“Home For Christmas: A Para-Earth Holiday Tale” – Part Two

icy barbed wire

FRIENDS AND STRANGERS

     “We have company,” Nathan heard his friend murmur, and simply nodded.

     He’d heard the approach of the car but hadn’t bothered to look up.  His mind was solely focused on the barbed wire stained with blood.

     More than one being had passed this way earlier, but the snow had already covered the tracks.  The blood appeared to be human, but he had been fooled before.  Touching a finger to the barb, he found the blood was still wet.  Without hesitation he tasted it…

     Veronica was keeping an eye on two men kneeling by the barbed wire fence across the road.  Her original intention had been to stop and ask if they’d seen a little girl, but now then she saw the one in the full length parka reaching out to the barbed wire.  He touched one of the points and then began sucking his finger.

     Normally this wouldn’t have seemed all that odd, but it was the way he’d done it.  He hadn’t pulled his finger back quickly or yelped, as if he’d hurt himself.  Instead he’d moved slowly and had the most intense look on his face.  It was that, which really caught her attention.

     She’d seen that kind of expression before on some of her fellow officers.  It was one that said a clue had been found.

     Studying them carefully she noted that neither man appeared to be armed, nor were they dressed for hunting wild game.  ‘So what were they doing around here?’ she began to wonder when a figure appeared beside her.

    “They seem to be searching for something, don’t they, Sergeant?” the newcomer observed, quietly.

     Turning she saw the familiar profile of Jason Cloudfoot, the missing girl’s uncle.  He didn’t even glance at her.  His focus was solely on the two strangers across the road.

    “Or someone,” she whispered back and stepped forward, while keeping one hand close to her gun.  “Excuse me? Have either of you gentleman seen a little girl, around nine years old, come by here?”

    The two men exchanged a look and then the younger one stood up.  “No, but someone’s come through here recently and pricked themselves on this barbed wire,” he told them.

     ‘Oh dear God let this be a lead,’ she thought and quickened her pace, totally oblivious to the fact that Jason had not followed her.

     As soon as she reached the pair, she bent down and saw that indeed someone had cut themselves on one of the points.  At a guess, she suspected it was just the right height for a nine year old girl to try and climb through.

     Unfortunately, the wind and falling snow had already erased any footprints.   “Damn, if only we knew whether it was really Julie’s blood and not some poacher who cut through here,” she muttered.

     “Is that the girl’s name?” asked the younger of the two men.

     Veronica nodded and looked at him.  From beneath the hood of his long parka, she could see he had blonde hair and a pair of eyebrows that seemed to give him a perpetual scowl.  But the warmth in his eyes hinted at a much kinder and caring nature, she hoped.

     “Yes, it is,” she told him and then asked, “How long have you two been in this area?”

Instead of answering, the young man turned to his friend who replied, “Hmm… I’d say about an hour so.”

     “I see,” she nodded and fixed her gaze at the one in the parka.  “Neither of you are from around here, may I ask your names?”

     This time the older man spoke up.  “Well, in spite all the snow that is making my beard turn white, I am not Santa Claus.  My name is Professor Otto Hofstadter, and this is my research assistant, Nathan Steward.”

     The young man smiled and gave a slight bow, which made her wonder.  For someone who had to be her age, his manners seemed a bit old-fashioned.

     She smiled politely, but silently raised her guard again.  Why had the one called Nathaniel had to check with his friend about how long they’d been here?  She’d seen similar behavior between suspects when they were being questioned when they were trying to keep their stories straight.

     Eyes narrowed she asked them, “And neither of you saw anyone else during that time?”

     The younger man shook his head. “I was inside the trailer until about five minutes ago.”

     “Doing what?” she asked curiously.

     But before either man could answer Jason joined their little group saying, “Resting, from the look of things, Sergeant.”

     “And how do you know that?” she demanded, shooting an annoyed look at him.

   “Because while you were over here asking questions, I went inside the trailer,” the tall Native American replied.  “It was wrong of me to do so I know, but as a police officer you have to follow certain rules.  Whereas I am simply a man looking for his niece, and I don’t have time to worry about social niceties.”

      She just stared at him for a moment and then shook her head.  A part of her couldn’t blame him.  Julie was his responsibility and he was obviously very afraid for her.

     Sighing she turned back to Nathaniel and his friend and briefly caught the two men exchanging strange looks, but then it was gone.  But she was sure something had just passed between them.

    But before she could form her next question the professor asked, “How long has the girl been missing?”

    “Since this morning,” Jason answered, “She developed Chicken Pox two weeks ago and had to stay with me and my family, while her parents and older brothers headed back to sea.”

     “They went on a cruise?” the one called Nathan frowned.

     “No,” Jason corrected him, “My brother and his wife are marine biologists.  Then this morning I got a call that my brother’s research vessel had been caught in a storm and all contact had been lost four days ago.  The searchers had found nothing and were now turning their efforts into a… recovery operation.”

     “And the poor girl she overheard everything and took off crying; am I right?” Professor Hofstadter asked.

    “I’m afraid so,” Jason nodded.  “Julianna has gotten into the habit of running off into the woods when she’s upset.  She says it helps her calm down and forget her troubles.”

    Veronica watched Nathan’s eyebrows furrow, giving him a more intense look than before as he asked, “What kind of troubles does she have?”

     It was a good question, she had to admit.  No one had bothered to tell her back at the station why Julie had run off.  Whoever this fellow was a part of her was starting to like him.

     “My niece is a bit overweight and has become more sensitive about it recently.  She’d been teased a lot back at school and even my own children started giving her a hard time about it until I made them stop.  They hadn’t meant any real harm since she was their cousin, but her feelings had been hurt so she was still feeling very emotional.  Then when the call came she overheard and took off before any of us realized what had happened,” Jason explained.

