Sep 21

Friday Snippet — More From WITB

Back to work on Washed in the Blood. This snippet picks up where we last left off. There are some unforeshadowed developments and characters here due to the evolution of the story as I go along. This is first draft stuff, so it’s rough, to say the least.

This is actually what I have written today. I am taking a short retreat this weekend and have sequestered myself in a hotel room to write my butt off. So far so good. Over 2000 words so far today. I’m going to shoot for 5K. Wish me luck.

This snippet is copyrighted by me. Please don’t use any of it
without permission.

WARNING: Some sexual content and a few F-bombs along the way.

To catch up with the story so far:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

—–

Doris McNeese sat back and wiped her forehead with her forearm. Even on top of a mountain in Southwestern Virginia, the afternoons could be hot in the Fall. Uprooted weeds surrounded her knees, dead soldiers in the unending war of Man against Nature.

She leaned back and stretched. Enough weeding for one day. The flower beds were clean. Her herb garden needed her now. Or she needed it. Much needed to be done tonight, and the sun was going down. Time to select the plants she would use for old Annabelle’s arthritis remedy–arhteritis, as the old lady called it–and then there was the hex bag for that old fool Israel Harris. He was convinced that somebody had laid a curse on him. Come to think of it, that Habersham woman had wanted those roots…

Doris stood, feeling the creak in her knees and the ache of forty-seven years in her back, and headed for the back yard.

Later, she watched the full moon rise between the trees as she stirred her black iron pot. The fire crackled, and the smell of wood smoke drifted through the air. The silver-blue moonlight lent just the right atmosphere to her spell-making.

As she stirred, she sang, a weird atonal chant that rose into the night. Shadows stirred as powers older than Mankind, maybe even older than time, took notice of her call. She played streamers of power with her words that were not words, plucking a song to enchant even those whose powers were beyond human understanding, singing down trickles of those powers into her potion of healing herbs, ginseng roots, water, and three drops of her own blood.

Stone and bone, earth and sky, fire and blood, all held power for Doris. High in the ancient mountains, she had access to spirits known to the Creeks before her, to the peoples before them, to the animals before them, before that, known only to God.

Doris had grown up in these mountains. Her mother had taken her to the deep places, the dark roots of the Earth, to the high windswept knobs worn to bare rock by ages of wind and rain. Doris knew the cold, the damp, the powers neither good nor evil that dwelt there, that had lived there for millennia of millennia.

Doris’s mother had taught her well, and she used her knowledge to work her will on the small town of Lone Pine Gap. She let the Mayor and Council fool themselves as long as they left her alone. She knew where the real power lay, and it was not in pompous men entranced by there own delusions.

Doris brought her song to a close and lifted the pot from the fire to cool. She had one more spell to cast tonight, one that did not use herbs or songs, only power of will. She shed her clothes and laid them carefully outside the circle of salt she had spread so carefully before she had started her night’s work.

She turned to the small altar built of mountain marble mined by her own hand from a deep place only she knew. On the altar lay a small bowl loving carved by her own hand., worn smooth by many years of handling. The water in the bowl lay perfectly flat and still, even in the night breeze, and reflected the moonlight in a glossy sheen.

Doris lifted her knife and turned it until a ray of light reflected into her eyes, then brought the knife quickly down and slashed it across her palm. Years of practice yielded the precise results she wanted, and she let a small trickle of her blood fall into the bowl. The surface of the water barely rippled at the disturbance, then clouds formed within the depths of the tiny pool.

Doris knelt before the altar and stared into the water, watching shapes form, willing them to show her what she wished to see.

#

Sarah stared at the ceiling of her brightly-lit hospital room and wished she could turn off the movies in her mind. She feared they would never end in any other way, no matter how hard she wished or tried.

She did not even look up when the door shushed open. Just another nurse come to ask inane question or poke a thermometer into her mouth. She wasn’t physically sick, for God’s sake! Her illness sank deep into her soul and rotted it from the inside. No medicine could help that.

“Sarah?”

The voice was a man’s, and she sat upright, clutching the sheet to her chest. Fear widened her eyes, and her heart raced. Adrenaline forced her exhausted body into an attitude of fight-or-flight.

