This blog is a compilation of short works of fiction by Allan and Helen Krummenacker, authors of the Para-Earth Book Series. The stories contained here take place before our novel "The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home", with the idea of introducing you to some of the characters who appear in that book and the upcoming anthology "The Vampyre Blogs – One Day At a Time" coming this November. So please, sit back and enjoy more glimpses into Nathan's (our vampyre) and his friends' lives.
Christmas in England, how much cooler can you get than that? Answer… you find yourself in the middle of something that could’ve come straight out of a gothic novel. I swear, I’ll never be able to listen to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” the same way, after tonight.
Here, let me explain…
It all started about a week ago, when Nathan told my parents that he had been invited to stay with some of his ‘Extended Family’ over in England and that a private jet had already been set up for when the time came to go. Naturally, I was pretty bummed out upon hearing this.
It was bad enough that my bestie Marisa was spending the holidays in New York City with her folks. They had family in the big city and was spending the holidays with them. In fact she’d been there since before Thanksgiving and had gotten to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in person from a balcony. She’d also gone to see the big tree in Rockefeller Center and had gone ice skating there too.
Still I couldn’t be mad at Nathan. We weren’t the only part of his “Extended” family, and there are others all over the country, and in other countries, who love him as much as we do. So it would only be natural for some of them to want him to come and spend the holidays with them once in a while. Plus, his sister Isabella was already in England awaiting her brother’s arrival.
I had just resigned myself to not seeing him on Christmas morning, when he dropped another bomb on us by saying, “Oh, did I mention all of you are invited to join me?”
At first my parents were a little unsure, but when he told them the festivities would be taking place in an old manor house and that the hosts liked to have an old-fashioned Christmas, they were hooked.
As I quickly learned on our arrival, the manor is over 200 years old and has been owned by the family that whole time. Like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, the current master of manor is a member of the House of Lords. So you can imagine how important keeping the manor as well as the old Christmas traditions alive, is very important. And I for one don’t blame them. This place is amazing. While it has all the modern conveniences, you still feel like you just stepped into a Jane Austen novel. Family portraits, a gallery, silk wallpaper, marble columns, grand staircase, a ballroom, a drawing room, the list goes on and on. I got lost at least twice in the first couple of days. So did my mother. We wound up bumping into each other and asking if each other knew the way out. LOL!
The grounds are immense as well. There’s a pond, rose garden, and even a small chapel used for weddings and other celebrations, including Christmas.
The main hall is huge, with tall windows going practically up to the ceiling (which is at least two to three stories tall). It also has the most impressive fireplace I’ve ever seen. It’s huge affair, with ornately decorated tiles in the firebox area, as well as a beautifully carved stone mantel with intricate pillars leading up to it. There are a couple of wingback chairs set in front of all this, and that’s where I could be found whenever I’d come in from outside. Sometimes Nathan sits with me, not that I’ve seen all that much of him since our arrival. He seems to come and go on ‘business’, supposedly it has to do with a book or two he’s researching, but I’ve seen him talking with his Lordship from the windows now and then. I don’t have the nerve to ask our host what they’re talking about, and I haven’t been able to get Nathan alone long enough to get the story out of him. But clearly, something is up… not that it was any of my business. That is, until tonight.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me get back to the decorations and preparations that led up to the event’s of tonight, Christmas Eve…
As it turned out, Nathan and I returned to the studio the next evening and indeed the piece was finished. Mind you, we still had to spend most of the night allowing the kiln to cool down before we dared remove my precious art piece from within. I’m pleased to say, it came out perfectly. It was everything I wanted it to be.
“It’s beautiful,” Nathan told me inside our shared space.
“I wouldn’t have been able to finish it without your help,” I replied. “I wish I could thank you properly…”
“How do you mean?” he replied curiously.
“You know, giving you a huge hug and all that,” I told him, shrugging our shoulders.
Next thing I knew we were face to face again, inside his mind once more. We were surrounded by fleeting images of his memories again, and this time I caught a few glimpses of our working on my sculpture.
Meanwhile, Nathan opened his arms and I quickly did the same.
“Thank you… thank you so much…” I blubbed, feeling tears of actual tears running down my cheeks. Then I pulled back and looked at him and asked, “Why? Why did you do all this, sharing your body with me and all?”
“Because, you asked for my help,” he said simply.
I shook my head eyeing him carefully, “No, there’s more to it than that. You’ve let me inside you, literally, in a way you yourself said you rarely do. So why me?”
All around us the images changed and I saw myself, much younger, eyes wide and frightful. That’s when I got it. “You felt guilty about me seeing what you did to those men, all those years ago,” I breathed.
He nodded. “The look in your eyes whenever we met, I never understood why you looked so troubled and standoffish. I just thought I was just reminding you of what you went through. I’d had no idea you saw…”
I reached up and stroked his face. “Don’t. Neither Brian nor I would be here today if you hadn’t shown up and did what you did.”
“People who had tortured children and were going to do much worse. Plus, you were already injured and still outnumbered. They pushed you too far and you fought back the only way left to you. Not to save yourself, but to save me, Brian and all those other children. I know that now. I also know you’re a good person, which is why I trusted you enough to accept your offer to help me. And I’m never going to forget it,” I told him.
“Thank you,” he sighed and finally smiled. We hugged again and as we separated, I guess I had a funny expression on my face, because he asked, “What is it?”
“The door between us? You said you could close it when we were done, but… would please leave it open, just a crack? Please?” I asked hopefully. “Is that what you want?”
He smiled. “Always.”