     “The poor thing,” Veronica sighed, feeling more determined than ever to find the girl.  “Assuming the blood on the barbed wire is Julie’s…”

     “It is,” she heard Nathan murmur almost inaudibly, and did a double-take.

      Staring at him she said quietly, “I though you said you hadn’t seen anyone come through here?”

“I didn’t,” he replied and looked her straight in the eye.  “But every fiber of my body is screaming that it was her.”  Then he turned and stared out into the field.  “There’s a little girl out there and she needs to be found NOW!  It’s going to be dark within the hour and the temperature is dropping fast.”

     Hearing the same thoughts she’d had back at the station, struck a tone within Veronica.  “I take it you both want to help?”

    “Absolutely,” Professor Hofstadter, “Now since we already suspect she came this way, I suggest the four of us start searching from here and stay in contact by radio.”

     Veronica looked at him, “Do you have any on you?”

    “Back in the trailer, come.  You can call in more help from your station while we’re at it,” the older man suggested as they headed back across the road, while Jason and Nathan remained at the fence.

 trailer

      Nathan stared out at the white expanse.  A part of him had hoped that the girl’s uncle would have gone with Otto and the policewoman, so he could send out a small search party of his own.  But the man had stayed behind and was watching him out of the corner of his eye.  The fellow obviously suspected something.  He’d admitted to going inside the trailer to search for the girl.  Had he found the refrigeration unit with the supply of blood bags?

      As if knowing his thoughts the tall man said quietly, “You have been places where no other man has set foot before, haven’t you?”

    Nathan caught the unspoken hint in those words.  The first time he’d met Otto back a similar conversation had sprouted up between them in a similar manner.  He studied the man for a moment and noted his skin tone and long black hair.  Surely he was of Native American descent.  He also held himself in a manner that more than hinted at authority.

     “Yes,” he said finally.  “Do any of the stories or legends of your tribe speak of strange places that few have ever suspected were real?”

    “They do,” his companion nodded, “In fact I know them all.  You see it is my responsibility to know all things pertaining to my people: our traditions, medicines, and folklore.”

     Upon hearing this Nathan turned to his companion and looked up at him in surprise.  “You’re a shaman?”

The man nodded.  “And I know many things, including that such places as you and I have been discussing do exist.  One of my people from long ago, before we called ourselves Seneca, entered one of those places.”

     “By accident?”

     “No, he went by choice to find a way to save our people from a being that did not belong in this world.”

     “And did he succeed?” Nathan asked quietly.

    “Indeed he did,” said his new acquaintance with pride, “There was no way to send the thing back, but he brought an object with him that allowed us to imprison the creature and keep it from harming others ever again.”

     Nathan smiled and nodded, but a part of him was troubled.  “Was he the same when he came back from that other place?”

     “Yes, but he was more wise than before.  He had seen and learned much during his period in that other reality that was so much like ours, yet so different,” here the man paused to at him and added solemnly, “You were not as fortunate.”

     “Depends on who you ask,” Nathan replied with a sigh.  “My life has been extended far beyond that of any man.  But my body’s requirements changed.”

    “Yes, I found that which you keep cold and hidden from sight,” the one called Jason nodded.  “Tell me, did you enter that other place by choice?”

     “No, it happened purely by chance,” Nathan told him.  “I was a soldier, fighting to protect others.”

     “Drafted?”

     “Volunteered.”

     “Then you had a good heart,” his companion nodded, staring out into the empty field.

     Behind them Nathan could hear Otto and the police sergeant starting to head back their way.  “Our friends are about to rejoin us,” he murmured just loud enough for the other man to hear.

     “I know,” Jason replied without looking at him.  “Can you tell me one thing?  Did you find that your heart had changed after you came back?”

     Without pause, Nathan shook his head.  “No, I’m still the same man I was before.”

     Jason studied the stranger carefully.  Deep down he sensed that the man before him, was indeed a good person.  But still he had to be sure.  “Then please show me,” he told the fellow.  “If you have any gifts that can help me find my niece, please use them and know that you’re secret will be safe.  It getting dark and the snow is getting worse.”

     For several seconds nothing happened.

    Then he noticed the young man’s brow furrow in concentration.  A moment later, the fellow’s right hand disappeared into the sleeve of his jacket. This was followed by the arm of the jacket slowly ‘deflating’ as if the arm that occupied it was shrinking or withering away.

   As Jason stared in wonder, his sharp eyes detected movement within the rest of the coat, as if dozens of tiny creatures were racing down towards the man’s feet.

Suddenly a flurry of mice, the color of blood, began emerging from beneath the edges of Nathan’s floor-length parka.  The creatures began racing across the open field began to slowly spread out in various directions.

    “If they find any trace of your niece, I’ll know,” he heard the young man whisper as the last of the mice emerged and joined their brethren across the snow.

   “Thank you, my friend,” Jason smiled placed a hand on his companion’s shoulder, knowing full well that there was no longer an arm attached.

snowfall at night

TO BE CONTINUED…

Novel Update…

Hello everyone, I’ve given Nathaniel and company a break this week because of the holiday.  They’ll be back shortly with more blog entries.  But in the meantime I thought you would all like to know how things are progressing on the actual novel.

I’m sure you’ll all be happy to know that I completed the 2nd draft yesterday, which gave me something extra to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.  Writing in the first person has been quite the adventure for me.  Most authors stick inside one character’s head and they act as the narrator for the entire story.  But I prefer sharing various character’s points of view, so I normally used limited third person, where I give each character a chapter where we see inside only their heads for that chapter.

