to where he knew not. Dodging, turning, seeking a safe haven in which to nurse his shoulder. Knowing there was not one.

He felt Phillipe’s breath on his neck, heard the snick of a twig under Phillipe’s boot, whipping around with a outcry to find nothing there. He wanted to scream his fear to the darkness. Scream his panic. Scream his pain. Feared to scream. That it would bring down swifter punishment.

He was over six hundred and fifty years old and yet he was as frightened now as he had felt at ten, when he would steal sweetbreads from his mother’s table and hide to eat them only to hear her approach and threaten to whip his thieving hide.

Fantasy, Fiction, paranormal, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Uncategorized

The Blood Seed – Chapter …whatever

Now, I will admit that I have not had the time or inspiration to fill in the blanks of this story, and for that I apologize to anyone that is trying to follow it with any coherence. But, I can sum up what is missing!

Okay, Roxi and Cat dug up a block of ice from the old well behind the Haunted House. They and their friends dumped the ice, with the help of a bulldozer borrowed from Dale’s construction site, into Cat’s pool and covered it with the pool tarp.

While Roxi met and followed a strange young man she ran into at Eckerds’ Drug store, Cat was getting ready for bed when she heard a ruckus in her backyard. Thinking that it was some troublemakers trying to mess with the ice block, she went outside to discover the tarp dragged halfway across the lawn and a strange man hiding under her porch. He seemed more lost than dangerous, and after struggling with the absurdity of what she was doing, Cat invited him in to dry off. This was Oliver. The man from the ice. And she found him to be intriguing company.

Cat watched him, fascinated at his composure and grace. What was this creature that could so imitate a human in speech and movement, and yet be so strange to behold. His skin so flawless, sleek. The light struck it oddly at times. Making it appear a light silver. The paleness lending a sheen to it. His face was strong, handsome in almost a ruthless way. Animalistic in moments of fierce emotion, and his eyes – black. The deepest, emptiest black. Staring into them, she felt as if she were spinning and collapsing into the recesses of space. No stars, no light, only her and the darkness. Floating, forever. Time had no meaning in those eyes, in that cold emptiness. She would become nothing.

It was so easy to become lost in his eyes that she had to shake herself out of the vertigo. She would think of them as soulless if it were not for his gentle, sad expression. The expression filled his entire form and lent an air of compassion and restraint to an otherwise frightening figure. His mouth held kindness quicker than fury; and the silky russet mane that fell languidly from his head to spill across his back was glittered with silver, like a nebula pocked with so many stars.

Long, muscular limbs flowing off his sinewy body. Broad shoulders and a smooth, agile neck. His movements seemed refined, liquid. Hypnotic in their own way. It was easy to imagine the crowds of interested persons that Oliver must have attracted at gatherings in the past. It could be said that he was magnificent.

A creature that seemed to be formed out of the night itself and here it sat, reclining in her house as if no other place existed in the world. He had accepted his situation, with only the most fundamental confusion and fear at first, and was adapting to the new era and surroundings with an ease that was scary.

Curiosity about him had filled her faster than fear. And her interrogations had been met with the most courteous, open replies. He volunteered information about himself and the events he had witnessed without a moment’s hesitation. Though, he apologized for the uncertainty of some of his memory. There seemed to be gaps in his life history that were predominantly during the years before he was in The Family. Before he had become what he was now.

Yet, his language suggested that he doubted ever being human. He constantly spoke of people as if they were other beings set apart from himself and always had been. He admitted to feeling little empathy with humans, if any at all. To his credit, he insisted that he had always loved learning from them and being in their company.

The only memory that caused him confusion, and suggested to him that there had been any existence before The Family, was one that stood out in his mind as if branded on it.

He had been small. The room, his room, around him was a collection of large, looming objects. Furniture. Wooden, carved and dark. Heavy drapes hung down the sides of a bed. Burgundy cloth, thick and warm.

The floor was hard, cold, wooden. There was a small rug in the middle of the floor, and it was guarded by a large, dark chair. He remembered not liking that chair. Some sort of pain was associated with it. He was not sure what. The wall in front of the rug had a small opening that was bright, a fireplace. It was warm and comforting there except that the chair was so close.

The walls everywhere else were lusterless panels echoing each other all around the room. The door even blended in and appeared as a panel. But, there was a window. Opposite the door, near the little table that stood beside his bed. It had a criss-cross design on it, that tall window did. The little diamonds of glass were frosted lightly and the long drapes in front of it were half way open.

He remembered feeling relieved because some strange man had just left him. A doctor, the nursemaid had said. Oliver had been sick, very sick. The household was busy with many things and a sick child was only another worry. People had been rushing around outside his room all evening. Jabbering about a queen dying and another queen that they did not trust coming. Politics. He was unconcerned about all that. He was even unconcerned about his health.

