Tag Archives: YA

Flash Fiction: Burning Bridges

Author’s Note: wow, has it really been 17 days since I last posted anything? Ok, well here’s a short piece of flash that I wrote the other day, just trying to keep my writing chops somewhat sharp. I know there must be more to this piece buried in my head somewhere, but right now I’ll leave it here in its original form for your consideration. Hope you enjoy!

The covered bridge was in flames. We could see it from the hilltop. James watched it through his binoculars, a gift from his dad before the older man took off with the babysitter.

“I don’t see anything,” the fourteen year old said. James was the youngest of us, but in some ways the most inquisitive.

“You mean you don’t see him?” Darcy asked, a slight tremble to her voice.

“Correct. He must still be under the bridge.”

“Then we’ll have to go down after him,” I said, trying to sound brave. But everyone knew I was scared shitless. After all, I was the only one who had seen the troll face to face.

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Vampire Boys Of Summer: Chapter 30

Chapter 30: Where’s Angela & Icarus Solved

Ryo had returned to the window, while the others had fallen into silence, giving him room to himself. But I couldn’t take the quiet. There were still many questions in my head.

“What happened to Angela?”

“She remained at school,” Haru replied. “Then she went home.”

“We have to tell her,” I said.

“Tell her what?”

“About you guys.”

“No way,” Ryo replied.

“She has the right to know what’s going on,” I reasoned.

“Why?”

“Because I’m her best friend. And best friends don’t keep secrets from each other.”

Ryo snorted. “I’ve existed long enough without a best friend. I certainly don’t need one now.”

“Well, I do. Maybe that’s what makes me human, and you’re not.” It got quiet. The sudden silence was like a dark cloud had spilled from my very mouth. I looked around at everyone. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.”

“It’s ok,” Chi replied. “We understand. We lost a lot of things when we became vampires. Even then we didn’t know what we were becoming. We were only wishing to defend our village from…”

“Can Angela keep a secret?” Luhan interrupted.

I nodded, but to be honest I wasn’t sure if she could. Still, I hated hiding so much stuff from her. It had caused enough strain on our friendship.

“I don’t think it’s going to matter before too long,” Haru said. “Everyone is going to know. At least we could prepare her and maybe have another ally.”

Ryo stepped away from the window. “I’ll tell her.”

“No. I will,” I said. I noticed Ryo shot me a look, so I explained. “She’s going to be mad enough for me not telling her sooner.”

He shrugged and turned back to the window.

“It may put her further in danger,” Haru said. “Are you sure this is what you want to do?”

I nodded. “You have all trusted me with your secret. Until now, I haven’t told a soul, not even my own mother. Speaking of which, where is my mom?”

“She insisted life goes on and went to work,” Chi replied. “Haru tried to get her to take some time off to mourn, but she insisted.”

“Does she know what happened at school?”

“Not yet,” answered Luhan. “Oddly enough, no one has called to inform her.”

I shook my head. “That’s strange.”

“They may already have the principal in their pocket.”

“Or my guidance counselor.”

“Whoever their clan leader is, he is powerful,” Chi said. “ He’s spreading his influence pretty rapidly. To have lured Lazenby to the boiler room took some doing. After all, She was already under Ryo’s influence.”

Luhan agreed. “He probably has some lieutenants in training or place already. Only someone moving up in power could have done this. It was possibly someone she never thought to fear before. Maybe another teacher.”

“If they are going after every one connected to us, someone needs to bring my mom home. I don’t care what we tell her, but we need to keep her safe. If they take her, I won’t have any family left.”

“Tomoko is watching over her,” Haru said. “He’ll make sure she is protected.”

I thought back to the attack on the house. What I had seen as I looked back on the stairs, how Tomoko had changed into something dark and terrible to take on the intruders ensured me mom would be okay. But Angela wouldn’t be. She was alone at home, probably upset that Ryo had carried me off into the sunset.

“I need to call Angela and get this over with,” I said. “Where’s my cell?”

Chi turned around in her chair and picked it up off my desk. “Here,” she said and tossed it to me. I caught it easily, which surprised me somewhat. Usually I couldn’t catch anything except a cold.

I woke the cell up, thinking after letting Ang know the truth I sure would like to ship her and Ryo somehow. Before I could press her name in my contacts list, the phone rang. The screen came up with her number. “Wow, she’s calling me,” I said and answered it. “Hi Angela, I was just…”

“Icarus,” a sinister voice interrupted me. “If you want your friend unchanged and unharmed, tell your toothy friends they are not welcome here. It is time for them to leave or there will be more pain than you can imagine.”

I looked at my vampire friends and put the caller on speaker.

“We have already taken your father,” he continued unaware. “We have also taken your teacher, delicious as she was. Now who do we have to take next?” He hesitated a second. “Perhaps this blond hair morsel who secretly dreams lust for a vampire? Her hair is already turning silver from her fear.” He laughed, and if I could I would have bit him through the phone. I looked at both Haru and Ryo. Haru had a fixed grim look on his face. Ryo looked like he could eat someone for dinner. Twice.

“What do you want from me?” I asked the caller.

“You will surrender yourself to us. You should be my queen. It has always been destined, even before they came. So you get rid of them or Angela dies. Then your mom and anyone else I choose.” He laughed again, but there was no mirth in it, only evil promise. Whoever the caller was, they were either completely turned so that none of their human self was left or…

“Are you the master?” I blurted out, suddenly afraid.

“I’m going to be YOUR master,” he chuckled, and for a moment his voice sounded familiar, yet I couldn’t place where I had heard it before.

Ryo couldn’t be quiet any longer. “You’re going to be fucking dead is what you’re going to be,” he snarled.

“Ah, speaker phone. Brilliant, Nora. Tell you what….Ryo, is it…I’m going to rip this bimbo’s head off and set it on my desk if you don’t go away. Or perhaps I’ll give her the sweet burning taste of fire like I did your history hottie.”

Before Ryo could respond, the caller hung up. I looked at Ryo, knowing he would explode into a rage any minute now. Instead he walked calmly back to the window, though his very anger seemed to permeate the room. “This isn’t going to be war,” he whispered between clenched teeth. “I’m going to massacre every last one of them.”

While Ryo was allowed to seethe quietly, I told them about the first part of the conversation, where the caller had demanded I tell them to leave or else. At this, they seemed to confer silently among themselves just by looking at each other.

“Were not leaving,” Haru said after a moment. “We are going to find them and get Angela back.”

“Then they die,” Ryo asserted.

“Not until we find their master,” Luhan suggested. “Because that wasn’t him. That was a kid.”

Any other time this would have sounded funny coming from him. He was, after all, the shortest, youngest looking vampire of our little group.

“Somebody from school?” I asked.

“I don’t think so. You probably would have noticed something off earlier. To be placed with this kind of responsibility and power would take time, unless the master thought they had exceptional potential.”

“Any other bullies at school besides Amanda and her pals?” Ryo asked, still fuming over the recent turn of events.

“No. I can’t think of anyone. No one I have a problem with anyway.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “Whoever it is, we’ll find them.”

“We need to act fast or they could kill Angela,” Chi added. “Where would they be keeping her?”

Haru stood up. “The safest place would be in their lair. Wherever they make home. It would be the most protected.”

“Maybe somewhere high up,” I offered weakly.

“Why would you think that?”

“I don’t know. I keep trying to figure out why I keep getting called Icarus. This is like the third time someone has said that word to me. My guidance counselor said he was a figure in Greek mythology that was punished for flying too high or something. I was going to ask Miss Lazenby because Miss Thomas suggested I talk to my history teacher about….hey, wait a minute. Do you think she knew already? About Lazenby?”

Luhan nodded thoughtfully. “She could have been making a dare she knew would never be achieved. It’s amazing how those under this vampire master’s control like to taunt their adversaries.”

“Icarus made wings to fly,” Chi said. “His father told him not to fly too close to the sun. But he was proud and would not listen. His wings burned and he crashed to the earth.”

“Perhaps he’s saying if you hang too close to vampires….us, I mean…then you’ll burn and die.”

I looked at Haru. “Then it’s a threat, so to speak?”

He nodded. “The question is why does he want us gone?”

“And who is he?” Chi added.

“When you found Bram he didn’t give any clue at all to his identity?” I asked, knowing they had already told me his brain had been scrambled like morning eggs.

“No,” answered Haru. “He was effectively silenced.”

“To keep us from finding his master,” Ryo affirmed.

“So then we have no idea?” I asked, looking at each one of them. It wasn’t lost on me that Chi wouldn’t look at me. I remembered early on, even before my father was killed, she had suggested she might know who it was.

 Before my mind could expand on that thought, Luhan spoke up. “No,” he said. “We don’t. But Icarus is the clue. The caller is taunting Nora. Daring her to figure out who he is.” He looked directly at me. “I don’t think he is referring to you as Icarus.”

 “Is Icarus a clue to his own identity then?” Haru asked.

Luhan nodded, but then Ryo turned to us all, a look of revelation upon his face. “No,” he said. “It’s the location of his lair. Where he’s been hiding all this time. Icarus may have been best known for flying too close to the sun, but he is associated with something else as well.”

