Merry Christmas Eve and a Happy Hannukah (which also begins tonight) to all our friends…
Next we have a Robin on a Yule Log. Robins are associated with Christmas quite heavily over in the United Kingdom, but for this piece. However, Allan chose an American style Robin (which is different from those in the England where his mother was born and raised), blending the tradition between the two countries.
And finally, we have this little piece which he titled “It Was Supposed To Be A Still Life”. This is true because, he had planned on doing a pastel piece of the presents and village he and Helen had set up beneath their tree one year. Of course, after getting things just right, he went to fetch his art pad and soft pastels and came back to a scene much like you see here. However, rather than getting angry and trying to set things up again, he simply sat down and got to work on the piece saying, “Hey, it’s Christmas for kitties too…”
*Note: the coloring of the cat is based on his late father’s cat Spikette, rather than his own feline mistress Avalon who was jet black and had been the one underneath the tree. Originally he started out using Avalon’s ebony coat, only to find it was too distracting to the rest of the piece, so he kept her attitude and behavior while substituting Spikette’s colors for a more balanced piece. He finds great comfort in having done this since both kitties are in Heaven now, although their spirits seem to occasionally visit and cause mischief around the house when one least expects it.
That’s all for now. Enjoy the holidays and stay safe everyone. If you must travel, may your journey be swift and fun, without worry or fear. And we will see you all in the coming year.
Nathan, Lisa, Otto, Marisa, the rest of our extended family and of course our creators Allan and Helen Krummenacker
The reviews continue to come in for “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home” over on Amazon. Here’s what the latest person had to say about our favorite paranormal/sci fi vampyre…
By C. C. McKenzie on November 6, 2016
I’m not going into details about Nathan’s life. It would be unfair to other readers.
But I’d like to mention something about the style of the book: Being a vivid reader I have of course read books with current diary entries, be it in “flashbacks” or “explanations of the story line. Usually, the diary entries helped to understand the story I read. This was the first time I read myself through a story built on blog (diary) entries, which I found oddly unusual at first, but then I realized it worked. It worked for the story, for the characters and it developed the entire storyline right before my eyes.
The ability to introduce entire characters to the reader this way – as well as build and develop the as well story as also connections only with blog entries, makes me just say one word: BRAVO! I didn’t miss a thing. The entries are fascinating and create an entirely impressive as also flowing book! I can’t wait to read more.
Want to read more? Click on the link below to read more reviews. And remember, the holiday season is approaching fast and you can pick up a copy for yourself or ‘gift’ one to a friend. You can not only buy a copy on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble, for just $2.99, but you can also schedule it to arrive on Christmas day. So take advantage and start your holiday shopping now!
For several seconds no one moved.
Jason looked around. He knew the opening had to be near here, but even he didn’t know its exact position. And they didn’t have much time. A part of him didn’t trust Sergeant Ross and her companions to not overreact if they saw the creature. Besides, he felt they owed her for protecting Julie.
There had to be a way to find the portal.
Just then he noticed Otto cupping his hands to his mouth. A second later, his friend let out an amazingly accurate imitation of the low bellow they had heard before.
Jason was impressed. He himself could imitate a great number of animal calls, but only after he’d heard them a number of times and had practice long hours. Otto, on the other hand, had done it perfectly after just hearing the call once.
In fact the call had been so accurate, even ‘Big Mama’, as Nathan referred to the animal, reacted. Luckily, the young man was still with her and began stroking her large muzzle to calm her down, while saying, “Easy, false alarm. We’re just trying to get our bearings.”
But just as the great beast settled down an answering cry, louder than the last one, came back.
Beaming Otto cried, “Got it! This way my friends, Nathaniel, get her to follow.”
However, the young man did not respond. Instead his eyes seemed fixed on the opening of the cave.
Jason followed his gaze and saw two figures watching them closely. “Ah,” sighed and went over to Nathan. “Come, we must get her home first. They will wait until we return.”
“Don’t worry, they aren’t going anywhere.”
“Who isn’t going anywhere?” called Otto staring at them and then at the cave. “I don’t see anyone. Now come, we have to get her home before the opening closes.”