Doing blog, journal, and diary entries to tell the story, has allowed me to do something similar with this novel.  However, I’ve had to create unique ‘voices’ for each character as well.  I didn’t want a blog entry by one of my teenage characters to sound the same as one of my middle-aged male characters.

I’ve also had a bit of a challenge dealing with past tense vs. present tense.  After all, if you’re writing about something that happened to you in your blog/journal you use past tense.  So I’ve had a little bit of a challenge making the events sound just as exciting as if I were using the present tense like I have in my other novels.  Plus I’m trying to make sure I ‘show’ people what happened and not just have the character ‘tell’ you what happened.  I like to give enough details that my readers can picture the scene and all the action inside their heads like it was a movie.  So I’m going to be paying close attention to what my beta-readers say when they get to look at the book.

Now, that I’ve completed the 2nd draft, the book is getting looked over and the first edits will be under way.  I won’t be doing much new writing for a few weeks because I’m attending university and it’s getting towards the end of the semester.  This means the professors are loading us up with last minute assignments, as well as getting us prepped for final exams.

I will be putting out a short story involving Nathaniel and several characters from my previous novels, creating my first cross-over story.  Being a short story it won’t take me long to put it together.  It will be a holiday piece which I plan on releasing on Christmas Day.  So stay tuned for more detials on that.

In the meantime, Nathaniel, Lisa, and Marisa, as well as a few others will be posting here again very shortly.  So you won’t be without anything new to read here.

With that said, thanks for all your support and feedback.  I’m glad so many of you are enjoying my vampyre’s experiences along with those who are a large part of his extended life.  For those who celebrate Thanksgiving I hope you had a wonderful holiday.  I’m looking forward to this weekend to start decorating as well as study and do homework.

Until next time be happy and healthy.

Marisa’s Musings September 2011 “Alone At School”

*NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Marisa’s back today and she’s feeling a bit isolated.  Today, she’s talking about her dad’s fight with cancer.  And I can speak from experience that when someone in your family is fighting a condition as serious as that or some other life-threatening condition, it feels like your whole family is fighting with them.  You can feel alone at times, like there’s no way anyone else could understand what you’re going  through.  Sometimes you withdraw from even your close friends.  It’s not necessarily the best thing to do, but sometimes you just can’t help it.  Especially if you’re afraid of losing someone very dear to you.  To anyone else out there who’s had to deal with this kind of situation, my sincerest condolences and I pray the outcome was a good one.  If not, I’m deeply sorry.  So if you think this entry might trigger off some bad memories, please spare yourself.  I’ll understand.  The next one will be lighter.–Thank you.*

School ended about an hour and a half ago and yet here I am, wandering the empty hallways feeling more lost and alone than ever.

Normally I’d be home by now, but I knew no one would be home.  Dad’s getting another chemo treatment and Mom’s with him. I could’ve gone home with Lisa, but I…I just couldn’t.  She’s changed and I can’t stand it.

She got back from touring Europe with her family a few days after school started, so I didn’t even get a chance to see her, until she showed up in homeroom.  As soon as I saw her walk in I was so happy to see her until I realized what she was wearing.  Black clothing which looked like it was from another era entirely.  Oh there were a few splashes of color, but mostly it was black.

Immediately, several of our classmates started laughing and asking her who died. Of course that hit me pretty hard.  Ever since he was diagnosed with cancer, I’ve been terrified of losing my dad.  It’s gotten so bad that I can hardly even watch some of those old vampire movies, my dad loves so much.  I do of course, but mostly so I can be with him.  But I can’t stand the idea of vampires anymore.  Every time I see the heroes trying to fight to save one of Dracula’s victims I keep noticing how pale and grey they look, and then I glance at my dad and see a similar pallor in his face.

Then I begin to envy the characters in the movie.  They have a foe who they can face and put and end to with a sharp wooden stake.  But I can’t do that.  I have to sit on the sidelines and watch some unseen enemy trying to drain my father of his health and vitality.  Some days he looks better than others and even seems more like his old self.  Then a day or two later he’s weak and looking pale again.

I’ve had to deal with this all on my own the entire summer.  I didn’t have my Lisa at my side to help me cope.  And now when she’s finally back she looks like someone in mourning, only she hasn’t lost anyone.  She’s just getting a whole lot of attention while being a constant reminder to me that I may lose my dad.

It upsets me so much I can barely stand to be anywhere near her.  She tried to sit with me at lunch her first day back but I Just couldn’t do it.  Instead I simply got up and moved away without saying a word.  I didn’t mean to do it, but I couldn’t say anything without bursting into tears and running away in the middle of the cafeteria.  I eventually went outside and found a place to be alone for a while.

Then today a new problem arose. Everyone expected me to continue being head cheerleader, but with Dad fighting for his life, I just can’t do it this year.  So I talked to the coach and told her what was going on.  She fully understood and let me have a good cry on her shoulder for a few minutes.  Once I got myself under control again we talked about who should replace me.

I decided on Sherrie Wallace, who joined the squad just last year.  Sherrie transferred from another school where she had done gymnastics.  But after coming here, she wanted to try out for the cheerleading squad.  Truth be told, I think she’s more talented than me.  But I’d been head cheerleader for two years already and had gotten the team into the state quarterfinals both times.  So naturally everyone wanted to keep me in charge.  Sherrie didn’t seem to mind and she’s really sweet.  And unlike some of the girls on the team, she doesn’t cop an attitude.  So I felt she was the perfect replacement for me.

Unfortunately, one of the other girls, Diane Gilliams, did not agree.  She’s tried being my ‘buddy’ ever since she joined the squad two years ago.  And because she was always sucking up to me, she thought she could boss the other girls around and was always trying to take the spotlight in our routines.  I told her off many times and she was always ‘sorry’ and behaved herself again.  Until the next time when she thought she’d gotten on my good side.

