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.)

Oops. I apologize.

Last night I was working on a thing, Claire and Mr. Fluffytoes, and I got a bit excited and shared it before it was ready.

As I muddle through this social media-blogging-keeping myself relevant thing, I’m bound to make some blunders.  Yesterday’s post was one of those blunders.  I took that mistake down this morning before too many people could be horrified by the badness of it all.

I was just eager to get my next short/serial story out and shared it before it was ready.  And it was bad.  So if you read it and thought “Geez, this lady SUCKS at this.” You’re right.  I do suck at this at times.

I am excited to share the tale (or tail if you will) of Claire and Mr. Fluffytoes, a stocks analyst, and a housecat shifter, but that story needs a bit more time and as soon as it’s actually ready, I will share it.

Thank you for taking the time to follow me, read my stuff, like my posts, or leave comments.  It matters to me.  It also matters to me that I give you something entertaining to read in exchange and that I own up to it if I fail.

Raining Tacos!

It’s Raining Tacos. Hallelujah! By J.S. Stum, aka The Steel ‘Stash!

The Steel ‘Stash put out a call for topics for his #FlashFictionFriday, and I answered that call!

I gleeful suggested “It’s Raining Tacos” from the popular, catchy, and annoying song by Perry Gripp and BooneBum. (Because if it has to be in my head, it should be in your head too!)

The Steel Stash gave me the Taco Tale I never knew I needed. Check it out!

The Green Gecko Bar and Grill, Part 2

Part 1 of the Green Gecko Bar and Grill

Azeroth and Semius appeared out of nowhere, into well … nowhere. They were in a deathly quiet room, in pitch black. Not that they minded. They were at home in the darkness. A voice rang out in the abyss.

“Why have you violated my peace?” It was a voice so deep that is was almost painful to hear, even for demons.

“Hank, the owner of the Green Gecko, needs help,” Semius said, reverently.

“Hank, huh? He’s the one to has those the deep-fried cheesecake squares, right?” the voice said.

“Yes, my Lord, that’s Hank,” Semius answered.

“What kind of trouble has our Hank found himself in?” The voice now sounded amused and a bit closer than before.

“It’s about his kids, sir. They are missing.” This time it was Azeroth who spoke.

“Ah, the little scamps ran off?” The voice chuckled.

“No, my Lord. Kidnapped. By a local street gang, they’ve been trying to shake him down, and he couldn’t pay. So they took his kids.” Azeroth explained.

“That’s really too bad, but I don’t see what this has to do with me.” The voice was beginning to sound bored.

“Hank’s shut down the Gecko until this matter is sorted out,” Azeroth said, with a secret smile. “No more deep-fried cheesecake until this matter is resolved.”

“WHAT?” The explosion of sound was so loud that Semius’s ears started to bleed, and Azeroth thought he’d broke some ribs. “When you find the punks who did this, send them to me,” the voice was back to low and deadly.

“About that, sir. If we could get permission to use some of our more special skills, it would be helpful.” Semius said.

“Granted,” the voice said.

And with a puff, the two demons were back into the mortal world.

***
Usually, demons were discouraged from using their more showy talents. Raining brimstone, plagues of boils, and rolling fogs of noxious gases were more or less prohibited, unless under exceptional circumstances.

“It’s a bit of a disappointment that we have to turn them over to Him,” Azeroth said as he kicked a small stone down the sidewalk.

“I was looking forward to disemboweling one. I read up on a new technique on a blog I follow,” Semius said somewhat petulantly.

“I think I read that one, I would be interested in seeing how it’s done.” Azeroth agreed,

“But we can’t disobey Him. He has no patience for that shit.” And Az was right; he would demonstrate the disemboweling technique on them if they ignored his command.

“The good news is that those little fried bird droppings won’t stand a chance. He might not kill them, but they will sure wish for death,” Semius said with a smile.

“Where to next, bro?” Semius said, getting his bearings in the neighborhood.

“We should ask some of the other little businesses, no doubt those little thugs were shaking down others too,” Azeroth said.

The pair strolled into the closest little liquor store. There were massive grates on the windows and a rolling steel door hoisted just high enough to get the front open.

Semius scanned the dark, decaying interior and gave a disdainful sniff. As the Unholy Angel of Death, he’d seen some pretty awful things and even this place grossed him out a bit.
Az walked right up to the counter, the cashier slid his hand under the counter but didn’t make any other movements. Azeroth knew their appearance could be off-putting to someone who didn’t know them. Each standing well over six feet, with their unnatural skin tones, and peculiar dress, it was natural for people to be wary around them. So Az put on his brightest and cheeriest smile. The cashier flinched and shrunk back a bit.

