The Vampires of New England Series--Inanna Arthen



Rewriting The Rules


February 8, 2013

Excerpt from The Longer the Fall — Snowstorms and Vampires

Filed under: The Longer the Fall — Tags: , , — admin @ 8:07 pm

In honor–or acknowledgment–of Winter Storm Nemo, which is bearing down on the Northeast at this moment, I’m posting an excerpt from The Longer the Fall, Chapter 24:

When she awoke that evening, she could feel that the weather had changed. It wasn’t nearly as cold as those clear, still nights when arctic air flowed down from Canada and pooled under high pressure, sinking the mercury as far as thirty below. But it was well below freezing, and the wind had a fierce bite. There was something big coming, a major storm, the kind that only hit once in a few years, even a few decades. She could smell it bearing down, like the dust and sweat of a distant army.

She’d bunked down in the upper loft of a barn, which she used because it had an attached greenhouse that warmed the building, but there was no livestock here. It looked and smelled like the owners reared poultry, veal calves and pigs for market, buying them in the spring and selling them all off in the fall rather than go to the expense of keeping them over the winter. That was a common backyard farmers’ practice that contributed to Diana’s privation now. But she wasn’t alone in the barn tonight. She could hear a radio playing, and two boys were talking. From what she could infer, they’d been assigned to spend the weekend day cleaning up downstairs, and now were smoking cigarettes and relaxing. Diana remained quiet, listening.

“…and residents are urged to stay off the roads. Repeat, stay off the roads unless you have an emergency. Forecasters are predicting a major winter storm over the area during the next twenty-four hours,” she heard the radio announcer say.

“Ah, jeez,” one of the boys said. “I’m gonna be shovelin’ snow ‘til Easter.”

“Why’ncha dad get a plow blade on his truck, anyway?”

“He’s got one, it’s called his son,” the first boy said tragically.

“It’s good for ya, you’ll getcha muscles that way.”

“Yeah, yeah, easy for you to say. When’s your mom pickin’ you up?”

“She said five.”

“That’s now.”

“I know, she’s comin’. Probably had to wait for the old man to get home, he went over ta Bangor. Hey…”

“Yeah?”

“Aincha scared to be here all alone? You wanna come back with us?”

“You kiddin’? My folks’ll pitch a fit.”

“Yeah, but…you know all that stuff the guys were sayin’.”

“Like what?” The first boy’s voice dripped with contempt.

“No, listen, I heard it straight from Danny!” the visiting boy’s voice had risen excitedly. “He saw it!”

“That’s such a pile of crap.”

“It was in his yard! It just about killed Maxie, tried to strangle him with his chain.”

“Crap,” the first said in a sing-song jeer. “Crap, crap, crap.”

“Is not. You can ask Danny’s dad, and his mom, they filed a police report and ever’thing. Eight feet tall, they said, and all covered with moss, or hair, and just one eye glaring out. It was after Maxie, it was going to tear him apart! Then when they turned the lights on, it flew straight up in the air, and Danny’s dad, he shot at it, and the bullets went straight through.”

The first boy hooted a loud fake laugh. “You are so full of crap, and so is Danny. And his old man is crazy, last year he shot up his own car.”

“He thought it was a deer, come on, anyone could do that.”

“Too bad the bullets didn’t go right through that time. Car’s still got holes in it.”

“Yeah, well…” the visiting boy muttered. He obviously had a high level of loyalty to Danny. Diana started when a car horn honked from outside.

“That’s your mom,” the first boy said helpfully. His visitor got up slowly. Diana cautiously peered down over the edge of the loft and saw the boys both getting up, one of them grinding a cigarette into the dirt floor with the toe of his boot. Smoke tickled Diana’s nose.

“Are you sure you don’t wanna come? When are your folks gettin’ home?”

“I dunno, an hour maybe. Nothing is going to get me in my own house, fer pete’s sake. Now go on, your mommy’s waiting for you.”

The visitor broke into a trot as he crossed the yard. Diana moved to the wall of the loft and peered out through the crack between two boards. The first boy taunted from the open door downstairs, “Run, sissy, run! Look out, it’s coming for ya, run to your mommy! It’s going to getcha!” The visiting boy didn’t speed up, but he didn’t look back, either. He seemed genuinely scared to be crossing the open ground—it was a fair distance between the barn behind the house and the road out front where an old Ford pick-up truck was waiting.

