UPDATE: So, I made some edits here. Mostly little things, but I think they are improvements. I also have a more PG version (i.e., no nudity) because I am considering submission to a site later, and I’m not sure it’s 100% required. This is still the unedited version, in that sense at least. If I do decide to submit that one, I may post the edited version here pending acceptance. Thanks for reading!
So, I’ve had this idea rolling around for a while, and finally got a chance to put it on paper (or, you know, Word Doc). It is, as usual, a preliminary draft, but even after reading over it once or twice, I’m pretty happy with it. There are a few rough patches I’m unhappy with, but I’m not really sure any good way to fix them. And, to be honest, they may not be as irritating to other people. Heck, I probably won’t mind them in a day or two. Enjoy!
Martin looked somberly into the murky gold of his lukewarm scotch. He hated these kinds of functions. Not only was he not particularly good at large crowds, dancing, loud music, and general social interaction, but it only became all the more painful when you combined a room full of people with his same weaknesses and demanded that they play the roles. It was a professional conference, he bemoaned, but he was the only person with the seeming self-awareness to feel abject discomfort at the whole evening’s proceedings. He slumped glumly in the stiff reception chair, his body depending on the unsteady table to keep him upright and appearing engaged. The white table, stained with leftover dinner crumbs and a spilt half glass of red wine, had been empty for what felt like an eternity as his dinner companions—strangers in nice suits and dresses who prattled on as if they were 25 again—had given themselves over to the open bar and dance floor.
He glanced at his watch. Surely after two hours of such nonsense his dues were paid well enough to warrant sneaking back to his room for some sleep and relaxation. Others might jest that he was a stick in the mud for retiring so early, but he would not make a fool of himself as his colleagues were so wont to do.
Gathering his tired dinner jacket and room key, Martin froze. From across the room, he spotted a gorgeous woman slicing through the crowd. There was something predatory in the way she walked. An utter lack of self-consciousness as she strode through the flailing bodies in the crowd. There was a look in her eyes, evident from half a room away, which showed she knew she stood on a level above all those around her. She had the look of a sated wolf prowling amongst unguarded sheep, utterly disinterested in their bleating. She was tall, impossibly slender, with ivory skin wrapped under tight carmine satin. Her hair flowed in sheets of shining black as empty as the moonless sky, waving with disdain as she cut her own path through the writhing masses around her. Almost instinctively, the way parted for her, bringing her directly to Martin’s table.
With indelible grace, she swept a glass of red wine from a passing waiter, holding the delicate glass in her soft fingers. She smiled, pearly white teeth flashing between plump red lips. Her eyes were brilliant green, reflecting Martin’s dumbfounded gaze right back at him.
“Annalise,” she breathed. For a moment, Martin was unsure what to do. All he knew were that those syllables were the most heavenly sounds he had ever heard. He would endure pain, torture, war, strife, poverty, illness, and any worldly ill if only those three sounds would replay again and again. To have those lips speak such beauty!
She smiled again and his mouth snapped shut from its gape. “M-Martin,” he stammered as he collected himself. How dirty those letters sounded on his tongue!
She reached out a slender hand to touch his arm. “So nice to finally meet you.” Martin felt his heart begin to thunder. She knew of him? She wanted to meet him? What crazy fever dream had he slipped into? “I won’t keep you, as it seems you are leaving, but I just couldn’t miss the chance—”
“No, no. Not leaving,” he interjected, eagerly grabbing his chair and planting himself into it. “Just was, uh, getting a better view of things, you know.” She laughed and Martin prayed his ears would ring with that delightful sound for the rest of his life. He would go deaf to the world if only to hear her laugh.
“Then may I join you?” she asked, somewhat hesitantly, betraying the assured confidence Martin had seen so clearly moments ago. He could not imagine having such an effect on a woman, especially not one like her. Martin sat up a little straighter in his seat; keeping his dignity tonight might actually pay off for once, he mused. She must like a serious, intellectual man. Well, by God, she had found her man then.
“Where are you from, Annalise?” He was so smooth, he congratulated himself. Those words flowed like butter.
“Please, I didn’t come all the way over here to talk about me, Martin! Tell me about you,” she purred, her hand falling gently on his forearm as she moved closer. As close as he was, he felt himself absolutely adrift in her marvelous scent. She smelled of sweet flowers opened brightly to the summer sun, and Martin was content to collapse into the field.
