Wednesday, July 1, 2009
I, Denise Miller, had been suckered into spending a perfectly good Saturday helping my childhood friend Mia Crosby look for bridesmaids dresses. I’d much rather be home stretched out on the couch watching the TV Land Channel. Oh, and by the way, I don’t like TV Land.
I wasn‘t big on spending my whole day shopping. When I went to the mall, I was in and out. Not the diva of shopping, I circled once, maybe twice, around a store and if I didn’t see the “it” that I was looking for, I was gone. But nooo, not Mia, she had to circle ten, twelve times, like we were taking laps around a track, before she could make up her mind. Having all but given up the search, I retired to a chair in the corner of the fourth and, I begged to the heavenly Father above, final bridal shop visit of the day.
Surrounded by racks of poofy gowns, I quickly surmised that I’d have to be either over sixty or under sixteen to look good in any of the dresses. Visions of Molly Ringwold circa Pretty in Pink and Bea Authur as Dorothy in the Golden Girls made me shudder in disgust. I was no slave to fashion but there was a limit.
“What do you think of this dress?” Mia asked as she held up a peach monstrosity.
Blinking my eyes twice trying to shift away the glaze of boredom that had formed over my brown eyes, I studied the dress. It was a long empire cut gown with a square neckline and bell shaped sleeves that stopped at the elbow.
Why didn’t she just give us painted trash bags if she wanted us to look like Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters? At least it’d be cheaper.
I swear if she was still my friend when by some awesome miracle I actually got married, she, and nobody else, was wearing an orange muumuu as my bridesmaid. “If you’re going with the Gone With The Wind look I suppose it’d be fitting.”
“That’s ugly, put that back,” said Juanita Guerra in a disgusted tone, as she walked past Mia looking the dress up and down before plopping down in a seat near me. I thanked her with my eyes and she smiled knowingly. Juanita could say stuff like that to Mia because they were like sisters and if you couldn’t be rude to your sister; who could you be rude to, at least without getting pimp-slapped or cursed out?
“Well, it’s the only thing peach I could find?” Mia whined flinging her shoulder length brown hair.
Whatever. The bridal shop told us that they could dye the gowns on display so she didn’t have to go by color when she picked out the crap she would force us to wear. The heifer just wanted us to look like bad ‘before’ pictures before she strolled down the aisle looking like Miss USA. She couldn’t risk a bridesmaid upstaging her. I couldn’t wait to see the hairstyles she wanted for us. Images of tight French rolls and Shirley temple curls stormed through my mind, forcing me to shake my head and shudder yet again. I swear if she did that to me I was bowing out. Friendship be damned!
Mia finally settled on a dress with a cowl neck front and low back and it clung to every curve and bulge we had. Sigh, guess it was time to actually utilize my gym membership.
Not wanting to argue, I just shelled out the $150 dollars for the dress. I guess I should be happy that she finally even picked out our gowns. She was definitely pushing it on the wedding time clock.
After leaving the dress shop Mia was kind enough to treat her five bridesmaids to lunch at a nice Italian bistro in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and we ate outside overlooking the water since it was such a beautifully warm April afternoon.
I began to look around, people watching was my favorite pastime, as the five other ladies began to chitchat about love. A natural topic when a wedding was drawing near. I kept my mouth shut. I’ve been single since God said ‘Let there be light’ what could I add?
Yeah, I know, you’re probably saying don’t give up hope. Stay positive. I just keep thinking my chances for love get lower and lower the older I get. Especially because I’m a black, well educated female. I have a higher chance of getting hit by a car while sitting in my living room watching the Sci-Fi network than finding love. Those of us who had found some concoction of love felt as though we had won the lottery and not the scratch off kind either. The big ones. The national news making ones.