I hugged him again and soon after I found myself back in my body in my hospital room. No one was there, but I didn’t feel alone. I could still feel Nathan, and that made it easier for me to rest.
All of this happened about two months ago, and I can still feel his presence even when he’s not around. But, tonight I can see as well as feel him. Here at my exhibition, he’s been making the rounds, but was close by when it came time to unveil my piece. My jaw and hands are still healing, although I can actually talk again. As for the hands, they’ve responded well to the surgeries and I’m even using clay as part of my therapy to build up strength in them again. But now I know for sure I’ll be able to keep making works of art and beauty once more.
As you can expect, my mom burst into tears of joy when she saw it. She hugged me, carefully of course, since I’m still healing. Still it was so worth it. She could barely speak, she was so moved, but her eyes and smile spoke louder than the entire New York Philharmonic symphony blasting the 1812 overture.
I briefly wondered if Nathan was feeling what I was experiencing, then saw the huge smile on his face across the room. Brian and his family were with them, as well as Jack’s. They’re part of what Nathan calls his “extended” family, and now I am too…
“And always will be…” I hear in my head.
“Back at you,” I reply through our link, and he smiles.
“Okay,” I said aloud, “First I’m going to place the sculpture inside the kiln and set it to just under 200 degrees.” As I/we spoke, I did exactly that. Opening up the kiln and then ever so carefully placed my masterwork inside. Then I proceeded to set the kiln in motion.
“How long will this take?” Brian asked curiously.
“Possibly, until morning or noon,” I answered, and proceeded to settle down on the couch Brian had been sleeping on earlier.
“And then it will be finished?” asked Nathan through our shared mouth.
“No, that’s when I HOPE it will be dry and safe enough to proceed with the actual firing schedule I mentioned before,” I answered.
I suddenly felt a sense of unease inside. “Nathan?” I asked mentally.
“Someone needs to be here the whole time, and I didn’t bring anything I might need,” he answered.
“Yeah,” we shook our head, “I hadn’t anticipated such an eventuality.”
“Oh dear…” I murmured aloud, which caught Brian’s attention and told him the situation.
He smiled and assured us that a call to Jack would take care of that problem in no time.
Still Nathan seemed uneasy. After a bit of mental urging he told me what was bothering him. “I’ve never had someone inside my head when I’ve had to satisfy my ‘needs’. I was figuring on having you back in your own body before it became a necessity.”
Now, I understood. But if we were to dry my sculpture in the kiln, I needed to be here. Especially if I wanted it to be ready on time.
Taking over the mouth again I said, “Brian please make the call so we can have everything Nathan needs while he and I finish my sculpt.”
Inside our head I heard Nathan saying, “Are you sure about this?”
“Yes,” I replied. “You’ve done so much already, the least I can do is not let you be deprived of what you need.”
“You do realize that when I ‘drink’…”
“Yeah, I get that. I’m just going to tell myself we’re drinking a Bloody Mary.” To my relief, he didn’t argue. Which is good because I then thought about the literal version of the drink I’d mentioned, I began to get uneasy myself.So together we settled in on the couch, while Brian called the hospital. About half an hour later, Dr. Jack showed up with what Nathan needed, as well as some regular food.
The four of us sat and ate (well three actually ate), but still I got to enjoy experiencing how Nathan’s sense of smell and taste worked. He’s got much more acute senses on both those fronts, than I had expected. Of course, when it came to what he really needed, I went to my ‘Happy Place’ inside our shared head. Although I have to admit, I did kind of take notice of what the blood tasted like and how his body reacted to it. I can sympathize with how taking in blood is not something that is ‘optional’ for him. But I won’t go into that, it’s not my place to go there.
But afterwards, ‘we’ felt much better and after shooing Brian and Dr. Jack to their respective homes, Nathan and I began the long ‘firing’. We passed the time sharing thoughts and life experiences. Too numerous and private to share here. Then after morning came and I was convinced the clay was dry enough, we fired the kiln up to a proper level to finish what I had started.
These next hours would be crucial and we’d have to watch the piece as carefully as possible. I had noticed that during the drying, I could actually hear some of the moisture escaping the clay inside the kiln through Nathan’s ears. I found this very reassuring. It meant that if any cracking began to take place during the final firing, we’d hear it and could take action.
After setting things in motion, we began the last stage of our vigil. To pass the time I convinced Nathan to pull out some of the clay here in the studio and we began working with it. It was kind of fun to experience with him the joy of going from doubtful about his ability to create with clay to enthusiastic. It took me back to my first time working with the creative process in three dimensions.
Of course we kept an eye on how the firing process was coming along as we passed the hours. I thought heard a pop at one point, which turned out to have come from outside. Damn his hearing could be a little too good. When evening came, we started to let the kiln and it’s precious content cool down. I knew at this point there was nothing else we could do and let Nathan know.
“In that case, I think we should let you get back to your body for the night,” he replied.
The next thing I knew I was staring up at the ceiling of my hospital room. A moment later, Dr. Jack’s smiling visage came into view.
“Welcome back,” he smiled, “Blink once for yes and twice for no. Everything go okay?”
I responded as he instructed.
“So it’s all done?”
I blinked twice and spent the next ten minutes answering his questions. By the time we finished he had a pretty good understanding of where things stood. “I see,” he nodded, “So Nathan will be taking you back again tomorrow. I’ll make sure you’re still undisturbed, aside from the staff again. Hopefully, tomorrow will be it.”