So talk he did. Martin regaled her with stories of his groundbreaking work as she eyed him with pure wonder. He shared about his glowing academic career, the awards and showcases that had chosen to honor him and his work in his brief career. He spoke in heartfelt about his calling to the field, the passion and the reward he felt from doing such work. She played her role well, smiling at the right parts, laughing at his clumsy jokes and sighing in awe of his humble victories. Martin felt his chest swell with pride as he prattled on about his meager life, finding his own ego reflected and doubled in her searching green eyes.
Martin likely would have bombasted his way until dawn did the DJ not eventually play the final song while convention center staff ushered out his inebriated coworkers. Martin felt himself fumble in his stride as they were urged to leave. In a final rash of bravery and self-assuredness, he scribbled his room number on the back of the little plastic card, thrusting it into her hands.
“For you,” he smiled. So smooth, such poise he applauded.
“Is this an invitation?” She asked, her eyes flashing with hunger. Martin knew he was good, but he had no idea he was this good.
“Of course it is. Wouldn’t let a specimen like you get too far away, now would I?” He toggled his eyebrows and watched as she blushed, giggled, then hid her eyes. Oh yeah, he certainly had it in him.
Back in his room, Martin suddenly felt exhausted, drained, and worn out. It was almost like the bad hangovers he remembered dimly from his college days. His muscles ached, head felt foggy and bruised, and his face hurt from the ridiculously grand smile he had kept plastered for most of the night.
Light was just seeping through the thin hotel curtains as he collapsed into bed. He needed to be up in a few hours to catch his flight home. He had a wakeup call scheduled since the day he arrived, so surely that would rouse him. But, for now, Martin knew he needed to sleep. So he did, and through his dreams he danced with the beautiful Annalise, first on the dance floor, and then far more passionately in his bed.
As he swam reluctantly towards consciousness, he was initially struck by how dark it had become. A storm must have rolled in, his subconscious suggested, enticing him back towards sleep with slender arms and vivid green eyes. No, he reasoned, it was the wrong kind of dark. And with a start he felt that familiar sinking of waking up well past the alarm. Martin vaulted awake in the bed, snatching at the bedside clock as if he could catch it in time to roll back the hours. No, it was too late, and the numbers dimly stated that it was 6:53pm. Only seven hours too late to catch that plane. Plus he missed checkout, meaning another night’s charge on his already dwindling debit card.
Sighing and tousling his thinning brown hair, Martin stomped towards the bathroom. He never overslept like that. Perhaps he had drunk more than he thought last night. Even now, his recollection of the evening was hazy, and he was beginning to feel quite certain that he had imagined his beautiful woman.
Steam began to fill the cramped bathroom as Martin began a checklist. He needed to call the front desk and apologize, then make sure he was booked for the night. Next, call the airline and see if they could exchange his ticket. He also needed to call David, apologize again for no-showing—
There was a sound from the bedroom. Martin froze, straining his ears to pick up any note beyond the hiss of the showerhead. Yes, there was definitely the sound of someone moving about, subtle yet enough to break the still of the empty room. He reached for the bathrobe hanging on the door and peered out into the entryway. It was dark and shadowed, but he did not immediately see anyone. His hand slipped along the wall, finally catching on the light switch and flooding the room with dingy yellow light. Nothing.
Feeling mostly foolish but still remnants of brave, Martin stepped out of the bathroom and into the main living room, only to have his mouth come unhinged in shock. There, lying across his unmade bed, was Annalise, still wearing that tight red dress. She smiled, holding up the key.
“I was afraid I’d missed you.” The smell of flowers was strong in the room, making Martin feel brave and passionate all over again.
“Not like I’d skip town on a girl like you,” he growled, moving closer to the bed. She smiled at him coyly, sliding off the bed to stand away from him. Slowly, her hand moved to the knot of red at her waist, undoing the ribbon that tied her dress together. Slender fingers pulled apart the thin red strands, then carefully pulled away the dress. Martin was in awe, staring dumbstruck again at the naked ivory body before him.
She was around the bed and kissing him in a heartbeat, so fast Martin felt himself wondering if she had ever been so revealed in the first place. The thought faded swiftly, however, as he swam in the warmth of her limbs around him, the taste of her soft lips, and the scent of her lithe body. In that moment, all he knew was that his lips and hers were dancing together now, their tongues meddling somewhere in between. She pushed him back on the bed, her lips following his steady descent down to the stiff hotel bed. Martin’s heart was a metronome in his chest, trying to keep pace with his flying thoughts. He pulled her close, kissing every inch of that beautifully pearly skin that he could. She laughed and smiled as she playfully pinned his hands down on the bed.
