Special Interests

June 22, 2013
New York, New York
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Dearest Raven,

Sharing the blood of wannabe murderous psychopaths has eerie effects on the psyche. I spent most of the morning helping Sweet Darn sort severed extremities for her father’s home clinic, hoping the busy work would distract my anxiety. I had sent an urgent letter to Great-Grand-Papa and received no reply. Then I telephoned and no one answered.

“Give him time”, Sweet Darn said to me, placing an arm with big hands and long fingers in a drawer labeled Possibly a Pianist.

I levitated an arm with a pirate hook in the end, dropped it in a huge Special Interests box, and said nothing.

Sweet Darn smiled, mayhap to comfort me.

I trembled, wondering if she knew that no one could be reassured of anything, while watching her grin stretch the sutures crisscrossing the skin of her cheeks. I opened my mouth to ask her, but the sound of approaching steps and Mama’s words hushed me.

Mama was telling Sweet Darns’ father that she knew what was best for me. Since I did not wish to tell Mama exactly what I thought about her knowledge, I urged Sweet Darn to hide with me behind the Special Interests box. For a moment, I worried Mama would smell our scents, then I remembered that her daily perfumed bath blinded her senses.

“We can’t truly know our children if we don’t talk to them, Ms. Tepes.” Sweet Darn’s father pulled a folder out of a filing cabinet set against the wall opposite to where we hid. “Limb transplants involves complex surgery. I rather the three of us discussed—”

Mama silenced Sweet Darn’s father with a raised hand. She told him that I was a minor and she the parent, then ordered him to sedate me before I went to bed, and to perform the transplant while I slumbered. “My Drusilla will awaken whole and happy. She will think her perfect new body was a gift from The Stitcher herself.”

It was the ill-informed joy I heard in Mama’s voice that made me lose control, Raven. Screaming a “No!” that was the raw rage of a hurt beast, I slammed my will into the steel box that hid me, levitated it three feet, and pushed it forward until its bulk trapped my mother against the wall. When my mother tried to speak, the arm with the pirate hook rose out of the box to level itself with her neck, its tip just centimeters from her jugular.

Sweet Darn called my name in that soft, frightened voice reserved for talking to rabid animals and to people in deathbeds… The sort of voice that says the speaker wants to give no offense, since it cannot tell if the listener is going to attack or just die.

“Drusilla Amarantha Tepes, control yourself.” The new voice knew neither softness nor fright. The force that fed its tone gripped my bones and blood and will, made the hook twitch in midair. “Control yourself, or this fury will control you, Great-Granddaughter.”

My rage felt good, Raven. I wanted to keep it. But I did not. I would not give anyone or anything that much control over me.

I pulled the steel box away from my mother, let the hook fall to the floor, and hovered out of the room without saying a word or looking at anyone.

Sweet Darn and her father are proper behavior connoisseurs. They stayed put. But my mother and Great-Grand-Papa never heard of the respect one should pay to a dramatic exit. If I had feet, my mother and Great-Grand-Papa would have stepped right on my heels. They followed me to the Darn’s library and closed the door behind them.

“Drusilla, I need to talk to you”, my mother said.

“No, Llanelli,” Great-Grand-Papa told her, “you need to listen.”

“She is my daughter, Father.”

“And you are mine, child.” Great-Grand-Papa walked closer to my mother, and told her that if she did not tell me why she was behaving half insane, then he would tell me.

Raven, you will not believe it. My mother wants to get me armed and legged because she believes that if I look like everyone else, then my life in society will be easier than hers has been. You see, my parents did not wed for love, money, or any other traditional motive. They chose each other because of their surnames. My mother thought marrying a Bethory would give her a grander and gorier status. My father believed marrying a Tepes would mean sharing his life with a ruthless, imaginative murderess, who would protect him from stronger predators and assist him in the bullying of weaker ones.

My father ran off after learning that neither Great-Grand-Papa nor my mother killed for sport—the Tepes family rejected games like Two Legs and a Bloodied Stump Races and Stick the Stiletto in the Urbanite’s Eyeball generations ago, that sort of screaming is unhealthy for the ear. My mother was shocked to discover that my father was a bloody coward, but not enough to stop pretending that she had not attempted to deceived him.

I am staying at Sweet Darn’s house for a few days. Great-Grand-Papa is taking me home, to Wildwoods, to gather my things. He lives too far away from any school that can teach our kind. But he spoke to Mistress Claudia, and she said that Camp Cute, Creepy and (quite conveniently) Remote would be thrilled to have me as a permanent resident, while I complete my schooling.