“And what is that?” I asked.

“The labyrinth. His father constructed it, just as he had also constructed the wings for Icarus. Perhaps that tells two things . The master who has come to assemble an army here or whatever is merely a pawn of a greater master. Vampire clans follow a chain of command. We may be seeing the creation of several levels of it here, but it doesn’t mean this is where it began.”

“And the other thing?”

“The master we seek is hiding in a labyrinth. It is home to him, and is probably where he holds court….and Angela.”

“I’m a little lost,” I said. “What’s a labyrinth exactly? The only one I’ve heard of is a Jim Henson movie.”

Luhan grinned. “Well you’re halfway to understanding then. In Greek mythology, Daedalus, the father of Icarus, built a huge stone maze to house the Minotaur, a fearsome beast, half man and half bull.”

Haru patted my hand. “I don’t think the beast is what’s important here. Eventually, maybe so, but right now it’s all about the labyrinth. We need to find it.”

Chi shook her head. “I’ve been all around this town since we’ve been here. There’s no maze or labyrinth in Chelsea Valley.”

This seemed to silence everyone, but it gave me the needed moment to think. “You know, maybe there is,” I said.

“Where ?”

“Out by the lake, close to where everyone goes swimming, there’s an old mine shaft. It’s called Devil’s Hole. It’s been sealed off for years. As far as I know, it’s completely blocked, but dad used to tell me how in his college days he and his friends used to go exploring there. I remember because he said it was a maze of shafts, and easy to get lost in. He even said there was a big chamber somewhere in all that where they’d all go and smoke pot.”

“Pot,” Luhan said, a little nostalgic. “I remember that. Couldn’t stand it. I’d go to drink from someone’s neck and bite the top of their head instead. Major vampire impairment.”

“Do you know the precise location of Devil’s Hole?” interjected Haru.

“I’ve never been there. But we can find it.”

“I’m not sure you should go,” he replied.

“I’m a big girl now. I think I’ve shown I can handle myself.”

“These aren’t bullies at school, Nora. These are new vampires. Their lust for blood is uncontrollable. They aren’t like us.”

I looked around the room at my friends. “But they have made it clear they aren’t going to kill me. I’m supposed to be queen or something.”

“Like hell,” Haru said between clenched teeth.

For a moment I reveled in his protectiveness. I know most girls like to get their guys jealous, but there’s nothing hotter than a possessive vampire boy. I couldn’t help but smile inside where he couldn’t see.

“We all should go,” Chi said. “We’re going to need everyone we can get.” She looked at me and smiled. “Just don’t stake the wrong vampire.”

I know it was probably the wrong time to think so, but at the moment I wanted to stake Haru to the floor with my body. I’m not sure if Ryo picked up on this thought or if he was just getting impatient, but either way he interrupted my very pleasant daydream.

“If The Devil’s Hole has been sealed for years and is no longer in use, how did the master even know it was there? He can’t have been here for very long.”

“Someone told him about it?” Chi suggested.

“Possibly.”

“Or perhaps the master is from Chelsea Valley,” Luhan replied. “He’s been here all this time and no one has known it.”

I shook my head. “I don’t keep up with the news much, but I know we don’t get many disappearances or cattle with loss of blood.”

“He could go elsewhere for his food supply. He’s been biding his time for now, living among everyone here, but now he’s ready to make it vampire army central.”

“Maybe,” said Haru. “But if he wants to take over Chelsea Valley, I think that’s just a stepping stone to something else.”

“Right now we need to focus on Angela,” Chi reminded us. “She’s become an unwilling, and certainly unprepared, pawn in all this.

“Yeah,” agreed Ryo. “So are we going to the labyrinth or not?”

I walked over to my closet, where minutes earlier Luhan had been inspecting my clothes like an envious diva. I reached into the back of the cluttered space and pulled out my dad’s vampire kit. I slung it on the bed and opened it. I grabbed my dad’s favorite stake and a vial of holy water.

“Yeah, we’re going,” I said.

“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2016, 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Vampire Boys Of Summer: Chapter 29

Vampire Boys Of Summer Main Page

Chapter 29: Fixing Nora & A Sort Of Meeting

I was adrift on an ocean, buoyed by the right to left motion of the waves. The rhythm of the sea made everything seem there was order in all the chaos of the moment. I managed to open an eye to see the blue sky above me. I felt as if I could drift up and light on the clouds if not for the life preserver that kept me safely in its confines. A life preserver named Ryo.

I turned my head and could see his face above me. He wasn’t looking down at me, but stared straight ahead as the waves threatened to rock me back into unconsciousness. I told myself I wasn’t on the ocean, but was being rocked back and forth by Ryo’s stride as he carried me down an unknown street. This thought was interrupted by the pain that was in my closed eye, spreading out behind it and across my face. It was going to be an awful bruise. One thing I could say for Amanda is she has a powerhouse punch. And horrible tasting blood. I could still taste it lingering in my mouth and on my teeth. I was going to need a whole freaking bottle of mouthwash to rid myself of it.

My head pounded from where I’d been hit with the metal chair, and my arm, back, and shoulder throbbed with a dull ache that seemed to be growing rather than diminishing. Trying to still it, I turned my face towards Ryo’s chest. His natural scent was earthy and it made me think of lying on cool, green moss awaiting the morning dew.

I closed my eyes and dreamed of indiscernible lovers naked in a fog, wrapped in the flesh, turning over and over in a shallow creek bed. One of them had a tattoo that read “loveless”, the other looked remarkably like me. It wasn’t my dream. I didn’t want it. I wanted Haru. I wanted to open my eyes and see that I was wrong. Ryo hadn’t carried me out of the school in his strong arms, it had been Haru. But when my eyes did open, I was laying on a velveted divan in a strange room and Haru wasn’t here. No one was, but myself and a shadow in the corner, sitting on the floor away from the sunlight that tried to peak through the curtains.

I tried to sit up, but I couldn’t. It hurt too much. My head, my eye, my whole body felt as if it couldn’t move without sending a wave of pain through me. The shadow got up and walked towards me. Coming into the feeble light, I saw the hairless chest, tattooed and toned, before his face came into view. Ryo, his long black hair covering one eye, tried to smile, but he too seemed to be in some form of pain, or perhaps just indecision.

“Nora,” he spoke softly. “It doesn’t appear you have had a good day.”

I shook my head and looked around the room the best I could. I knew I wasn’t home, or at Haru’s, or even the Winston house where Ryo had taken up residence. The room appeared too feminine and girly for any of those places. Pink and violet dominated the walls. Unicorn artwork and sculpture, interspersed with walls and walls of books filled up the empty spaces. A chandelier was decorated with dangling multi colored streamers giving one the effect a rainbow was overhead.

“Where am I?”

“You’re at my master’s house. Against my better judgement maybe, but we’re just going to have to trust you. “

“You can trust me.”

He frowned. “We’ll see.”

He then reached under my head and carefully removed the pillow I was resting on. As he began to put it on I realized it wasn’t a pillow at all, but his ruffled white lace shirt. He buttoned it halfway and started to roll up the sleeves.

“Why am I here?” I asked .

“It was the safest place to bring you. Move over.”

At first I didn’t understand what he meant, so when I didn’t move, his dark, smoldering eyes met mine. In a low serious voice he whispered, “I need to sit beside you.”

With a little effort, and quite a bit of pain, I slid over so he had room to sit beside my stretched out form on the divan.

“It seems your life is in serious jeopardy,” he said, taking the seat. “Teachers and students alike want you dead, while rookie vampires attack you at Haru’s. I’m sure they know where I live, so this was the best place to take sanctuary. No one knows where we are.” He let that sink in for a moment before continuing. “I didn’t even know until today. The master believes in moving around…often.”

“Is your master here?”

“Yes.”

The look on his face told me he had disdain for not being his own master, to having to answer to another. “Will I meet him?” I asked.

“No.”

“Then why did you bring me here?”

“Nora Williams, you ask a lot of questions of the one who just wants to help you.”

“But why do you want to help me?”

He stumbled over the answer. “Because…I…I believe Haru would want me to.”

I didn’t believe that was his whole reason, but I let it go. “Where is Haru?”

“He’s at your house making sure it is safe for you to go home.”

I closed my eyes. With my father’s passing, I wasn’t expecting things to get so complicated and dangerous. “I didn’t think it was going to be like this, “ I said.

“Things are a lot different for all of us.” He looked at me, a serious gleam in his eye. “Nora, this is going to be weird, but just bear with me.”

He reached out with his open palm and placed it against my bad eye. For a moment it rested there, just long enough for it make me feel uncomfortable, and then I felt the pull. It was a gentle tug at my skin, as if the blood in my body was trying to rise to Ryo’s touch. His hand moved in a slow, circular pattern, moving outward from the area of my eye, then spread even further by drawing straight lines across my face north, south, east, and west. It felt as if something within me was moving with his hand. It was a strange, almost sensual feeling, as if he were a magnet attracting steel, and moving it where he wanted.