Well, that won’t be happening anymore.  After the coach announced I wasn’t coming back and that we’d decided on Sherrie to lead the team everyone cheered, except Dianne.  She was pissed and let me know it as soon as we got back into the locker room.  She and a couple of her cronies tried cornering me when she thought no one was looking.

I don’t know what would’ve happened had Lisa not suddenly appeared and started talking in a very loud voice.  She was so loud in fact, that the coach came in to see what was going on.  Naturally, Dianne took off but not before giving us both the dirtiest look.

As soon as she was gone, Lisa turned to me and smiled.  “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.  I’ll always have your back.”

I so wanted to hug her right then, but she was in full  black today.  “Thanks,” I managed to mutter and quickly left the locker room.  As I did, I glanced back at her one last time and saw the sad and confused look on her face.

God how I wanted to go back and tell her what was going on, but I needed to get home.  But Mom and Dad should be home by now, with results of the latest tests that will tell us if the treatments are helping or not.  If they aren’t…. I can’t think that.  They’ve got to be helping him.  They’ve just got to…

LATER

The results were very promising.  The treatments are helping.  But he’s not out of the woods yet.  I have to be strong.

Good night.

Another Note From the Author….

Hello everyone, sorry for the slow updates recently.  I had planned on another post today, but life has a way of kind of being really getting in the way sometimes.  Especially when you’re going back to college.  I started attending my first university this week.  Prior to that the past few weeks have been chaotic with my wife getting a new job.

She got her Bachelors Degree last spring at the same university where I’m going now.  She studied to become a high school math teacher.  This summer had been a rough one for us for several other reasons as well, including her taking special summer courses for her credential to be come a teacher.  I had to drive her around a number of places including a couple of schools where she was interning.  A lot of that driving meant time away from the keyboard both for this blog and the novel itself.    There were a lot of things to be done around the house that only I was available to do (cleaning, laundry, errands, etc.)

I also had to go through some skin cancer surgery, which didn’t always leave me in the best of shape to be working on things.

However…

These last two weeks, I was spending a lot of time on the novel itself thanks to my wife’s new job.  She had to go through the interview process, be offered the job, accept it, and went through a couple of weeks of training at the new school so she could settle in.  Now the location of her job was in another town about 1/2 an hour away from where we currently live, which is actually quite a nice drive.

But even better, the town where she’s working has the most beautiful library, where I parked myself for hours working on the book.  I’m happy to announce that the 1st draft is almost finished.  I’m within pages of finishing it off.  Once that’s done, I’ll be doing a second draft to iron out certain issues such as clarity of thought, spelling, making sure the story flows, and finally getting to work on the actual cover.

After the 2nd draft is completed it will be going to my proofreader/editor.  Then I will do the 3rd draft at which point it will be unleashed on some willing Beta-Readers.  Once I hear back from them, a final draft will be completed and the book will be released.

How long will all that take?  I don’t have a clear idea yet, but the release will happen between late October and early December.  That much I can tell you.  It will all depend on how long it takes for others to get back to me (editing, beta-reading, etc.)  Once the 1st draft is completed the second one will come fairly quickly.

So hang in there, the actual novel is coming.  I will be posting more blog entries by the various characters you’ll be meeting in the book very soon.  Some will be funny, others interesting, a few tearful, but I’ll try not to leave you bored.

A new post will be here in a week.  From what the characters are telling me, we’ll be hearing either from Nathaniel, Lisa, or Marisa.  Or someone completely new.  Some characters can get kind of pushy.

For now I bid you a pleasant week.  Come freely, visit frequently, but always leave a bit of the happiness you bring to this blog.  (paraphrased from Bram Stoker’s Dracula).  This is my copy.  As you can see, I’ve read it a ‘few’ times, give or take…

 

Reflections On The Past And Ponderings Of The Future…

The Crypt is silent tonight.  It’s a Tuesday and the place is closed as usual.  Usually I only open the place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  If I have it open during the regular weekdays, a lot of the kids would never get enough sleep for school the next day, and I don’t want to deal with angry parents complaining that my place is an attractive nuisance.  Not that anyone would believe it.  My place is a drug and alcohol free zone.  It’s actually one of the safest places teenagers can come to get away from the darker elements out there.

Still, keeping the place open seven days a week would be quite demanding on me and my DJ Scar-Man.  He has a family these days and needs to be able to spend time with them.  And I need time to myself.  Even after a hundred and fifty years, I still enjoy some ‘me’ time.  I know, I know, most vampires you see in movies or read about are lonely and longing for company.  Well this is real life and I have plenty of extended family and friends who love to have me visit. or like to come over and drop in to see me and I love it.

However, I do need some time alone every so often and tonight is one of those evenings.  So with the doors locked up I’ve scaled the many steps that lead to the top of this old building where my art studio awaits.  I though I might be in the mood to pick up a brush and work on a canvas or two, but not at the moment.  Instead, I’m in a more contemplative mood at the moment.

There’s a huge picture window at one end of the studio that allows me to gaze out at the town.  It’s very pretty at night.  The streetlights are lit up, as well as a number of houses.  The evening is still young so very few have gone to bed just yet.

 

Who knows who I might meet this evening if I venture out into the streets.  That’s half the fun of being a night walker.  It’s always an adventure.  You see things and people, most folks overlook in their busy day.  For me, I find stories and inspirations for paintings, novels, or just things that make you think a bit.  No, I’m not  one of the gloom and doom vampyres of legend.  I’m going to be walking this earth for some time yet and I’m fully aware of it.  I am what I am these days.  Although I did not choose this existence, it was pushed onto me by a very unlikely source, but unlike others I treasure each moment I have.