Nathan sighed and shook his head. “Damn,” the young man murmured and turned away.
Quietly, Jason studied the boy and his dog then made a slight gesture in their direction. The two seemed to understand and headed back in the cave, while he followed his ‘three’ friends further into the woods.
‘Big Mama’ seemed to sense what was coming. She was becoming more and more excited as they moved forward, and it was getting a little harder for Nathan to control her. But every so often a stream of green mist seemed to snake out from beneath his coat and she’d calm down again.
Moving past them, Jason caught up with Otto who was leading the way and asked, “How will we know we’ve found the opening?”
“If we’re at the correct angle, we will see it,” his friend assured him. “Otherwise, we could literally walk right by it and just hear strange noises from among the trees.”
Hearing this, Jason peered deep into the forest ahead. After several moments, he spotted something that definitely did not belong. “There it is!” he whispered.
Otto looked at him, “You’ve spotted it already? What does it look like?”
“Something wondrous,” was all he could say.
Nathan had overheard everything his two friends were saying and smiled. He could now sense the opening himself, and so could his charge. She was becoming very excited, sniffing the air eagerly. Still he did not relinquish his control over her, for fear she might rush ahead and accidentally run his companions over.
But it was getting harder, so as one of her massive front paws came down in the snow, he scurried up her arm and onto her shoulders. She did not seem to mind in the least. Nor did she flinch when a couple of his fingers elongated into narrow sharp tips which slowly penetrated her thick skin.
However instead of drawing from her, he allowed a small amount of himself to pass into the creature. It was just enough to establish a link between them. Then he focused his eyes straight ahead.
The animal paused and shifted in wonder. He knew she was now seeing through his eyes and was amazed at what lay before her.
The opening was clearly visible now. It was like a scene from another time that had super-imposed itself over the dark forest landscape. Ice and snow seemed to stretch for miles, while in the sky ever shifting colors, similar to the northern lights glowed and danced. Amidst the white were moving shapes some of which resembled creatures who had walked the world he knew, while others were completely unknown.
But close to the opening were several beasts whose size and shape were very familiar to him.
Big Mama seemed to recognize them as she called out and they responded in kind.
Knowing the time had come he called out, “Uh guys… you might want to move to one side.”
Otto and Jason did as instructed, just as his mount lunged forward as quickly as her game leg would allow.
Within seconds Nathan found himself in that other version of Earth caught amidst a family reunion of sorts. The other sloth-like beings crowded around Big Mama, sniffing and rubbing against her in a most welcoming manner.
It soon became clear he wasn’t going to be able to get down easily. Not unless he wanted to be accidentally stepped on. But then he heard chanting from behind and turned see Jason and Otto had followed them into this place.
The other creatures seemed intrigued by their presence and in particular the shaman’s song. The moved away slightly, allowing Big Mama to lower herself into the snow.
Taking the hint, Nathan slid down and stroked her muzzle one last time. “Merry Christmas,” he murmured to her and then headed over to where his friends waited.
As soon as he joined them, Jason brought his song to an end.
A moment later, the ‘reunion’ started up once more as their charge was herded gently away from the opening and up the nearest hill. Towards the top she stopped and turned, sniffing the air once more and called back to them before heading off with her family.
For a moment the three men stood there staring at the wondrous sights around them. But then Jason said, “Sergeant Ross will be looking for us, and she’ll have others with her.”
“True,” Otto sighed and led the other two back out the way they’d entered.
“How long will the opening last?” Jason asked once they were back in the forest>
“Another day, maybe two,” Otto replied. “I’d like to come back here tomorrow and do a little exploring, if you don’t mind Nathan.”
“I can load up on the red stuff and join you,” his friend offered.
“We’ll see,” Otto told him, “We have no idea how much sun there might be, and remember it would reflect off all that snow and ice. It might be too much for your system even if it was well fed. Besides, the weather report for around here is more snow. I’d rather you deal with any remaining questions Sergeant Ross may have.”
“Indeed,” Jason smiled, “I have a feeling she’ll want to ‘see’ him alone.”
Otto couldn’t resist nudging his young friend and saying, “You dog, you.”
Before Nathan could respond, they came to the clearing near the rocks just as Veronica and several officers, including one who appeared to be her boss.