“What are you doing?” I asked nervously, a hot flush coming over my body from my face down to my knees.

“I’m manipulating your blood.”

“Why?”

“You got hit pretty hard. Normally there would be a very bad bruise, black all around your eye. I think she popped a few vessels in your face, too. That could leave permanent discoloration, but I’m fixing that.”

“You’re healing me?”

He nodded. “Something like that.”

“Can all of you do that?”

“No. Just the Alpha’s.”

I knew this was his way of saying, if you want to get healed, I’m your only hope. I was glad that he was doing it for me, but I feared what the price would be.

“Where else do you hurt?”

“Nowhere,” I lied. “Just the eye.”

He sighed and gave me a look of exasperation. “Why don’t you want me to help you?”

I was afraid to tell him the truth, but he already knew.

“I’m not going to demand anything of you, Nora. I just want to help. No strings.” He held out his arms and made a show of checking up his sleeves. “See?”

“You’re not that generous.”

“You’d be surprised how generous I can be. Now tell me, where else does it hurt?”

I reached my hand up to touch the back of my head. I winced from the pain, as it pulled the muscles of my arm and shoulder in the process.

“Everywhere then, “ he said with a lecherous wink.

“Ryo…”

Before I could get another word out, he shushed me and put his hands on my head. I felt his long fingers move across my hair, entwining close to the roots, the tips of them touching my skull. There was a slight tug and it was almost exciting. With his fingers in my hair, he leaned so close I could almost feel his breath in my scalp. I closed my eyes and tried to think of other things.

His hands moved down to the back of my neck, across my shoulder and upper back. The whole while I felt the pull, could imagine the blood flowing inside of me at Ryo’s command. It sent a pleasant chill down my spine and made me catch my breath before it could get away from me. A knot grew in my stomach, an oddly sweet queasiness that embarrassed me. I didn’t want to feel excited by his touch and I demanded my body not to want this.

As if knowing my very thoughts, Ryo’s hands moved from my back to sweep down my arm, the warm rush racing after his fingers. The movement made me shudder in my skin, as his fingertips reached my hand. He stopped and for the very briefest of moments, his fingers laced with mine, before pulling away from me in one sharp motion, breaking the connection with the blood in my body cold turkey. The hot flush within me threatened to chase after his touch, but the feeling passed quickly.

“See?” He said. “That wasn’t too bad, was it?”

I dared to look at him. He was sweating, as if it had taken a lot of energy to heal me. “No, I guess not,” I replied.

He smiled weakly and sat there a moment, his eyes roaming over his handiwork. His close inspection made me feel a little naked and exposed, but I endured it. He got up and walked over to a bureau, where he picked up a large ornate hand mirror and brought it over to me.

“Go ahead, take a look.”

I took the mirror and inspected my face. I don’t know what I expected, if anything, but I gasped at my reflection. There wasn’t a single trace of bruising. In fact, my face looked as if it had never taken a punch. The skin was unblemished, except for a mark that was left behind behind acne back from the seventh grade.

“Sorry, I cant do anything about that,” he explained.

“It’s okay. I’m..wow, Ryo..this is amazing.”

He smiled brighter than I’d ever seen him before. “I’m pleased you like it, “ he said. “But this doesn’t mean you can go picking fights all summer, okay?”

I laughed. “Okay. But this time wasn’t my fault.”

“Well, I think the girl will think twice before assaulting you again. Her neck is definitely going to bear a mark. I guess Haru is teaching you well.”

I blushed and realized this was the first time Ryo and I had laughed together. I’m not sure how I felt about that, but at least the tension that had been in the room was now missing.

“Well,” he said, “I sort of lied when I said I expected nothing in return.”

The tension returned and I froze. I should have known. I should never have trusted him.

“Unfortunately, you cannot know where the master lives. I’m sorry, but those are the rules.”

Before I could even reply and say I would never reveal the location, his hand shot towards my chest, and he placed his palm flat against the skin between my breasts. I felt nothing but the hot rush through my body, moving like a mixture of electricity and blood, somewhere between pain and pleasure, and then I was in darkness, unaware of my fate.

I woke in familiar surroundings. Both of my eyes fluttered open to be greeted to the sight of Asian rock bands and anime characters on my bedroom walls. Some had been there previously, others looked new, including the sketch I had made of Haru. My computer was on and streamin “Heartache”, a song by the Japanese rock band One Ok Rock. The strange thing about it was I had been dreaming about that very song.

Ryo had been in the dream, healing me as he had done in real life. Except here he was telling me it caused him such pain knowing that would be the only way he could touch me. To have me only in a dream. Perhaps that sounds vain on my part, but one does not control the nature of our dreams. I began to wonder if it was even me in the dream. Maybe I was dreaming I was someone else, like the girl he had liked long ago. The one Haru had accidentally killed while trying to turn her. Before I awoke Ryo had been leaning over me and saying in a sing song voice, “They say time takes away the pain, but I’m still the same,” directly referencing the song that I awoke to.

Fully awake, I now looked around my bedroom. It was crowded. My beloved Haru, sat on the floor beside my bed, as close to me as he could possibly be without sitting on the bed itself. Chi sat in the chair at my desk, her long legs straddling it in the same way Haru had done on nights he watched me sleep. Luhan was at my closet, rifling through my clothes, nodding his head in approval at some, shaking his head in disagreement over others. Ryo stood at the open window like a statue, his back to me and looking out onto the night. He was definitely one who liked the nocturnal hours because he seemed to be taking in deep breaths of the cool air and exhaling it slowly as if he were practicing some form of vampiric meditation.

“Hi,” I muttered, trying to address them all at once.

Haru got up from the floor and leaned over me, planting a long kiss upon my cheek. “Baby, you’re awake,” he sighed, the relief in his eyes belying his worry. I wasn’t sure but I think it was the first time he had ever called me baby or any other pet name.

“I’m home,” I replied. “I missed you.”

Through I didn’t think my injuries had been that bad before Ryo fixed them, Haru looked on the verge of tears. “I missed you, too.” He wiped a tear that was forming in the corner of his eye. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to watch over you. I never should have made you go to school.”

“You didn’t make me. I wanted to go.”

“You didn’t learn much though, did you?” Said Ryo without turning from the window.

I turned my head in his direction. “I learned nearly everyone is coming under a dark power. I learned, or I suspect , that those who attacked the house last night are new vampires, as none of them showed up for school today in the daylight. I learned it’s never too late to patch things up with your friends and that sometimes help comes from the unlikeliest of places.” I stared at the back of his head, wishing he would turn around and face me. “How’s that for learning, Ryo?”

He shrugged his shoulders but did not turn around. “Whatever.”

Chi spoke up. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help you, Nora. Luhan and I both were distracted and we didn’t realize the attacks would come from humans under the influence.”

I wasn’t going to let her off the hook that easy. “What distracted you?”

“Your teacher, Miss Lazenby.”

“She wasn’t at school today,” I replied, and for a moment it seemed to take her off guard as I caught her in her lie.

Still she smiled graciously and answered me in a tone that was both corrective and regretful. “Yes she was, Nora. But she never made it to class. She was down in the boiler room.”

When I gave her a confused look, Luhan closed my closet door and added, “She was burnt to a crisp.”

I was in shock. Now I knew why Ryo wa staring out the window and not saying anything nice to anyone. It was his way of dealing with the loss.

“Someone or something lured her down there before school began,” Chi explained. “Then they lured us down to find her at the exact moment you were assaulted in the cafeteria.”

Luhan shook his head as if he couldn’t believe they fell into the trap. “It served two purposes,” he said. “Get rid of one of our allies and make the way for you to be attacked, possibly even killed if Amanda had succeeded in opening your arm up.”

I was bewildered by all this. I mean, Amanda Trump was a supreme bitch, no doubt about it, but a murderer? I didn’t think she had the guts to kill someone and I told Luhan so.

“She wasn’t herself. Like Mr Sharp she was controlled by someone else.” Luhan then grinned. “You putting the bite on her woke her up. Good job on that, by the way.” He winked at me. “Too bad Haru saw you first.” He blew me a kiss and I rolled my eyes at the little pervert.

Haru finally spoke up. “We found Bram. Ryo and I. But he wasn’t in condition to speak. Somebody scrambled his mind as if they were eggs in a pan.”

To say this news was also bad was an understatement. Bram was the grocery store clerk my father had attacked, believing him to be a vampire. Over time in the hospital, I think dad abandoned that idea and became convinced that Bram was a servant to a darker evil, a shadow figure he had seen him talking to. Information gleaned from that persuaded him a vampire invasion was coming. From the looks of things, he was right. All these things happening at once seemed carefully orchestrated, lining things up for another attack perhaps. Bram might have been able to give us some answers, but we were too late.

“All he could manage to tell us was that he’d been replaced by a school kid,” Haru continued. “He kept mumbling it over and over. We got the impression this vampire master found a better prospect for his right hand man.”

“Are you thinking Amanda Trump?” I asked.