I’ve touched and had my life touched by so many wonderful people.  Not just the stars I met back in vaudeville, or the heroes I met out on the battlefields, but everyday people and I thank them for it.  The ones who’ve come and gone, as well as those who are still with me now.  Yes, I’ve said goodbye to a good many friends over the decades, but there are always new people entering one’s life that you can share and experience so much with.

In my hundred and fifty… correction hundred and sixty-seven years on this planet (I always forget to count my life before the change) I’ve seen so much.  How many people can claim they saw the first silent films?  Or heard the first radio broadcasts?  I encountered and even got to work on some of the earliest computers when punch-cards were the high point of technology.

Plus I got to watch man reach the moon and take his first steps onto that barren alien landscape.  And there are so many years ahead of me, which both fill me with wonder and a slight dread.  For unlike vampyres of legend I do age, albeit at a much slower rate.  I was only seventeen when I was changed and these days I barely look thirty.  For every ten years that pass for others I age only one.  This means I have a long time ahead of me, but what about when I finally start to reach ‘old’ age?  Will I start to turn grey and less able-bodied?  With I spend centuries trapped in a body that is feeble and infirm?  That’ is a frightening prospect, that I try not to think too much about.

There’s still so much about my condition I don’t know anything about.  In spite of twenty years spent getting degrees in botany, anatomy and physiology, and several other sciences, there’s still so much to learn.  Luckily, science continues to move forward and I can always go back and take more classes and learn more about the new discoveries that may help me fully understand what I’ve become.  And that’s something I actually look forward to.

I love taking classes and learning new things.  I’ve taken all kinds of classes over the decades including art, dance, languages, mathematics, writing, etc.  Learning can be so much fun.  I meet new people and get introduced to new ideas and skills.  Life is a wondrous thing and whether you have only one life-time or many what you do with your time can be very enriching.  It all depends on the individual.

And right now, this individual feels like stepping out for a while.  I’ll come back here later and start working on one of my unfinished canvasses.  There’s one in particular I’m very eager to get back to.

I’ve already put it on an easel so it can be waiting for me when I get back.  It’s a portrait of a young girl with flowing black hair and the most amazing brown eyes.  I can never forget her eyes.  They saw through me like no other and loved me for who AND what I am…

Nathaniel’s Blog “Gone West” August 20th, 201-

While scouring my art studio for clean paper I found an old journal I thought I’d lost.  It’s a fairly recent one with only a few entries in it.  I remember buying it just after I headed out to California to meet with some movie producers down in Los Angeles.  It had been many years since I’d last been down there so I bought some art supplies to do some preliminary sketches to be turned into paintings later on.  The journal had originally been intended so I could make some mental notes and impression, but it wound up being a travel diary after I made an unexpected stop in Monterey and wound up visiting my first aquarium…

 

*Note:   Yes I know it sounds weird but most places like this have daytime business hours.  I was lucky to catch this one with extended evening hours.  Furthermore, not everywhere I’ve gone has been close to the water.  A pity really because I really enjoy walking along the sea, or traveling on a ship.

 

I need to do that some more.  Anyway, here goes…

 

Travel Journal, May 16th, 2009…

 

Well, everything is set.  The producers were happy and so am I.  Soon my bank account will be as well.  Negotiations for the rights to my first two novels are set and all is well.  I’ve come back north to stay with some old friends, the Cloudfoots.  As the name implies, they were of native American ancestry dating back to way before my time even.  

 

I met Jason Cloudfoot some years back over in Connecticut, while I was on a book signing tour.  We hit it off right away and he told me some wonderful tales of Seneca lore.  I  in turn shared some of my stories.  He’s one of the most remarkable men I’ve ever met.  He’s very observant.  He figured out right away I wasn’t all that I appeared to be… but that’s a story for another time.

 

In the end we became great friends and I visited with him frequently when his children were growing up.  Now they have families of their own and have moved out this way and are currently living up near Santa Cruz.  When they heard I was going to be down in Los Angeles, they insisted I swing up north and come to stay with them for a few days.  

 

When I gave them a date they asked me to meet them here in Monterey, because they were taking the children to the aquarium located here.  Apparently, this place keeps long hours and occasionally have sleep-overs for children who wish to spend the night surrounded by the mysterious beings from the depths.  

 

I agreed to meet them and I’m so glad I did.  I’ve never been to an aquarium like this before.  To me, an aquarium is a big twenty to thirty gallon tank in someone’s living room, filled with gold-fish or whatever.  

 

I had no idea what a treat I was in for.  This place was magical.  I’ve practically filled my sketch pad with pencil drawings of creatures and settings I’d never dreamed existed.  Oh, I’ve seen photos in magazines, but to actually be here is another thing entirely.

 

For one thing, each exhibit room has it’s own background sounds.  There’s a jellyfish exhibit that is nice and dark (perfect for someone like me) with the most ethereal music playing in the back ground.  It was so soothing and relaxing I almost didn’t want to leave that room.  The types of fish varied more widely than I ever suspected.  

 

 

Then there were the sea otters, playful furry beings who are so gosh-darned cute as well. They are also very large, much bigger than I originally expected.  Some are the size of a large dog, as in 60-70 pounds big.  Yet they were so graceful under the water.

 

There was a particularly interesting blue room with a circular ceiling.  Inside the ceiling was a series of glass windows all interconnected, with silver sardines racing about in one huge continuous circle.  It was both dizzying and breathtaking.  

 

I even got to see my first real live octopus.  My timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  Like me, the creature is usually very shy during the daytime hours.  But tonight, he was more lively and I got to see him to great advantage.  I made several sketches of him for future use.