“There you are,” she cried upon spotting them. “Did the bear come back at all?”
Otto shook his head and turned to Jason who said, “No, she didn’t. I think she knew her work was done and has gone home. Black bears are rarely seen in these parts because they try to avoid humans, but a child in distress was enough for her to make an exception.”
“Huh? I’ve heard of wild animals protecting or adopting children, but never thought I’d see the day it actually happen,” commented the gruff-looking officer. Then the man looked at him and Nathaniel and said, “I’m Police Chief Roy Petersen, thanks for your help in finding the girl. We appreciate it.”
“We were happy to help,” Otto replied and then noticed the fellow looking at him curiously.
“Have we met before?” the man asked, “I could swear you seem familiar, especially with that accent.”
“I doubt it, this is my first time here in Connecticut,” Otto shook his head. “I don’t come over to America very often.”
Just then Veronica frowned and said, “But Nathan said the two of you investigate reports of strange creatures, like Bigfoot and whatnot.”
‘From now on Nathan does not get to do the talking,’ thought Otto as he quickly came up with a reply. “This is true. But we look into reports from various countries. There are legends rumors of unknown animals all over the world.”
This seemed to satisfy her as she shot a glance at Nathan who smiled back.
Otto quietly resigned himself to the fact that they would probably be sticking around at least for a few more days.
“How is Julianna?” asked Jason, anxious to know how his niece was doing. He would’ve dearly loved to have held and spoken to her for even just a few minutes, but circumstances being what they were had prevented it.
“She’s fine, in fact she’s doing really well,” Chief Petersen smiled. “Dispatch got a call from your wife just as we were heading out. Your brother and his family were found alive and well out at sea. Their ship took a pounding during the storm which drove them way off course and knocked out their radio equipment. But everyone’s fine and they’re being towed back to port even as we speak. With a little luck, they’ll be joining you on Christmas day. So it looks like our work is done here.”
“Indeed it does,” he smiled back and then noticed Nathan glancing back at the cave and thought, ‘Almost.’
As the clock struck midnight, Jason made his way through the snow once more. Julianna was safe and resting comfortably. He’d asked her many questions about her experience and her responses had both warmed his heart and troubled him slightly. She remembered things exactly as Nathan had instructed, but she had asked questions about things like how large the ‘bear’ had been. To her the animal that had protected her had seemed much larger than any black or even grizzly bear. And there had been something odd about the beast’s claws…
He sighed inwardly. She was going to follow the path, just as he and his brother had. He had hoped it would be one of his own children, but they had not shown any sign of interest or talent for it. In fact, they hardly showed any inclination to even really learn the stories or herbal remedies that had been passed down through the years. Whereas his niece, she could never get enough.
It was something he’d have to discuss with his brother, but after the holidays. There was no need to burden him with what may come to pass down the road.
Besides, there was another who needed his help right now.
He had just reached the area where the cliff face stood with its low narrow cave entrance. His ears could detect voices coming from inside. One of them he recognized and smiled. Yes, he had not been mistaken in placing his trust in his new friends, particularly this one.
Closing his eyes, he listened carefully, filtering out the sounds of the wind and trees until he could hear ‘them’.
“So you’re parent’s car flipped over and you were thrown from the wreck?” Nathan was saying to the twelve-year old boy before him. The lad was huddled up close to his dog.
He could clearly see the boy’s dog still seemed uncertain about what to make of him. But there was little he could do about it. Misting would not help in this particular case.
“That’s right,” Michael nodded. “I tried to reach the car to get at my parents, but I could see from all the blood they were dead. Then that big animal started roaring and stomping around and Riff and I took off running.”
“Looks like you hit your head pretty good,” Nathan remarked. “That’s quite a bump you got there.”
“Yeah,” the boy nodded, touching his head. “I must’ve hit the doorframe when I got thrown. I remember feeling really dizzy as me and Riff headed into the woods. He stayed with me the whole time, wouldn’t leave my side even once.”
“Then you found this cave and crawled inside, am I right?”
“We had to,” Michael told him. “That thing was still out there and it seemed to be following us. When Riff led me to the cave, I could see right away the thing wouldn’t be able to get inside, so I let him help me in and then we just curled up together and waited for the creature to go away.”