“She would certainly fit the bill with her capacity for cruelty,” Chi replied.

Ryo finally turned around to face us all. “They didn’t have to kill my servant. I had given her life. Everything she ever aspired to be, I granted her. They took it all away. They took her away.”

I saw tears forming in his eyes, but whether they were out of sorrow or rage I couldn’t tell. The only thing I saw in his eyes was the desire for retribution.

“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2016, 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Vampire Boys Of Summer: Chapter 26

Vampire Boys Of Summer Main Page

Chapter 26: The Poisoned & The Saved

Mom was lying on the bed sound asleep. My first instinct was to wake her and alert her to the fact the house was under attack. But Tomoko had warned me not to, so instead I closed and locked the door. Bracing my back against it, with dad’s wooden stake in hand, I listened for sounds of approaching attackers. I couldn’t believe they were vampires. My new next door neighbors were one thing, but these were kids I’d gone to school with for ages. My seventh grade crush was out there. So was Amanda Trump’s boyfriend. As I had watched them come across the yard minutes ago, I recognized a few of the other guys were from the football team. Not that I would ever have associated with them, but I knew who they were. And they weren’t vampires. They couldn’t be. But what had been the shadow figure Tomoko had fought at the bottom of the stairs? I couldn’t see any of the students at school, no matter how bad they were, breaking into someone’s house armed with baseball bats. Something certainly wasn’t right in Chelsea Valley.

From downstairs came the sound of breaking glass again. Indecipherable shouts echoed through the house. I didn’t know how many intruders were inside now, but Tomoko was alone against them all. I looked at my mother on the bed. She was curled up in a fetus position, sleeping more peacefully than she ever had before. One could never tell she’d just lost her husband. If only Tomoko and his clan could take her memories and wipe them clean so she would never know the pain of losing someone close. I took a deep breath, knowing what I had to do. Even if it caused mother to lose someone else, I couldn’t leave Tomoko alone to fight them all. I gripped my stake tight and threw open the bedroom door.

I stepped back in alarm. Two boys were in the hall, leaning against the doorframe. One of them was tall, lanky, with long blond hair. I didn’t recognize him as anyone from school. The other one I knew. His name was Jake, or maybe Alan, I couldn’t remember. He was in my History class. Sat in the back and was always making smart ass comments to the teacher and fellow students alike. None of the girls liked him. He had greasy dark hair, fierce acne, and bad breath. Except now, in the bedroom doorway, he had none of that. His hair was healthy and perfectly styled. Every trace of acne was gone. And his breath was…well, that hadn’t changed. It could still knock you down.

“Hi there, Nora,” he spoke, stepping towards me. “Something tells me you are going to miss the last day of school.”

The other guy laughed, tossing his blond hair back with his hand as if he wanted me to notice he was beautiful or something. He wasn’t.

Jake, Alan, whatever his name was, looked beyond me. “Oh wow, who’s bedroom is this?”

I didn’t hesitate. I brought the stake up and drove it into his flesh. He howled, but I had missed my mark. Instead of his heart, I’d gotten his shoulder. He shoved me with the flat of his hand. I stumbled backwards and tripped over my own feet. I broke my fall as best as I could, but I still landed with a thud on the hard floor. It almost knocked the wind out of me, but I rolled under the bed to get away from him, as he stalked into the room. He grasped the handle of the stake and pulled it out of his shoulder.

“Now that hurt, bitch,” he growled. “I’m going to show you how it feels.”

He knelt down and looked under the bed. With a grin he reached for me. Grasping the bottom of the box springs, I thrust myself towards him feet first. He wasn’t expecting me to come to him easy, so it was a surprise when I kicked him in the face.

“I’ll get her,” Blondie said, and came around the other side. He too knelt down to look under the bed, but I wasn’t in a position to defend myself on that side. He grabbed a handful of my hair and began to haul me out. I screamed.

The vampire with the now bruised face had gotten to his feet. He shut the bedroom door and locked it. Turning around to face me, he grinned and hefted the stake in his hand. Blondie had pulled me to my feet and held my arms behind my back.

“I could stake you in the shoulder too,” Jake hissed. “Or maybe my aim will be true and I’ll get your heart.” He walked towards us and stopped right in front of me. He put the point of the stake against my chest. “But it would be a waste not to take a taste first.”

I wasn’t sure if he meant my blood, or something else, but either way I struggled in the grip of Blondie, trying to break free. It was no use. These two had me where they wanted me. I looked at mom passed out on the bed and frowned.

The vampire noticed, and followed my eyes to rest on my mother’s prone form. “Or perhaps,“ he said, “I’ll take it from someone else.” He grinned. “Hello Mommy.”

“No, please don’t,” I begged. “You can have me, but leave her alone.”

He laughed in his throat and threw the stake down on the bed beside mom. Then, he knelt over her. He straddled her on the mattress. “A little old for me, but blood is blood they say.” He let out a triumphant howl and thrust his face against her neck. His teeth sunk into flesh, but she still did not wake from the assault. I hoped where he bit her it wouldn’t leave too big a scar.

He drank deep and Blondie let out a loud whooping yell as if his favorite team had just scored. I held my breath and eyed the stake on the bed. Even if I could break free, I’d never reach it before Jake did. Still, the triumphant vampire was distracted by the taste of fresh blood. He licked his lips and I could see Mother’s blood on his tongue. He attacked her neck again, and I could hear this horrible sucking sound as he indulged his uncontrollable blood lust.

I struggled in Blondie’s grip again, but he held me tight and laughed. “Maybe I will just take me a bite too,” he said. I could feel his hot, pungent breath on the back of my neck. “I bet you taste so…”

Just then, Jake began to gag. Blondie looked at him. “Slow down, dude,” he admonished, before realizing something was wrong. Blood dripped down Jake’s chin and he seemed to be trying to spit the rest out of his mouth.

“Whats the matter?” I asked. “Get some bad blood?”

Jake looked up, a look of alarm in his eyes. “What did you do?” he hissed, still trying to rid himself of mother’s blood.

Blondie shoved me and pushed me towards the bed. Jake rose up, reaching for me, and then the first convulsion hit, twisting and contorting his body like he was a gymnast in the Cirque du Soleil. He fell back on the bed screaming, and with his hands tried to wipe the blood from his lips. He put his fingers inside his mouth trying to get it off his tongue but the convulsions were so bad he bit off his own fingers. He retched and gagged, rolling off the bed and onto the floor where his body spasmed, legs and arms flailing about.

Blondie let me go and ran to his friend. That was the only break I needed. I jumped on the bed and grabbed the stake. Blondie, who was kneeling at his friend’s side, was busy trying to hold him down. He didn’t notice when I launched myself from the bed. Jake exploded.

It’s not just a figure of speech to say it was like a bomb going off inside him. Perhaps the poison Tomoko had spoken of reacted that way. All I know was I was leaping over Jake towards Blondie when it happened. The force blew us in opposite directions, and we were followed by body parts and blood. I was colored crimson and the stench of Jake’s insides filled the room.

Blondie was too stunned to do anything but to try and back pedal away from his friend’s putrid remains. His eyes darted in my direction and a newfound fury crossed his face. He started to get to his feet when the bedroom door burst open behind him. Haru’s other uncle, The jigsaw puzzle man, entered the room. His once dark eyes were now aflame, his pale, unnatural skin contrasting against the blood that dripped from his lips and chin to paint his once white shirt. He opened his mouth and an unholy moan escaped his throat. The only teeth he had were his fangs, but it was enough. Before any of us could react he grabbed Blondie and bit down into the top of his head. There was a sickening crunch and I too screamed, as Jigsaw clutched Blondie with fingernails and fangs. Blondie screamed and tried to get away, but it was no use. His struggles were a futile attempt. Blood seemed to rush through his horrified eyes on its way to the the top of his head. But the puzzle man wasn’t just taking his blood; he seemed to be taking everything, draining Blondie to an empty husk.

I couldn’t look anymore and did the only thing I could to escape the horror. I passed out.

I don’t know how long I was out but when I awoke, I was naked and back home under the covers in my own bed. At first I thought I had been dreaming the whole thing, for when I opened my eyes I saw that Haru was straddling the chair at my desk watching me. He smiled.

“Welcome back,” he said. “I thought I was going to have to wake you. It’s only a couple more hours until school.”

I raised a hand to my head. I had something of a migraine with the smell of blood still in my nostrils. “It’s the last day. I could skip.”

He nodded. “Yes, you could.” He got up and walked over to the bed. “But it might be a good idea to go. Keep up appearances and maybe see who is who. I’m curious to know if anyone knows what happened last night.”

“I’m not sure myself.”

He sat down on the bed beside me. “Nora, I am sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

“I wasn’t here to protect you as promised. They split us up on purpose, hoping my uncles were too weak to defend anyone.”

I had to laugh. I didn’t think his uncles were weak in any shape or form. If anything, they were downright terrifying.

“What do you mean split us up?”

“The trail of victims was designed to lead us out of town, all the way to the asylum. They knew we’d never get back in time when we realized it had been a ruse.”