I/we made our way over to the plastic covered figure and carefully unwrapped it. Somewhere behind us Brian took in a deep breath, followed by the words, “Oh my God… it’s… it’s going to be one of your best pieces.”
I felt/heard Nathan share the same sentiments inside our shared head. “Agreed.”
“But there’s still so much to do,” I told them both, glancing over at the wall next to the sculpture. There was a bulletin board with several photos of my grandfather, at least one of them in uniform. The rest were a couple of him even younger, as well as several of him later in life. I had gathered them to try and help me capture the spark of determination in his eye, the set of his jaw, as well as the… the spirit of the man who would come out of not just one but two great wars. I wanted to capture the man he was and would become all in one shot.
But now I hesitated and looked down at my/our hands. I knew they could work the clay, but would they have ‘my’ touch?
“Of course they will,” Nathan assured me. “This is where I take a backseat. You’re in charge. Just think of your grandfather and go for it.”
As soon as I heard those words in my head, I saw my grandfather in my mind as clear as day. Clearer than I’d ever been able to remember him. Honestly, I could see every detail in his face that I wanted to capture and just knew what needed to be done.
What happened over the next twelve hours will remain with me forever. Never had the clay felt so soothing and yielding to my touch. It and I were in harmony like never before. Had Brian not fallen asleep, letting out the occasional snore, I would never have realized how much time was passing. Nathan and I only paused briefly to allow him to take over and drink what our body needed, before going back to work.
Every now and again, I’d start to wonder if he wasn’t helping guide my hands, but I knew better. I could sense his wonder at what his hands were helping create under my direction. Finally, we took step back and into Brian who had been fast asleep on the couch nearby. I’d it in the studio from day one, knowing there’d be times when I would need to stay overnight from time to time. I admit it, when I get going I don’t like to let up some days.
“What the… huh?” Brian muttered then his eyes fell on the sculpt. “Oh my God! It’s… it’s perfect!” he breathed.
“You’re telling me,” Nathan murmured out of our shared mouth. I could actually feel his sense of awe which only added to my delight in this moment. I’d succeeded! But there was still more work to be done.
Walking over to the shelves I pulled out a long thin wire with wooden handles tied to each end. Then I headed back over to the piece and started stretching the wire from the head of the piece down to its base.
“Um… what are we doing?” Nathan asked aloud. I realized this was for Brian’s sake, as he was looking as puzzled as Nathan was feeling.
“This,” I replied and pulled on the handles of the wire, which slowly sank into the clay, neatly severing the sculpture into two sections.
“OH MY GOD! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?” Nathan cried, making us take a step back. But I quickly took over and brought us back just in time to catch the back half of the piece before it fell onto the table.
Before I could explain, Brian cut in saying, “Oh… that’s so you can remove the armature inside the statue.”
Inside our head, I heard Nathan spluttering, “The who… what… where? Wait, this was supposed to happen?”
Patiently, I explained, “You don’t get two feet of clay to stay upright all on it’s own. Take a closer look. See, there’s metal rod attached to the base that runs inside the entire sculpt.”
“Okay, yeah I see that,” Nathan responded, still sounding a bit shocked.
“Well, that has to come out before I put the piece in the kiln for one thing. For another, I have to start hollowing out the entire piece.”
“Hollowing it out?”Nathan repeated, this time aloud for Brian’s benefit.
“That’s right, like this,” I gently held the one half that had come off the main piece into one hand, while I grabbed a tool from nearby in the other. From there I proceeded to scrape out some of the interior of the piece I was holding.
Remembering to speak out loud, I continued, “Now, I’m going to remove just enough clay so that the remaining shell is just under an inch thick all around. Then I’m going to do the same to the other half that’s still on the armature. This it to keep it from cracking when it goes into the kiln. I’m also going to poke a bunch of 1/2 in deep holes to also prevent cracking.”
Naturally, I did as I promised, allowing both Nathan and Brian to see what I meant. Then I did the same to the other half. When both were nicely hollowed out and pricked, I began scouring the edges of both halves where the wire had cut them, and then brushed the edges with a water. “Since this is a water-based clay, this will allow me to put them back together,” I explained.
“But what about the seams where the two halves meet?” came Nathan’s voice out of our mouth.
“I was wondering the same thing,” added Brian, who had been watching the entire process intently.
I’ll add more clay and smooth it all out, and then rework it into the rest of the design,” I told them.
An hour later, the piece was whole again, without the slightest hint that it had been cleaved in two.
“So now you put it in the kiln?” Nathan asked out loud.
“Yes, but we’re going to use a low heat to dry it out. The process is called ‘candling’. Then once the clay is really good and dry, we’ll start the firing schedule,” I replied.
“The what?” Nathan asked out loud again.
I winced inwardly. Obviously, neither of them had any clue how long this was going to take. Plus, I was starting to get worried about my physical form back at the hospital. The three of us really needed to talk things out before anything else could happen.
Jack gave me a light sedative to allow my body to rest, while Brian drove me and Nathan to my studio. I have to admit, it was still taking me some getting used to being inside someone else’s head/body. But, I convinced Nathan not to close me out of feeling what his body was experiencing as we drove. After all, once we were in the studio, I knew where everything was that I would need and the more familiar I was with how his body worked, the better.
Luckily, he was a very good sport, albeit and smartass one. “And what if I need to use the facilities?” he asked me mentally, at one point. “I don’t want to hear any giggling or running commentaries inside my skull.”
“Put on a blindfold,” I told him.
“Okay, but don’t blame me if I miss the target,” he shot back.