“Only it didn’t, it kept hanging around didn’t it?”
“Yeah,” the boy nodded and touched his head. “Dunno how long we’ve been in here. I kind of fell asleep and then I heard that girl crying and knew the creature would go after her so…”
“So you called out to her and tried to keep her safe?”
“Yeah, I didn’t want it to hurt her like it did my folks.”
Nathan frowned, “I thought you said the creature killed them.”
The boy hesitated, “I thought so too, but when I was asleep I dreamed I heard them calling to me. And then today, when I was watching you and the others dealing with the thing, I heard them again. Do you think they might be okay?”
Before he could answer, Nathan’s sharp ears detected chanting coming from outside the cave. He recognized the voice immediately, but the song was different than the one he’d heard earlier. Yet it filled him with a sense of longing.
Then he heard more voices calling as if from a distance, but getting nearer.
Both Michael and Riff heard them too and stood up. “That sounds like Mom and Dad… can you hear them? Or am I just dreaming again?”
“No,” Nathan assured him, “I hear them too.”
Michael started forward and then stopped, “What if the creature is still out there or comes back?”
“It won’t,” Nathan assured him. “She’s gone home and now it’s your turn.”
The boy hugged his dog and murmured, “I’m afraid.”
“I’ll carry you, both of you,” Nathan offered and removed the dark heavy cloak he’d changed into before coming back here. After wrapping both Michael and Riff in it, he lifted them up and headed for the opening.
“I hope we’re not too heavy for you,” the boy whispered as they drew closer to the entryway. “Riff’s pretty big.”
“You guys aren’t that heavy,” Nathan assured him and even felt a faint wagging of a tail as he stepped out into the clearing.
There off to his left he spotted Jason continuing his chant, while a man and a woman stood near the trees with their arms outstretched. “Michael!” they cried in unison.
“Mom! Dad!” the boy cried and rushed to meet them, with Riff following close behind.
Nathan stayed still, his arms still held out as the reunited family hugged and laughed, before slowly fading before his eyes.
Once they were gone, Jason finished his chant and approached him. “Do not look sad my friend, they’ve been searching for him all this time. And now they have all moved on, just as you have.”
“Is it that obvious?” Nathan asked, shifting the bundle in his arms ever so gently.
“How long have yours been gone?”
“Over a hundred and thirty years,” Nathan told him. “But I do have other family. It’s an extended family which is composed of many homes and people who know what I am, and that I’ll always watch over them.”
“My people belonged to the Iroquois, and we used to live in longhouses that were comprised of many families who lived together,” Jason remarked. “You’re extended family sounds much the same. I would honored if you would count my family among them.”
Nathan thought about it for a moment and then said, “I’d like that too. But, some of them are going to have to know the truth about me. I don’t age like normal people. If I keep coming back to visit, I’ll either have to wear make-up to look older or…”
“My wife and my eldest boys are fully aware of the other worlds,” Jason interrupted. “Remember, I told you before about that which my ancestors imprisoned so long ago. Well, that prison still exists and it is my job to keep watch over it and make sure the thing does not escape. After I’m gone one of my children, or possibly one of my brother’s, will take over the job.” Here the shaman paused and turned to him and said, “I would feel better knowing they had someone like you to help guard their back.”
Nathan smiled, touched by his friend’s words. “Of course I will.”
“Good, it would be nice to add to my family at Christmas. You and Otto will join us.”
Hearing the note of finality in his friend’s voice, Nathan nodded. “Of course,”
As those two words left his lips the beam of a flashlight appeared among the trees.
A moment later, the familiar form of Chief Petersen, followed by one of his male officers appeared. “Okay Jason, I’m back just like you asked. What did you find…? Oh no, please don’t tell me that’s Rachel?”
“No, it’s Michael Broughman,” the shaman replied.
“The boy who disappeared after his parent’s car crashed eight years ago?”
“I’m afraid so,” Nathan nodded.
“Where did you find him?”
“Inside the cave,” Jason answered. “Julianna told me about a boy she’d seen in there who’d helped her. We never saw anyone come out, so Nathan and I came back to see if he was still there.”