My new living arrangements hurt my mother’s feelings. I am sorry she still fails to see. I wish she could understand that people must grow up, before they can be parents.

Missing you terribly,
Drusilla Amarantha Tepes, the Only

P.S. Sweet Darn’s father has bleached skulls and small bones looking for a good home. Would you please ask Roseblood if her dolly could use any new teeth?

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the wee notes…
– The 5th letter: Four Sutural Enhancements and a Velvet Cape.
– I’m not sure when the 7th of Drusilla’s letters will be published. Maybe in 3 months, for May Monster Madness. Or sooner… if her constant whispering turns into shouts. 😉
– Linked to Holly’s Vampire’s Day Soirée. Fly over to her blog, and see what wonders others have written, painted, photographed, brewed, bled… *cough, cough, cough*.

Drusilla, in front of the portraits of two of her ancestors,
Elizabeth Báthory (the Blood Countess) and Vlad III (the Impaler)
by Emma Yardis, mistress of Groovy Gothic

He Needs a Gentle Touch

pre-Witches in Fiction Giveaway, 1: Groovy Crow, sponsored by Little Gothic Horrors

The Crow wears lace made of night. He perches on the most flexible branch of Imagination’s tree, watching the world through the crimson of one eye… He hungers not for carrion. Since his wings bloomed, beaded and black, the Crow yearns for… other things. He needs a gentle touch. He wants song and dance and the warmth of a heart, willing to join him… in a murder of two.

Sir Groovy, the crow,
dreams of autumns full of love
and soft eyes to peck

crow-by-little-gothic-horrors

a wee note on healing…
– Healing and humor have been known to dance as one. So I hope Sir Groovy the crow, and his need for a gentle touch (and soft eyes), brings a grin to your face. Isn’t a smile (or 13) a great way to start our countdown to Witches in Fiction 2016: Spelling Healing into a Rotting World?

to enter this giveaway (the mandatory entry)
– Leave me a comment sharing your thoughts about the crow and the haibun.

for extra entries…
– 1st extra: Write a wee tale (in 31 words of fewer), which includes the words: healing and crow.
– 2nd extra: Share this giveaway (on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter) and tag me.

5 days until Witches in Fiction 2016: Spelling Healing into a Rotting World. Have you joined?

Giveaway Rules, details and stuff…
* I need to be able to contact the winner. If you don’t have a website or social media profile, through which we can interact, please add your email to your comment. If your name comes up, and I have no way of contacting you, I’ll choose another name.
* To my Canadian Luvs, before you can claim your prize, I must challenge your math skills by asking you a very obscure question, such as… what’s 13 + .5? Yeah, as obscure as the law
* This giveaway ends on October 24th, 2016, at 10:13 pm, EDT. The winner will be selected using Random.org, and her or his name will be shared on October 25th.
* This giveaway is open worldwide, excluding any place where prohibited by law.

Honest Monsters

Mr. Slim was a firm traditionalist when it came to the art of bone twisting pain. It was one of the reasons why he demanded that his students use shapeshifting over glamour. Jazz knew this. She agreed with it. Glamour was a shallow thing that miraged the skin to resemble exactly what was expected. Shapeshifting hurt. Physical pain was the path towards mastering many needed skills.

Still, Jazz didn’t predict that her mentor’s methods would spread into the realm of psychological torture camouflaged as boredom. She was a rogue monster catcher. Being assigned to a house where the most monstrous thing was a cranky human cook had to be some kind of punishment.

Jazz was walking towards the small Victorian, considering the demise of her psyche and the ugliness of her denimed, tank topped, and terribly unimaginative human shape, when the front door burst open to spew a child wearing a colander as a helmet and brandishing a short wooden sword. A helmeted head and extra pointy protection, Jazz thought, that’s style!

“Beg for a merciful bloody death!” Octavia said, the tip of her sword aimed at Jazz’s belly.

“Just how much blood are we talking about?” Jazz said. “And who will clean up the mess?”

“Octavia, Kai is going to have your hide if you don’t get back to the kitchen.”

“Kai doesn’t have hides, Uncle Terrence.” Octavia grinned over her shoulder. “She just cooks nasty stuff and makes you eat it.”

The old woman came to the front door, and sneered in Jazz’s general direction.

I don’t like you all that much either, Jazz thought, trying to catch the cook’s eye and failing.