“You know, Martin, there is something delicious about a body excited.” Her tongue snaked its way into his mouth, those brilliant red lips melding with his for a brief moment. “And our bodies tend to act the same for attraction and fear,” she whispered, coming up for breath. Every word she spoke sent waves of excitement across Martin’s body, just to feel the gentle ebb and flow of her breath across his skin.
“Me, personally,” she smiled, leaning to kiss along his neck, “I prefer the taste of attraction.” She ended this with a soft nip at his earlobe. Martin felt a slight stir of discomfort at her choice of phrasing, but brushed it off. Just a turn of phrase, he reminded himself, finding himself again drowning in her green eyes and the soft scent of sunlit flowers.
“And I’m terribly hungry after such a long wait. I hope you don’t mind.” Martin’s face twisted into horror as a new face replaced Annalise in front of him. Where there had been a young, slender, and beautifully pale body that made his heart pound until it threatened to rupture, now there was an old, withered, and gray thing seated atop him. The skin beneath his fingers was dry and brittle, feeling like rough tissue against his hands. Her rich red lips disappeared into a haggard face, her mouth nothing but an ugly scab stretching into a smile. The smile broke, revealing two sets of impossibly sharp fangs seat amongst shattered teeth. Martin no longer smelled the flowers, only rot and decay. She laughed, a horrible wet sound, and then bent her lips to his neck. Martin screamed.
“You’re going to be delicious.” And with that, she unceremoniously ripped into his throat. Blood blossomed on the cheap white sheets as the scent of copper mingled with her own scent of putrescence. Her tongue lapped up the thick, dark blood as she tore into his skin, reveling in the sensation of life flooding her malnourished system. It only took a few moments for him to quit fighting, and then she was able to enjoy her dinner in peace, pausing only briefly to shut his eyes once the struggle had ceased. She never liked it when her dinner watched.
After a brief time, the woman stood from the bed, collecting her dress from the floor. She carefully slipped her arms into it, tying it tightly against what was sure to be a briskly cold night. The sated creature paused to glance in the mirror and then lifted a corner of the sheets to brush away a smear of blood on her ivory cheek. Predatory green eyes smiled at her from the mirror as she left the room, the scent of flowers following in her wake.
PS: Totally my answer to “sparkly” vampires instead of scary. Hope you enjoyed!
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
So, I have decided on a summer project focused on revitalizing and old “Dusty Tome.” By way of introduction, I want to give you history on this piece. The story was originally titled 11:59 and began mostly as a single image inspired by my frequent sleep difficulties: the import of the minute switch between 11:59 and 12:00 in those sleepless hours. I started with a single chapter in July 2003 (when I was 13) and no clear picture of where it was going, but it developed into my first full-fledged story, with chapters, a beginning, middle, and end. In April 2004, I declared it complete.
When I review it today, I see my own immaturity in it, but it still is a story near and dear to my heart. After reflecting on it, I think I would like to revisit some of the concepts and characters, but provide a richer mythos behind the events, as well as a more mature voice to what happens. Currently, I am considering a similar plot, but with a lot more depth and complications. I actually have a plan for it this time! I will likely mimic the chapter splits from the original, but not precisely as my pacing will likely be slower and more deliberate with some things removed altogether, which would result in ridiculously long sections and incredibly brief ones. For example, my revised first chapter will begin well before the original first, and it will take me a couple of scenes to get to the original Prologue ending. So, instead of including the original text here, as I generally do with Dusty Tome rewrites, I will instead provide a link to the full story on Fictionpress. Just, please don’t judge me for the other stuff on there. I was pretty young. Additionally, as always, this is Draft 1, so do consider it all a work in progress.
Cassie learned at a very young age not to tell others about her Mirror Monster. It is surprising how quickly even children realize what is taboo and what will be ignored. She could clearly remember being just past her fourth birthday when she yet again screamed in response to the monster in her room. Her father came in, bleary-eyed and trying to hide his annoyance while she cowered under the covers.
“Cas, what is it? Why’d you scream?” His voice was mumbled, as if his lips and tongue had not yet awoken well enough to speak. It was a fitting complement to the child-speak response.
“The Mirror Monster was here! He was in my room again!”