“And apparently he was,” Roy shook his head in disbelief. “But she said he ‘helped’ her? How? Are you telling me she saw a ghost?”
“Perhaps,” Jason shrugged.
“Or maybe she simply saw the shadow of the remains and imagined he was real,” suggested Nathan. “The mind can play tricks on people, especially when their stressed or upset.”
Chief Petersen took a closer look at the bundle and nodded. “Looks like the boy took a nasty blow to the head in the crash, probably a concussion. The dog knew he was hurt and wouldn’t leave him so it tried to keep him warm and they both froze to death,” he sighed. “Well, at least now they can reunited with his folks and rest in peace together.”
“They already are I’m sure,” Nathan heard Jason reply as they both stared into the woods, which gleamed like a frozen cathedral in the night.
THE END? OR WOULD YOU LIKE AN EPILOGUE? PLEASE LEAVE AN ANSWER IN THE COMMENTS BELOW. I HAVE A LITTLE MORE TO OFFER, BUT ONLY IF YOU ASK FOR IT MY FRIENDS…
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.
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.”
“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.”
“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.
TO BE CONTINUED…
A note from the author: My original intention had been to complete this particular holiday story and release it as a free short story on Smashwords on Christmas. Unfortunately, due to time constraints I was not able to create a cover or do most of the usual more serious editing that I wanted. So instead, I’m presenting this tale in installments, that will continue until Christmas Day where the last part of the story will be told.
I will do another in this style for next Christmas as well, thus starting my own tradition for you my readers. But I will also be re-releasing this story in full as either a very small novella/short story on Smashwords complete with full editing, a proper cover, AND… hopefully some pen and ink illustrations to accompany the tale.
I do hope you’ll enjoy this tale of the season which includes my first crossover. What I mean by that is that this is the first time Nathaniel will be meeting some of the established characters from my first published novel “The Bridge”. Those familiar with that novel will see some familiar faces here, but set sixteen years in the past before the events of the novel. Will we see these characters and my vampyre Nathaniel meet again? We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, please enjoy this story. The next installment will be up tomorrow followed by more each day until Christmas. Enjoy…
A LOST GIRL
New Swindon, Connecticut, December 23rd, 1999
“She’s only been missing for eight hours, Sarge,” said the patrolman, shifting his feet uneasily. His superior had her back to him as she stared out the window, not moving. Even the looser strands of red hair, sticking out of her ponytail seemed unnaturally still. This made him uneasy.
Ever since the summer she’d become solemn and hard. She could also be more unpredictable than a volcano. “Technically, it’s not a missing person case until twenty-four hours have passed,” he added nervously.
Finally she broke her silence and replied in a quiet voice “The temperature is already dropping and it’s starting to snow.”
“Everyone’s keeping an eye out for her already, Sarge,” he pointed out and immediately regretted it.
Sergeant Ross spun around so fast that her pony tail wound up slapping her in the face, which did not seem to improve her mood. “Keeping an eye out isn’t the same as actively searching for her!” she snapped. “We’ve already got one girl missing with no leads. I… we don’t want another.”
The patrolman took a step back. He’d heard that red-heads could have a fierce temper, but up until now he’d never believed it. A part of him silently began praying for some kind of diversion that would allow him to leave the room as quickly as possible.
Just then another voice joined the conversation.
“No we don’t, Sergeant.”
‘Note to self,’ he thought breathing a sigh of relief, ‘Stop by the local church and drop a few extra dollars in the donation box.’ Then he turned his head ever so slightly and watched their boss enter the room.
The man’s craggy features made him look like he was always scowling, so you always had to watch his manner and tone of voice. But even then he could prove quite disarming and trip you up before you realized what had happened. More than one suspect had fallen into that trap which was what had led to his appointment as head of the New Swindon Police Department seven years ago.
Since his arrival, Chief Petersen had made a number of improvements in their department. They had doubled the number of officers and would soon be moving to a new and much larger facility. For now they were still located in the town’s original station which was located in the middle of downtown. He’d also brought in Sergeant Ross to act as his second-in-command, two years ago.