“Try leaving the seat down and sitting, it’s worked for women for years,” was my reply.
For a moment there was silence, followed by, “Okay, that makes sense. In fact it makes a lot of sense. Oh my God, I finally get it. These bad boys are hard to aim to begin with. Hell, who came up with the idea that guys had to relieve themselves standing up in the first place?”
Thank God I got him thinking about something else, otherwise I think that train of thought would have turned into a running monologue with me as the only member of the audience.
Finally, we reached the studio and Brian let us out. “Can I take it from here?” I asked Nathan.
I’d had the good sense to remember we’d need the keys to the studio, before we left my hospital room. Reaching into the right pocket, I found myself feeling envious of how roomy men’s pants pockets felt. Because fashion declared women had to look curvy and sexy in pants, our pockets were so tight, we were lucky to fit a single playing card into one. I quietly swore to myself to try getting some pants from the men’s department next time I went clothes shopping.
“Make sure you get a shirt and tie while your at it. And a hat, you’d look really cute in an outfit like that. You could make it your ‘artist’ look,” commented Nathan somewhere in the background.
“Hey, don’t I get some privacy in here?” I shot back
“Sorry,” Nathan apologized and then explained, “While it is big and roomy in here, kind of like Dr. Who’s TARDIS, I could arrange an area for you to have privacy. But when you’re also controlling my body, I kind of have to be around. This body has reflexes and abilities you might not be able to react to without some help.”
That made me curious. “How do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, shortly after I was ‘altered’ I thought about wanting to get a bird’s eye view of a situation and next thing I knew, my arms were flattening and turning into giant wings and…”
I cut him off. “OKAY got it. I definitely want you around!”
Without further ado, I inserted the key into the door of the studio and opened it. Immediately, a rush of familiar smells greeted us. A wave of emotions swept over me as we entered. Everything was exactly the way I’d left it.
I felt tears filling my eyes. Until Nathan had made his strange proposal, I’d had no idea when or if I’d ever be back here. For a deep dark part of me had wondered if I’d never be able to bring myself to return, for fear my damaged hands would never be able to create beautiful things as they had before. But here I was, with a set of hands that could mold even the most stubborn of clay. And while they weren’t necessarily mine, they were exactly what I needed right now.
I looked down at them and felt a tear of joy falling from my face. It landed on one of those wonderful hands, and I screamed. The drop wasn’t a tear, it was BLOOD!
“Sorry, my bad, I should’ve warned you,” came Nathan’s hurried thoughts. Inside his mind I felt a strong pair of arms hugging me reassuringly. “I didn’t realize you’d get so worked up coming back here, otherwise I would’ve warned you whenever I cry my tears come out that way.”
“You cry blood?”
“Yeah, that kind of came with the Sangui-Sapio. A lot of people find it kind of disconcerting, so I try not to make a habit of crying in front of others,” he explained.
Looking around I found that I was no longer seeing through his eyes. Instead, we were surrounded by whiteness with the occasional fleeting image passing by. Even more importantly, I had my own body. So did Nathan and he was holding me close. I looked at my hands and saw they were normal. Immediately, I tried my mouth and found it was working too.
“Where are we? Are we still inside you?” I asked, pulling back slightly.
Nathan nodded. “We’re inside my mind. And yes, those images that you see are glimpses into my memories. I was hoping not to have to bring you here, but considering the circumstances, I thought this might the best place for us to talk face to face. I really should’ve prepared you better for dealing with my ‘unique’ physiognomy. I’m sorry.”
“No worries,” I replied without looking at him. Instead, I was studying some of the images flashing in and out of existence. I caught glimpses of celebrities from long ago, as well as a few from modern day. And places, so many places. Some were familiar while others were like something out of a prehistoric documentary or a science fiction movie. I was also picking up more than a few emotions attached to these glimpses, and more than a few were very tender and strong.
Finally I pulled my attention back to Nathan. Those were his memories and I had no right to intrude upon them, not after he had been doing so much for me. Luckily, he didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he seemed to be glad. “You don’t get to share a lot of these with anyone else, do you?” I asked after a moment.
He shook his head. “Not really. You’re one of the very few who I’ve ever let in this deep.”
“Can you see inside me, in this place?”
“Only if I really wanted to, but that would be intrusive and unfair to you. So I choose not to,” he replied.
I began to feel like and insect compared to him. “You have so much power…” I began.
“Please don’t make me out to be something more than human,” he cut in. “I have all the faults and desires of anyone else. I just had a good upbringing and made a lot of mistakes over the decades, that I’ve learned from. And I prefer not repeating any that might cause someone distress or harm.”
I smiled at him. “I was going to say, and yet you do your best to just be a good man.”
“It takes a bit of effort some days,” he admitted. Then he asked, “Do you still want to move ahead with the plan? I mean, I’ll understand if all this has been too much for you to take in.”
I shook my head. “No, I want to finish what we’ve set out to do. I’ve seen a bit into you. Now let me share some of myself with you. I want you to experience what my work means to my and why it makes me feel the way it does.”
He smiled back at me. “I’d like that, thank you.”
A moment later, I was seeing through his eyes once more. Brian was holding out a handkerchief, with a worried look on his face.
“Are you, all right?” he asked anxiously.
“We’re fine,” I answered, in my own voice, which surprised the heck out of both me and Brian. I mentally thanked Nathan, who responded in kind saying, “I thought this might be easier for Brian so he’d know who he was talking to.”
“Good,” Brian coughed, obviously adjusting to this new development. “You both had be worried for a second there.”