The only concern he had was a little toy knight that he had been missing. It was lost and he was determined to find it. He had climbed out of his thick, soft bed. Knowing that he was doing something that he should not. And was kneeling on the hard, cold floor to search for his missing toy.

The fire’s light made everything jump and dance around. It was difficult to hunt for the small, carved soldier in the unstable light. He crawled on hands and knees, his long night gown tucked beneath his legs for warmth. He was beside his bed, the window behind him. Wind pelted the panes with a hollow roar. With an ear pressed to the floor, he lifted the blankets that hung down the sides of his bed frame and gazed intently into the darkness below it.

A clicking noise.

Behind him. He knew that it had come from behind him, which meant that it was at the window. He froze. Another click and a chilling gust of air filled the room. The fire sputtered its angry light and grew again. The wind was gone then. Oliver found the resolve to drop the blankets and sit up. He turned with the courage that only children know, and his eyes fell on the dark form of a tall, thin creature.

It was standing in front of the fire, the shadow bouncing and shifting in the close confines of the dark room. It moved and circled the chair. It reminded him of a snake’s movements when it shifted from place to place. Long arms bracing its thin frame behind the chair. Its hands, curling over the back, were long, slender … bony. He remembered seeing shiny needle nails on the fingers that were utterly white. The skin was pale and shimmering. There was little or no hair. It was smooth. Just smooth.

The creature approached him without the slightest noise, crouched with limbs bobbing like a giant, slow locust. The fire lit the face as it drew near him. Black eyes. They were large, black holes in pools of white. And its face was tight. It had a large mouth. Large fangs.

Deep in his mind, a warning alarm was set off, but he could not seem to move. He was frozen with a languid terror and a horrid curiosity. Part of his young mind had recognized the fear and demanded that he run screaming from the room that instant. Yet, a more willful side of him wanted to face the invader and stand his ground, like the tiny knight he had been searching for would have done.

His small, infected body was too slow to make a firm choice and the decision was then taken from him as the creature’s hands caught him up, and raised him to his feet. The steely hands held him, ready to encircle him if he attempted to escape. He did not move. He did not scream. He was transfixed by the dark, deepening stare of the creature’s eyes. Black orbs held him. Wide, staring voids. Staring. He stared back. Defiant. The creature had seemed to smile.

The strange being crouched directly in front of him, blocking the fire. Their faces level, its elbows touched the floor. The head and face were a shadow rimmed in flame. Its hands twitched, moved slowly to the floor.

He felt its hard, cold fingers touch his bare calves and recoiled inside with revulsion. Yet, he did not move. He remembered the soft skin, ice on his legs, creeping up his small body. The creature ‘s touch sent warm sensations through him. Feelings of comfort, of affection, of safety. They calmed, and frightened him. It communicated without words. Speaking directly to his heart.

The talons spread across his back, talking to him. Reassuring him. A gentle pull. The face was taut and wide, coming close. The hard lips pressed to his neck. His heart raced. He was certain that this was Death come for him. The doctor had been right.

He felt a quick pinch on his neck at the same moment as two slicing pains on his back. He pushed against the great beast, only to feel the arms clamp down hard on him. Pinning his body to it. Something tingling and wet touched his neck where the teeth had been. Then the hold was gone.

Oliver had kept his eyes tight shut, and only opened them when he felt the presence of the creature retreat. The empty air was around him again. Thin and somehow different.

He had opened his eyes to see the thing at the window sill. The fire light seemed to engulf the room. A smile slid across its wide jaw. The window flew open and the dark form was outside, disappearing beneath the ledge in an instant. Stunned, he watched as a long finger reached up and silently closed the window pane. Then it was gone.

Oliver was left trembling beside his bed. The lost toy knight forgotten. After a moment, the pain in his neck had vanished, but the ache in his little back had remained. A throbbing sensation was just below each shoulder blade. They felt warm and stinging. The wet feel of blood sat on top of his skin there.

The wetness on his neck reminded him of that strange kiss. Or was it a bite?

He broke his shell of fear and ran to his little mirror. Standing at his dressing table, he held a big silver mirror that someone had given him up to his neck. There were no marks to show any kind of bite. Nothing. Placing the mirror down, he pulled up his night shirt and bending down, he held the mirror behind him to see his back. There were two, long, red cuts that followed the lower curve of his shoulder blades from the spine to the sides. He let the gown drop back down and replaced the looking glass. His young mind was clouded with a new fear. Fear of the creature coming back. He determined that it most certainly was Master Death. It was waiting for him. More solid and literal than the kind his parents were speaking of, this Death would get him.

He began to cry. No one would believe him if he told them that he had been visited by Death and It had promised to come back for him. It had told him it would. He ran to his bed and cried into his pillow. He had not understood what the physician had explained about infections, but he knew that this was worse. This personal acquaintance with Master Death. Much worse. He cried all that night.