Unlike their boss she had a manner that could be quite disarming, which had been a big help in dealing with the local youths. In fact she’d proven to be one of the most effective officers in helping the more troublesome offenders.
But ever since the night that girl disappeared from the Graham estate, she’d become harder and less patient, even with her subordinates.
Just then, Petersen turned to him and said, “Why don’t you round up as many volunteers as you can to start looking for little Julie, Jenkins?” their boss told him.
“Don’t you mean men, Chief?”
“Women too,” his boss replied, “Remember we’re dealing with a little girl. According to her Uncle Jason, she was pretty upset and might respond better to a woman being around.”
“In that case I’ll head out as well,” Sergeant Ross announced, “Where was she last seen?”
Petersen held up his hand to stop her before he answered. “She was heading off into the woods to the east of the Cyrus Graham’s home.”
Jenkins noted the look that passed between his two superiors and quickly left.
He moved quickly down the hallway thinking, ‘Great, that place again. We’re going to need a lot more people, the grounds there are huge.’
Leaving the station, he headed for the local tavern just a block away. There was always a good crowd there at this hour. And most of clientele would have just gotten off work and would only be on their first or second drink. He should be able to round up a good number of volunteers there, plus he could use a quick shot himself. He’d also grab a little brandy to take with him just in case they needed it for the girl when and if they found her…
“I can handle going out there, Roy,” Veronica told her boss evenly. They were alone, so she knew it was okay to call him by his first name. He had been her first partner back in New York City, ten years ago. And in spite of the fifteen year difference in their ages, they’d become the best of friends. So when he left to become chief of police way up here in northern Connecticut, she’d felt as if a part of herself had gone away. Of course she’d had other partners, but it had never been the same. Plus, the city seemed to become meaner over time.
So when Roy came back to visit her two years ago, she was more than ready to accept his offer to become his second-in-command, in this this rural community of twenty-five thousand. She’d been able to do so much good since coming here, but she’d also suffered some failures…
“Are you sure?” her old partner asked gently, interrupting her reverie.
Looking up at him, she nodded.
Unfortunately, he didn’t seem convinced. “I know you, Ronnie. You’re still upset about what became of that girl who disappeared the night Cyrus Graham had that heart attack that put him in a coma.”
“Yes, I am,” she admitted in a controlled voice. “And I’m still hoping he’ll come out of it one day soon and be able to tell us what happened to Rachel. But right now we have another girl missing out that way and she needs to be found before it gets too dark out. The snow is already falling and we’re wasting time.”
Roy studied her for a moment and nodded. “All right, get over to Jason’s place. It’s located on the grounds of Cyrus’ estate near that old stone bridge. That’s where the girl took off from.”
As she started for the door, he added, “Be careful out there, Rookie. I don’t want you getting lost in the snow.”
That made her smile. Even after ten years, she still found the nickname amusing. “I’ll be careful,” she assured him and left.
Halfway down the hall she could feel his eyes watching her. So she decided to give him some of his own medicine.
Upon reaching the front doors she called over her shoulder, “Don’t wait up for me, Oldtimer!”
She barely caught the words, “Who are you calling old, you snot-nosed…?” as the door closed behind her.
* * * * *
Parked off to the side of the road at a rest stop, sat an old station wagon, with a box-like travel trailer attached. A picnic table with benches stood nearby. Both table and seats were covered in a layer of snow at least four inches deep. But this was old snow which had lost some of its white luster. Another layer was already building, giving both bench and table and icy layered cake effect. Beyond the table a gradual slope rose up a dozen feet or so, before sinking downwards and disappearing among the trees.
However, the driver of the vehicle was taking little notice of the wintery scene around him. Instead, he was standing near the edge of the road where the asphalt ended and frozen ground began. He was an older man, with curly greying hair, and a matching beard and moustache. Standing up, he placed his hands on his slightly pronounced abdomen. “Yes, most curious,” he said to himself in a heavy German accent.
“Find something, Otto?” came a voice from the vicinity of his vehicle.
Turning the driver smiled at the sandy-blonde young man who was stepping from the travel-trailer. He had a slender build and was dressed in a heavy winter parka that stretched all the way down to the ground. Although he had just emerged from the warm compartment, his face seemed awfully pink.