 

A part of me could have stayed in this wondrous place for days or weeks.  Alas, time was getting on and the children decided they wanted to be home instead of staying for the sleepover.  Too much excitement for them they said.  Personally I think they were a little intimidated by all that was around them and I couldn’t blame them.  Everything here inspires both wonder and awe.  I could set up my easel and spend night after night painting these wonderful creatures.  This place is truly magical…

 

 

Alas, I haven’t been back there since, duty has called me away to other places.  But I hope to get back there soon.  Jason is no longer with us, but his children know me (and what I am) yet always ask me to come and visit them again.  Which I will do shortly.  There are other sights and places I wish to visit, like the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and a supposed “Concrete Boat”.  Jason’s son always laughs when he mentions it, perhaps it’s the incredulous tone in my voice.  A concrete boat?  That is something I have to see for myself.  I’m planning on going to see them next month.  I’ll write more about that adventure when I get there.

 

For now, I’m going to set up my easel and try and make up my mind which of my sketches to work from first.  I’ll either do several pieces or use the various creatures to create one large painting.  We shall see, it’s so hard to say.  They are all so beautiful and colorful.  My palette will get a hell of a workout over the next few weeks.

 

Nathaniel’s Blog April 3rd, 201- “My Visit to Marye’s Heights”

 

I visited Mary’s Heights over in Virginia today.  It’s something I try to do every year.  Partly to pay my respects to my Union brothers who fell that day, as well as to those from the Confederate side who took pity that night cold December night.  War can be hell, but it can also bring out a certain decency among men when the shooting stops even for just a little while.  I was there… sort of.  Or rather, I could see everything from where I landed up.

Like so many others I was badly wounded, but out of anyone’s reach.  However, the thing I passed through which led to my current condition, was still open.  I could see down onto the battlefield and saw all that transpired.

Those wounded during battle, like myself, who could not drag themselves to safety had been left where they fell.  Still alive and crying piteously for water.  But no one dared go out into the open for fear of being shot.  There were hundreds of them

Night had fallen, the guns and the cannons had gone quiet.  But silence was nowhere to be found.  The screams and the cries for water from the wounded left on the battlefield still echo in my ears.  But what happened the next morning is etched into my memory like a treasure.

The legend of the Angel of Marye’s Heights comes into question at times, but I saw what transpired.  Admittedly, I was drifted in and out of consciousness occasionally, but I was awake enough to see the Confederate soldier carefully climb over that stone wall and take those first tentative steps onto the battlefield where thousands of Union soldiers lay, many still alive.

The fellow was armed with dozens of water canteens, blankets and little else.  I remember silently praying that no one from my side would take a shot at him as he carefully made his way to the nearest Union soldier and gave him water and a blanket.  He made my brother soldier as comfortable as possible, before moving on to the next  man.  I didn’t know the man in gray’s name, but I wished like crazy to shake his hand and offer a word of thanks for what he was doing.  He went back for more water and blankets time and again.  I also prayed that by some miracle he’d look up and see where I was and could show me some of that compassion, but his eyes were fixed on those before him.

Eventually, I passed out and when I awoke again all was quiet.  The battlefield was quiet, I vaguely recall crying out myself, hoping someone would hear and take pity on me, either with a bullet or medical aid.  Of course, no one heard and if they did my voice would’ve seemed to come out of thin air.

Although I say ‘no one’ heard me, something else did and made me what I am now.  Eventually, I managed to fall back onto the battlefield, partly to escape a menace that still haunts my dreams.  It was night and I remember falling next to one of my fellow soldiers.  He’d been stripped of his wool uniform by some poorly dressed southerner who had been desperate to keep warm.  How do I know this?  Because of the person who mistook me lying next to my fallen comrade as a another dead body.  I saw into his mind as I sank my teeth into him and tasted blood for the first time.

Miraculously, I did not kill him.  I was too taken aback by my own actions to finish the job.  The thirst was still with me though and it took every ounce of self-control to keep from indulging in the fluid pumping through his veins.  However, I managed to make myself let him go and slaked my thirst with the more stale blood of my fallen friends.  At least in their case, I did not have to see the terror I inspired as I took from them what my altered form demanded.

To this day, I prefer my blood to be in bags or from a willing volunteer who’s mind will not hold terror or fear of me.  Instead I will see and feel the friendship that drives them to making the gesture.  I find their thoughts a great comfort on those occasions.

On this day, as I venture out onto the field where I fought I feel the pull from above and know the opening to the place I went is still there.   I do not sense presence from it though and allow myself a sigh of relief.  This is the other reason I keep coming back to this place.  I keep hoping to find the ‘door’ or whatever it was I passed through to be closed.  Perhaps it does and it’s merely my presence that makes it open again.

I make a sweep of the area anyway and find nothing amiss.  After a while I bend down and offer a prayer up to my fallen friends who lost their lives in this place all those years ago.  Then I stand up and head off to a particular memorial.

It’s a beautiful piece that helps renew my faith in man’s ability to show compassion even in the heat of war.  There etched in the dark stone I see the name “Richard Rowland Kirkland” the man I saw bringing water and aid to my injured brethren in arms.  I quietly offer a quiet thank you to his memory and move on.  Although he never reached me to offer water or comfort, his actions that day did feed my soul with hope and a desire to be as good a man as I could be in spite of what I’d become, a vampyre with a human heart.

Nathaniel’s Blog March 23rd, 201- “Me and My Easel”


Just got back from the museum.  Transcribed more letters onto the computer, while Brian tended to a new exhibit.  I’m pleased to say that the transcriptions are getting easier with time.  Occasionally, I find it more difficult and emotionally draining, but it mostly depends on the content of the letters and who wrote them.