Anyway, they wouldn’t ask me anything about my life because they thought I was just uninteresting. When you get in a relationship you get in this whole “it’s all about me and my luva” and you only ask other people about their lives as polite conversation. I mean no one wanted to hear about your job (I was a college Pre-Law professor), or your hobby (writing), or your travel or diet plans. No one cared. They just wanted to know about your love life and if you had one people wanted to talk to you. All of a sudden you were wise now. You could give love advice. They could tell you their dirty secrets. They could double date with you. You were fun!
“So, Denny,” Mia began.
I tore my gaze from a small group of people stepping onto a water taxi and reluctantly turned back to the table.
“Tell us all about the horrors of single dating life,” she inquired, leaning on the table. Everyone looked at me, eyes wide with curiosity. Only Juanita rolled her eyes at Mia, obviously knowing how rude the question was. I guess I should be happy they decided to include me in the conversation but come on!
“I know it must be hard, what with AIDS, STD’s, down low brothers, cheating men and all the other things out there,” said one of the bridesmaids who was married.
Yeah you wench, like none of that can happen to you when you’re married, I thought.
I sighed, looking around at the hobgoblins surrounding me, minus Juanita. “It’s all good. Got nothing horrifying to say.” And that was the honest truth. Wasn’t dating at all for there to be any so-called horror. Picking up my glass of water, I shrugged as I took a sip.
“Well, we’re going to make sure you get a date to the wedding,” Maya said, patting me on the back. “Maybe you’ll connect with one of my Eric’s single bachelor friends.”
I fought the urge to roll my eyes. It was one thing for me to pity my nonexistent love life but I certainly didn’t want anyone else to. What was it that inhibited my love life? I was on the kinder side of the visual department. I had a caramel complexion, dark brown eyes, curly brown red streaked hair that fell to my shoulders and was 5’4. I weighed more than I cared to mention but my curves were in control. So what was the deal? Maybe Sheila’s little plan would give me an answer. Yeah, right.
“This is really good, mom,” Bryant said, while chewing on the crab cakes our mother had made that Wednesday night at her house.
I put a hand to my mouth and made a face, signaling to him that I didn’t enjoy seeing the chewed up contents of food swirl around the inside of his mouth.
He grinned and closed his mouth. Bryant was the closest person to me. Even closer than Sheila. And it wasn’t just because he was my brother.
My brother and I tried to get together at our mom’s once a week for dinner. Which wasn’t hard. I would be hungry and only lived in Baltimore City in a small apartment in Mt. Vernon, not too far away from Mom’s Laurel, Maryland home. Bryant lived in downtown Baltimore as well in the Patterson Park area, working as a graphic designer.
At 27, my brother looked just like a lighter version of my father and I looked like my mother who was absolutely beautiful if I don’t say so myself. At 55, my mother looked at least 10 years younger. She stayed in shape by going to an over 40’s exercise group three times a week, got her weekly pampering (she was the partner of a black accounting firm so she could afford it) at her favorite naturalist day spa and was stylish to boot.
Yes, Ms. Camille was someone to admirer. You put her in the right dress and she looked like a movie star with her well-kept shoulder length bronze colored dreadlocks and perfectly put on makeup.
You put her in the kitchen and she could throw down on the ingredients better than anybody’s mama. You put her in the boardroom and she could capture the attention of all in her presence. She was a very sophisticated Afro-centric earthy woman interested in recycling, burning incense and community service. In fact she used to be a civil rights activist before she married my dad. I thought she was pretty cool.
I glanced over at Bryant chomping merrily away. He was single too but he had a different burden to bear in the dating world. He was gay and although there was a large community in the city, it still didn’t mean he had a wide pool of people he liked to choose from.
My mother was accepting of his sexual orientation, of course, she loved us unconditionally. Another cool point for Mom. Now my father was different. Long story short, my brother “came out” when he was 21. He hasn’t talked to my father since or should I say my father hasn’t talked to him since. Pretty easy to do since my parents were divorced.
“Have either of you ever heard of Speed dating? I’m doing it this Friday,” I informed them.