“The sun is still up, albeit behind the clouds,” the older man called Otto remarked. “I didn’t expect you to be up until after it had set. Is something the matter, Nathan?”
“I’m not sure,” the young man replied scanning their surroundings with his eyes. “I… I felt a presence.”
“Blonde, brunette or red-head?” Otto teased.
But his friend didn’t answer. Instead, he found Nathan staring into the open field across the road. A barbed wire fence had been erected to keep interlopers out of the rows of corn that normally grew there. On this day however, the field hosted only a wide expanse of snow that ended at the line of woods that bordered it on three sides. The uniformity of the treetops was interrupted by the occasional sloping of a hill, where some pines rose above their brethren and silently stood watch over the open field.
“What do you see?” Otto asked after several moments had passed.
“Nothing, but I smell something,” Nathan replied and quickly made his way across the road. Once there he started to examine the barbed wire carefully.
From what Otto could see there was nothing unusual or odd about the fence, no wait. One section seemed newer than the rest. It was hard to notice at first, because the wire had built up a layer of rust over the years, but the posts it was attached to were fresher by comparison to the others.
Suddenly Nathan stopped and knelt down in front of one section of the fence. Reaching a hand out he touched one of the barbs and that’s when Otto saw it, a red glistening stain on one of the metal points.
He barely remembered to check if the road was clear of oncoming traffic, before running over to join his friend.
Emerging from among the trees a lone wolf slowly padded down the slope and stopped near the picnic table. Its fur was snow white, which allowed the animal to blend in with his surroundings. Watching the two strangers intently it slowly made its way over to where the station wagon and travel trailer stood. Keeping behind the vehicles so as not to be noticed, the great beast began sniffing around.
Both men’s scents were unlike anything it had encountered before, yet there was also something familiar about their smells. Remembering its mission, the wolf began sniffing around the area. In particular is spent a lot of time around the trailer where the younger man had emerged. Besides his odd scent, the beast also detected another familiar smell, human blood.
Just then the breeze picked up and began to come from across the road. Immediately, the animal raised its head. Its delicate nose had detected another scent, one the animal knew very well.
The wolf eyed the two men suspiciously and was about to approach them when its sensitive ears detected the approach of a vehicle. Looking up, the beast saw the car in question had red and blue lights on top. Without hesitation, the snow-white animal quickly made its way back up and over the slope.
A few seconds later, a new figure appeared. It was a man, with long black hair, and high strong cheekbones. Without hesitation he made his way down the steep incline with all the sure-footedness of a deer.
He reached the bottom just as the patrol pulled up behind the travel trailer. As soon as the driver began to emerge from the vehicle, he immediately recognized the flame-red pony-tail trailing down her back. Delighted, he was about to call out to her when he noticed one of the two men across the road do something, disturbing.
TO BE CONTINUED…
So here I am, creating my very first blog entry. Night has barely fallen outside, I can hear the rustlings of nocturnal creatures, who are as familiar to me as my own portrait, just outside these walls. Soon I will join them again. Enjoying our nightly rambles, through the brush and empty streets. But first I must complete that which came here for.
I confess that I still find the idea of using a computer to record my thoughts and memories a little… strange. Especially one that can rest in my lap. I saw the pictures of the early ones that took up room after room of space back in the 1950’s.
I even got to work on some of the ones that came later, with their huge spools of tape. These days, you can fit more data than those eve could on a flash drive that is smaller than my finger. Amazing.
In just a few short decades the technology advanced by leaps and bounds. Some would say it seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. I know better, it was hardly that quick, but it was fascinating to watch it happen.
But I digress. I’ll have plenty of time to dwell on the things I’ve seen over time later. Right now I need to take advantage of the museum being closed and copying some of my old correspondence into electronic form. My godson Brian assures me that the words I copy will continue to exist in the ether of the internet for centuries to come. We’ll see. If I can still access them in another hundred to two hundred years, I’ll be more at ease.
Words and thoughts floating about in an electronic pocket, insubstantial yet as real as if they were put to paper, still fascinates me. In spite of all the things I’ve seen and learned since I took my first and last breaths so long ago, humanity continues to amaze. Thank the heavens, my father always encouraged me to be curious and try new things. He also taught me not to let go of the past and the things I loved, learned and lost. He told me, nothing is truly lost if one can hold onto it in the heart and mind.