Like all the nights before, her father walked over and tapped on the glass. He waved his hands around, mocking his reflection. He even did the due diligence of checking behind the frame. Finally, he lifted a white sheet from the floor and covered the mirror. “No one there, sweetie. Just a mirror. Now go to sleep. You’re old enough now to be a big girl and stop all this monster nonsense.” There was no anger in voice, just frustrated resignation. “I’m going back to sleep. No one is here, and no one can come through your mirror. Sleep.” With those final words of comfort, he drifted out of the room, a sleepy specter stumbling down the hall.
Cassie kept the blankets pulled to her chin, just peeking over at the tall mirror standing sentinel in the corner. For a while, there was nothing. It was just an oval of white painted in sharp contrast to the darkness. And then Cassie saw it move, as she knew she would. The sheet drifted to the floor again, pooling there with its protective power abandoned. A pale, clawed hand groped out of the undulating surface. Moments behind the hand was a grotesque face. It was bone pale, with skin that sagged and dropped as if it was melting off the very frame beneath it. The mouth was an ugly scar ripped across the wrinkled face, ringed by row after row of terrifyingly sharp teeth. The thing hissed, stepping fully out of the mirror as if sliding from a pool. Its long legs bent to high as it tried to stand in the room, twisted shoulder slicing along the white ceiling. It smiled, displaying all those many teeth. With its smile, Cassie caught the whiff of rotting food and decay. She covered her nose with her blankets, her large eyes swimming in fear. She somehow felt that it grew more and more fearsome with every visit.
Cassie knew that screaming again would do no good. She had tried before, but eventually all she would get was a yell from down the hallway to go to sleep. While it took her years, she eventually understood that it wasn’t that her parents did not care, but that they did not realize monsters existed. They had forgotten, and saw her cries as a child unwilling to accept reality, even after ample logic and proof had been provided. Continuing to rush to the rescue would only provide attention to fuel the aberrant behavior; they were locked in a pained but resigned contract to ignore her cries. After all, they always stopped after a while.
As she had every night for as long as she could remember, Cassie cowered under the covers, lifting them finally over her head as the creatures inhuman weight pushed down the corner of her bed. She held the sheets tight as ragged claws scraped around her. She hummed to herself, doing all she could to drown out its hissing laugh. She tried to sleep, and finally drifted away as the heavy presence disappeared just as the birds began to chirp outside.
The next day in her preschool class, she learned yet again that no one was allowed to talk about their Monster. She was in the playground, playing in the dirt with an assortment of other children. The night before left her shaken and afraid, wondering how anyone was expected to cope with such a literal monster waiting at the foot of her bed. So, Cassie turned to the only resource she knew, and asked her peers.
“Katie, do you have a monster in your mirror?” The question was innocent, but laced with implicit terror.
Katie’s eyes were wide, reflecting a fear Cassie knew all too well, but was too young to fully recognize. “No,” stated the other emphatically. “My daddy says monsters aren’t real.”
“That’s what mine says, but he’s still there.”
“You’re a liar. I’m going to tell Mrs. Davis,” sung Steven, hopping up from the dirt. AT this age, every infraction was a terrible misstep, and the balance between tattling and concern was blurred by a desperate desire to win the praise from a teacher. When he returned, it was with a stern looking Mrs. Davis in tow. Cassie felt her confidence shrinking under those watchful grey eyes. Maybe everyone was right and there were no monsters; then how could she explain her sleepless night?
“Cassie, can you come with me?”
The tall, skinny woman held out a bony hand, beckoning Cassie forward. Unsure now of the greater feel, Cassie obediently rose and followed her teacher back into the classroom. Mrs. Davis waved to one of the aides, shuffling her outside, and then pulled a chair over to sit across from Cassie at the desk.
“Steven says you were talking about monsters, Cassie?” Cassie nodded, beginning to fear the certain punishment. “Sounds like something must really be scaring you. Do you want to tell me about it?”
Her shock dissipating, Cassie began to hurry through the words, spilling her secret terror. It felt good just to put the words out there, to limit her monster to those words she used to describe it. Her teacher followed along, nodding, a cloud of confusion drifting across her face as she pursed her lips. Mrs. Davis was silent a moment after Cassie finished. Then she gave her an understanding nod.
“That is pretty scary. Just as I thought. Listen, I’ve had lots of students with monster troubles, so I’ve got some advice. I’m going to send a note home with you to your parents, and then I’d like you to draw a picture for your monster. A lot of times, monsters are just friends who aren’t very good at saying hello. So, if you draw a picture, maybe we can get him to play nicer. I can even help you write him a note!”