Bryant nodded. “I did one once. No luck. But I’ll meet up with you after it to find out how you liked it.”
“What is speed dating?” mom asked with a curious frown.
I explained it to her and she raised an eyebrow.
“And why would we want to do that?” she asked as if it were the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard.
“Because we need a date to Mia’s wedding.”
“Uhhh, that wedding. I can’t believe she’s getting married to a man she’s only known for a year and that’s including since they’ve been engaged,” she huffed.
“Guess her wedding clock was ticking.”
“Wedding clock? Her divorce clock gonna be ticking soon after that.”
“It’s good that you have faith in the negative, Mom.”
“Trust me, I know. You have to take time when it comes to love. Don’t want to go and make the wrong decisions,” she said looking away.
Bryant and I eyed each other. We knew who she was thinking about, the one we did not speak of: Dad.
“You and your brother are still single because you want the best and the best takes time.”
“Well my friends seem to think they got the best and it didn’t take them much time,” I commented as I stabbed at my broccoli.
“Well their best isn’t as unique as yours. Would you want any of their men?” she asked before sipping her red wine.
I made a face, then shook my head.
“That’s because you are picky. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s like this children,” she began, putting her wine down. “Your attached friends like ham sandwiches. It’s filling and it doesn’t take that long to make. But you, my dears, like a good steak. And while that is filling too, it takes a little longer to make than a ham sandwich.”
“So you’re saying our friends are happy with losers otherwise known as ham sandwiches?” Bryant asked, leaning into the table.
“No dear, I’m saying that it’s all a matter of taste. And your type is taking a little longer for God to make.”
“Well, let’s just hope that good things come to those who wait,” I stated.
“Well, then speed dating won’t get you good things.” she smiled before sipping her wine.
Staring across at the man in front of me that Friday night, I wondered if mom was right about speed dating. Looking past him, I could only pray that time was going fast and that my friend ,Tina Wienburg, was having just as lousy a time.
The trendy Charles street lounge was more popular for their Asian cuisine and local celebrity DJs than meeting guys. I took another sip of what was deemed the best Mai Tai ever and reapplied the smile I’d forced myself to wear.
Just as I thought, there were way too many women and the pickings were way too slim among the men.
The man across from me, named Aaron, was not among those slim pickings. He was black with a mini Afro, had a beer gut, and had to be about 35, at least. When he smiled at me, I realized he didn’t need a dating service; he needed a dental service! Holding a frown back from my face, I not so discreetly stared into his unappealing mouth. A front tooth, yellowish in color, was hanging on for dear life. And certainly if he sneezed too hard it would pop out smacking me in the center of my forehead.
So far, loser after loser had come my way. Some tolerable, some not, but all not my type. Didn’t they screen the guys? To Aaron the Tooth Decayed, I nodded and gave simple answers.
When the bell rang, I caught Tina’s eye and gave her an angry look. The short haired red head smiled and shrugged. She would pay dearly for talking me into this. I stared at the painted red walls which of course did nothing to calm me down.
The next Mr. Wrong plopped down in front of me and I wondered if poisonous gas had been let loose as I wrongfully inhaled what he must have considered cologne but what surely was instead toxic fumes. It seemed he had poured it all over him.
“Good Lord,” I whispered, giving a light cough to prevent from gagging on the stench.
We introduced ourselves. His name was Sam. As we chatted, I kept rubbing my nose trying to inhale the peach fragrance of the lotion still on my hands. He probably thought I was a drug addict because of that but I thought he stunk so we were even.
The bell rang and Sam Needs a Bath left. I was losing hope as I gasped for fresh air. But suddenly a light appeared, the heavens opened, and Mr. GQ stood before me. I tried never to let looks be my guiding light but things were getting rough tonight and a little eye candy would be a much-needed boost.