Tonight I was mostly working on letters to friends while I was serving the in the 7th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, more commonly known as ‘The Bloody Seventh’.  We didn’t start out with that moniker, it came later.  But for the first six months of our existence we were basically guarding the railroads from Confederate raiders.  These letters were from that period.

I enter the building where “The Crypt” is located.  But instead of going into the club itself which is located in the basement level, I head upstairs.  As I’ve indicated before, I bought the entire structure back during the Great Depression.  It’s a four story affair that takes up a small block downtown.  I keep the place in good shape so no politicians can get any funny ideas about declaring the place ‘run down’ or an ‘eyesore’ that needs to be pulled down.

The ground floor is currently being renovated to become roller skating rink.  Yes, you read correctly.  A Roller Rink.  There’s already some really good hardwood floors and open space down there. It won’t be a huge affair, more like a couple of small rinks.  The smaller of the two will be for lessons or private parties, while the other will be more like a regular place.

I had thought about making one of them and Ice Skating Rink, but the refrigeration equipment would have to get run down into the basement area.  Plus there was the risk of any leaks dripping down into The Crypt itself.

Anyhow, above what will become the roller rink are three floors.  The 2nd floor is comprised of mostly empty office spaces, while the 3rd floor contains empty small apartments.  Occasionally I’ll rent a couple out, but not for very long.  I’m not keen on anyone living full time in the same building where I stay whenever I’m in town.

Then there’s the fourth floor, which is closed off to all unless I invite people up.  The entire floor is one gigantic open space that I use as my art studio.  Mostly the room is filled with canvases, oil paints, pastels and the like.  There’s a big window that looks out into the sky that I love to work near, especially on nights when there’s a full moon, like tonight.

I wander over to where my easel is and pull out one of the many canvasses I’ve been working on.  That’s one of the tricky things with oil painting, you have let each layer dry before you continue.  So whenever I do settle in to work in here, I’ll have several pieces under way and a lot of paint on my palette.

I tried my hand at painting until after I ‘came back’.  It was in the late 1890’s, shortly after the death of my first wife Madeline.  We’d been traveling in Europe at the time she passed.  Feeling lost and alone I’d found myself wandering the streets at night.  One evening I’d run across a gallery where a local artist was giving a demonstration.  I wandered in and sat down to listen.

By the time he’d finished, I was eager to talk to him about doing a portrait of my dear Madeline.  Alas the  speaker refused, but another fellow who had attended the talk was only too happy to talk with me.  He was an older man, Professor Otto Hofstadter.  I often wonder what turns my existence would’ve taken had I not met him that night.  Much of man I have become I owe to him.

We spent many evenings talking and eventually Otto found an artist who was renowned for his portrait work.  I still treasure the portrait Mr. Sargent did of my Madeline, but I remember him more fondly for taking me under his wing.  I studied oil painting under his watchful eye for three years, but then I had to return to America to deal with issues regarding my Madeline’s estate.

But like any good pupil, I continued to learn more from other teachers, some of them recommended to me by my mentor.  I did not see him again until 1918 when we met in England.  He had just been hired by the British Ministry of Information to paint a series of images depicting the Great War (World War I for those not familiar with the original name of that conflict).  His depiction of the victims of ‘mustard gas’ I still find hauntingly realistic.

I like to think it was my time with Mr. Sargent that got me to try and learn new things.  Otto, being a professor, got me to take night classes and expand my education. But that’s a story for another entry.  Right now it’s time to get down to some painting.  Light is just right and I know what I want to work on.

I turn to my unfinished paintings and pull out the one of Brian’s daughter Lisa.  She’s going to be turning sixteen in a couple of months.  And since I’m doing her portrait in oils, I really want to make sure its fully dried and finished in time.

 

Nathaniel’s Blog March 19th, 201- “An Evening With Family”

bookstore front

Finally got back into town after several weeks of book signings. Of all the things I’ve done over the years, I thought becoming a writer of novels would be the least demanding.  Boy was I wrong.  Writing the books was one thing.  I made my own hours, wrote when I felt like it, etc.  That was all well and good.  No one told me about the other half of the equation.

Finding an agent to represent me was a bit of an issue for a while, but I had time on my side and I eventually got one.  Then having them pitch and find a publisher was a bit of a wait, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  Once we found one and their editors got a hold of the manuscript, then things started to change.  Seeing my oh so wonderful pages come back covered in so much red I had to run to my ‘supply room’ just to make sure I hadn’t spilled any bags on the pages without realizing it.

Mind you, the day I got to see my first book on the shelves at the bookstores and online, was a real thrill.  It got even better when I found out it made the NY Times Besteller list.  I was so proud.  My hard work had paid off and I could sit back and relax while planning out the next installment in the series.

That’s when reality decided to come knocking at my door, and it brought it’s buddy ‘The Learning Curve’ along with it.

The demands for book signings and the interviews started pouring in.  It wasn’t easy getting people to understand I rarely do daytime appearances, and even those I keep short and sweet.  I have to glut my cells with fresh blood in order to handle the exposure, even at a minimum.  Unfortunately, this gives me a very ‘pink’ complexion that people often comment on.  I usually tell them I got a bad sunburn the day before.  Actually it’s partly happening right at that moment, but I can usually last a few hours so long as I’m not in direct sunlight. I learned this little trick decades ago out on the battlefield, but I also learned the downside of too much blood and the nasty side effects it could have.  It’s a delicate balancing act, but I’ve learned how to maintain a balance.

Anyway, with the latest round of publicity for the newest installment of my ‘Love Across Time’ series out of the way, it felt good to come back here and spend time with my godchildren.  Or rather, this particular set of godchildren.  Lord knows I’ve got a number of them out there, including a few overseas.