So only a few seconds had passed while Nathan and I were alone together. Again I marveled at his odd existence. But now wasn’t the time to think about it. He had allowed me to share his body and I wanted to share my gifts in return.
Glancing over to a far corner of the room, we spotted a tall figure covered in plastic. I smiled, it was time to get to work.
I think my heart skipped a beat at that moment. Which is a good thing, because it probably kept me from trying to yell “WHAT?” with my mouth still wired shut.
Thinking back, I must’ve screamed it mentally because Nathan’s hands were on my shoulders keeping me down ever so gently. Still I could feel the tension in his arms. Brian and Jack were also crowding around me now, both of them talking at once. Dr. Jack was scolding Nathan, while Brian was offering a platitude of reassurances that nothing was going to happen unless I gave the okay.
Meanwhile my mind was in a whirl. I had just gotten used to the idea of what Nathan was and that he was supposedly one of the good guys. Which a part of me desperately wanted to believe. I mean, he had rescued me and Brian all those years ago at a cost to himself. Plus, he’d created that link between me and him that allowed me to use his voice to communicate. Still… the idea of him pulling a Christopher Lee on me was not exactly high on my list of things I wanted to try anytime soon.
While Brian and Dr. Jack tried talking over each other, Nathan decided to talk to me ‘privately’ through our mental link.
“Sorry, I didn’t know everyone was going to fly off the handle this badly,” he said gently inside my head. “Now, as I was trying to explain, when I bite someone I can see into their minds. However, there is a second type of bite I can use where I put some of myself into the other person. When I do this, the bond that’s created is much stronger than what we have now. I can, if I so choose, control a person quite a bit. Mind you, I’m very reluctant to do that. I don’t like the idea of taking someone’s free will away, unless it’s a major intervention so to speak. However, what very few know is that there’s a bit of two-way street effect.“
“How do you mean?” I asked.
“I can feel that other person in me at the same time. But since I created the bond, that means I’m the one who is in control. Unfortunately, I can’t take it back. Once made the bond seems to be permanent, until the person moves on from this life. However, I can ‘shut the door’ so the connection is turned off and neither me nor the other person can sense or hear the other,” he explained.
“I think I see what you’re saying,” I told him. “You’re offering to open the door so I can step inside you and have the use of your body so to speak…”
“Up to a point,” he corrected.
I nodded ever so slightly. “And when the piece is done…”
“I’ll close the door and you’ll be back in your own body, and you won’t feel or sense me anymore,” he finished.
I thought about it for a few moments. I really wanted to finish the piece, it was for my mom after all. She’d sacrificed so much for me over the years and had been my biggest supporter when it came to my art. And… I trusted Nathan. I know, it sounds weird after being terrified by him for all these years, but now that I knew the truth, I wanted to take the chance. If it meant getting to finish my work in days instead of months or even years… I had to grab it. Especially if there was a chance that even after I recovered from my injuries, I might not have he dexterity and ability to handle the clay as I used to. This might be my last chance to create the best piece I was ever going to make.
Still, there was one final issue I wanted to clarify with him first. “Um… this bite, is it going to hurt?”
Nathan smiled and shook his head and said aloud so the other two could hear. “Absolutely not. You won’t feel a thing, I promise.”
“Then let’s do it!” I replied.
Keeping a reassuring hand on my arm, Nathan proceeded to tell the other two what we’d discussed, along with my decision.
As he did so, I noticed a funny kind of wetness on the arm where his hand was resting. There was a warmth to it and the area tingled for a few seconds.
“It’s done,” he said aloud and released my arm. As he did so, I caught a brief glimpse of a mouth with two needle-like teeth in the palm of the hand that had been touching me. As my eyes widened, I saw the mouth close while the skin around it rippled. In the blink of an eye, it was gone and I found myself staring at a normal looking hand.
“What now?” I asked mentally.
“Lie back and give it a few minutes,” Nathan replied aloud, for the benefit of Dr. Jack and Brian.
I did so, but the seconds seemed to tick on forever as I kept waiting for something to happen. Some change, my vision to blur or feel warm inside… but I just felt the same as before. After 10 minutes I was getting tired of the looks on Brian and Dr. Jack’s faces as they kept staring at me and then Nathan.
Finally, I closed my eyes… only…. I was still seeing them. Only instead of looking up at them, I was staring across my bed at them.
I opened my own eyes again and saw them still looking down at me, with grave expressions. But when I turned my eyes to Nathan I saw him waggle his eyebrows at me. “What did you think of the view?” he asked after a moment.
While I couldn’t open my mouth I could pull the sides of it into a semi-smile.
Jack and Brian both gave me looks of relief. I heard one of them mutter, “Thank God,” under their breath. Only, I think I heard it with both my ears and Nathan’s. This was going to take a little getting used to, I could tell already.
Just then, Nathan reached down below my bed and pulled out a bag of clay. Then he brought a small table over and placed the clay on it and said, “Shall we try the hands a bit. You’ll need to close your eyes, otherwise you might get multiple angles which could prove disconcerting.”
He had thought of everything.
“Yes, please,” I replied through our link and did as I was told.
As I closed them, I could smell the familiar scent of the clay through his nostrils. God, how I had missed that odor. It had become so common in my life, I hadn’t really realized how it had become such a part of my world.
“Okay, my hands are yours, let’s see you work with it,” Nathan told me.