“A ruse? Do you mean there wasn’t a trail of dead victims?”

He shook his head. “No, there was. But there was no reason for it, other than to lure us away. Well, except for the last victim.”

He didn’t have to say who that was. The bodies had led them all the way to the asylum. And to my father.

Haru hung his head. “I am sorry. He didn’t deserve to die like that.”

“To die like what?”

He looked away. “Never mind that. Chi will accompany you to school. Luhan will be there too. They won’t let anything happen.”

“Tell me, Haru.”

“Tell you what?”

“How my father died. The hospital said he hung himself. What really happened?”

He hesitated a moment and then kissed my cheek. Perhaps he thought it would bring comfort.

“Please,” I pleaded. “I have to know.”

Haru looked like he was about to cry. He barely knew my father. The tears he was fighting wasn’t for him though. They were for me. He took a deep breath and then told me the truth.

“He was hung. But he didn’t do it himself. They strung him up.”

“Vampires?”

“Unfortunately yes. I’m sorry.”

“It wasn’t you or your family,” I replied. I moved closer to him on the bed and the covers fell away. My nakedness didn’t bother me. “I guess dad was right. They were coming for him.”

Haru took me in his arms and I lay my head on his shoulder. The closeness cried for his comfort and I let the tears come.

“It’s okay,” he whispered, and his voice was soothing and resolute. I knew he was right. It would be okay. Maybe not right now, but soon. “We’ll find them,” he promised.

“What happened to the ones who attacked your house?”

“Most of them fled. Probably back to their master. There were a few casualties, but you already know that.”

“Yes,” I agreed, remembering the vampires in my room and their horrible fates.

“My uncles held their own. I knew they would.”

“I hope they weren’t the ones who brought me home and got me naked.”

I could feel his smile against my cheek. “No, that was me. Sorry, but I had to burn your clothes. They were covered in blood and stuff.”

I closed my eyes on the thought of exploding Jake and Blondie with fangs crunching through his skull. I shivered and Haru’s lips kissed my neck. It calmed my nerves and relaxed me to the point where he too could have bit and drank from me. But he didn’t. He just held me close and rocked me in his arms until it was time for school.
“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2017 Paul D Aronson.

Vampire Boys Of Summer Chapter 25 

Vampire Boys Of Summer Main Page

Chapter 25: Dad’s Gone, But Tomoko’s Here

If it were near silent before, now all sound seemed to have dropped away. They say it’s something that occurs with shock, as if the entire world has collapsed beneath your feet and you are on the precipice of becoming nothing yourself. The news of my father’s death wasn’t met with disbelief. The moment she said it I knew it was true. I didn’t need the discarded phone on the bed to tell me the hospital had called.

For a few moments there was nothing but this big chasm between mom and I, and then I was holding her, letting her clutch me close, my tears and tortured cries meeting her own. All kinds of thoughts ran through my head. Feelings of remorse and regret. Anger and sorrow. Confusion and moments I would never get back.

When I found my voice, I asked the inevitable. “What happened?”

Mom couldn’t say. On the first attempt she choked up. “He hung himself.”

“Hung himself? But why? He was fine yesterday.”

“They said he left a note that said he couldn’t take the ridicule anymore and the effect his paranoia had on us.”

I pulled away from her so I could see if she was being serious or not. That was not dad at all. I didn’t want to say as much to her, but it was more believable he had hung himself out of the fact he had lost his wife and would never see home again as it once was. And yet even that didn’t ring true for me. In fact, I couldn’t see dad hanging himself at all. It was just so out of character, distressed or not.

I tried to wipe the tears from my face, but despite the questions that were now rising up in my mind, the loss of my father demanded my sorrow. It also told me I needed to be here for mom. Different things would hit her soon enough. When she had time to reflect, I imagine her thoughts would lead her into all the things that had went wrong between them, and how if they had handled things different, he may not have taken his life. And that thought in itself returned me to my suspicions.

“I’m going to get us some tissues,” I said.

I got up and stepped out into the hall. Taking a deep breath, I tried to clear my head. It was no use. I went into the bathroom and closed the door behind me. I sat on the toilet seat and put my head in my hands, letting go of my tears and voicing my anguish with a cry to the ceiling. I knew mother could hear me, but I didn’t care. This was my own personal sadness. No one understands how the loss of a parent is to a child. Even more so when that parent had the biggest hand in raising you. This was not an “everything’s going to be alright” moment. This was the end of all things, or at least the beginning of it.

By the time I had composed myself and grabbed some extra tissues for mom, she was already on the phone calling whatever relatives my father had. I had never met anyone from his side of the family, but he had mentioned an estranged brother once. I always had the impression that my dad was and had been a loner most of his life. In the few years before his vampire troubles, he hadn’t been sociable with co workers or neighbors. No backyard barbecues, baseball games, or bowling nights. He was as a man without friends. That had never occurred to me then, but now with his death I began to see just how alone he had been. Did mom and I make him lonelier? Was this the life he had wanted? These were not the burning questions however. The biggest mother of all questions at this point in time was if he really killed himself. One look at his past might suggest yes, but after yesterday’s visit, I would say no. In fact, yesterday he was convinced someone was coming for him. Vampires.

I left the extra tissues for mom and headed to my room. I needed space to breathe and think. I also needed to retrieve dad’s vampire kit. After all, if vampires had come for him, it was a possibility they might come here next. And something told me it wouldn’t be Haru or Ryo. It was beginning to look like there might be some truth to dad’s colony theory, and if so I needed to prepare myself.

The vampire kit wasn’t very elaborate. An old battered briefcase stuffed with things dad had felt would be useful in event of an attack. There were two stakes, one wooden, the other made from heavy steel. The steel one contributed most of the weight to the case, and appeared to be an old railroad spike, the kind they used to nail the railway ties to the ground. There was a bible, a crucifix, vials of what I could only guess was holy water, and a sealed Tupperware container. I didn’t have to pop the top of the container to know what was inside. Garlic. I wasn’t sure how much protection the garlic or any of the Christian items would provide. I didn’t even know what kind of vampires we were dealing with, but I felt certain the stakes would come in handy.

With the kit laid out on the bed, I debated on what to do. Stay here with mom or return to the safety of Haru’s. I wasn’t sure how I could coax mom to go over there without telling her what was going on. I couldn’t tell her the truth, and yet I didn’t know a good enough lie to get her out of the house and away from the fact dad was gone. Tears threatened to come again at the thought of my father, but they were interrupted by a knock on the door. Not at my bedroom, but at the front of the house. Loud and insistent, it was a banging that was both urgent and menacing at once. I grabbed the wooden stake from the kit and went to see who it was.

“Coming!” I heard mom yell. She was already descending the stairs towards the door.

At the top of the steps I screamed, “No mom! Don’t!”

It was too late. She was at the front door and opening it. I sprinted down the stairs as fast as I could and crossed the room, stake raised. I shoved mom out of the way so I could confront the visitor. A strong hand reached through the open doorway and grabbed my wrist, keeping me from using the stake.

“I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t swing this so wildly as if it were a toy. It can cause considerable harm to an individual.”

It was Haru’s uncle, Tomoko, dressed in his usual pin stripe suit and wing tip shoes. He smiled and released my wrist. Breathing easier, I lowered the weapon.

But mom was furious. Having regained her footing from where I had shoved her aside, she nearly spun me by my shoulders to face her. “What the hell is wrong with you, Nora!”

Before I could answer, she noticed the stake in my hand. “And what is that?!” She looked at Tomoko in the doorway. “Oh my god, I am so sorry. I don’t know what’s gotten into her.”

“It’s quite alright. I have a teenager at home too.” He winked at me, and something in his eyes told me I should just play along.

I didn’t get the chance to however, as mom commanded me to go to my room and “put that damn…whatever it is…away.”

Tomoko put his hand gently on my arm in a gesture that said don’t go anywhere.

“Actually, I came over to invite both of you for some late tea and perhaps a movie. Haru is gone out for the night and I do get so lonely without him in the house.”

He rolled his eyes, but mom didn’t notice. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing.

“I don’t know if it’s a good time, Mr. Tomoko,” mom said. “We just received some very bad news and…”

“That’s the best time to be with friends,” he interjected. “And It’s a wonder how tea can soothe the spirit, and a movie can take your mind off your troubles.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” I said, believing Tomoko really wanted us to come with him right away. I was out the door and on the porch before mother could protest much.

“Well, let me just change real quick. I guess we could come over for a little while.”

“There’s no need to change,” our vampire neighbor replied. “You look great.” He flashed her a smile that was all pearly white teeth and invitation. I couldn’t see his fangs, but knew they were there somewhere. For a brief moment, I wondered if the friendliness he showed my mother was so that he could sink his teeth into her, but that suspicion passed quickly. Tomoko was a true friend and could be trusted. I don’t know how I knew it; I just did.

Days ago mom would have blushed at his compliment, but now with dad’s death so fresh in the mind she just nodded. Stepping out on the porch with us, she closed the door behind her. “Oh wait, I don’t have my keys,” she said.