His name was Oscar, I think. He was from some country in Southern Europe (I really didn’t know, I was too into his accent to pay attention to what he was actually saying) and had just moved here for graduate school. The tanned, dark eyed, tall stack of goodness eyed me wantonly and I thought, jackpot, if ever there was one. He reached his hand over to touch mine, gently caressing it. Then he parted his lips to speak again.
“I was thinking maybe you would want to go out with me. I would take you to an elegant restaurant, maybe the theater and then maybe later we could make sweet passionate….,” he winked instead of finishing the sentence, smiling seductively at me.
We could what? This time I did not bother to hide my frown. I know he didn’t think I was going to just up and have sex with him just because he was good looking and would get me something to eat. I just wasn’t that hungry.
I snatched my hand back and looked around the room with heated anger. The man across from me had only one hope: that the bell rang before I reached across the table and bitch-slapped him.
Lucky for him the bell did ring and he quickly got up. I tried to breathe deeply like they taught me in the one yoga class I attended at the suggestion of my mother (there were just some ways humans were not meant to bend) but it wasn’t working.
Resting my head in my left hand, it seemed that I had wasted one of my few dressy outfits tonight (a cute sleeved turquoise dress with tall tan wedged boots).
This time a nice looking white guy with loose curly black hair and green eyes so intense they were shocking even behind his black framed glasses, sat down in front of me. I sat up in my seat and offered my hand. As soon as my hand was extended to shake his, he began to sneeze. I quickly pulled my hand back. No I would not waste a perfectly good Friday, a cute outfit, and my health all at once.
He sneezed again.
“You alright?” I asked, leaning back in my chair.
He nodded. “Sorry, my allergies have come on and I forgot to take my allergy pills,” he explained in an adorable British accent. But after Oscar The ‘Bout to Get Bitch Slapped, I would not fall for another accent.
“Here, I have some tissues,” I said bringing a pack out of my purse.
He gratefully took one and turned to blow his nose. I actually felt bad for him as he turned his Rudolph the Red Nose reindeer face back to me. That couldn’t be helping his game tonight. Not with only eight minutes to impress someone.
“My name is Denise,” I waved, keeping my hands to myself.
“I’m [sneeze] Terrance [sneeze] but people call me [sneeze] Terry,” he smiled apologetically.
I couldn’t help but laugh at him. He held the pack of tissues out to give back to me but I shook my head. “I think you’ll get a lot of use out of them. No worries.”
Finally his sneezing died down, for the moment. “I feel bloody awful. I should really just give up and go home. The women here look like they think I’ve contaminated them.”
I smiled at him. His accent was too cute.
“Hey, it’s only allergies, I understand. But I know this pollen can’t be helping it. You know there’s a Rite Aide on the other block, make sure you pick up some allergy meds or something. That‘s just too much to suffer with.”
He smiled back and nodded as he blew his nose again, quickly turning.
“You know, I know the impression I’m making. You’ll be calling me Terrance of the Red Nose when I leave,” he said.
“Of course not.” Yes I would.
We made some light conversation about ourselves and I wanted to continue talking to him and it looked like he wanted to talk more to me but the bell rang and he had to get up because a scary looking Mr. Clean look-alike stared down at us ready to take Terrance’s place. Terrance grabbed my hand and kissed it before he walked away and left.
Remind self to wash hand.
Germs from his cold and all.
Maybe he’d sign up under my name so that I could call him. I would sign up for him. If we both signed up for each other then the match making company would provide email addresses to both parties.
It turned out that even though the night had gotten a little better by meeting Terrance there were no other goodies in the batch.
By the end of the night, I signed up only to speak to Terrance, looked under my name and found only two names. Neither of which were Terrance’s. Only two damn names and then no Terrance! What the hell? The rejection resonated strongly in my system, feeling like a punch to the stomach.
I voiced my concern to Bryant, who met up with us at the lounge, and Tina when we had a couple of drinks afterwards. Tina faired only slightly better than me.
“Denise, you were not a happy looking camper, maybe you scared the guys off,” Tina suggested, pushing her trendy black framed classes up the bridge of her nose.