In Cat’s olive drab living room, Oliver had fallen silent, then stopped his narrative altogether. His face faltered, and he told Cat that the Death of that memory did not come again. But, his next clearest glimpse of a previous life had been a wife. She had brought him to meet The Family. A new family that was to be his only family. She was acquainted with Master Death, and as a grown man it had kept its promise.

–Ruth Davis Hays

Fantasy, Fiction, paranormal, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Uncategorized

The Blood Seed – Chapter 11

by Ruth Davis Hays

Gathering a small collection of friends to help excavate and transport, the large block of well ice is placed in Catherine’s pool for safekeeping until they can prepare how to document their findings and who to contact about a body frozen in a well that may have been there for over 150 years. But, before the dawning of the next morning things go beyond their control.

They cover it with a pool cover and wait. The girls’ friend, Dale, and a few ever-hopeful admirers of Roxi, distract them with dinner and Cat is making up stories to write, based on the figure in the ice. As the ice melts, the murder streak that has upset the town and neighboring city continues; lasting longer than previous times, if anyone had cared to look it up. But the only ones that had noticed the similarities were busy watching ice melt.

Cat and Roxi grow tired of their vigil and lament that they must work the next day. Both agree that if anything changes in the melting, that Cat will contact Roxi and they will call in sick Monday. The tarp over the pool protects the figure in the diminishing block of ice from the sun as the girls document the changes and what is appearing inside it.

Their friend Dale has not returned after he took his equipment home. They do not wish to leave him out, but can’t wait for him and can’t seem to contact him. They want credit of discovery before turning whatever comes from this frozen time-capsule over to authorities or universities.

Having gone to pick up snacks for the evening, Roxi is at the Eckerd Drugs store again before going home for the remainder of the night when …

She became aware that she was being watched. She lifted her head and looked directly at him. The strange young man in the black denim coat was staring at her. His hair down in a silky cape of dark blonde, seemed much longer than she had suspected it to be the time before. He was clean shaven except for long, thin sideburns that came down onto his cheeks. It reminded her of a European style. He was not wearing his sunglasses and she saw his eyes for the first time. They were large almonds of intense turquoise that could gleam across a room for consideration. His long, dark brows creased a moment as if trying to reach one another over the hairless separation, and a strange half smile hovered on his full lips.

He sprang to life and approached her.

“Pardon me,” he said directly. Looming over her, the pronounced features in his face looked smooth and roguishly handsome. There was a definite accent to his words, though of what origin she could not pinpoint. He continued, quite animatedly, “I’m new in town. My name is Kevin.”

Roxi stared in shock for a second, then gathering herself, responded, “Hi. I’m Roxi. My name is Raquelle, but friends call me Roxi.”

“What should I call you?”

“That depends.”‘

“I see.” He had a curious way of moving his mouth. As if he did not like to smile while talking. “I’ve seen you around. Do you live here?”

“Do I? I wouldn’t hang around here if I didn’t. Sorry. Yes, I do live around here. Why?”

“Just trying to meet people. I chose the direct approach because making friends is not my long suit. But, you… you looked different.”

“I am.”

“And your friend, I saw you with her before. What’s her name?”

“Cat? I didn’t think you saw her. I mean, I noticed you a few nights ago, but Cat missed you. Personally, I didn’t think you even saw me…”

He broke her off. “Oh, yes. Yes, I did. But, tell me, is there anything to do here at night? Are there any local night clubs? I find myself bored at times.”

She was confused. “Yeah… there are. But, not here in Orange Grove. In Jacksonville. It depends on what you’re looking for, though. Have you moved here?” She had decided to take control of this conversion and get some information.

“Not exactly. I’m here for a short period… on business. But, if my plans change, I want to know where to go for a little excitement. And, to know a few people in town.”

“Have you been here before?”

“Yes, many times in fact. But, I usually stay to myself. Only go out for meals… you know how it is?”

“I can guess. Where are you from? Your voice, your accent is not American.”

“Oh, everywhere. I hail from Scotland, actually. Southern end.”

The chat was growing more benign as the fellow gave obtuse answers to Roxi’s inquiries, and she felt a odd glow of jealousy each time Cat’s name passed his lips. Flirting faded into the recesses of her mind, for the pessimistic voice in her heart shouted louder with every passing minute. This was not a budding relationship. The strange man was not interested in her. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen to her. He will leave; he’s married; he’s gay; he’s just being friendly, strange or psychotic. It’s just not real. Finally, disgusted with the voice nagging her, Roxi decided to end this pointless conversation in the usual manner. She offered her father’s old business phone number. That way, if the young man truly was interested in contacting her, then she would know. The dead man’s phone was still active and gathering dust in the basement of her house.