“Come inside, Octavia,” the old woman said. “I need that colander to finish supper.”

Her smile gone, Octavia ran into the house after the cook.

“I’m so glad you accepted to watch my niece overnight at such short notice, Jazz.”

“It’s no problem,” she said, heading towards the house.

“I told you about Calvin, Octavia’s godfather and my business partner. I wanted you to at least see his face before I left.” He pointed at a man in a blue car. “He’s taking me to the airport. I’m late. But he’ll be available to answer any questions, and help with anything you might need. All my numbers are on the list on the kitchen table. The number to the pediatrician and to—”

“Terry,” the man called out from the car, “you won’t make it if you don’t get moving.”

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Jazz had babysat nine-year-old Octavia for nearly three weeks. Mr. Slim was convinced that something was threatening the child, but Jazz hadn’t seen a thing lurking around.

“What about the cook?” Mr. Slim had said to Jazz, a few days ago.

Jazz had watched Kai closely. It was obvious that under the shroud of sternness, the old cook’s heart was soft for the child. And Octavia adored Kai, provider of cookies, improvised helmets and other weaponry. No one spent that kind of time on a wild kid they didn’t care about.

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After Jazz put Octavia to bed and Kai cleaned the kitchen, the old woman collected her things and phoned her granddaughter for a ride.

“I wish my eyes did better at night,” Kai said to Jazz, sounding strangely sweet.

A few minutes later, Jazz heard someone at the door. “Your granddaughter has a key?”

“No,” Kai said, undoing her scarf and placing her handbag on the table. “That’s Mr. Calvin. He comes and goes as he pleases whenever Mr. Terrence isn’t home.”

“You’re still here?” Calvin said to Kai, after he entered the kitchen. “It’s late. And Terry won’t pay you overtime.”

The air thickened with dislike, disdain, and a wave of nerves.

“I… I wanted to drink something warm before I called my granddaughter. Should I make you something, too, Mr. Calvin? Perhaps, a snack? It would be no trouble. I could—”

The bell rang and Kai nearly jumped out of her skin.

“It seems your family knows your schedule better than you do,” Calvin said.

“Oh, that’s all right. I’ll tell my granddaughter to go on. I’ll take a cab home. I’ll stay until Miss Jazz’s ready for bed and you’re ready to go. In case you, either of you, might need something. It’s no bother. Really. I’ll just…”

Jazz said nothing. But she did not miss the trembling of Kai’s hands.

“Leave,” Calvin said.

Kai grabbed her bag, looked at Jazz one last time, and walked out of the house, her eyes shiny.

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“That old hag gives me the creeps.” Calvin handed one of two tea mugs to Jazz. “I’ll grab some things out of Terry’s study and then head out, unless you need something from me.”

“I’m good for tonight,” Jazz said with a yawn. “I’m more tired than I thought.”

They exchanged goodnights. Calvin stayed in the kitchen. Jazz finished her tea before checking on Octavia and readying herself for bed.

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Jazz’s shade watched Calvin crack her door open ever so slightly. “Miss?” he whispered, “Miss Jazz?” When he got no answer, Calvin walked into the room, examined the form sleeping in Jazz’s bed, peered into the tea mug, and then left the room.

He sneaked through Octavia’s door without making a sound, and stood smiling in front of the child’s bed. After some long minutes, he walked towards the door.

Jazz’s shade relaxed. Until Calvin turned off Octavia’s nightlight and closed the door without getting out of the room.

The child’s bed complained under the weight of the man. His hand moved to touch the neckline of Octavia’s polka-dotted nightgown. When his fingertips landed on skin, Jazz’s shade reentered her own flesh and reclaimed her natural shape. Her spine and limbs elongated, her eyes lost all color, her teeth sharpened, and her living hair shoved itself into Calvin’s open mouth.

She let him struggle for a while. Then she flipped him onto his back, her steel-strong arms and feet imprisoning him, her hair still jammed in his mouth. She got really close to his face, letting him appreciate the fury burning in her pupilless eyes, before saying, “You don’t get to beg for a merciful bloody death, filth. That’s just for honest monsters.”

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written for May Monster Madness
follow the link to Little Gothic Horrors to see what else is brewing
and don’t forget to be an honest monster

by the way, this is a bit of a draft
so we’ll probably hear more about Jazz
in my next short story collection

Sticky Monsters, by John Kenn Mortensen (3)
from Sticky Monsters, by John Kenn Mortensen

May Monster Madness, 2016