“I have mine,” I told her, now concealing the wooden stake in my back pocket, before she told me to take it back inside. “Come on, let’s go have some tea.”

We followed Tomoko down the steps and into the yard. Heading across the grass, I linked arms with mom, and she glanced at me. I gave her a reassuring smile. She seemed to like the fact that I was concerned for her, and it made me feel good to act as her protector. It kept my mind off other, darker things. For a moment, my mind turned to someone else I cared for and wished to protect: Angela. I glanced over to the Winston house. There were a few lights on. Ryo had left in a hurry too. Had Angela been over there when he was summoned to join Chi and Haru? Was she over there still? Or was she home, completely oblivious to events swirling around us? I made a mental note to try and call her once we were safely inside the house.

It was then I noticed the car. I don’t know why I hadn’t seen it before. It was sitting at the curb right in front of our house. It was a small black Mazda, and I could see people inside. A flame from a lighter flickered and lit up the driver’s face. Oddly enough, he looked a lot like Charlie Simpkins, my very first boyfriend. I hadn’t seen him much since the seventh grade, and though that was a couple years ago, his face had changed little. There was no mistaking it was him, for he grinned that crooked smile that had first endeared me to him.

Another flame sparked in the back seat. Through the dim light of the flame I saw trouble. Devin McCullough, Amanda Trump’s boyfriend. He too grinned at me, but his look was not endearing at all . He looked like he was fighting the urge to snub his cigarette out on my face.

“Nora,” Tomoko said. “Come on.”

It wasn’t a suggestion, it was a command. I could feel it swirling around in my head, compelling me to forget the car and cross over into the safety of his yard. I had no choice but to follow. Still, the car and its occupants bothered me. When we reached the back porch, I dared to look back. The car was still there, like a sentinel watching and waiting.

We sat in the small kitchen waiting for Tomoko to prepare our tea. He and mom were engaged in a conversation about local politics, something I had no interest in whatsoever. Right now my interest was in the boys sitting outside my house in the black Mazda. What were they doing there? Did Amanda send them to intimidate me? It wouldn’t surprise me if she had. Nothing was beneath her in order to get her revenge. But to send along my very first boyfriend was definitely a flair of genius I didn’t think she had.

I got up and went to the window. Parting the curtains just a bit, I looked out. The black Mazda was still parked outside my house next door, but now it was joined by two others, a gray VW and a blue pickup. In the bed of the pickup sat about half a dozen boys. Normally it would have looked like they were all lining up for a tailgate party, but tonight it took on the appearance of something more mischief minded. In fact, as I stood there watching, the boys climbed out of the pickup, and the gray VW emptied its passengers as well. They started across the lawn, and I noticed some carried baseball bats. They definitely weren’t selling candy bars for the football team to go to camp.

I turned from the window and saw that both our host and my mother were gone. On the table sat a couple cups of tea. One appeared to be half empty, the others untouched.

“Mom?” I called out. “Uncle Tomoko?”

I left the kitchen and walked into the hall. “Mother?”

The hallway was dark, but up the steps I could see a dim light on the landing. I put a foot on the stairs and called out again.

“She’s sleeping,” a voice said from behind me, and I jumped, my hand reaching around for the stake in my back pocket.

“It’s okay, “ Tomoko said. “I gave her something to knock her out. It’s best if she sleeps through this.”

“Through what?” I asked nervously.

Before he could answer, there was the sound of shattering glass from the kitchen. He gripped my arm.

“Don’t worry, it’s just a rock,” he said.

A pounding began on the front door. It was so loud it nearly shook the house. Soon it was joined by another assault on the back porch door. I heard the splintering of wood as if someone was tearing up the deck outside board by board. More shattering glass, this time deeper within the house. I want sure if it was a rock or someone coming in.

“Go up the stairs,“ Tomoko whispered. “Your mother is in Haru’s room. Don’t attempt to wake her. She’s been poisoned.”

“Poisoned?!”

“It won’t kill her. But it will kill them if they attempt to drink from her.”

“What do you mean, drink from her? They aren’t vampires. They go to my school!”

“Well, I guess school is just about out then. Now, go!”

He shoved me towards the staircase and I knew better than to argue. I bounded up the steps two at a time. I didn’t look back until I reached the landing.

Tomoko stood at the foot of the stairs, blocking it from anyone who would follow. I saw a shadow emerge in front of him. The figure brandished a baseball bat and took a swing. The bat shattered against Tomoko’s open hand. His other hand shot out and grabbed the shadow’s throat. He lifted the figure in the air and shook him one time. It was so fast I barely saw the motion, just the outcome. He let the shadow go and it collapsed to the floor. At first, I thought he had killed him, snapped his neck right in two, but then I realized he had just shook him so fast and hard it had sent the assailant direct into unconsciousness.

Tomoko looked up at me. His eyes were red and I was afraid to look at him for long. I bolted down the hallway towards Haru’s room.

“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.


Time Of Our Death Chapter 40 (NaNoWriMo project)

Time Of Our Death

By Paul D Aronson.
Forty
By the time I caught up, they had already wheeled Dawn into emergency and doctors were beginning to work on her. I didn’t know myself how they had lost her in the ambulance, but I guess sometimes the body just gives up after a fight. We had been fighting to keep her awake and alive, and though I believe survival begins in the mind, perhaps she was tired of it all. When one attempts to take their own life , often the will to live has already fled the building.

It was chaos in the room, because being of spirit, you hear both the living and the dead. On the living side, they hadn’t allowed Angie into the room, but instead charged her with trying to locate Dawn’s parents. So she was at the nurses station trying to call everyone she could think of, even her own mother. Over the hospital’s public address system it was like a highway of jumbled traffic, as one doctor was called here, another called there. Waiting patients complained about everything from their pain to the wait time, while telling everyone they could, even other patients, about their ailments. In addition, it was still Halloween, and spirits of the dead were roaming the earth right here in the hospital, under the mistaken belief that this was home. Even in the emergency operating room, a few wandered aimlessly, lost and confused as to what happened to their house, which apparently had once stood on the site of the hospital.

Lori tried to shut them out by concentrating on Dawn. She stayed by her sister’s side and whispered things in her ear that I could not hear from where I stood. I didn’t need to know those kind of particulars anyway. It was easy to see her whispers were pleadings with her to live.

I didn’t know what to do. Maybe there was a way to manipulate their machines, help bring her back to wakefulness and breathing again, but I felt I could do more damage than good. This was definitely a time when only the living could work miracles. The dead, as they always have been, were helpless to alter fate. So I just prayed that fate would work in Dawn’s favor, and the beautiful blue spiraling colors of death would stay outside.

“There it is,” I heard someone say, and for a moment I feared death had gotten in, until another voice added, “I got a heartbeat.”

“Can you hear me?” One of the attendants was saying over Dawn. “We need you to open your eyes, okay?”

I held my breath, as her eyelids fluttered but did not open.

“Heartbeat a little weak, but it’s picking up. We need some oxygen over here.”

Lori, still leaning over her sister, was kissing the girl’s face. “I love you, Dawn. Now I need you to open your eyes and look at me, please. Let these people know you want to live. You don’t want to die. The voices will stop soon, I promise.”

Dawn’s eyelids fluttered again, and slowly opened. They squinted against the bright emergency room lights, but stayed open nonetheless. She tried to speak, but it came out as something between a gasp and a moan.

“Welcome back,” one of the attendants said. “Can you tell us your name?”

“Dawn,“ she whispered breathlessly, staring right through Lori, her eyes focusing on the lights.

“We’re going to give you a little oxygen to help you, okay? Just breathe in naturally.” She put the mask over her face and Dawn managed to slowly take it in.

Lori let out a sigh of relief and turned to look for me. I stepped towards her and put my arm around her. She leaned her head over on my shoulder, exhausted but happy her sister was going to live.

“Sorry about this Dawn,“ I heard a voice say, “but you took a lot of bad stuff and we are going to have to flush it out of you. Have you ever had your stomach pumped?”

The girl slowly shook her head, still breathing through the mask.

The doctor tried to reassure her with a smile. “The good news is it shouldn’t take long. We understand you already threw some of it up. But after this, I don’t think you’ll be wanting to pop a bunch of pills again.”

I recoiled a little. I had heard of the procedure before and had no desire to witness it. “Maybe we should wait outside,” I told Lori, and she allowed me to usher her through the doors and out into the hallway.

Angie was sitting on a bench opposite the ER doors. We sat down next to her, and her worried demeanor made me wish we could tell her that Dawn was going to pull through. Lori looked at her with a proud smile and was just about to pat her on the shoulder, when the double doors opened and one of the ER doctors came out to talk to her.

“Are you the one who came with the O’Donnell girl?” He asked.

“Yes,” Angie replied nervously.

He sighed. “Well, I can’t tell you much, simply because you aren’t a parent or guardian, but I wanted to let you know she’s going to be okay. In a couple days she should be on her feet.” He started to walk away and then stopped. “You did a good job. Quick thinking saves lives. Are you related to her?”