“I’m sorry, Sarah. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

The red-haired young man who stood there radiated a sense of calm that soothed Sarah’s nerves, and she began to relax.

“My name is Thomas. Thomas McNeese. I’m a psychologist, and I’m helping Bob Sperling investigate the…what happened. May I speak with you a few minutes?”

Sarah nodded. Her hands and legs trembled. Something about the man attracted her to him, and she felt a stirring in her belly, a tingly ache that she had last felt with Danny. Tears rose in her eyes, and she gasped for air, suddenly unable to breathe.

The soft touch on her arm drew her attention to her visitor. He stood beside her bed, a look of concern on his handsome face.

“Are you all right, Sarah? I can call for a nurse, if you like.”

Sarah shook her head. “No, I’m sorry. It’s still kind of fresh in my mind.”

“I know, Sarah, I know. But that’s what we need. We need to explore some of those feelings and memories before they fade, before your mind blocks them off.”

His voice was so soft, so reasonable. She wanted him to keep talking, just so she could listen to that voice. It laid a cooling cloth on her burning wounds.

“It’s okay. What do you want to know?” His eyes were borwn. An deep. Oh, so deep. She sank in helpless, unwilling to fight.

“You and Danny. Remember? Remember what you were doing?”

She nodded and remembered the feel of his hands on her, hid fingers in her. Remembered so well, she could almost feel it. Could feel it.

Sarah realized that the man had pushed the sheet down and her gown up and was pushing his fingers into her. When had she lain back down? She knew she should scream, but his eyes. Oh, his eyes. And it felt so good, just like Danny. She moaned an spread her legs wider, pushing up to meet his fingers.

“That’s a good girl, Sarah. Remember what it felt like. Remember how he felt when he entered you, how your world seemed to fall apart.”

And she did. Her world splintered into pieces, and she gasped with the spirally pleasure rising from her loins to her head. She stared into his eyes until she could stand it no longer, and her eyes rolled back in her head. The sudden flaring pain in her neck pushed her over the edge and she screamed into the pillow that suddenly covered her face as she fell into darkness.

#

Thomas pulled away from the young girl’s lifeless body and wiped his mouth with his handkerchief. He knew he had little time. He pulled on his latex gloves, pulled the knife from the sheath on his belt, and set to work.

#

Doris watched her son doing his work and smiled. She had raised him well. Another ghastly crime to lay at the feel of John Edwards. She hoped his Hell was as intense as hers had been all these years. She swirled the water to destroy the vision.

“Good evening, Doris.”

She whirled, her hand sending the scrying bowl flying. The backlash of undissipated magic shot through her head with a pain that blinded her with tears and knocked her to her knees.

She knew that voice. Knew it well. Knew it too well, indeed.

“Did I interrupt something?”

John’s voice held a mocking sarcasm she had never heard from him before, would never have believed he possessed.

She rose on wobbling legs and rubbed the tears from her eyes.

“Damn you!” Her voice was only a croak. “Damn you to Hell! You know better than to sneak up on me like that.”

“Damn me, Doris? Damn me to Hell? What do you think you have already done?”

Rage this time, barely restrained. A cold chill ran down her spine as she realized she was naked and alone in the night with a monster. A monster she had created and unleashed.

“Be careful, John. Be very careful. You don’t know who you’re fooling with.”

“Yes, I do. I know you. Thomas explained you very clearly. Just before he killed me. Just before he killed my Maggie. Can you explain why I shouldn’t kill you?”

His voice was as hard as the bones of the mountain which bore them up, as cold as the depths of the sea. The tears in Doris’s eyes were from her fear now.

What had Thomas done? Where was the despair? Where was the groveling fear before the feet of his God? Dear God, what had she created?

“Kill me? Why would you want to kill me? I haven’t done anything to you. It’s all Thomas’s doing. I don’t control him.”

“No? That’s not what he says. Maybe the two of you should talk, Doris. Why don’t you have a nice long conversation while the two of you roast in Hell.”

“You don’t scare me, John Edwards. I know Thomas is still alive–”

“But not for long. I have plans for Thomas, just as
I have plans for you.”

