The Stormy Night

Zephyr Wyndham

It was a dark and stormy night because, ugh! Of course, it was. It’s always stormy when I’m in a bad mood. I mean, it was my fault it was a stormy night. The dark was just part of the whole definition of night.

My congregation had gathered tonight to pray for the country. Today, the United States declared war on Germany following the sinking of the Lusitania. No one in this little town of Bourbonville, Kentucky had been on the ship or even had known anyone on the ship, but it was what it would take to bring the nation together against the Germans. War. My adopted country was going to war, and there was an air of fear, sadness, and excitement circulating in the small church.

Not that it was my problem or even the reason for my bad mood. After forty-five centuries of life, a little scuffle amongst the humans wasn’t much of a concern for me, except that it bothered the people of my small town. How an ancient Sky Elemental managed to become a preacher for a religion younger than he was was a long story and one for another day.

Taking in a deep breath to calm myself, I focused on the issue at hand. My parishioners needed comfort, and they needed direction. Without a reliable moral compass, they might drift astray and indulge in behaviors that were unbecoming of humanity in these modern times. I preached my standard fire and brimstone, something about avoiding sin, keeping to the scriptures and the dire consequences should they fail. However, the crowd was restless. The fear and excitement creating a distraction that my storm only added to.

Even I stopped paying attention to my words though. The sermon fell from my lips like a practiced rhyme.

It wasn’t the war that had me distracted; it was the pious man sitting in the second row that captured my attention. The rage and hate burning in his eyes were more than just the anger of sending his sons to war. This was an older rage. He was the source of my anxiety and foul temper.

He looked like he could be familiar, but I couldn’t be sure from where. Bourbonville was a small town, but there were a couple of churches, and not everyone attended. I could have seen him around town, or I could have a history with him I’d merely forgotten. The bulk of most of human history was already stuffed in my brain, along with countless dead languages. One face in the crowd wasn’t going to leave a mark. But it frustrated me none the less that I couldn’t figure out who or what he was.

I finished up my sermon and closed the service, all the while the man was still glaring at me with hostility. As I was shaking the hand of Mr. Farmer, a local farmer worried for his son, the angry man approached me.

“Hello, I don’t believe we’ve met before. I’m Zephyr Wyndham,” I said by way of introduction.

The man scowled and looked at my hand like I had presented him with a viper instead of five pudgy fingers. The man was huge. Huge for a human and huge for a non-human. Not that I’d met too many like myself. It turns out we are a rare bunch but this man was clearly as inhuman as I was.

“Syzmon Warchek.” The angry giant said as he gripped my hand firmly but not crushingly so. He could have if he wanted, that much was clear, and it was even more terrifying to know he had restraint behind his rage.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Warchek,” I asked, gesturing to my small office away from the few lingering parishioners. A crash of thunder encouraging them home.

“I need you to kill me.” The man said as fangs, unlike any creature I had ever seen before, descending from his mouth, and fur began to sprout from his pores, covering his entire body.

Syzmon Warcheck

I had done my research. The man preaching was a fraud. I traced his personal history back through six generations, more than four hundred years, and it was clear that he had been moving from place to place, town to town for centuries, hiding his true identity. I had been stalking him for close to a decade now, and I knew what he was. He was a vampire. It was the only thing that made any sense, and it was his fault that I was like this. Cursed and trapped between three worlds. I intensified my scowl and clap of thunder shook the building. It seemed almost in reaction to my threat.

Well, it wasn’t exactly this guy’s fault I was this way. He didn’t have anything to do with it if I were going to be honest about things. But he represented the evil within me and the evil in the world and tonight I would end him and myself.
I waited until after the service before approaching him. I didn’t want to cause a scene. These people seemed like decent folk, even if they had an abomination as a preacher, and they didn’t deserve to witness the carnage he had planned.
It was when the preacher put his hand out in greeting when I first had my doubts.

“Hello, I don’t believe we’ve met before. I’m Zephyr Wyndham,” he said.

His skin was old, and his fingers were pudgy. Not anything like my ancient but perfectly supple skin and his should be older than mine if my research were correct. A crackle of lightning electrified the air as I gripped his hand. I had no intention of hurting him here, so my grip was firm but gentle. No point in announcing my dark intent before I needed to.