Kevin stared at the scribbled number rather blankly for a moment before offering his awkward excuses to move along. Watching him leave the store, Roxi stood at the cash register, immediately regretting her sudden disgruntled mood. She found the stranger attractive, but there was a tension between them that seemed forced, strained, and she had assumed it meant that he did not want to be near her. This had put her off. As she left the store with her purchase and saw the tall figure of Kevin rounding the far corner of the Winn-Dixie storefront and fading into the dark side of the twilight hour, she wanted to kick herself. Then, a devious notion struck her, and she hurried to her car with his words about visiting Orange Grove many times before and the printed microfiche words of the old newspapers flashing through her mind.

Every forty-five years…bloodless corpses. Her mind spun with ideas.

Fantasy, Fiction, paranormal, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Uncategorized

The Blood Seed part 10 by Ruth Davis Hays

(This segment is not necessarily in order, but to pick up the pace of the story a bit, I thought that I would offer up a short something from the “vampire’s” side.) While Catherine and Raquelle are investigating the ice in the well, what it holds, and the mystery of the “maniac” that visits the city of Orange Grove every 45 years, a new group has moved into the sleepy little town:  The Family.

——————————————
He sat. A loathsome imp banished to the lonely shadows to wait for the ‘favored’ ones to leave. On the damp grass, outside the house, he sat. Lean, sculpted arms wrapped tight about his knees. Hair, long and cascading, around him like a little brown drape. Mouth pressed to the arm of his denim coat, blue eyes staring straight ahead, unblinking. He sat. Waiting.

Quietly, he clicked his fangs together; the noise ricocheting in his mind, something to concentrate upon. Inside the Mother House, the Family was getting ready for the hunt. They were dressing, primping, talking. They were sharing with each other. Kind words, affectionate touches. Things he would never receive from them, or anyone. They did not know of his existence. Never had, never would. Phillipe kept him separated from them, telling Keegan that it must be that way. The Family members could never see him or speak to him. For, if they knew of his existence, they would surely kill him. Phillipe allowed him space and funds, but his protection of Keegan could only go so far. And for this gracious generosity and protection, Phillipe asked only two things of Keegan:  That he obey Phillipe’s rules and carry out a few ‘requests’.

‘Commands’ were closer to the point.

Keegan was a henchman. Doing Phillipe’s dirty work for him. No matter what chaos was wreaked in the vampire world or the human one, nothing could be traced back to Phillipe. His hands were clean. The Family was protected from finger pointing. And, as long as Keegan kept himself anonymous, nothing would be traced back to him either, for he did not exist.

(No one in this Household knows anyone of “that” description, “no sir!” No one knows his name.)

So, he sat in the darkness each evening waiting for the time when Phillipe would summon him. Alone and despising it. Over seven hundred years, he had waited like this. In different places. At different houses. Listening to different voices chatting merrily inside. Locked out of their closely knit world by danger and out of the humans’ world by nature. He’d had only one friend, in all that time who had been able to accept and acknowledge him:  Oliver.

As reluctant as he was to try and force Oliver back into The Family, Keegan had to admit that he was glad he would have someone to talk to again besides Phillipe.  Besides himself.

Fantasy, Fiction, paranormal, Ruth Davis Hays, Thriller, Uncategorized

The Blood Seed – Partial

(As this serial has been posting sections from a story that I began many years ago and never finished, there are some segments that are missing. I know they are written somewhere, just nowhere that I can find. So, forgive me as I play Fill-in-the-blanks this month with my intro. I will do my best to give you a more complete chapter next time. – Ruth Davis Hays)

The ice in the bottom of the well proved too far for the two girls to reach alone. They broke off their investigative frenzy to drive to the store for a much belated meal.

Thinking on a course of action, they decide to convince a friend Dale who was working on a nearby construction site (while he studied at college to become an architect) to help them dig up the well. At least then they could pull out the huge block of ice and use all their collective resources to find out why it existed in Florida, at this time of year.

Their endeavors will have to wait until Dale’s day off during the week, which will cause the girls to have to delay it until after work or take the risk of calling in sick. Cat daydreams that the ice holds something mysterious, but Roxi doubts that it will have anything besides really cold bacteria. Sunday evening finds Roxi in the neighboring town of Jacksonville, trying to sort out her feelings.

****************************

She had been drowning in a river of darkness. Being pulled along against her will. Reaching out to grasp with numb hands to anything that would steady her and offer the slightest chance of freedom. But each weed or stone she clung to would give way or slip from her grasp before she could pull herself clear of the stinking water. If she screamed, she would drown in madness. If she struggled, the water pulled her quicker. She was lost. The only thing she could do was let go, let the river claim her as it had thousands of others. It would be the easiest thing to do.

Roxi sat on the stone bench staring at the St.John’s River as it labored north to the ocean. The bench was cold beneath her and it seeped into her bones. The ache she felt, as she rested near the large cement fountain in downtown Jacksonville, was not the chill of a cold body but that of a frozen soul.

