I’m a pessimistic saver and she’s an optimistic spender, we vibe on different humor wavelengths, and she’s a throw-things-explosive-screaming arguer while I tend to shut down and walk away, so there was absitively posolutely no way in hell Demi and I were ever going to hook up but that crafty little bish caught my ass off guard by whispering “I love you” in my ear and nibbling on my neck and suddenly the fundamental laws of physics and the profound theorems of mathematics no longer made sense.
They say you don’t know what you don’t know which caused me to question, What did I know of love or its origins?
I called her love, this astonishing enchantress who slipped out of the void and through my vanity, her beauty masking the faceless monster beneath, and publicly stoning me with a slander so brutal it left me no option but to seek refuge within her oblivion.
Autumn had been a lucid dreamer long before she knew there was a term for it so she wasn’t afraid when she was being chased by a nasty piece of horrifying nightmare but, as she was about to wake herself up, she slipped on an icy patch of sueños and fell headlong into the underdream, the sleep realm in which she possessed no control.
The beast could have ripped the young girl’s throat clean away without raising a sweat, and wanted to, but it was forced into servitude because Aisling possessed a precious strand of the púca’s hair that had—intricately woven into its genetic pattern—a sliver of the creature’s soul.
Without the consent of Earth’s so-called Supreme Deity, the canine chrononauts actually had no motive grander for reviving the long-dead homo sapien species through means of planetary time reversal other than to witness first hand how their former oppressors lived.
The loft space was sparsely furnished but vacant. It had been available for occupancy for years but remained unrented due to the dangerous reputation of the neighborhood and the owner’s reluctance to lower his asking price despite the downturn in the housing market. How I came to be in possession of a set of keys was none of your goddamn business.
Across a poorly constructed Ikea table sat a nervous woman who went by the pseudonym Audi B. She was done up in a pink and white double breasted pinafore dress that made her look like a charter member of Sandra Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
“And the moment we shake hands, you’ll kill him, no matter what?” Audi B asked, her features shifting at a rate of three faces per second.
She was wearing one of those holographic visors that projected stock photo features over her own face that cycled through random eyes, noses and mouths in order to conceal her true identity. She even paid extra for the voice modulator add on. What an absolute waste of money because I performed a thorough identitrace on her, same as I did with the rest of my potential clientele before agreeing to meet with them. Her real name was Fiona Jordan and the man she was hiring me to delete was her lover who was blackmailing her with the threat of exposing their affair to her wealthy husband.
“If you pay for the Standard Package, your target’s death is guaranteed within 96 hours. Express is 48 hours, and Expedited gets it done in less than 12,” I said in a voice that wasn’t my own. She wasn’t the only one who needed to protect their identity, only I went the professional route with subdermal implants. My face was a constantly changing canvas and has been for so long, the only way I remembered what I looked like was by looking at pre-surgery photographs.
“I’m interested in the Expedited Package.”
“I don’t run an electronic business, for obvious reasons.”
“I brought cash,” Audi B said, then followed with, “What if he doubles your fee to kill me?” A common question.
“If he’s stupid enough to slap cash in my hand, it’s mine to keep. Consider it a bonus for honoring our original contract. Once we shake, you’re safe from counter-contracting.”
“And if I change my mind? I mean, not that I would, I absolutely want him dead.”
“I go radio silent 30 minutes before a scheduled appointment, so you’ll need to contact me before then. If this occurs, you’ll forfeit half the payment plus any expenses I’ve incurred.”
“Do you even care if he deserves it?”
“Not at all.”
“With all due respect, how do you live with yourself?”
“The better question is, once it’s done, can you live with yourself?”
“I’ll be just fine,” Audi B said, sliding a black backpack across the floor with her foot from her side of the table to mine.
I opened the bag and inspected it as well as the contents within.
“It’s all there, I assure you.”
“I don’t doubt that,” I said, taking a handheld ultraviolet flashlight from my pocket and running it over assorted bills from random banded bundles. “I’m simply checking for trackers, sequential numbers and marked bills.”
“I wouldn’t know how to do any of those things.”
I let the non-verifiable comment go, concluded my inspection and closed the bag before saying, “If you have any traceable connection to the target, you will become a person of interest. You’d be surprised how many people can’t stand up to that type of scrutiny.”
“You just keep your end of the contract and let me worry about me,” Audi B took firm hold of my outstretched hand and gave it a solid shake, cementing our deal.