He was right. There are many who I can no longer touch or hold in my arms, but are still very much still alive within me. But even a brain like mine cannot remember every little thing on a moment’s notice. Our brains are constantly filling with new data, faces, likes, hates, and information that things can get cluttered. Which is why I started journal writing back when I was only ten. Even back then I understood how easy it was to lose track of one’s thoughts and memories at times.
I’ve kept all my journals, at least the ones that survived time, the elements and of course the fires. I have a tendency to stay too long in some places. Even when I hear some of the murmurings whispered in voices so faint, the speakers have no clue I hear them as if they were standing right next to me. Murmurs give way to speculations. Speculations then lead to secret meetings of those with a like mind. Eventually, they in turn lead to spying and eventually open hostility. Finally, action is taken, either by a few chosen or an entire community where entire homes and their contents are lost in flames.
However, I have an extraordinary memory and can recall most of the things I put to paper so long ago. But this is not always the case. Which is why I have come to the museum. My godson and his father, another godson of mine, oversee the place and all its treasures. They and their families know me and what I’ve become, or rather what I became long before any of them were born. None of them fear me, only for me. They are my guardians and defenders, as I have been theirs since the day I came back from the battlefield in 18… no. That’s as story for another entry. I’m digressing again and I know why.
I glance down at the yellowed pages that lay preserved in plastic sheets at my right hand. The ink has browned with age, but the handwriting is still very legible. As well cared for as they are, these pages will one day crumble and be lost to me along with their words and the emotions they convey. As painful as the task before me is, I must once more read those words and copy them onto a new page where time will not take them away from me. An electronic page that will not crumble if touched by hand or age.
I take a deep breath, well not really. It’s more an old habit that never leaves you. A memory the body has not forgotten and continues to do without you really thinking about it. I have to admit, it’s one of those little details that keeps people from wondering too much about me.
There I go again. ENOUGH! No more distractions. I must copy these letters, or at least this first one. Perhaps after I’ve done it, the others will be easier.
September 19, 1861
My Dearest Isabella,
I will be gone by the time you find this letter. Pray forgive me for leaving without saying goodbye, but I know you would’ve tried talking me out of going if we’d met. Know that I am fully aware of what I am doing will be dangerous. However, there is so much more at stake than just my safety.
Father himself spoke to us all at length about things discussed at the convention in Wheeling. Our state of Virginia has become as torn asunder as the country itself due to the growing conflict. Brothers are being drawn into conflict with each other on the expanding battlefield. This can only be stopped if the rebels and traitors are forced to lay down their arms and return to the Union, before the war becomes too large to contain. So, I go with my friends who have donned the blue uniform, to try and end this nightmare before it becomes too much to stop easily.
Know that our commanding officer, a good fellow named Captain Hughes, assures us all that we can have this whole matter resolved within two months and that we will all be home before the year is out. So rest assured, that I will be back in time for you and I to share Christmas along with mother, father and all our friends within the house.
I want to see you hail and hardy on my return, which means you are to listen to Doctor Henry and take the medicine he’s prescribed for you. That cough you developed recently sounded very unpleasant. So rest and get well while I’m gone. I shall return, perhaps with a medal or two for acts of heroism.
Until then know you will always be in my thoughts, and I remain your loving brother,
A barely finish typing the last words when I hear, “Uncle Nathan,?”
I sit up and turn to Brian, holding out a box of tissues to me. He gestures with his head to the plastic covered letter on the desk. Drops of red have splattered across the protective covering.
Automatically I reach up and touch my cheek and feel tracks of warm, sticky moisture.
Sighing, I take one of offered tissues and wipe my face. Brian tells me he’ll take care of cleaning the sheet protector.
“Thank you,” I tell him and stand up. This was far harder than I expected, but it needed to be done. A first step. Perhaps the other ones will be easier to transcribe. Then I think about the house I grew up in, just a few blocks from here and the family plot in the back. No, it won’t get easier. It never did. Especially around Christmas…