I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t nervous. It took me several tries to build up the courage to use his hands but once those fingers touched the clay my instincts took over. It wasn’t the best quality, or at least the kind of clay I was used to. It was a bit harder than I liked, but his hands were strong and were able to manipulate it like my own never could. But I understood, he had done that on purpose. He wanted me to get used to what these hands could do. And for the next hour I worked and molded and found my touch with those hands. They belonged to him, but the skill and delicate touch were all me.
I could hear Nathan’s thoughts in the back of ‘our’ mind as he marveled at my manipulation of the substance. He even flat out said at one point, “It’s so cool and yet silky in it’s own way…” I told him he hadn’t seen anything yet. By the time we were finished, we were both satisfied with the experiment. So were Jack and Brian who had been watching the whole time.
I felt myself back in my own body again and opened my eyes. Obviously, Nathan had partially ‘closed the door’ between us, because I wasn’t having double-vision so to speak. Yet I could still sense the link between us.
“So what now?” Brian asked.
That was a good question.
I looked to Nathan who looked at me and said, “You’re call.”
When I woke up, it was evening again. Apparently, I’d slept through the entire day – aside from being woken up to be given medicines or have my temperature taken. Around seven Dr. Jack, Brian and Nathan came into my room and closed the door behind them. That was when I knew something big was up. Especially with the looks on both Brian and Jack’s faces. The two of them kept glancing uneasily at Nathan, which started making me nervous about him all over again.
Something in my eyes must’ve shown because Nathan paused as he started to sit down next to my bed again. Frowning, he looked from me to the other two and back. Finally he said, “Great, now I know how you two guys felt when I was in mental contact with her, this morning. Now is anyone going to let me in on the secret or are we going to play charades? Which would be really tough on her, considering her condition.”
I made a little noise to get his attention and then began inhaling deeply to get my point across.
“Oh, right,” Nathan nodded and once more one of his hands misted allowing me to breath it in and communicate more freely.
“Why are they staring at you so anxiously?” I asked mentally, trying to keep my own anxiety in check.
Nathan gave the other two a look and turned back to me. “Because, I told them what I have in mind to help you finish your art piece in time for the exhibition,” he said gently. “However, neither of them are all that sure you’re going to like my proposal, or at least what it involves.”
While I couldn’t move my jaw without severe pain, I had no problem raising a questioning eyebrow at him. Finally I thought, “Care to elaborate?”
He thought for a moment before saying, “Depends. Do you want the full-scale slideshow presentation or the bottom line version?”
“Bottom line, please,” was my reply.
“I’m going to give you access to my eyes and control of my hands,” Nathan answered.
“Come again?” I asked mentally.
Leaning forward he explained. “As you said yesterday, I don’t have the skills to manipulate the clay and do what’s needed to get your sculpture ready. But you do. You know how the clay should feel and how to handle the tools and whatnot. However, you can’t leave this bed, at least not physically. But, what if I took you with me to the studio ‘mentally’ so to speak?”
I admit I was both puzzled and intrigued. “Do you mean like how we’re communicating right now? Through this bond you made?”
“It will be something a bit stronger,” he replied and leaned forward. “You’d actually be able to see through my eyes and even feel whatever I touch or manipulate with my hands.”
For a moment I was tempted, then shook my head. “You still wouldn’t know how to manipulate the clay or the tools…” I began.
“But you would if I let you control my hands,” he cut in patiently. “Which is what I plan to do. Once we were in the studio I’d let you take over, up to a point. I’d get everything ready, under your guidance, but when it came time to actually work on the sculpture you’d be in charge. I’d be sort of in the background watching and experiencing what you do.”
It sounded insane, yet at the same time I was intrigued. Then a thought hit. “What about my body back here? What will be happening to it?”
“You’d basically be asleep,” Nathan assured me. “You’d still be breathing and everything, It would just be your conscious self would be awake seeing and feeling through me.”
I had to admit it sounded like a very good idea. Yet I couldn’t stop glancing over at Brian and Jack, who were still looking uneasy, even worried.
They must’ve caught me staring at them because Brian finally spoke up. “Before anyone gets too excited, Nathan you might want to tell her what has to happen for this little experiment to take place.”
Immediately, my heart sank. For Brian to look this worried, it had to be something bad. Turning my gaze to Nathan I thought, “Is there something you haven’t brought up yet?”
Without blinking my would-be savior shifted uncomfortably and then glared at the other two. For a second he put me in mind of the cartoon mouse “The Brain” shooting a dirty look at his partner “Pinky”. A silent exchange of heated gestures passed between the three of them, before Nathan finally turned back to me and smiled sheepishly. “As a matter of fact, yes. Yes, there is…”
“And what is it?” Even without being able to move my mouth, I managed to put an pointed edge to the question.
“To make this happen, I’ll need to bite you,” he winced.
*A quick note from one of the authors: Sorry for the delay in getting this part uploaded, but both WordPress and Blogger have been making changes to their systems lately and that threw me for a while. I’m still having trouble with Blogger, which hosts the sister-site to this blog, so this installment is only appearing here. Hope to keep things more regular in the future as this story has grown much larger life than I’d originally anticipated. But the payoff will be well worth it I think. I love exploring some of the new ways of using Nathan’s abilities. So without further ado, let us continue the story…”
After a few seconds, Nathan came back with Dr. Jack. If I could have, I would’ve been grinning from ear to ear. Yet somehow he sensed the change in my attitude towards him. For one thing he smiled, then came over and pulled up a chair next to my bed. My mind raced with questions, especially one… but then I remembered I couldn’t speak or use my hands.
He must’ve seen something in my eyes, because he frowned and asked softly, “Is my being so close a problem?”