She had come to the science museum to sit by the river and think but she had found that most of her time had been spent staring at the dark waters and letting her mind wander. Her mind had wandered down some very dark paths and only frustrated her more instead of clearing things up for her. The only thing that kept repeating in her thoughts was the idea that she was stuck. Stuck in Orange Grove. Stuck in a dead-end job. Stuck in her father’s house. Stuck in the mud of her life, alone.

The limits of her possibilities crowded against her so tight that she wanted to scream and rip her hair out by the roots in the frustration. Not that that would have changed anything. Except that she would be bald, she mused. A small smile touched her lips.

There was no prince on a white stallion to rescue her. There would be no one announcing that she had just won a million dollars. All her problems would not be swept away by a benevolent genie that would give her three wishes. It was all up to her to change her life and she had run out of ideas and energy. The small town had beaten her. It had won. She had no money to move or do the things she wanted to do with her life. She had no resources that she could trust. No one that could help her achieve her goals.

Cat was her best friend, but despite all their big dreams of childhood, they had never been able to get any of the things accomplished. Nothing to show for all their combined talents and efforts. She had a closet full of fancy and outlandish costumes that she had designed and, with Cat’s help, had made. But, she could not wear them. There were no occasions in her life that she could give them the proper debut without feeling out of place and silly. They belonged on the runways of New York, not the streets of Jacksonville. So, what had they accomplished? Nothing but her having a closet full of clothes that no one would see unless she got famous. Got Famous, she pondered that one with a bitter smirk. What a frustrating dream that had been. Get noticed, get recognized, get famous. That was how it was supposed to go, right? Ha! she thought. Sounded easy enough when the celebrities on television said it.

Except that with all her reputed “talent,” here she sat. In Jacksonville. A data entry clerk for the city of Orange Grove. A nobody.

“I hate life,” she muttered to the soft autumn wind. “I’m sick of it. If I didn’t think suicide was a waste, I’d jump in that river right now and get it over with. At least then, I wouldn’t have all these stupid worries anymore.”

She sighed and looked over her shoulder at the tall office buildings surrounding the little green park in which she sat. “And, I wouldn’t have to work anymore. Or worry about money.”

The day was growing darker and the evening’s lavender hues were painting the city all around her. She decided that it was time to head home. Before all the crazies came out, she chuckled. That was definitely not the way to die; at gunpoint or on a knife, over a twenty dollar bill. She decided that that would truly be pointless, and unpoetic.

Wanting to end her life did not rob her of her sense of the dramatic. Now, falling victim to a fatal disease or something totally out of her control… that would be dramatically tragic. And, might even make the newspapers.

She laughed at herself. Even in choosing a death, she wanted to get noticed!

Fantasy, Fiction, Literary, paranormal, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Uncategorized

The Blood Seed – Chapter 9

by Ruth Davis Hays

Our intrepid heroines are determined that something strange is going on in their quiet town. They just are not sure what it could possibly be. After overcoming childhood fears of The Haunted House of Maple Street, the girls take a break.

9
The sun was cresting towards noon when Cat and Roxi finished their search of the house. With all its dust, cobwebs, and creaking floors, it had turned out to be just an old house. Holding no secrets, hiding no ghostly tenants. Nothing that one would not expect to find in an abandoned house. Save for one object that seemed out of place.

A lower floor had been carpeted with dust and pitted with jagged holes that were both accidents of age and intentional abuse of vandals. The windows, broken and cracked, were shaded by layers of grime. A few of them had obscenities rubbed into them by juvenile fingers. The wood was dark, warped, and scarred by bugs and the occasional knife cut. Mark LS Tina, Metallica Rules, Gary wuz here, the messages went on and on. They adorned the rooms like oddly patterned wallpaper.

The structure itself was, for the most part, wooden. No paint had ever touched the inside of the house. A small, stone fireplace stood forlornly in the front room to the right and there was evidence of a recent fire. That room was not entirely empty. There were bottles, mostly broken, and smashed cigarette butts covering the sturdier sections of the floor. A few blankets lay rumpled in one corner near the back. Badly stained blankets.

Near the blankets was a doorway, sans door, that led to a little hall that ran perpendicular to the main hall. The main hall, leading from the front door to the kitchen, intersected with the second at a very dangerous looking hole. The hole in the floor was not there originally, and it was evident that someone had made a major effort to put it there.

To reach the back rooms, one had to go through the side rooms and intermediary doors they possessed. Exciting and convenient for the average, curious adventurer, but almost as hazardous.

Roxi nearly twisted her ankle navigating around the very hole that she herself had put in the front room fifteen years ago.

Investigation of the large hole seemed to suggest that it was made by very industrious young boys. It contained a medium sized compartment, that possibly had given room for any number of secretive acts. The kind of which would stamp Hoodlum upon anyone initiating them. Beneath the floorboards, to either side of the dusty half-wall, there was an ample crawl space.