“Yes. Cousin.”

“Well, she is certainly lucky to have a cousin like you.”

I thought Angie was going to burst into tears and hug the guy, but she didn’t. Still, it was easy to see she was very relieved. After all, she had been the one responsible for her while Lori’s mom was gone. Which brought up a new point to wonder, where was Lori’s mom anyway? Or her dad? And where were my parents? I guess I would never figure that one out. Death would be here for Lori and I before they showed up. I have to admit I was pretty disappointed in all that. All this time as a ghost, and my parents had done me one better and apparently left the planet.

A couple of the ER attendants came out of the room next. A pair of thirty something nurses, their hair crammed up into nets and still wearing their sterile gloves, were discussing Dawn in semi hushed tones. “O’Donnell. O’Donnell. Where have I heard that name before?”

Her companion frowned. It was one of those looks that your face took on when discussing lost causes and terminal patients. “Probably from the woman in ICU. Her name is O’Donnell too.”

Lori looked at me. “What woman?” Before I could even ponder the question, the hopeful look on her face fell. “Oh no. Mom.” She sprang to her feet. “That’s why Angie couldn’t find her. She was already here!” She took off down the hall towards the intensive care wing.

I took off after her. “Lori, wait!” Running down the hall, I looked out the rows of windows and saw the blue swirling sky, those colors of death personified, trailing us as we ran. Having lost the opportunity to claim Dawn , perhaps it now was setting sights on Lori’s mom. But what had happened to her? Car wreck? Had that guy she’d been seeing beat her up or something? Or had her distress over losing Lori and the dissolution of her marriage sent her over the edge like Dawn?

We both careened through the closed doors of the intensive care unit. If you’ve ever been in an ICU, you already know it’s really one big room, with small units partitioned off with curtains. These units are usually just big enough for the hospital bed and maybe a chair or two for loved ones to seat themselves, sometimes in a final vigil. A nurses station is at the head of the room, as visitors are very limited, typically just immediate family members with no more than two at a time. None of this really mattered to Lori and I. We couldn’t be seen or stopped from entering, and as Lori called frantically for her mom, she passed through the curtains with no concern for privacy.

The first makeshift room held an elderly man with no visitors, just an incessant beeping of life support machines. The second held a sleeping woman with shallow breathing. Another woman sat in a chair beside her holding her hand and reading a devotional magazine in her lap. Through the third curtain, Lori stopped short. The intake of her ghostly breath told me she had found her mother, even before I reached her. Mrs. O’Donnell was sitting up in a chair, looking haggard and tired. Across from her sat her husband, equally worn down. And between them on the bed lay the other O’Donnell woman the ER nurses had mentioned.

“Oh no,” Lori breathed. “It can’t be.”

I came up short alongside of her and felt both my heart and voice catch in my throat. Lori herself lay in the ICU hospital bed, a myriad of tubes and machines hooked up to her. Her body was still, in a seemingly comatose state. An oxygen mask covered her lower face, forcing air into her lungs. Tears welled up in my eyes. She was still alive. All this time, she hadn’t been a ghost at all, but some kind of a projection of herself, a wandering soul stuck between life and death, roaming with the rest of us and believing herself dead.

The Lori I knew turned to me. On her face , a look of shock and horror, with the realization of what all this meant. “No,” she cried sorrowfully, looking from her bedridden body to me with a pain only those who have lost a loved one can know. “I don’t want to go.”

“I don’t want you to go either, but you have to.” I wiped a tear away with the back of my hand. “You’ve seen your body. It’s time.”

She shook her head. “I don’t want to live without you. I just found you, Chris.”

I tried to smile, but I knew it wasn’t convincing. “You’ll find me again someday.”

“No, I want you now….” She stopped, her eyes fixing on something behind me. I turned my head. The swirling, electrified blue that had been in the outside sky was seeping into the ICU, filling up the room with a crackle and pop. No one but she and I could see it , nor did anyone else feel it. But I knew now what it was. It wasn’t Death trailing behind us, trying to claim us for the final time. It was life, coming for Lori, to push her back into the beautiful frame she had been born with.

“Lori,” I said. “Don’t fight it. Just live. Please.”

She threw her arms around my neck and clutched me so close I felt like she was trying to crawl inside of me to live forever. “I love you so much, Christopher. I’ll never love anyone the way I love you. I’ll never marry…”

“Whoa, hey, hell of a time to be getting this kind of serious, don’t you think?”

She knew I was trying to make a joke, to make things easier for her and I both. Through her tears I could feel her smile against my neck. “You are the very best thing to ever happen to me and you know it. My long hair rocker nerd boy.”

I smiled, even as I felt the electric static moving through the air behind me. “You are everything I ever wanted, Lori. I’m glad I got to have you for awhile.” My voice choked. I was happy that she was really alive, but sad to lose her in the same token. I was torn emotionally, feeling as if I were being ripped in two. “I love you,” I said, my tears busting forth like a ruptured dam letting loose the flood waters. “Don’t forget me.”

“I won’t. Goodbye Chris.”

“No. Never say goodbye. Say, see you someday.”

“Someday,” she sobbed, as my hands held her cheeks and I planted final kisses across her beautiful lips. Her mouth opened against mine and in the most intimate of kisses I felt like we were back at the dance with “is this love?” still playing over the loud speakers. I felt something move through me, and I opened my eyes to see the blue energy separating us. Like long thin fingers it seemed to gently nudge her towards the bed where her body awaited. The taste of her kiss was still on my lips, and my body trembled from the knowledge of having known her, yet now losing her to fate’s final whim. Her dark eyes never left me, as the energy that was her life, here and yet to come, pleasantly pushed her back into her body. One last “I love you” whispered across her lips, and then she was gone. The machines around her began to beep and her father leapt to his feet.

“Hey, something is going on in here!” he yelled to the nurses.

Lori’s fingers twitched. Then her foot. Her hand attempted to flex, her leg made a struggling effort to bend. At last, her eyes opened. She looked around the room, unable to move her head, and for a moment I thought her eyes saw me. But it was only a moment and then it was over. Our time as ghosts in love had come to an end. I blew her a kiss she would neither see nor feel, and then stepped from the curtained partition out into the ICU room. I took a deep breath and tried to compose myself. With my hands I tried to wipe the tears out of my eyes. A radio on the nurses station desk was turned down low but the song it was playing wasn’t lost on me. Never say Goodbye. Bon Jovi.

I tried to smile. “Tell me about it, Jon,” I sighed.

“Grace, I think we should really notify your sister. She would want to know.”

I turned to the voice. It was so familiar it was almost like coming home. I looked around me but no one was there, just the nurses going about their usual duties.

“We really need to go home soon. She can help out if you just ask her. I know you don’t get along these days, but now’s the time, you know.”

I walked down the aisle of the ICU seeking the speaker of the voice. Two partitions down from Lori , I found him.

“Dad?” I asked.

He didn’t turn to look at me, but for a moment my mother seemed to. She turned to my voice, then shrugged helplessly and returned her attention to the body they had kept constant vigil over for days straight. My voice choked in my throat at the sight of myself. I began to cry, overwhelmed with emotion. I too, hadn’t died. I too, wasn’t a ghost at all. I was just lost, not knowing where to go. But now I knew. I didn’t know how this was possible, as I had seen our dead bodies on that bus. Maybe it hadn’t been us at all. I never got a clear a look at the faces. It must have been someone else. I felt a weight lifting off of me. Both Lori and I had made it, but as our bodies hung between life and death, our souls went wandering with those who had died, believing ourselves to be deceased with the rest. And like the rest, only the sight of our own bodies could compel us to go where we belonged. I turned to greet the swirling blue colors of life and spread my arms wide.

I felt the energy swelling up around me, enveloping me in a warmth that permeated my whole being. My mind seemed to temporarily separate from my spiritual frame, and I thought of Donald, Brian, and Kelly, all taken from the mortal coil and propelled into that which comes after. For a moment, I imagined that was happening to me, and I feared that I truly would not see Lori again. But then, I felt the push, the nudge that sent me back to my body in its comatose state. The memories of my time spent as a ghost seemed to catalog themselves deeper within me, so they could not be taken nor removed. I wanted to remember everything. To learn from it. To grow from it. To spend my life being better. But more than that, I didn’t want to forget the time with friends. I didn’t want to lose the memory of loving Lori. As with all important moments in my life, a song came to mind. Alive and kicking. Simple minds. I was alive. And I was ready to kick down the doors of the future and live as I never had before. I couldn’t wait to see Lori and tell her all the things I’d confessed when we were ghosts, to share new moments reserved for the living and loved. I opened my flesh and blood eyes and the world looked back at me and smiled. I’d had the time of my death, but now I was ready to live.

 

Time Of Our Death Chapter 39 (NaNoWriMo 2016 Project)

Time Of Our Death

By Paul D Aronson.
Thirty-Nine

The rescue squad guys regained their composure fast and ran after the gurney. They grabbed it and started rolling it for the stairs, where they lifted it and began to carry it down the flight.