Forgetting myself I started to shake my head a little too vigorously, which caused me to let out a groan of pain.
Nathan reached out a hand and touched my brow and said, “Easy. Listen, I can tell you want to say something important. And I think I know a way to help, but I’m going to need you to trust me. Can you do that?”
I managed a little “Uh-huh…” noise in my throat.
“Good,” he replied gently and held up a hand. A moment later, a greenish mist began emanating from his sleeve. Before I knew it, I couldn’t see his hand anymore, only the mist, only now I could also detect little flashes of blue in the miasma. “If you breathe this in, it will allow us to make a mental connection between us. I won’t be able to read your mind, but I’ll be able to get impressions of what you want to say and I can act as your voice. Are you all right with that?”
This time I gave him several muffled but eager “Uh-huhs.”
“Okay,” he nodded and brought the sleeve with the mist closer to my face. “Now, just breathe normally, there’s no need to inhale deeply.”
For the record, I really tried to do as he instructed. But I was so eager to try to communicate with everyone I wound up doing an impression of a junkie with couple of rolled up twenties stuffed up my nose.
Nathan pulled his arm back and stared at the now empty cuff muttering, “I’m going to need that hand back eventually.”
I started to mentally apologize when suddenly I heard my thoughts come out of his mouth. “Sorry about that. I hope I didn’t… Oh my God you’re talking in my voice!”
Nathan gave me an embarrassed grin. “I hope you don’t mind, I just thought it would be easier to do things this way so these two would know who’s saying what.”
Glancing over at Brian and Dr. Jack I could see they were both staring at us in surprise.
After a moment Brian said, “I had no idea you could do that, Nathan.”
“It’s a little something Otto figured out some years ago on one of our expeditions to another Para-Earth,” my hero explained shyly. “We already knew I could help pacify a being who inhaled my mist form, by making our intentions known that we weren’t a threat. But he thought I could take it a little farther if I put a little more of myself into the mist to establish a rapport so to speak. Mind you it only works with beings whose minds are similar enough to ours in thought for me to understand what they want to say. Believe me, it doesn’t always work, but I knew it would in this case.”
He turned back to me then and asked, “Are you okay? Or is this too weird?”
Taking a deep breath, I shook my head slightly and thought, “No. In fact it’s more than I hoped for.” Admittedly seeing and hearing my thoughts coming out of his mouth, was kind of weird, but not so much that I didn’t want him to break our connection. With this new method of communication available to me, I told them everything that had been troubling me. They listened patiently and gave me all the assurances they could. But when I told them about the unfinished sculpture of my grandfather back in my studio and how important it was to me, they fell silent.
I think a full minute passed before Nathan broke the silence. “Even if we brought the piece here, there’s no way you could work on it. Not with your hands in their current state.”
I shook my head sadly.
He took a deep breath and looked down at his own. He had two again which surprised the rest of us.
Glancing up he noticed the rest of us staring and grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, felt weird just having one, so I shaved a pound or two from other areas and grew a new one.” Then he turned to me and asked, “Here’s a thought. With our connection, would I be able to finish the piece under your guidance?”
“Have you ever worked with clay before?”
“No, but I’m a fast learner,” he replied.
I sank into my pillow a little more and thought about it. After a few moments, I shook my head ever so slightly. Whenever I worked in clay there was a connection between me and my creation. I knew how the clay should feel as I smoothed and shaped it. There was no way I could convey these concepts and techniques by simply instructing him.
Nathan must’ve ‘heard’ my thoughts because he began nodding his head. “Yeah, I didn’t about that. You and the clay kind of become one when you’re working with it.” Then he stood up. “Let me give it some thought. I think there might be a way to help. Okay?”
I carefully nodded. And that’s where we left things. He came back the next evening with the most unbelievable suggestion I’d ever heard.
I really hadn’t meant for it to happen, but I couldn’t help myself.
I’d seen Nathan many times since the day he rescued me and Brian, but it always took all of my self control not to shrink away from him. I knew Brian looked up to him as a hero, so I’d always tried to hide it. To be honest, part of me thought of him as a hero too, but… the memory of his feeding off the guy was carved just too deep into my memory. And this time, all three of them had seen my reaction.
Brian and Jack looked puzzled, but Nathan clearly knew. But the expression on his face wasn’t one of anger or annoyance, it was one of pity. Without a word, he pulled the curtains shut around us and looked down at me with sad eyes.
“You saw,” he said in a quiet voice, “I’m so sorry.”
Brian stared from him to me with a look of confusion on his face. “Saw what?” he asked finally.
Naturally I couldn’t answer, but Nathan could. Although his voice was heavy with regret as he did so.
“The same thing you did,” he told Brian. “The time the two of you were abducted by that sex trafficking bunch, and…”
“You came for us,” my childhood friend finished nodding his head. I could see the memory was still fresh in his memory. A faraway haunted look crept into his eyes. Then he turned to me and said, “But, I thought I kept you from seeing anything. I was holding you to my chest.”
He had, but even with his arms covering my head I’d been able to see through the crack between them, and wished I hadn’t ever since.
“I wasn’t exactly quiet,” Nathan said, breaking the moment, “And of course you saw what happened, Brian. I suspect your guard might have dropped enough for her to get an eyeful. Am I right?”
That question was directed at me and I nodded.
At that point, Jack came forward and pulled out his stethoscope. “I’d like you to listen to something,” he told me and held out the ear pieces at me.
I wasn’t sure what he had in mind, but I nodded and allowed him to gently place them in my ears. Then he turned to Nathan who he instructed to open his shirt.