The sounds of skittering feet had cut their investigation short on that. Neither of them were ready for a confrontation with irritated raccoons or opossums.

They had moved on to the back rooms. The cross hall opened to a small area that was possibly meant for a bedroom; a primitive kitchen that was only accessed by the door on the porch; and another small room that was also only available by the porch doors that opened onto it. All the side tracking around the house was because of the crater in the front hall.

The most disappointing thing about the house was that there was no spooky aura inside. They had wanted to feel the thrill that can be generated by frightened children hunting for ghosts. But, the more they walked in the house, the more ordinary it became to them. It was falling apart at its seams, with a roof that had deposited pieces of itself onto the floor throughout the years; but, Cat, especially, felt cheated.

All the horror and fear of it, in her childhood, had been her own imagination; not something oozing from the house itself. It was damp, chill, and dusty. The boards creaked and groaned absurdly, and the morning light made shafts of gaily dancing dust specks. But, no boogeymen.

Their trek was beginning to seem for naught, until they entered that last room. The back left room had a trunk in it. At first, this did not strike an odd chord, until they realized that the mass vandalism and decay in the rest of the house had missed this one object.

It was a long, black steamer trunk, the kind they had seen in old movies. It could have been a hundred years old, yet it was intact with not a mark on it. A thin layer of dust coated its textured top and dulled the brass striping on the corners. A large medallion of a lock set indignantly on the front of the lid. They tried it. It was locked. Securely. Its peculiar cleanliness attracted them to it for almost an hour, but after trying to shove it and open it unsuccessfully, they gave up. At least, until they could find something with which to break it open.

They headed outside to rest and to find a rock or a strong stick. They wanted that trunk open. It held its secrets too dearly to be ordinary old luggage in an abandoned house. It must be opened. It drew them, with an odd magnetism.

It was their only lead, so far.

They both sat outside on the back steps of the little house. Only one of the three steps remained. Cat was flicking despondently at a bull ant which was trying to use her thigh as a highway. Roxi was simply sitting quietly and staring out at the back woods.

“We need to get a hammer and chisel,” Cat was saying, “Or maybe a screwdriver.”

“What’s that?” Roxi asked.

“I said, we may need a hammer and a …”

“No,” Roxi cut her off. “I mean, what’s that.”

Cat looked up from the ant to see Roxi pointing off into the yard. Cat followed the direction that she indicated. At first, she did not see anything but trees and underbrush. Then, she was able to make out a form of something about fifteen yards away. She studied its half visible outline, and her mind raced from one thing to another trying to identify it. Her mind was not all together functioning this early in the morning, plus she was tired and frustrated. But, the lulled brain finally hit on what it was…

“Looks like a well,” she stated.

Roxi glanced at her. “Shall we?” she said with a sweep of her hand towards the yard.

“Why not?!” Cat took a deep sigh. “Maybe we can get a good rock from it to bust that trunk open.”

Roxi agreed, and they pulled themselves back into action. As they stood, the step beneath them gave out in a crackle of splinters.

“Ow!” Cat exclaimed out of shock. “You okay?”

“Yeah. You?”

She nodded. Shaking off the bits of wood, they headed out into the yard.

Their goal was up a barely visible incline from the house, but it was enough to make their legs weary. It seemed convenient for those who would have had to walk back to the house with heavy buckets of water, though. The well itself was a low, stone structure with grass sprouting between each rock. Two wooden beams protruding up from the base held a cross pole with the rope attached to it. A crank handle hung awkwardly from the pole end that pointed to the house. A crude little machine. Still, if it served its purpose, who were they to criticize. The poor old rope hung limply from the pole and disappeared down into the well.

Cat leaned over the low wall. The sun lit the well’s inside west wall for maybe two yards, it was hard to judge. Then darkness ruled the rest of the way. She felt strange, looking down into this well. There was something wrong with it. She put out her hand and extended it slowly into the center of the well’s opening. It was cold. Frigid air was wafting up from the depths. The lower her hand went, the colder it seemed.

“Roxi? Does it feel cold in there to you?”

Roxi mimicked Cat’s actions. Looking up into her friend’s eyes, she nodded. They both stood up tall a moment and thought about that. It was September; humid and not particularly cold, closer to the warm side the year. Yet, this well had almost freezing air coming from it.

They looked at each other and got the same idea at once. Roxi reached for the crank, and Cat leaned out to catch the rope. If there was still a bucket attached to this rope, there better be some darn cold water in it.

A few hard pulls got the crank moving again and the rope coiled onto it politely, until it snapped out of Cat’s hands and stood taut in the center of the well. Roxi cranked harder. It would not budge. Cat joined her. The beams supporting the pole collapsed with a loud crack. Several of the stones in the base sprang loose and just missed crushing Cat’s ankle.