“Did you see that shit?” One of them asked. 

“No I didn’t. You didn’t either, so don’t say a word about it.” 

“What the hell would I say? An unconscious body lifted itself onto the gurney and began to roll itself across the floor?” 

“I’ve decided I don’t like Halloween.” 

They reached the bottom of the stairs, set the gurney down and rolled it so fast towards the door they almost looked like a movie reel that had been sped up. Angie followed behind them. She was visibly shaken and kept looking over her shoulder as if expecting to see angels or demons on their tail. She didn’t see us of course, and even if she could, she wouldn’t have spotted us behind her because we were right alongside the paramedics helping to move the gurney along. 

Rolling across the foyer, we all went out the door, which they had left open, knowing they’d need quick access to the ambulance. They didn’t, however, leave the rear door of the ambulance open, but I took care of that quickly. I sprinted ahead and pulled it open. They stopped for a moment, seeing it swing open on its own. They looked at each other, and then at Angie, who looked like you couldn’t even shove her onto the ambulance now. 

I returned to my spot, and together Lori and I got them moving again by pulling the gurney to the open door. Though they were clearly bewildered, and maybe a bit afraid, they went with the pull and lifted the gurney into the ambulance. The two paramedics took a moment and looked back at the house with fear as if they’d see a pig with glowing red eyes in the window like in that Amityville movie. Then one of them began to work on Dawn, while the other came back out and helped Angie climb aboard. She too was looking back at the house afraid. Something told me that after this, you’d never be able to get her to go inside it again. I felt bad about that, but it couldn’t be helped. 

The EMT shut the doors behind her, ran around to the front of the ambulance and jumped in. Immediately he started the engine. Lori and I jumped through the closed rear doors as the emergency vehicle pulled off and we headed for the hospital. 

The paramedic who worked over Dawn was having problems. It seemed he could wake her up, but when he did, within a few minutes her eyes would close again and she would sink into sleep or unconsciousness. In an attempt to help, Angie held her cousin’s hand and talked to her about whatever came to mind. She told her how she couldn’t wait until they were both going to the same school next year, and about one of her neighbors Mrs Shelton, who it was rumored was a little too sweet on Jamie Botts, the college age paper boy. Anything to try and keep Dawn awake and focused.  

“It’s not helping, is it?” She asked the paramedic. 

He gave her a reassuring smile. “Everything helps, miss. Keep talking to her. Give her something to focus on.” 

So, she began telling Dawn a story that she obviously was making up on the fly. It was about a girl who had a crush on a fairy prince who lived in her garden. I was impressed with her natural abilities and thought to myself one day she’s going to be a writer. I turned to look out the back window and saw something that brought me a small measure of concern. The sky behind us didn’t look right. Darkness had fallen by now, with trick or treaters still visible doing their rounds, but the sky had an eerie blue finger running through it. I say it was a finger, but it was more like a flashing streak, lightning that glowed a beautiful blue as it struck its way to earth like a skeletal digit.  

I tapped Lori on the shoulder. “Look at that,” I said. 

“Oh my god,” she said. “What is it?” 

I didn’t have the answer to that one. Though we were moving away from the blue streak, it almost seemed to be following us. The blue shade was not constant either. It changed its shade like a lava lamp in the sky, swirling in color within the confines of its shape. Aqua, sky, neon, baby. Every shade of blue you could think of, it morphed into, while following some distance behind us. And then I felt the crackle, an electrical charge that seemed to be building up in the air outside. So far it hadn’t entered the ambulance, but it wouldn’t stay outside for long. 

“Oh no,” I said, looking at Lori with fear on my face. “They must have brought our bodies up.” 

In a display of courage and nerves, she shook her head. “We haven’t seen them yet. Everyone else had to visibly see their bodies.” 

I nodded, agreeing with her, but the sky and its faint hissing of electrical activity bothered me. It was as if death were chasing us, telling us there was no escape, it’s time now. I looked at Dawn on the gurney, fading in and out of consciousness, and then it occurred to me. Yes, Lori was right. In our ghostly state we had to see our bodies before the final claiming , but maybe it wasn’t coming for us in this instant. Perhaps it was after Dawn. 

Lori seemed to think the same thing. “Oh no,” she moaned. “No, you can’t have her.” 

She got up and planted herself between the rear door and her sister. Angie was still telling the semi conscious girl the story of the cute fairy prince, while the paramedic kept her vitals stable. I don’t know what Lori thought she was going to be able to do, but her sheer defiance made me love her even more, and so I stood by her side in an attempt to block death from seeing Dawn. 

“How’s she doing?” The driver called out to his partner. 

“She’s holding, but I don’t think she’s going to make it to county. That’s a hell of a drive.” 

“We don’t have a choice. They are at full capacity everywhere else.” 

“Your decision. You’re the driver.” 

“Oh to hell with this,” I said. “She needs the nearest hospital, you guys.” I went through to the front of the ambulance and into the cab. I didn’t know how to tell the driver to make the turn to the nearest medical facility, Murray General Hospital, so I did it for him. 

“Holy shit!” He yelled. “What the Christ is going on?”  

He struggled with the wheel, but I had already done this once before with Kev, so I was experienced at taking over.  

We swerved into the other lane and the paramedic in the back yelled out. “What the hell is going on up there!?” 

“I’ve lost control of the steering! It’s like it has a freaking mind of its own!” 

As if to convince him that it did, I made another turn, putting us on a direct path to the overcrowded, yet closest hospital. At first the guy fought me, but then he relented and relaxed. He didn’t let go of the wheel, but instead just held it loosely and let the thing steer itself, which it did with my help.  

“It’s taking us to Murray General,” he yelled to his co-worker. Then he lowered his voice so only I could hear. “Hey look, I know it’s Halloween, All Hallows’, ghosts walk the earth, or whatever, but whoever you are I would feel much safer if you’d let me drive. I promise to take the girl to Murray, ok?” 

I let him have the wheel back, and he breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you,” he said. He picked up the radio off the dash and called in, telling his dispatch or whomever they were going to the local hospital, as there was no way the patient would make it anywhere else. The person on the other end protested, but he was firm about it. “Hey look, we’re almost there. Just make room.” He threw the radio back on its cradle. “How is everyone doing back there?” He called to his passengers.  

“We’re holding,” the other paramedic replied. “But her vitals are all over the place. We need to hurry.” 

The driver nodded and pressed his foot to the gas. He honked the horn a few times to let the traffic ahead know we were barreling through. “You know,” he said softly. “When I was a boy my grandmother died. I loved grandma so much, I wished she would come back as a ghost or something just to let me she was alright and safe. I used to sit in my room and wait for some kind of sign from her. But nothing came. A few times freaky things happened in my room or the house, but I knew it wasn’t her. Maybe another spirit, but not her.” 

He turned in his seat, as if trying to see where I was. When he didn’t see anything, he returned his focus on the road and shook his head. “I guess I’m just crazy. I don’t even know if you’re there. But if you are, and if you’re able to, could you let my grandma know that I’ve missed her. Her name is Alva Mably. My name is Greg.” 

I felt bad for the guy. He had been carrying this grief with him his whole life. He was just seeking some kind of closure, a reassurance that everything was alright in this world and the next. I knew how he felt; I’d lost my grandmother at an early age as well. I reached out and put my hand on his shoulder. I could feel him tense just slightly, but I knew our common ground made the connection possible. I patted him on the back a few times to try and let him know I heard him and his request. I felt it would probably be impossible to fulfill his request, but it is far better to give someone hope than to dash their spirit. To some this would be the same as lying, but from my new perspective I considered it healing, and a necessary need of the human condition. 

“Thank you,” he said, his voice near to cracking. Then he took a deep breath and pulled us into the emergency entrance of the hospital.  

“Shit,” the other paramedic said from the back. “We just lost her.” 

“No!” Lori screamed. “Bring her back, damn you!” 

I went through the cab wall and was at Dawn’s body in an instant. If she was gone , I wanted us to be the first ones she saw when she became spirit. But nothing happened. She wasn’t leaving her mortal frame, not that we could see anyway. The back doors of the ambulance was opened and a couple more medical people were climbing in to help rush the gurney inside. Beyond the doorway, the skies had changed from its myriad of blues to a whole multitude of colors that swirled in the sky like watercolors thrown against an electrified canvas that sizzled and sparked. 

“Give her back,” I pleaded. “Don’t take her.” 

As the technicians wheeled the gurney out the back and onto the pavement, Lori was nearly throwing herself across her sister’s body, while Angie, tears streaming down her face, followed behind. I got out of the ambulance and looked up at the colors. Any other time they would have been beautiful, but now they were nothing less than menacing. Mesmerized, I stood there staring, transfixed by the sight. There was a buzz rising in my ears like radio static coming through headphones. The very air was starting to sizzle around me.  

I ran for the hospital entrance. The others were already inside ushering the gurney down a hallway to the emergency room. I passed through the solid entrance doors and looked back. The sky and its colors seemed to just be waiting there outside, biding the time while it swirled in different shades of its ever changing energy.