“My friend and I were hoping you could give a little information?” Az said with the most pleasant voice he could muster. He, at least, tried to take some of the gravel out of it.

“What kind of information?” The cashier asked with an audible squeak.

“There are some punks in the area, shaking down the businesses for cash, know anything about them?” Az still tried to keep his smile in place, but it was starting to strain his cheek muscles.

“Yeah, what about them?” The cashier said as he gripped whatever was under the countertop more tightly.

“We need to talk to them,” Semius said, coming up behind Az and apparently not interested in putting the cashier at ease. Semius’s eyes took on a bit of an unholy glow.

“Yeah, they come by here. They have a flop by the boardwalk. It’s not a real building, but they have some couches and a radio,” the cashier said. His eyes firmly fixed on Semius’s.
Semius squinted and looked directly into the cashier’s gaze. Semius saw an elderly woman in a tiny kitchen, a simple apartment with few decorations and furnishings, and a young child playing on the carpet. There was fear and worry and self-loathing, and there was hope and determination and love. The thing the cashier had his hand on was a phone, set to dial 911. Semius looked more deeply, but he didn’t see anything evil.
With a nod, Semius broke the connection, and the cashier slumped back, the terror of having soul searched by a demon of death sucking all the strength out of his knees.

“He’s told us all he knows, let’s see if we can find this ‘flop,'” Semius said to Azeroth.

“Thank you for your time,” Az said, again trying to be pleasant. The cashier just nodded.
Back on the street, the pair of demons wandered towards the boardwalk.

“This isn’t a great part of town there could be any number of flops around here. The Dark Lord won’t be impressed if we send him the wrong thugs.”

Zuul materialized out of the smoke into the presence of his two companions. “Anny newsh?”

“He granted us the use of our unique abilities,” Semius said with a fat grin. “And we have a lead on the kidnappers.”

“What did you find out?” Az asked Zuul. It wasn’t a question of if Zuul learned something. Despite his fearsome features, Zuul was one of the smartest demons in hell. He always learned something.

“Thaay likke sheap shigerettes an’ liquorr, ann une off thaam smalls likke haiir dye an ggglittta boddy oiil, an shomthig evil,” Zuul said around his huge tusks. “A’ll knooww tha small if A small it agaain.”

“Okay, I don’t think the cigarettes and liquor will help us out much, but the hair dye and body glitter should narrow it down. Any idea on the color of hair dye?” Az asked, after assessing their information.

“I shink ish bluue, maaybe wish yallow highlish,” Zuul carefully enunciated.

“Now that’s a description. Let’s head to the boardwalk.” Az almost had a spring in his step.

Az and Semius chatted as the three of them walked down towards the beach.

“The Dark Lord had just granted us the use of our total powers and Sem here is already using them to pry into the soul of a poor cashier, ” Az said with glee. His mission to rescue Hank’s kids had given him a renewed purpose. Azeroth had been at loose ends ever since a popular video game co-opted his name. Being a war demon, he enjoyed creating terror, but his popularity after the game’s release had sidelined him. For those that knew of him, he no longer inspired horror, but instead worshipful awe. Since the Dark Lord didn’t like sharing his worshipful awe, Az got demoted. The only reason the Dark Lord didn’t blink Az out of existence was that he was a talented painter and the Dark Lord had a thing for art. It was a double-edged sword. But Az was enjoying his new found freedom. He wasn’t responsible for creating the horrors of war, and so he could focus on his softer pursuits.

“He makes it sound so dramatic. I was just seeing if he was holding anything back or lying. He wasn’t.” Sem said dismissively.

Zuul nodded. Zuul was a special kind of demon. His talents were more the bump in the night kind. With a face even his demon mother had a hard time loving, he was better relegated to the shadows. If he were any more terrifying, they could categorize him as livestock. But Zuul had some extraordinary talents. He could smell evil, and he could track it down. It was how he knew Hank’s kids would be home within the hour.

Zuul paused on the street and took two deep breaths one through his mouth, the other through his nose. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the smells. Car exhaust, rotisserie chicken from El Pollo down the street, the stench of humans, the smell of the ocean. And there it was, mingling in with scents of the bustling neighborhood. Cheap tequila, blue hair dye, tobacco and the particular kind of evil that punishes a man’s children for not being able to pay his protection money.

Zuul didn’t bother with words. The others would understand him either way, so better to just lead the way. He wove through back allies until they reached the boardwalk. Zuul took another deep breath and again concentrated on the scents. They were very close now.

They could hear the noise from the flop before they found it. The radio was an impressive sound system that shouldn’t have been safe unattended in this area. It was a testament to the fear the neighborhood inspired by this little gang of thugs.

