Fog rolled down from Canada and pressed against the smoke from a Northern Pacific engine, obliterating the view of old growth timber on one side of the tracks and Commencement Bay on the other. Inside the stuffy passenger car, Verdie Bacom sighed and waited for her two oldest children, Mathilda, eleven and Reuben, ten, to start whining. It was the view that had kept them entertained for the past several hours. Instead, they pressed their noses against the glass trying to penetrate the murky haze. Next to her, Verdie’s husband, Ira, gave a deep hacking cough and immediately covered his mouth with his handkerchief. At Verdie’s sideways glance, he said, “Don’t worry so much, V, it’s just a cough.”
Farther back in the passenger car where a group of miners and loggers sat, one said, “It’s sure and certain he won’t make old bones.”
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Sue Ellen was his first love. He can recall every moment they spent together, especially the first times they made love. The first time was after a football game when they were juniors in high school. In the front seat of his daddy’s car. He’s pretty sure it ranked as the most disastrous firsts ever.
He pulled his daddy’s Pontiac onto the beach and yanked up the parking break. He cranked the driver side window down an inch or two to let in some of the cool fall air, and they faced each other and said, “Okay, here we are. Let’s do it.”
He scooted out from under the steering wheel and over to the middle of the front seat. It was a big car. There was plenty of room. They put their arms around each other, and they kissed, and he reached his hand under her blouse. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked.
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I sat entranced across the table from the golden-haired lady who was explaining to me in detail the unusual occurrences she had witnessed at her home. I was surprised at how extremely beautiful she was. It was not the normal beauty that many women have, rather it seemed almost supernatural. Her hair was like spun silk which shimmered in the bright light of the coffee shop. Her skin seemed to glow with soft dew-like moisture. She was small in frame and light in body. I guessed that she was around fifty years of age.
“Your skin is so lovely,” I interrupted, “Do you mind if I ask what you use.”
“Oh!” she fluttered her hands. “It’s really quite simple,” her soft, pink, perfectly formed lips separated into an amazing smile. “I make it myself using rosewater and honey.”
She looked a little embarrassed. “Since I moved to Steilacoom I became interested in all kinds of salves and teas. It began when I kept discovering new herbs in my garden and at the same time I would come across a recipe using those herbs. I began experimenting. I still find a new plant from time to time and almost daily I come across a recipe for everything from healing burns to removing warts. It’s wonderful how well these natural ingredients work!”
I stared at her. “You mean you have a magical garden that provides you not only ingredients but also recipes?”
She tittered, very self conscious, “Yes, I call it my Findhorn after the place in Scotland where the angels and divas help the Findhorn Community grow the extraordinary large vegetables in barren soil. I nodded being familiar with the project founded by Eileen and Peter Caddy at a garbage dump in Findhorn, Scotland.
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The game was a bust. Those punk ass brats were on it and my dice went on strike. I’ve never heard a ten-sided die tell me to fuck off in such a meaningful way. I had better luck with Ophelia and considering how our conversation went, I was doomed the second I sat down at the table. My poor minis and I should’ve bowed out after the first blow to my ego.
I wasn’t that smart.
At ten o’clock, I was brooding behind the counter over my failures when I really started to think about Ophelia. She was right about Meredith, I had no idea why I was made. The thing I didn’t know was what it mattered. What made it suspicious? More importantly, why was she so against vampires? I had no answers, only questions but fortunately, I knew someone who might be able to help me out.
Unfortunately, he hung out at Club Eternal. I was hoping Jade would already be gone by the time I got there but it was a big enough place that we probably wouldn’t run into each other. As long as my employees could be trusted to watch the shop, then everything would be fine. I rarely left and none of them were used to soloing it.
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Sheriff Randy Moss is an uninvited guest at Pop Lawrence’s hurricane party. He says, “Oh, hi. Um, Shelly asked me to come in.”