“Syzmon Warchek,” I said through gritted teeth. I didn’t like how this storm felt, and this vampire was unlike any other I’d ever come across. And I knew all about unusual vampires since I was one of the strangest.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Warchek,” he asked as he escorted me to a small office and closed the door behind him.

Thunder shook the windows of the church, but the preacher, Mr. Wyndham, didn’t even flinch, although several lingering church members did scuttle out with comments of getting home before the storm got any worse.

“I need you to kill me,” I said as my body, the second curse upon me, began to transform. Huge teeth filled my mouth, and the familiar itch of fur bursting from my pores assaulted my senses. And with a mighty lunge, I lept towards the preacher expecting to him to retaliate or at least for the sensation of blood to fill my mouth.

Instead, there was a crash, and the brightest flash of light I’d ever seen. I thought I’d gone blind from the intensity of it, but after a moment, or an hour, or a week, I couldn’t be sure, my vision returned to me. Only to see the preacher, standing in his office, a gaping hole in the roof of the church and rain falling down on me.

He extended his hand and pulled me up with more strength than I imagined his smaller body could contain.

My skin felt electrified, and his touch amplified the feeling.

“I’ll not kill you, and you’ll not kill me,” the preacher said calmly. “But you will need to repair the damage to my office.”

For more #flashfictionfriday stories, check out steelstashwriting.com
and selkiemade.tumblr.com

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The Rogue’s Good Day

Why does blood have to be so damn hard to get out?

It was a thought Airon had on a regular basis. This time it was a spreading stain on his new linen shirt that prompted the lament. But Airon wasn’t in a great mood, so he felt the irritation more than usual. It was a hot day,  and blood wasn’t a liquid that was effective at cooling a person, especially if splattered all over them. Not to mention, he really liked this shirt.

But the bulgy, bug-eyed ogre really had it coming, or so he’d been told, and Airon was an assassin by trade, so the blood was an occupational hazard. It wasn’t that Airon really cared what the ogre did to warrant death, Airon just knew he deserved it, and that was enough. Besides, it was an easy job, for the most part, that didn’t take up too much of his time. Except for today.

A quick glance at his watch proved that his timing was okay, if not a bit tight. He wouldn’t be able to go home and change his shirt, but he had his jacket with him. It would be overly warm, but he could fix that.

With his coat zipped all the way up, Airon made his way to his destination. A crisp, light breeze whipped up around him, pinkening his cheeks. A few passers-by shivered as they passed, some even examined the sky looking for the source of the sudden chill in June, but no one suspected the truth. And the truth was there were many kinds of strange, almost human beings living among the humans, and Airon was one of them. Most of his less than human features were subtle, and he was able to go undetected, unlike his ogre friend back there. Airon was an elemental being, a Genasi, and he could control the weather or at least, a small portion of it.  If he could control all of it, global warming wouldn’t be a thing, and he wouldn’t be sweating his balls off.

He passed a group of school children, eager to play in the park, but hesitating to venture out of the shade into the heavy heat of the noonday sun. In moments, a big fluffy cloud formed over the park and the temperature dropped. Airon could hear the gleeful laughter as the kids began their games. It was good, and he felt his mood lighten.

Airon approached his destination, a massive, high, featureless wall. With a quick and surreptitious glance around him, he made his way to a section blocked off from the view of the street by an adjacent windowless building. It would be depressing if it weren’t exactly what he needed. With skills honed over the decades, he scaled the wall quickly and launched himself over the other side. Experience told him he would land in another isolated area, one very close to his target.

With a snap of his jacket and a straightening of his spine, he approached his next target with the same calm confidence approached everything with. He just had to avoid the zookeepers until he maneuvered himself into the crowd of paying patrons wandering from the elephants to the polar bears.  It wasn’t that he couldn’t afford to pay the admission price, but he enjoyed outwitting “the system” and sneaking into the zoo made him feel invincible.  Besides, he was performing a service, albeit one they didn’t understand.

The zoo was a bit quieter than normal, but it was June, and it was solidly over ninety-five-degree Fahrenheit. Most people were hiding in air-conditioned buildings waiting until the sun set.