“When you leave here you should invest in an ironclad alibi. Never be alone until the job is done. The more people you surround yourself with, the better, and make sure people remember you were with them.”
Audi B sighed as she stood up to leave. Over her shoulder she said, “I hope we never have the occasion to meet again.”
“We won’t,” I answered, unholstering my pistol.
The dart pierced the back of her neck and introduced a lethal cocktail of pancuronium bromide, potassium chloride, midazolam, and necrotizing fasciitis, that not only paralyzed her and shut down her respiratory system and heart, but also began eating her body away from the inside. Audi B was dead before her hand touched the doorknob.
Had the effects of the cocktail not been so immediate, I would have gladly explained that her deletion wasn’t personal, just a bit of bad luck on her part. She managed to win the unlucky lottery by selecting the same hitman her husband contracted to delete her. If only all of my assignments could have been this simple.
I slid the backpack over my shoulder, inspected her corpse for personal effects and found none, a smart move on her part, except for a set of car keys, which I confiscated. Before leaving the loft, I activated a DNA fogger that would coat the space with a chemical concoction that would destroy any and all biological evidence.
Her car wasn’t all that difficult to find. It was parked a block away and I chuckled when I saw it was a classic 1982 Audi Quattro Group B, which made Fiona’s pseudonym much less random. It had more than enough gas to make it to her ex-lover’s house. She had paid me after all and I was a man of my word who always honored his contracts.
Once upon a time, there was a poor little dream girl who, through no fault of her own, became separated from her mother and found herself lost in the real world. It was a terribly dark and lonely place and as she was the sleepy byproduct of ephemeral thoughts, ethereal ideas, and gossamer sensations, she was essential naked. She roamed through the streets lacking the protective emotional outer layers mortals wrapped themselves with in order to survive the harshness of reality.
Added to her misfortune, Dream Girl quickly discovered the longer she remained on this all too physical plane of existence, the more solid, the more human she was becoming. She needed clothing to hide a nakedness that she was not previously aware of, as well as food and shelter if she was to survive, but unfortunately she possessed none of the currency of this world, so she plucked individual dreams from her nacreous cloud hair to barter for what she needed. They were all high quality fantasies and flights of imagination and she offered them at a fraction of their true worth but no one was interested. Another lesson she learned was that once plucked, dreams that were unattached to a dreamer, had a limited lifespan before eventually withering away from neglect.
During the day, even when the sun was at its apex, Dream Girl found reality to be cold and at night it became colder still. It was necessary to find shelter but despite the many doors she knocked on, no one took pity on her plight, so she was forced to hunker down in an alleyway to make her bedding. She plucked more dreams from her head and wove a crude blanket to help keep off the cold. As she slept, street urchins in dirty rags stole her blanket and plucked handfuls of dreams from her hair and when she woke in the early hours her mostly human body was blue from frost and her head nearly bald.
Dream Girl found that she lacked the strength to move from the alley, so she plucked one of the remaining dreams and attempted to turn it into a wish to return home, a trick she had watched her mother do on many occasions, but she was too young and lacked the knowledge and experience to perform the deed properly. Shivering, she hugged her knees to her chest, drawing herself into the tightest ball she could manage, and plucked another dream. And one after that. And another one still, trying in vain to open a doorway back to the place she belonged, back home with her family, until she had only one strand, one single dream remaining.
Dream Girl held the final dream between frozen fingers that had lost all sensation but this time there was no thought of turning it into a wish. She simply let a dream be a dream, and oh how she dreamed. It was the biggest dream she ever dreamt, which was filled with the most beautiful light in existence that washed away the gray of reality and gave off such a warmth as to permeate to her marrow. And in that magnificent light she saw the loving and concerned face of her mother.
“Mother, I am lost and I am dying,” Dream Girl said, breaking down into uncontrollable sobs.
“I am coming for you,” Dream Mother said. She too was crying but her tears were tiny glistening stars that fell upon her daughter, blanketing her in warmth. And as the little one stretched out her arms toward her mother, the dream evaporated.
In the early hours just before dawn, Dream Mother stepped into the gritty, gray alley, past the vermin and refuse and found her daughter, the little dream of her life, huddled in the farthest corner, frozen to death. She knelt and gingerly took the stiff corpse into her loving arms and from her own hair of swirling colorful fantasies, she plucked a special dream and began the gentle process of transmuting it into a wish.