She thought she would fall to her knees, but her determination not to humble herself before him held her upright. This was the man that had abandoned her to the scorn of her neighbors, the man who had stolen her virginity and, with it, her life. She would see him dead before she gave in to his attempts to cow her.

“Nothing you can do to me can make up for what you’ve already done, you bastard. Hell? Where do you think I’ve been the thirty-three years? I was fourteen! You knew what you were doing, I didn’t. Don’t try your Preacher guilt on me, you foul son of a bitch. Don’t even try.”

As she spoke, Doris felt for the power of the shadows, drawing it like an invisible shield around her.

“I saw what Thomas did. I saw what he did to your beloved wife. I laughed while he fucked her. I laughed while he did to here what you did to me. I laughed when she died, too. Your sweet Maggie. Did you know she was a whore, John?”

He snarled and lunged, and she lashed out with all her power. Her enemy spun back and fell onto his back, sprang back up with the speed and strength only a vampire could muster.

“A whore, you bastard! She was fucking the policeman while you were out of town. Fucking him while you abandoned her the same way you abandoned me. Do you want to see the pictures?”

She reached out and pulled the photographs from their place of honor on her dresser and flung them into his face. John looked down, and his face whitened even more. When he looked up, his eyes were unreadable, a deep black that even all of Doris’s powers could not pierce.

“I’ll be back.” His voice was a growl, a visceral sound from demonic depths that promised nothing good coming Doris’s way.

He was gone as quickly as he had appeared, and Doris fell to her knees. She fell forward and pressed her forehead to the ground, sobbing her fear.

#

Again, John ran, again pursued by demons of his own making. Maggie! With Bob Sperling! The photos did not lie, he knew, and he also knew his culpability in the affair. His devotion to traveling these hills, his passion for his Christ, had led his own wife down the path to damnation.

He ran and wished he could run until his heart burst, knowing it never would. He ran wishing for death’s sweet release from his worldly cares and afflictions, knowing it was denied him.

He had sinned. He had fallen short of the glory of God. Now he must pay, and the payment was all he had, all he held dear. Maggie, his life, his love, his betrayer. Deborah, his only child, now his bitter enemy. Bob Sperling, his friend, his confidante, his cuckolder. His very soul now forfeit.

Hunger filled him as the night faded toward dawn. He had used too much energy in the last two nights, and he was paying the price. The dark world turned red and the flames rose in his heart and mind.

The smell of a live human filled his nose, the sound of a single heartbeat filled his ears, the shining of a life filled his eyes, and he swerved from his course. He flew towards his prey, the Angel of Death, the Demon of Death, Silently screaming his despair, unable to control his own hunger-racked mind.

#

Crystal walked in the night, the crunch of an early frost beneath her feet.

The night was her friend, the only one she had. She had lost so many when the bruises first appeared, when she had started running into doors and falling down stairs. She had been afraid to go to anyone’s house, ashamed to let anyone come home with her.

Her father’s drunken abuse had driven her mother to an early grave. Cancer, said the doctor, but Crystal knew better. Her mother had just not wanted to live any more and had found a way out.

Crystal wished such a kind fate would come her way. With her mother gone, her father’s needs had no outlet. None, that is, with one exception. So Crystal walked in the night and wished for death.

The impact knocked her breathless to the ground, cracking her spine. Her agony was brief, mercifully, as the monster tore out her throat.

 

Sep 03

Breakin’ Out All Over

Homonymphobia” is up at Vision. Read it and weep.
The Harrow accepted my short sotry “Rounding the Cape” for publication in their February, 2008, issue. Woo-hoo!!
We have rain and cooler weather! Woo-hoo again!!! Highs are flirting with 90 degrees instead of dashing past 100. Positively Autumnal.

I know it’s an illusion that everything’s going well or else everything’s swirling down the toilet. That just goes to show how deeply ingrained those blinders are and how extremely well they work.

I guess Robert Frost was speaking truly when he wrote that “nothing gold can stay”. It’s just far too easy to remember the bad times and far too hard to remember the good. At least for me.