The huge bears languished. It was too hot for them, and it was cruel that they were kept in this way, south Texas was no place for polar bears. But here they were. These weren’t creatures of the sub-tropics, these were majestic beasts of the snow and ice. It made him angry that they weren’t able to be free, but he wasn’t in the business of rescuing enormous predators, but he could make things better for them.  Airon sat on the observation bench and began his work. Sometimes his work involved hurting people, but only the ones who really needed it, but this was what mattered to him. And in a blink of the eye, snow began to swirl in the polar bear enclosure. The bears perked up and began to play in the flurries, snow collecting on their giant heads and in their fur. Later, Airon imagined the zookeepers would be confused, but they never seemed to make a big deal about it.  He had been doing this for months, nearly every day, and there had never been mention of it anywhere. If there had, he would need to stop visiting the polar bears. Humans couldn’t know his kind existed, but as long as nobody commented on the unusual weather inside the Arctic enclosure, he would keep coming to make sure the bears were comfortable.

The air temperature dropped around him, and he noticed a few people lingering around, watching the playful bears, and enjoying the sanctuary of the cold he had created.  Soon a few had to move on, not being dressed for the freezing temperatures. Airon pulled his jacket closer, the chill was even more than he enjoyed, but the happiness the polar bears got from his special visits more than made up for his discomfort. It was a very good day, tomorrow was looking pretty good too.

This story was inspired by some silliness from www.steelstashwriting.com, check him out for more flash fiction stuff. (He seems to like it.)

The Green Gecko Bar and Grill, part 1

img_6938When Hank’s father opened the Green Gecko 43 years ago, he intended it to be a fun place for beachgoers to get a cold beer and some greasy bar food.  But the times had changed. While locals still made their way to the out-of-the-way bar, the tourists, on which every little business needed to thrive, had moved on to trendier chain restaurants. Leaving the old dive to the mercy of the changing economic tides. But Hank was nothing if not resourceful, and the Old Man might not recognize the place now.

The divey little bar along the strip, just a mile up from the pier, off the boardwalk had become a regular haunt, so to speak, for the creatures of the underworld.  It turned out that demons, ghouls, and other nether dwellers really liked a good fish taco and cheap beer.  It also turned out that they weren’t welcome in most places, something about bringing about the apocalypse, or pestilence and disease. But Hank didn’t mind them.  They seemed to keep to themselves, remembered their manners, and paid their tabs.  They even tipped at 50%, which Coco the cocktail waitress appreciated.

The demons tried their best to blend in. Azeroth wore a cowboy hat to try to hide his arching horns and cowboy boots to cover his cloven hooves. Semius had a cloak over his massive leathery wings, and Zuul just tried to stick to the darkened corners.  Nothing was going to mask what Zuul was.

Hank never ceased to be amazed by the amount of tortilla chips, jalapeno poppers, and hot wings those guys could put away. Not to speak of the sheer volume of liquor the demons consumed. Azeroth like light beer, ice-cold with a twist of lime. Semius liked those naughty little shots with the whipped cream. While Zuul preferred Bloody Marys, with ghost peppers, celery, and pig blood. Hank kept a supply on hand, just for him.
Of course, other demons frequented the bar, but these three had been regulars for the last decade. Hank considered them to be faithful friends. And he knew the feeling was mutual.

Once Azeroth was trying to get this cute little succubus to go out with him, but he was striking out. Hank suggested Azeroth show her his softer side. Since Azeroth was a talented painter and a supporter of animal rights, he invited her to a fancy fundraiser, where he donated a painting of his for the auction. The little succubus was impressed, and as far as Hank knew the pair were still a pretty hot item.

Semius was forever getting hustled at pool by imps until Hank had shown the hulking demon some tricks of his own. Hank hadn’t seen the imps around much anymore, which was just as well, since they rarely spent any money, and occasionally started fights.

As for Zuul, Hank offered him simple understanding and friendship. Zuul was a scary bastard, even other demons tended to give him a wide berth. But he wasn’t a bad guy, as far as demons went. They didn’t talk much, on account of Zuul’s massive tusks, but Hank reserved the back corner for him, kept the light bulb unscrewed, and had a steady supply of pig blood. It made for an uncomplicated and unique sort of friendship, one Hank was thankful for.

Unfortunately, in spite of Hank’s particular sort of clientele, Hank’s business wasn’t immune to the threats of the local thugs determined to shake a few bucks out of him every week. Perhaps when his father had run the place, times were different. Hank couldn’t remember this ever being a problem before, but these punks were new, fresh to the area and determined to make their mark. It seemed their first order of business was to convince Hank to pay them 20% of his till every week.