Diana waited until the truck had pulled away and was out of sight, then dematerialized and ghosted down to the first floor. The first boy had turned off the radio and was down on one knee, facing the wall, putting tools into a wooden crate. Diana solidified directly behind him. He had that utterly delicious smell that only younger people had, rich and delicate at the same time, and her mouth was watering. There was no reason to hesitate and certainly no reason to let him see her. She stepped up behind him, put her hand over his mouth, yanked his head back and clamped onto his neck. His arms waved wildly and when she opened, he squealed, but within seconds his muscles had gone limp, stopping his struggles. All he could do was emit gasping whimpers in blind panic. She blanked out his memory then, so he would lose consciousness, and drank past the first signal, and the second one, because it felt too wonderful to stop. She really couldn’t let herself go so long without drinking.

She finally forced herself to close and let the boy down to the ground. When she looked at his face, a shock ran over her, and she froze motionless. He was younger than she’d estimated—not more than thirteen, tall and gangly for his age. She’d assumed the boys were high school students. His face was dead white and clammy. She’d drunk too much.

She stared down at him, her mind unbearably clear and lucid for the first time in weeks. Is this what I’ve come down to? Now I’m attacking children? I have become a monster. She stood there, too appalled at herself to move, until the boys’ words came back to her mind and she realized that she either had to clear out before his parents returned, or be caught. It was far too cold to leave the boy in the barn unconscious, especially if he was in shock. She hauled him up onto her shoulder, legs and arms dangling, and walked across the back yard to his house. The door was unlocked, and she took him inside and carefully arranged him on the shabby couch in the living room. She locked the door, dematerialized to leave via the keyhole, and took to the air, traveling crossways to the wind that had turned northeast.

She went on for a long time, her mind in turmoil, and finally stopped in a part of the woods some miles from any roads or trails. It wasn’t deep wilderness here. The trees were widely spaced, having been logged over in the past, and she was at the crest of a steep bank. A small stream, not quite frozen over, ran along its foot. Nothing shielded her from the wind on this hilltop. When she solidified, she had to lean forward a little to balance.

What am I doing? This is no solution. I can’t be killed, I can’t be stopped, I can’t stop myself! If I don’t drink, I’ll lose my mind and people will die. More people will die, she amended grimly. There was no peaceful union with Nature for her. Thomas was right—she didn’t belong to the natural world at all any more. She didn’t belong anywhere—but she couldn’t leave. There was no power that could hinder or destroy her now.

She thought about the story that the visiting boy had told, and clearly believed—Danny, she deduced, had been the one screaming at his father not to shoot Maxie that disastrous night ten days ago. Eight feet tall, covered with hair, one glaring eye? Diana looked down at her pitch-blackened skin and her shirt hanging in tatters. Her hair, matted with pitch and full of twigs and bits of bark, blew around her face in snarled dreadlocks. As for what her face itself must look like…no wonder Danny’s family had been hysterical. This is what I want?

The snow had started falling, but it wasn’t falling straight down. Carried on the relentless wind, the tiny hard flakes peppered Diana’s face in a stinging blast. Her fingers were stiffening. She’d have to get out of the wind, or they’d freeze, and be useless until she got somewhere warm enough to thaw them out. If she stood here long enough, she might just freeze solid, like Lot’s wife turned to the pillar of salt.

The thought struck her like an inspiration. Maybe that would stop her, render her harmless, at least for a little while. Was it possible? Was the storm strong enough to overcome the power of the dragon, even temporarily? Or would she just dematerialize before she froze too far? She turned into the wind, and it seemed that she could hear a hissing, caressing voice: Stay. Rest. Embrace me, my love. I’ll hold you fast. I’ll be your conscience. Sleep with me until spring…

She moved to the northeast side of one of the big trees, the unobstructed force of the wind pinning her against the trunk, leaned back against it and slowly sank to her knees in the old snow that was already a foot deep at its base. She spread her arms out to the wind. She couldn’t move her hands at all now. With numbed lips she spoke three words.

“Yes. Show me.”

Her consciousness sank down into a state deeper than her daytime sleep. Her body stiffened and froze to the tree, and the snow, more than two feet of it in this single storm, covered her completely, disguising her form, sheltering her from the sunlight, hiding her from the world.

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