“That’s what I wanted to do for the ones I had no interest in but what about Terrance the Pretty Green Eyed? I thought he would be interested.” I pouted, leaning on the bar counter.
“You said you didn’t get to talk much.”
“But he looked like he wanted to get to know me some more.”
“Do you think he just wasn’t interested in black chicks? He may have just been polite,” Bryant offered.
The little asshole was probably right.
“Doubtful. A lot of European guys are really open-minded about interracial dating,” Tina stated, nodding.
My eyebrows knitted together in thought as I sipped my drink. “Tell me guys, I trust you two to be totally honest, am I ugly? Should I be cowering in dark tunnels instead of walking in the sunlight?” I asked yelling over the bass of the house music playing.
Tina said no and Bryant said yes.
I quickly thanked Tina with a smile and Bryant with a middle finger.
“Hey, if you have to ask us that question then you deserve to be told yes. You know you aren’t ugly so why ask?” Bryant said.
“And if you were a little on the scary side why should that ban you to dark tunnels?” Tina asked.
I shrugged. “It’s what they do in the movies. Or they make you the loveable but slightly dumb sidekick. Never the star. But ok, so I’m not ugly. What could it be then?”
“You know, why is it when something doesn’t work out women are always blaming themselves? Do guys do that? We have shows and books dedicated to showing what a woman does wrong when she dates with no care that maybe, just maybe, things don’t work out because the guy she’s dating is an asshole. Guys get to run free with no checks and balances on their bullshit while we’ve got to learn to be Stepford wives,” Tina wondered before taking a swig of her beer.
“Denise, I think we hit Tina’s soap box topic,” Bryant replied grinning. “Seriously, Denise, men are just odd creatures. We aren’t as simple as we’d like women to believe. Trust me, I know. We do one thing but say another just because we think that’s what you want to hear.”
“So in the meantime what do I do?”
“Nothing. Just keep doing you.”
“Well, thank you for those words of wisdom,” I replied, this time rolling my eyes.
What kind of answer was that? I couldn’t get a date with that in three months. How had Sheila got me to think I could? And more importantly why was I so bummed about a guy I barely even knew?
Sunday, May 31, 2009
On the verge of a breakdown
Smoke out the ears, fire out the mouth, hot like fire
Self reflection leads me in a misdirection
Of where I'm supposed to be
Because the older I get the less certain I am
Of where I am
This is not the way I planned it
Preparation got me ready for
Trying to decipher the puzzle
Not liking the picture
Dissatisfaction gripping me tight around the throat
Unable to breathe
Left gasping for air
Still struggling to survive
And I am
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Three months earlier
Almost five years ago a group of rogue vampires, those not binding themselves to the vampire counsel, decided that they were tired of living in the dark, fugitively speaking. They wanted fame, power, and most importantly to finally be able to live without fear.
They wanted the humans to be in fear.
So those vampires went public on national television and exposed all vampire kind. Governments tried to counter this display as a hoax but when the very public attacks on humans began there was no denying the truth.
The vampire counsel, the ultimate vampire authority, tried to do strong public relations by showing to the world that their kind was not all evil. Whether this was true or not was not the point. Having humans openly fearful of them was bad for the vampire way of life. However, no matter how many good works the vampires committed; community service, saving lives; the humans simply were not convinced.
Instead the police, the military and the vigilantes were all seeking out vampires and killing them. They would leave suspected vampires out in the sun to burn or burst into flames if they were really young, and sprinkle holy water or shine crosses on them.
In addition to killing the captured vampires, open experiments were conducted. Those in the government that already knew of their existence had already completed vampire testing but now they could do so without secrecy.
The vampires, seeing that their efforts to put forward a good face were futile, decided that if they were going to suffer they weren’t going to do it alone. So, as the head of the supernatural food chain, they exposed all supernatural beings such as ghosts and preternatural creatures. Just about anything formed to scare audiences and children came to the forefront.