Now, even with the loyalty of locals and demons, Hank wasn’t a wealthy man. Sometimes the Green Gecko could barely make the bills, so when the gang of thugs came around to demand protection money, Hank didn’t have it. Nor did he have it the next week, nor the next. On the fourth week, the punks never showed up to demand payment; Hank figured they realized that there was no blood in this turnip. But Hank was wrong.

It was the frantic call from Marjorie that forced Hank to shut down the Gecko right before the lunch rush.

“Marjie, tell me what’s happened!” Hank demanded. His heart was frantic because his ordinarily unflappable wife was very flapped.

“It’s the kids. The school called, Sandy and Freddy never came in after lunch.” Marjie’s voice trembled.

“What do you mean they ‘never came in?’ Where did they go?” Hank could hear her words, but they just didn’t make any sense.

“The school found Freddy’s backpack, there was a note inside,” Marjie said, “They’ve called the police.”

Hank was locking up the doors when his favorite three customers popped up out of a thick cloud of smoke.

“Crispy Petunias Az, could you lighten up on the smoke next time, it’s not healthy?” Semius coughed. Hank usually enjoyed that the hulking demon with skin as black as coal and eyes that glowed like red embers refused to cuss. But even that ridiculousness wasn’t enough to bring a smile to Hank’s drawn face.

“What’s happened? Why you closed up today?” Az asked. Hank couldn’t tell if the blood red demon was pouting or not.

It was too much. Guilt, anguish, worry, and terror all swamped down upon him. Hank’s knees buckled, and he fell awkwardly to the sidewalk.

Almost without intending to, Hank relayed the entire horrible story. How the punks tried to extort money from him, but he didn’t have it. Marjie’s phone call, the kids, and the note.

“I just know it,” Hank sobbed. “Those little snot-nosed punks stole my babies to punish me.”

Semius’s eyes took on an unholy light that Hank had never seen before and Azeroth’s neck bulged, causing his eyes to swell inside their sockets. Zuul just took a deep breath and growled. It was pretty hard for Zuul to look more menacing than he usually did.

“Az and I will find out more about these punks. Zuul, you go with Hank. See if those little snack-cakes left any clues the police wouldn’t find,” Semius instructed. Zuul nodded his agreement.

Hank and Zuul arrived at Hank’s home a few minutes later. If Marjie was surprised to have a seven foot tall, three-hundred pound, tusked demon in her living room, she gave no indication of it.

“Pleesh, jush tall me wot happnd,” Zuul struggled for comforting human speech. His tusks tended to get in the way and he rarely used spoken words to communicate.

“The police have the note,” Marjie said, “but it didn’t say much, just ‘You know why.'”

“Whash aboot tha bashpach?” Zuul said, fighting to get the words out clearly.

Hank and Marjie stared at each other for a moment, trying to decipher the words.

“Oh, his backpack. Yes. The police let me bring it home,” Marjie said triumphantly, as she pulled the bag off the hook by the door.

Zuul pressed the pack to his nose and inhaled deeply. Most of the odors made sense. Paper, wooden pencils, wax crayons, a chicken nugget, a stale Jolly Rancher, and then there was a hint. Tobacco from cheap cigarettes, even cheaper tequila, and something else. Something more useful.

With a toothy grin that peeled the paint off the wall, Zuul said, “Tha kish woll be hoom in an hooor.” And with that, Zuul disappeared in a surprisingly dainty puff of lemon scented smoke.

…Stay tuned for the part 2 of 2 next week. I promise.

Book Cover Challenge #2

This was supposed to happen on Sunday, but Sunday was a crap day.  Monday, I had an audiobook due at the library but hadn’t listened to any of it, so I had to cram 10 hours of book into 7.5 hours.  The narrator sounded a bit like a chipmunk, and I think I missed a fairly significant plot point, but I got it all in. Yesterday, I needed to get some writing done and then I was finally able to focus on my second book cover. DANG!  Book covers are hard.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I chose to create my next cover as a Romance.  Which I think technically it will be, so that’s OK.  I don’t imagine I’ll use it as my official cover, but I think I like this one better than the last cover (or at least it fits the genre better).  So there’s that.

So without further ado, book cover part duex.

Stans Ghost Romance
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I did it this one as a Romance