Not everyone returns his greeting. David and Mary refuse to speak to him. Melissa turns her back and walks into the kitchen, brushing right past him, pours herself a big shot of straight whiskey and swigs it down, and then pours herself another and carries it down the hallway. She goes into a bedroom and kicks the door shut behind her.
A huge crack of thunder shakes the house. Outside the sky is almost as dark as night, but floodlights aimed at the front walk and out across the bay from the deserted deck highlight sheets of sideways rain that look like shimmering mercury. Another loud thunder boom rattles the house, and the lights go out. For a moment it is pitch black inside, until their eyes gradually adjust. Pop says, “David, go crank up the generator.”
David heads out to the garage, where he starts up the generator. The lights come back on. Shelly wanders back to the bedroom, taps on the door and opens it. Melissa is sitting on the edge of the bed holding her drink in her hands. Her eyes are red. Shelly says, “Sweetie, how come you’re in here drinking all alone? You’re not going to let that Randy Moss ruin your day now, are you? You can’t let your resentment ruin you.”
“What do you mean?”
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“I guess we’ll have to have class indoors then.” This was not the first time Professor Clifford Barrow made this joke but his students laughed just the same. Despite his tendency to be a bit of a recluse and his inability to make a good joke, Professor Barrow was well respected. Some of his students even liked him.
The class room was bright which stood in stark contrast to the rain and darkness outside. Before Clifford arrived on the planet, he did not realize that when they say it always rains on Ravis, they mean it always rains on Ravis. The sun never broke through the constant rainstorm and the dark clouds enveloped the entire planet forcing a perpetual state of night. This provided few distractions for the students and was one of the reasons Ravis was known for producing the brightest minds in Council Space.
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The one thing the Snow Queen missed most was apples.
Since moving north, she didn’t get fruit. And truth be told, she’d never been a fan of most fruit anyway. But the apples reminded her of a time before she’d left for the north, when she’d been closer to Snow White, before White had gotten married and grown distant. They ate apples by the slice off the blades of paring knives as they sat on the deck of the cabin in the woods, while the dwarves were off working.
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The elevator door opens on a spring dawn saturated with fog. Draped over the barrier wall, it divides between the running legs of civilian workers adhering to evacuation routes, including the two gardeners who stagger inside our lift, just as we exit, and drop to their knees to fill their lungs. Entering the motionless air I see squads of Blood Keepers bleeding from the elevator bay. Black uniforms disappear into the mist and the tracks of bodies, moving toward and away from the only outer access point, draw lines like those on the surface of an active anthill.
This is the Compound—the last surviving human settlement in Monstrum.
Keeper Vaughn, our instructor and commander, waits for us at the center of the bay. Tufts of his graying hair are glued to his forehead with sweat, and now I know it’s not a drill.
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Eyes turn their way when Pop and Melissa glide into the Golden Eagle Casino. Dressed in a style she laughingly calls slutty-chic, Melissa looks like some kind of sexy film noir vamp. She wears a black fedora with a red silk band. The wide brim is tipped forward to cast a shadowed veil across her dark eyes. Her hair is not truly black but dark, dark brown tinted with Venetian highlights. It flows like oil across naked shoulders. Her black gown sparkles with red glitter that matches the rich red highlights in her hair. Men stare in anticipation as her breasts threaten to pop out and her long thighs scissor through a hip-high slit in her skirt. A tattoo snake slithers from her cleavage. The old man is bearded in white like the Spanish moss on the ancient oaks outside, and wears a white suit of a type long since out of style. He’s six-foot-six and holds himself proud but walks with a slightly drunken stagger.
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That night in bed, relaxing after a strenuous sexual work out, she brought up the subject of the full moon.
Nick lay on his side, tracing trails of perspiration on her skin with his fingertips. He felt more alive than at any point in his life. There was more energy and passion in him now that when he had been a young man. It was all due to the wolf that resided within him and he had her
to thank for that.
“I need to talk to you about what’s happening to you,” she said, looking into his distracted eyes. He was staring at her damp naked beauty with hungry appreciation. “About the full moon that’s coming up. The men have noticed the change in your behavior and they came to me.”
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