And so a war began between the Paranormals and humans. Although the humans outnumbered these super entities, the creatures of the night had more strength. Crime took on a whole new form for the police. A whole new type of training had to be done.
However the humans weren’t left to fight alone. While the vampires were exposed so were the hunters: super humans from across the globe that chose to fight against paranormal bad guys. They always existed and were, in recent years, financially backed by governments as they protected the world against the evil of the night.
They had a hunter union composed of some of the top paranormal hunters from all over the world. It was the hunters that were left in charge of training the police forces and military when it came to fighting the superbeings.
There were those in the hunter union who supported the mission of joining both “good” paranormals and hunters, which was why Tyson Rollins and Nona Weinstein found themselves at the home of Alex Chan.
The handsome man looked at Alex with calm dark eyes. He was muscular and wide with a well trimmed goatee framing his lips and chin. He wore a tailored dark navy blue suit and looked no older than thirty five but Alex was sure he was much much older than that. He was a superhuman and they tended to age incredibly slowly, with an average life span of three hundred years, the same lifespan of most vampires. Only a small percentage of vampires could preserve or protect themselves well enough to live beyond a few hundred years.
“Do you know why we’re here Mr. Chan?” Tyson asked, sitting forward on the tan suede couch.
Alex shrugged. “Dude, I have no idea why you‘re here. But when someone from the hunter union gives you a ring, you don’t ignore it either.”
“Your kind isn’t exactly jumping at our calls, Alex,” said the smiling brunette with thick, frizzy curls. She had on a tan skirt suit and matching kitten heeled loafers. She was in her late twenties and pretty, in a girl-next-door kind of way. She wore no make up and only a small gold locket around her neck. Her light brown eyes were neutral but the way she chewed the corner of her bottom lip showed him she was uncomfortable or simply nervous. His kind was rare after all.
“Well I was curious, what can I say?” Alex replied, placing his arms behind his head as he leaned against the back of his brown leather arm chair. His lean physique was covered in a green t-shirt with a white long sleeved shirt underneath and jeans. His almost shoulder length black hair was back in a ponytail.
“Well then let’s get right to it,” Tyson stated. “A section of the hunter union has decided to begin a new type of paranormal hunting unit. They are opening a testing team here in
Alex straightened up in his seat. “I don’t get it. You already have trained police to take care of that stuff.”
Nona leaned in. “They aren’t fully equipped for this fight. Not to mention all the regular crime they have on their hands.”
“What about the hunter team already in place here? Don’t you have hunter teams in every section of the world and like a billion in the states?”
Tyson smiled and shook his head. “There are 10 hunter forces in the
Alex frowned. “What are saying? You want me to join a hunter team?”
“In a nutshell, yes.”
“And in a larger shell?”
Tyson raised an eyebrow. “There are those of us who believe that this war on paranormal evil would be better fought if we had a team that encompassed many types of hunters. Was more diverse.”
“Another take on equal employment opportunity. Very nice but I thought to you hunters, all paranormal guys were bad, why would you want me on the team?” Alex smiled back.
“We know that’s not true. And it’s unfortunate that some of us and many humans seem to believe otherwise. Having a diverse team would be a good PR move. It would show to the world that not every superbeing is to be feared. That some are our friends.”
“And what’s in it for you?” Alex smirked.
Tyson sighed as he sat back, crossing an ankle over his knee. “Your power, expertise. Simply fighting fire with fire.”
Alex lost his grin. “You want me to fight my own kind?”
Nona quickly shook her head. “No, we want you to fight the bad guys. The ones who are giving us a bad reputation.”
Alex looked at her and frowned. “Us?”
Nona nodded. “I’m a cognitive.”
“Oh, yeah? How much do you charge an hour?”