They hung onto the crank pole and heaved it out onto the grass. Snatching up the rope they began to yank vigorously. An excitement had come over them. They felt certain there was a mystery finally. As much as in the trunk. Cat was beginning to feel the titillating eeriness that comes from a good horror novel. There was something to be found here; some dark story to be uncovered.

One strong tug produced a high pitched crack from below, and the next pull tossed them both backwards. They hit hard, the rope still in their hands. Did it break? That was entirely possible. Cat was a little surprised that it was as strong as it was, considering its age.

But, hauling the rope out of the well entirely, it proved to be a tougher piece of material than she had given it credit for. The rope was intact, but the bucket on the other end was not. The crack they had heard was the boards of the little bucket breaking lose from each other and…

“Ice?” Roxi looked over at Cat, her brows furrowed, mystified.

The pail was evidently lodged in a few inches of ice. It had small white crystals clinging to it. Both rope and pail were freezing to the touch. Cat stared at it, fascinated.

“Ice, in September?” Cat mumbled, “What’s down there that would make it freeze?”

By that afternoon, the women had knocked over and pulled free most of the stones that comprised the little well’s base. The vertical tunnel of rocks buried in the earth was going to prove more difficult. They would need assistance. Gaining that assistance was going to require time and planning. And, lunch!

Fantasy, Fiction, paranormal, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Uncategorized

The Blood Seed – Chapter 8

The weekend has arrived, and Cat prepares to find out just why The Haunted House of Maple Street has preyed on her mind recently. Roxi had a rough night, but adventure beckons.

8

Dawn was slowly making its way along Maple Street. The heavy mists of Fall were standing in the air. The slight chill warned early risers to wear sweaters, but the birds loved it. The musical chaos of mocking birds, blue jays, and who knew what else, buffeted the air with an unusual exuberance. They did not care that the dull, gray leftovers of night still lurked along the trees and houses, as it was reluctantly giving way to the orange sun that sliced its path into the open.

Two small figures crept steadily through a lush, forested patch of the city. Five abandoned acres surrounding the infamous Haunted House of Maple Street. The women were seeking some sort of trail. Though there seemed none to be had. The old pathway to the house was overgrown, to say the least, though there was a small treeless area that they were following. The foliage slapped their legs and grabbed at their sleeves mischievously. Dew dampened their clothes and the cold, morning air was seeping into their bones. What had once been a wonderful place for a childhood romp, was a wholly miserable place for a tromp as adults.

This land had once belonged to Oliver Revel. He had purchased it before Orange Grove existed. Before Maple Street was ever conceived. The trees populating it were tall, stately guardians. It was a smooth, green lawn once. Cleared and cared for by people that now lay in Evergreen Cemetery, the oldest one in this area. Now the land that Oliver Revel had once tended looked like a small wilderness nestled inside an otherwise ordinary neighborhood. According to a large, orange sign at the front of the property, the land was under rezoning. Undoubtedly, it was destined to be a spacious parking lot for the nearby mall under construction.

Cat and Raquelle both felt a tight pain of regret in their chests at the sight of the sign. The thought of this wild, noble patch of nature being leveled to furnish Orange Grove residents with more fashion marts and shoe stores was sickening. Though, inevitable.

They pushed on. Feeling time was short.

“We could have started this last night, if it didn’t get dark so darn early now.” Roxi was complaining. She was out of sorts this morning, feelings left over from the night before. “Heck! What are we so afraid of the dark for anyhow? It’s not like there are any real monsters anyway. This is Orange Grove, for crying out loud! Let’s get a grip. What could possibly happen here that would be worth being scared over?”

Cat was feeling tired and cold, though a steadfast obsession over this land drove her onward. She listened to Roxi’s griping and simply glanced over skeptically. The thought of making this trek in the black of night was preferable for their secrecy, but there was still a very real danger to consider. Another body had turned up the day before.

“There’s still the ‘Slasher’ to think about. Running around somewhere.” Cat cautioned. “And, if it’s the same one from the old papers, then there are still a few nights left to worry about.”

Roxi’s mouth screwed up in mild disgust. “I don’t care. It’s just a regular, old maniac. Nothing neat, anyhow. That’s probably all he is, regular. Like any other slasher. A copycat. It’s probably just a coincidence…the dates. Orange Grove isn’t interesting enough to have a unique killer. Or a real Haunt.”

“Aren’t ‘we’ gloomy this morning.” Cat teased.

“Well! I can’t help it. This is a stupid town. With ordinary, stupid people doing stupid stuff. And, the stupid ‘Slasher’ will probably just turn out to be a stupid copycat killer that thinks he’s fascinating because he’s in the papers!” Roxi swatted at a cloud of gnats hovering near her face. Her hand connected with a low branch and sprayed her with droplets of dew. She feigned a scream of frustration. “AND, it’s too early in the stupid morning to be out here getting excited over a stupid, run-down house!”

Cat chuckled, and Roxi found herself starting to feel a chuckle rise up inside her also, in spite of her complaints.