Mrs. Davis smiled, and collected crayons and paper for the little girl. Kids were always bringing in some new boogeyman, and she had learned years ago that strict denial did nothing but fuel the flames. Instead, she borrowed from her own experience with nightmares and helped them reframe the situations. Even children were capable of writing different endings to their nightmares, and those nasty monster dreams faded away.
Cassie drew a simple picture: two stick figures, one small with brown pigtails and the other larger, hulking, and grey. They stood beside a little house and tree, a bright sun smiling on them with assorted flowers at their feet. She made sure to put smiles on both their faces. Cassie even managed the courage to draw the two of them holding hands. It was terrifying, but suddenly her monster seemed so much smaller. He was just a friend who didn’t know how to say hello.
“Dear Mirror Monster,” she began, Mrs. Davis carefully transcribing her words above the drawing, “You are not being a very good friend. Please stop scaring me. If you stop, we can play with my toys together. Hissing is not nice. We say hello to be nice. Love, Cassie.” The final letters written, Mrs. Davis carefully tucked the note into her backpack, after clipping one of her telltale apple pages to the front with swirly writing for her parents.
Recess ended. Class went on, and Steven kept making mean faces at Cassie during the lesson, but she was beaming. She was going to get rid of her monster and make a new friend.
As soon as school ended, Cassie rushed to her place on the sidewalk and waited for her mom’s big silver car to drive up. She was bursting to give her the note and explain her day. She was barely in the car and buckled in before she was digging through her bag and waving around her drawing with the apple note. While she had always been scared when she brought home a note from the teacher, today she was bursting.
Her mother shushed her, trying to focus on the drive home. After arriving, getting Cassie unloaded and working on a project at the table, her mother glanced over the note. She sighed. This monster thing was incredibly out of hand, something which Mrs. Davis seemed to at least understand. The note also mentioned that such a thing was normal, and the teacher had experience in righting such problems. Jenny sighed, and picked up the phone to her husband. Anything to stop the nightmares. She woke up at least once a month, creaming her head off, and it meant at least one mostly sleepless night for both her and Mark as they tried to calm her down. Despite what parenting books suggested, ignoring it was not working.
That night, as they tucked Cassie into bed, they presented her with a new stuffed toy. It was a simple brown bear (the cheapest he could find, said John), with a toy sword taped to one paw. Jenny had even taken the time to cut out a little chestplate and tie it around the bear’s neck, turning him into a determined little soldier. If the Mirror Monster would not stop being mean, then Chester, the courageous bear as named by Cassie, would keep her safe. The set the note and the bear beside the mirror, and prayed for a sleep filled night.
For a couple of weeks, everything was silent. Of course, Cassie was not surprised. It was always quite for a short time after his visit. Always just long enough that she thought maybe he was gone. But then, one night when the moon was full and bright outside, spilling silver light into her room, the mirror moved. From the shadows stepped her Mirror Monster, looking even scarier than before. His teeth seemed sharper, his eyes deeper and darker. But, this time, he paused at the little bear and stick figure drawing. He lifted the paper delicately in clawed hands, taking a moment for his large eyes to sweep across Mrs. Davis’ clear script. He picked the bear up, cradling it in his too long arms, and walked toward the bed. The Mirror Monster walked straight towards Cassie, though this time without his hissing laugh. His eyes, almost sad, thought Cassie, looked at her, and studied her. Then, with great effort, his mangled lips opened, spilling out its foul odor and astounding Cassie with an endless picture of teeth. She was terrified, certain that those massive jaws would soon swipe down and crush her, but instead, it placed the bear snuggly beside her pillow and spoke.
PS: This week has been relatively productive, so I also have a new Zeru portion in progress. And some other ideas rolling around, so hopefully some of those come to completion this next as well. 🙂
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
So, I updated the site a little bit. Added a custom header and chose a plain color background. The old was very nice, but just not quite what I envisioned for the Attic. I’ve stuck with a black and white/grey-scale palette, which I like, given the focus on old and dusty around here (even if most of what I’ve put up has, instead, but new stuff. You never know when/where inspiration comes from!)
The header image was created using canva.com, a freemium graphic design site that allows free design using a selection of objects. Premium graphic cost $1, so it’s not a bad way to make something special for my little corner of the internet. It was pretty intuitive too, so I’d recommend trying it out.
And, as of about ten minutes ago, yet another semester down. With this being “summer” (I still have externship, dissertation, and summer classes), I’m hoping to increase updates significantly. My goal is a long post every two weeks, with an ideal of one post a week. We’ll see what curve balls are up ahead.
Thanks, and enjoy poking around The Attic!