But, Brian and his family are rather special to me.  Their ancestors were friends of my family before I joined the Union Army.  One of my best friends was David Weston.  We fought and nearly died together several times.  He became highly decorated and became my captain in time, or rather just in time.  It was shortly after his promotion that I… became what I am.  I confided in him what had happened and he helped keep my secret by assigning me to night duty and scouting missions.

fallen soldier

When David fell at Gettysburg, I had myself listed among the fallen and came back here in secret to break the news to his widow Madeline, who was expecting at the time.  She had braved the lines to be near him and had been sent back home after becoming pregnant.  Upon hearing the news she went into labor and I was all she had available to help her with the delivery.  Long story short, I managed to keep my own needs in check while I helped deliver the first of my many godchildren.  Although, that boy, also became my step-son, two years later.  But that’s another story.

In any case, you can understand my attachment to this family, who also consider me one of their own.  Especially, Brian’s children Lisa and Geoffrey.  In spite of a thirteen year difference, Lisa is very attached to her baby brother.  Who sometimes attaches himself to me with a vengeance.  Like tonight.

He’s been well-behaved, but I couldn’t help noticing how he keeps watching me intently.  As if he’s hoping for something, but is afraid to ask.  I can’t figure out what he wants though.  I did the ‘money-shake’ thing with him as soon as I came in.  He loves being turned upside down and watching coins suddenly rain down around him.  I used to do it to his sister too, until she complained she was too old for that sort of thing.  Too bad.  I was going to start using dollar bills in her case.  Oh well.

Anyway, we’d just finished dinner and were sitting in the living room when Geoffrey finally comes up to me and asks, “Are your feet going woof yet?”

It takes me a moment to realize what he means.  I got into the habit of using a phrase from the 1930’s to complain about being on my feet too much.  The last time I did it in front of little Geoffrey, I’d used a little of my shape-shifting ability to produce two smaller versions of my ‘Black Dogs’ to play with him.  Poor little guy is allergic to dogs, which is sad because he loves to play with them.

I smile and grab a blanket from nearby.  After covering my legs with it I tell him, “As a matter of fact, my dogs are barking.”  Then I look down and he follows my gaze.

There is movement under the blanket and radiates down to where my feet would be.  A moment later, two black puppy-shaped heads peak out from beneath the blanket.

Immediately, the boy’s face lights up as they bark happily at him and pounce.  Since they’re smaller than what I usually produce, I was able to give them complete bodies this time.  I let them detach from me so they can play with Geoffrey.  As the three roll around on the floor together, Lisa comes to sit next to me.  She knows I won’t be able to move for a while, or at least until her brother gets tired and goes to bed, which will be in about an hour or so.  I hope.

“Would you like to come with me to The Crypt tonight?” I ask her, knowing it will be all right with her parents.  I checked with them earlier.  “It’s Friday so there’s no school tomorrow.”

“YES!” she cries excitedly and kisses me on the cheek.

As she takes off to get ready, I turn to Brian and his wife Mary, “Don’t say I never give you any time off from your kids.  Just make sure you enjoy yourselves.  Maybe you can make me another godchild.”

“No way,” Mary replies archly, “I got my tubes tied after Geoffrey was born.”

“Doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy going through the motions of making another one,” I smile.

She blushes furiously, but I can tell the idea has a lot of appeal to her.

Behind her, I see Brian grinning broadly and mouth the words ‘Thank you.’

I simply nod and continue to watch Geoff and the puppies at play.  He’ll be good and tired by the time they’re done with him.  The boy will sleep soundly tonight.  An earthquake wouldn’t be enough to wake him up.

It feels good being part of a family, every once in a while anyway.  Maybe, one day, I’ll even let myself settle down and stay put.  The question is where?

My family homestead is nearby.  I know it’s just sitting there empty, waiting for me.  The problem is that there might be another who’s also waiting for me, within its walls.  A person I made a promise to, that I failed to keep…

Civil War House

Marisa’s Musings October 5th, 2007

Author’s Note: today I’m introducing you all to Marisa.  She will be one of the lead characters in the actual novel and will be playing a vital role in the story.  Here we see her very first blog entry, when she is only ten years old and very happy.   

Hi Everyone and welcome to my blog.

I’m Marisa and I’m a huge fan of ghosts, scary movies, and vampires. Especially vampires, I love watching movies about them.  Probably because of my dad.  He has got like every vampire movie made it but he hardly ever gets to watch them because Mom’s not into them and he hates watching them alone.  

So about a year ago, I got the book “Dracula” for Christmas and now he and I watch the movies together every Sunday.  We just watched Christopher Lee in “Dracula Has Risen From the Grave”.

He has got to be like my favorite Dracula, even though in real life he’s like ancient these days.  Though I did see him in Star Wars “Attack of the Clones” and frankly, he was the best thing in that movie personally speaking.  Even being so much older now, he still has an air of power and charisma.  I kind of hope he stays around for a while, he seems pretty cool.

Though, I really can’t say the movie was all that bad.  I loved all the robots and battles, those were pretty cool.  I wasn’t too keen on Anakin because he seemed kind of whiny sometimes, but I could certainly understand his killing all those Sand People after what they did to his mom.  If anyone hurt either of my parent’s I’d be going all Terminator on their asses.

 Um… did I mention I also love Sci-Fi movies with robots and cyborgs?  I get that from my dad too.  

 Mom likes to think he was hoping for a boy to share all these things with since she’s not into that stuff.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I don’t care.  The guys at school like the fact that I’m into that kind of stuff.

That’s all for now, my Mom’s telling me to get  ready for my first Girl Scout meeting.  Up until a few months ago, I was still in Brownies.  Now I’m old enough to join the big girls.  See you all later.