“WELL?!” was all she could manage to say at last.

“We can always quit, go back, and forget about it.” Cat challenged with a smile.

Roxi began to stomp ahead. She was disappointed at finding humor in the situation because it meant that her Blue Funk was slipping away. It had been a good one, too. But, the idea of passing up this adventure, no matter how bizarre it seemed in the morning light, because of a little dew, was ridiculous.

“No,” she grumbled in mock anger now. “Let’s see what we can find.”

Cat smiled wider and pounded forward through the brush.

They soon happened upon what appeared to be the dregs of some hunting practice. Though, from the looks of the garbage, the individual was too drunk to actually hit a real, moving target. He was lucky to have hit the small, white house at which he had been aiming a few yards away. There were more than a dozen crushed beer cans; about two dozen empty gun shells; several crumpled Doritos bags.

“Oh, now this is lovely.” Cat spat sarcastically.

Raquelle glanced down at the little piles of litter. A smile hovering on her lips. “Looks like Man has been in the Forest, Bambi.” She said in a deep voice.

They both chuckled lightly. Cat looked up at the house.

It stood indignantly, trying to hold up its timbers with as much modesty as an old, vandalized house can. The dingy, white paint still clung to its sides, splashed all over with mold and black, stringy cobwebs. The peaked roof was in collapse, and seemed to only be held up by the posts of the small, narrow porch which ran all the way around the house. It reminded Cat of a camping tent weighed down with rain and about to bury its occupants. Three crippled steps led to the front porch, which in itself was reminiscent of a modern art sculpture. The kind that is supposed to represent an idea or object, but merely looks to the casual observer like a twisted gob of building materials that someone has forgotten to clean up.

“Shall we continue?” Roxi asked.

Cat turned her head, her attention still on the old house. A light fear was prickling inside her. It excited her curiosity and galvanized her resolve. The house was here before her. She was determined to find something, anything to explain her nagging obsession with it. She had never wanted to come here as a child. Her friends had always wanted to investigate it. A Rite of Courage, as it were, but Cat had been stymied by fear. Nightmares of something in the house, something dark. Something with long, thin fingers that wanted to grab her and pull her close to its sharp, rank body. A thing that wanted to tear her apart and feast on her soul. She had never even stepped onto the property until this morning.

Now, standing in the light grey of dawn, she stared at it. The frightened child inside her dared the old house to give her its worst. Bring on its ghosts and its horrors, for she was an adult now and tired of fears haunting her in the night. She was determined to face this childhood demon and strip it of its power over her.

Blinking against a diving gnat, Cat felt a thin peace stab through the chill. Perhaps that explained her obsession. Her need to face old fears that still plagued her life. She felt a little resolve in that answer, but only a little. In the back of her mind, something told her that was not all. The random fears of a child were not the only things to be afraid of; no, not at all.

With a new purpose in mind, Cat moved toward the front steps of the porch. Roxi followed close behind.

“I remember coming up here when I was a kid.” Roxi said in an almost reverent whisper. “Me and the boy that lived next door to my house then. We dared each other to go inside. Of course, what kid didn’t do that at some point. Anyway, I was going to prove I was as brave as he was, so when it was my turn, I went in and wandered from room to room. Being real careful. I remember, there were two torn up, moldy sofas on the side porch. The room on the right had a door that led to the outside. Anyway, the sofas. They were just sitting out in the weather like someone had tossed ’em out. I went over real close to them. I could smell the dirt and rain soaked in. I was planning on touching one of them and was about to do it when something moved. A snake came darting out from under one of them and scared me to death. I ran back into the house cause I guess I figured the snake couldn’t go in the house. Silly me. Well, three feet into the front room and my foot when right through the floor! I screamed and Bobby, the other kid, ran off ! I couldn’t believe it at the time. He just left me there. My leg was all chewed up from the broken boards and I began to hear things. Things moving around in the house with me. I got so scared I limped home as fast as I could. My leg kept giving out and by the time I got home I was filthy. Dad was sure I was going to get an infection from the cuts. ‘Course I never told him where I got them. I told him I fell off Bobby’s bike. But, I never did. Get an infection, that is. They healed up in just a day or two. I never really forgave that little worm, Bobby. In fact, in seventh grade, I got my chance to get even with him when he asked me out.”

Cat was barely listening to her friend. Her mind was filled with her own images and memories. Dreams. With each step closer, she felt the dread of the dreams growing tighter around her. Once she could get inside, she felt the fearful images would begin to fade as they were proved false. Her heart pounded as her small foot came to rest on the first, unsteady step. It felt as if it would collapse beneath her weight. It held strong.

Cat found herself letting out a thick breath. She had not been aware she was holding her breath, but now she felt a little relief. Looking up at the wooden door that hung despondently on its last hinge, she felt stronger. Now, for the second step.