“Hey… when did this place become Chippendale’s?” Nathan protested, but opened his shirt anyway. Then he leaned forward asJack placed the other end of the stethoscope on his chest. “Woo… that is cold. Do you keep that thing in a freezer or something?”
“Shhh… let her listen,” Jack replied while I did as he instructed.
The sound of a healthy beating heart came loud and clear through the instrument.
“An undead creature, wouldn’t have a heartbeat like that would it?” Jack asked me.
I wasn’t really sure. After all, a stake through the heart killed vampires didn’t it? So I merely shrugged.
Undaunted, Jack moved the diaphragm of the stethoscope to the other side of Nathan’s chest. “Hear anything?”
I listened, but I just heard breathing this time.
“Nathan, would you move your heart to where I’m positioned?”
I don’t know who looked more puzzled, me or the man I was still trying to figure out. But after a moment, he nodded.
After a few seconds later, I heard the pulsing heart just as loud as before. But even more importantly, I actually heard its approach just before it… got into position. Torn between horror and amazement I just stared at the two men.
Still I was afraid and Jack knew it. He asked Nathan to leave and wait in the hallway, which he did.
After he left Jack turned back to me and smiled. “I know you think he’s a vampire. That’s why I asked him to leave. That way you can be sure that he hasn’t hypnotized you into believing what Brian and i are about to tell you. In a way, your suspicion is partly correct. But I want to ask you, could such an undead creature physically move the location of its heart?”
I thought about all the movies and stories I’d read. If vampires could do such a thing, killing them would be much harder, nearly impossible. Finally, I shook my head.
Jack smiled reassuringly. “But what about a man who never died, but wound up sharing his body with a life-form which requires him to take in blood as part of his nutritional requirements?”
That made me raise my eyebrows as I found my thinking in terms of science fiction instead of horror stories.
As I did so, Brian chimed in saying, “The life-form also allows him to alter his shape and even move and change his organs around.”
What followed was the most amazing story I’d ever heard in my life. I won’t go into details here, because I know others in Nathan’s ‘Extended Family’ have already shared it more than once. And they, and their descendants will be the only ones to read this, so I don’t need to go into things further. Besides, I’m here to share my experience.
After Brian and Jack finished telling me all about Nathan and some of the things he could do, I simply lay there for a few moments taking it all in. If just half of what they had told me was true, then he might be able to help me once more.
“Should I ask Nathan to come back in?” asked Jack after a few moment.
I nodded ever so carefully. My heart beating with anticipation.
Of course the accident happened shortly after that and I wound up in the hospital. And as you know I received dozens of visitors who constantly reassured me that everything would be all right. Such words and sentiments were always welcome and helped make the day pass more easily.
But night-time was another matter. Everything would be quiet, aside from the staff making their rounds. Occasionally one would wake me up to draw blood or give me my medications, but for the most part I was on my own with only my thoughts for company. That’s when dealing with my situation became much harder.
That’s when all those little fears we keep hidden away come out to plague us. And believe me I had a lot of them which kept me company for hour after hour. Most of them involved not being able to use my hands to sculpt. I won’t tell you how many times I wound up crying myself to sleep, but it happened a lot. I tried to keep quiet about it (which should have been easy with my mouth wired shut), but one person found out.
I woke one morning to someone gently dabbing the sides of my eyes with handkerchief. It was Brian. Dr. Jack Tyler, my physician and our mutual friend, had allowed him in before visiting hours had officially begun. Jack had noticed the tear soaked tissues before and had tried to draw me. I would’ve have loved to have told him what was wrong, but first and foremost he was my doctor. A doctor in frequent demand so we kept getting interrupted. After a while I just stopped trying.
Luckily, Jack is someone who doesn’t give up easily, especially when you’re his patient as well as his friend. So he’d gone out of his way to get Brian here to make sure they found out what was troubling me. By this time I was able to make some sounds, but understanding me was not easy. Yet somehow we managed.
As it turned out, both of them suspected I was worried about my works in progress back at the studio. With this in mind, Brian had gone to check on things for me. He even took photos on his phone and shared them with me.
While I was relieved to see everything was still untouched, a part of me felt guilty at the same time. Seeing my kiln just sitting there waiting to be filled, or my tools just hanging on their hooks, they it all looked so lonely. Then I saw the piece of my grandfather, still wrapped in the plastic just as I’d left it. That’s when the tears began to flow.
It took Jack and Brian some time, but they managed to understand to get the full story out of me.
The date of the exhibition, which was still going to happen, was also my mother’s birthday that she shared with her father. It would have been his 108th. I had secretly been planning to have his sculpture to be the centerpiece of the show, as well as a gift to both my mom and his memory.
Once they understood, Brian exchanged a look with Jack who nodded. Then he turned back to me and said, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be all right. Just trust me.”
In spite of the fact that I had absolutely no idea what they had planned, something about Brian’s tone was extremely reassuring. After that, they talked about their families and kept me amused for another half an hour. By then I was feeling tired again and managed to drift off without the help of medication for a change.
The rest of the day passed as all the others had, medications, smoothie meals, and television. There were a couple of more visitors, but it’s what the night brought that I really want to talk about. Or rather, who it brought.
I’d been listening to an audiobook with my eyes closed, so I never heard my visitors arrive. It wasn’t until Brian gently tapped my shoulder that I realized anyone had come. Looking up I saw him and Jack smiling down at me. Then from behind them Nathan popped his head out and waved at me.