While her mind was idle one Wednesday morning, Marnie came to the realization that she was completely alone in the world. Not lonely, that was a different creature entirely, and she enjoyed her own company a little too much to ever feel lonely for long. She was alone. Despite her ability to effectively communicate with people and mingle socially when the occasion called for such a thing, despite the friends she had that would have come to her aid if asked, and sometimes unasked, no other person occupied space within her personal bubble.
But what was the cause? Who was to blame? Her parents? Her environment? A quick-to-judge society built on the foundation of superficial glamor? No, none of these. If truth be known, and why shouldn’t it be, the culprit was herself. It all came down to her unwillingness to assimilate. She just refused to do it.
Some long forgotten hurt in her past made her create a world where family and friends were strangers and strangers were stranger still. She was a distant friend to a select few and kin to no one, and could easily manage to be alone in a crowded room, untouched in an embrace, and unloved in a relationship. Nothing penetrated, nothing permeated, nothing ever touched her. Nothing real, that is. She knew she could feel. This was made evident by her ability to empathize with television and movie characters, which made her wonder if perhaps life would have seemed a little more real if it came equipped with a soundtrack and the occasional laugh track.
And she would have continued on her isolated path if not for her grandmother who, on her deathbed and oblivious to the surrounding family, recounted random stories from her childhood. She stopped abruptly in mid-sentence and in a moment of seeming clarity, locked eyes with Marnie and asked, “Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?”
Marnie hadn’t known the words belonged to Charles Bukowski, and with all due respect to the author, it hadn’t mattered. The only thing that was of any importance was the fact that her need for separation from the world was a lie.
Before the opinions of others mattered, she loved to play games without caring about winning or losing, to sing without worrying about being in key, dance without knowing the moves, and love wholeheartedly without fear of rejection. After being away so long, was it too late to return to those humble and innocent beginnings? Marnie had no idea, but she was determined to give it a try.
The moment Lavelle stepped through the door, I realized something was wrong. He had just come home for winter recess, head shaved bald and immediately retreated into his room claiming to be exhausted from the trip. When he finally made an appearance at the dinner table, he asked if we could go shopping for some new clothes from the big and tall section. Lavelle, like the rest of my side of the family was thin and vertically challenged so when I questioned him he claimed “it’s the style now, you wouldn’t understand.” It was an obvious lie but I loved my son and went along with the deception.
While selecting stretch fabric shirts and elastic band pants that were several sizes too big for his wiry frame, Lavelle shyly asked if I could take him to see an animal therapist. I could have handled my initial response better but it was such a bizarre request that caught me out of left field. I began badgering him with questions and demanding answers until he broke down in tears and revealed that he had become a werewolf.
We did a joint counselling session with a therapist who took my son’s claim in stride. She gently suggested that Lavelle could only have true happiness if he found a way to be comfortable with his authentic self. Doing my part, I assured my son that I would continue to love and support him. I told the therapist that I was scared for him because I felt with all the torment he was experiencing by holding everything in and hiding the truth for so long, something would cause him to break and harm himself, the way some people do when they reach the final straw.
The odd thing about the whole situation was I was never afraid for my own life. I knew my son would never hurt me. And the only major adjustment I had to make was whenever he visited home during full moon periods, he tended to leave portions of his victims on my doorstep, the way house cats brought glory gifts to their owners when they killed mice, leaving me to dispose of the evidence and follow YouTube tutorials on “biohazard remediation,” but these were the things one does for love.
The Confrérie des Chevaliers du Coupe de Sang, translated in English as “The Fraternity of Knights of the Blood Cup” is an exclusive brotherhood of vampire slayers that was founded in the early 1700s after a group of daring individuals drove from hiding a mysterious man who paid nightly visits to respectable and pious maidens and drank their blood by giving them the seductive kiss of evil in order to prove that his unholy religion was stronger than their Christianity.
To counter the ghoul’s claims, the chevaliers slew the beast and drank his tainted blood to demonstrate his curse held no power over their belief in God. This action had the curious and unexpected result of extending the lifespan of the founding knights, who, although not truly immortal, lived long enough to bury over one hundred generations of descendents.
The Confrérie, as it exists today, is governed by a Grand Conseil of Chevaliers who are charged with approving candidates for membership. The novitiates must single-handedly slay a vampire in the chevaliers’ presence before they can be knighted by sipping undead nectar from the cup stained with the blood of the first vampire.