The three demons paused outside the makeshift structure. “We need to be sure we know where the kids are before we send them to the Dark Lord,” Az said.

That was Zuul’s cue to scent the air one more time. This time he was looking for wax crayons, chicken nuggets, and jolly ranchers. “Thaay’aar heeer,” Zuul said with what might have passed for a smile if lampreys smiled.

Semius stepped forward. This was his realm. Semius wasn’t an actual demon, but his work was so dark that he felt more comfortable with the demons than his own kind. He was an unholy angel, responsible for judging souls. One of his unique talents, besides judgment, was removing souls from the living. Without a soul, a person was just a husk and empty vessel. They might go through the motions of life, but the vital spark within them was gone. These thugs wouldn’t cause much trouble once he finished with them. With that in mind, he entered the shanty.

There were four guys huddled over a tiny table playing cards. They didn’t hear him enter over the pounding beat of the music playing. In the back of the shambled room, there was a curtain, partitioning off the space. Semius wanted to know what was beyond that curtain. He surveyed the guys at the table. None had blue hair, but the sense of evil was strong, and he had to fight to control the urge to rip their souls out without making an official judgment. He took a heavy step towards the table, alerting the players to his presence.

He locked eyes with the man closest to the door. Calling him a man might have been a stretch, he was young. But he wasn’t a child, and he was doing some very adult things. Semius looked deeply into the man’s eyes looking for evil and darkness. It didn’t take long. Semius saw vicious and unspeakable crimes. This bastard took joy in cruelty, lust, greed, and rage. This thug liked hurting people, and it didn’t matter who.

Semius probed a bit deeper, discovering that the children were here, behind the curtain and the man with the blue hair left to pick up some women. Semius didn’t need to look any deeper. With a mental flick of his wrist, shredded the bastard’s soul from his body. With vacant eyes, the bastard just stood there as Semius removed the souls of the other three vermin at the table.

“It’s done,” Semius called to the demons waiting outside the door. And he went to the backroom to check on the kids.

“Where’s the one with the blue hair?” Azeroth said as he surveyed Semius’s work.

“Out trying to get laid. He’ll be back soon,” Semius said while pulling the sheet back, exposing the little room. There was a filthy bed, some crates, and the stereo system. Huddled asleep on the bed were the two children, Sandy and Freddy.

Zuul shouldered past the other two to crouch near the sleeping children. He pressed his nose against Sandy’s face and inhaled deeply. “Drugst, bat A thinsh it’sh jush cooald medishin,” he said. “Thay shooold wauk up shooon.”

Az heard the door closing, and his gaze met the blue-haired thug’s. He was alone. Good, nobody wanted to deal with witnesses.

“Who the fu…” The blue-haired thug started to say, but he didn’t finish. His limp body slumped to the ground. It would look like an overdose. Azeroth, being a war demon, had the power of life and death. He could kill in an instant, and leave no trace. Or he could make the death look like something else. He could also keep someone from dying even if by all rights they shouldn’t be alive. But he rarely got to use that skill.

“You weren’t supposed to kill him,” Semius said.

“The Dark Lord wouldn’t have permitted up our full powers if he didn’t expect us to use them,” Az answered.

Semius touched Azeroth’s shoulder, pulling the thug’s soul off of him. “I’ll deliver the souls, The Dark Lord will be pleased to have them so quickly,” Semius said as he blinked out in a hazy, green cloud. It smelled foul, but it would lend credence to the scene once the police got there.

Zuul bundled up the kids, gave Az a long look, and a nod then puffed away in a ball of smoke, taking the children with him. It only made sense to follow them.

Azeroth found Zuul in a tiny ice cream parlor, the children looked groggy, but were awake. Each had a double scoop cone and were happily licking away.

He ordered a pistachio malt and joined them at the table. Zuul had Sandy’s hand in his, and he was concentrating very hard. Az assumed he was trying imprint the story the kids were going to have to tell the police. Probably something about the thugs getting too blasted to realize the kids woke up and escaped. The police would find the gang. Blue Hair was dead of course, but the other four would probably ever leave a government mental facility ever again. It was fit justice for people who would harm children.

***
Hank and Marjie were sitting at the dining room table where Zuul had left them when he popped back into their living room. Sandy and Freddy in his massive arms, everyone was covered in ice cream.
“Oh, my God!” You’re back.” Marjie screamed as she ran towards the behemoth holding her children.

The kids squirmed out of his arms, eager to get to their parents.

“Thank you so much,” Hank said as he held his daughter close to his chest. Never again would his three favorite demons ever pay for drinks again. But he would need more pig blood for Zuul’s Bloody Marys.