She frowned, then got it and giggled. “No. Seriously, I can see the past by touching an object, communicate with ghost, get a certain feeling for things, like if someone‘s good or bad. “
“Never failed an exam, huh? You’re like a psychic to the 10th degree. “
Nona shrugged modestly. “Yeah, and people are scared of me because of it. By joining a group like this we can also make it a focus not to just protect humans from super bad guys but the innocent paranormal community as well.”
“We’d investigate paranormal on paranormal crime as well,” Tyson responded. “If we build allies here we have a better shot at this fight and the paranormal community might get a better shot at getting more governmental protection and rights.”
Alex nodded slowly. “So this group is a game of politics.”
“We’d have a lot to prove here,” Nona nodded and folded her hands. “But it makes good sense. It would help those in congress and those in power all around the world who are trying to push for our acceptance and ability to be judged individually.”
“We already got people like us doing good work all over already and it hasn’t done any good. What’s this going to do?” Alex asked, looking unmoved.
Nona leaned towards him. “This is just a test group. If we fail we disband, but if we do good work who knows how the world could change.”
Alex shrugged. “So,” Alex looked to both of them, “Morpheus, Trinity, I guess the real question then is, why am I the one?”
Nona stifled a laugh.
Tyson tilted his head. “You come from an amazing family.”
“That’s my family, not me. They hate me enough as it is without me joining this group. Really, The Matrix, references aside, why do the box tops in hunter world think that I am a good candidate for this test group? My assumption is that they want the best of the best and in all honesty, you‘ve picked the wrong sibling in my family.” Alex leaned back in his chair, folding his hands.
“You’re smart, you can’t have lived almost 200 years and not be, you come from a strong dragon family, the reds are the best dragon fighters, and I know they’ve trained you. You blend with humanity well. I mean, you’ve made a living as a technology expert with a respectable IT firm and seem comfortable in human form. Not much of your family would be eager to work with humans. And although there are some red dragons who are suspect, your immediate family has never done anything to raise our attention and in fact has a great history in
Alex nodded slowly. “Okay, I guess it makes sense. But why do you need a dragon?”
Tyson sighed. “This could go on all night.”
Alex looked away and nodded. “Yes, that’s possible. But what you’re asking me to do is big. I might be the enemy of all dragons with this.”
“They could either hate you more or love you for changing the world’s attitude of dragons,” Nona stated.
“Fine, we need members of the paranormal community that represent the four major groups, “Tyson began. “The magic society, which includes wiccas, witches, wizards, mages, guardians. The lycanthropes and skin walkers. The undead, such as the vampires, zombies, ghouls, goblins, incubus, ghosts and so forth. Needless to say that group is very limited on who we can pick from. And the mythics, such as the dragons, fairies, trolls, hobbits. You get the picture.”
Alex scrunched his face and scratched his neck. “Yeah, yeah, not too sure I agree with how you guys lump these groups together but I’ll let it slide for now.”
“Good, so are you in?”
“I don’t know, man.”
“The pay is great and so are the benefits and the vacation package,” Tyson added in a monotone voice.
Alex looked unmoved.
Tyson took out a card from his pocket and a pen and wrote down the starting salary. “And this doesn’t include bonuses.”
Alex looked down at the card.
“Let me finish up some assignments and I’m all yours,” Alex replied with a straight face.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Almost five years ago a group of rogue vampires decided that they were tired of living in the dark and wanted fame, power, and most importantly to finally be able to live without fear. So they went public and “outed” themselves and all other supernatural and preternatural creatures. As a response to the world wide panic, the world’s governments brought to light their own secret; the existence of superhuman hunters. Soon a war between humans and “others” began. A few forces were able to see the futility in the fighting and obtained permission to create a paranormal crime fighting unit that would pull all forms of beings together to fight all supernatural evil. However, there are forces on all sides seeking to see the test group fail. Torn between loyalty to their respective groups and maintaining safety and justice, the crime fighting team, along with one of the city’s ADA of Supernatural Violent Crimes, fights a new enemy that may threaten to end the team before they had a chance to start.
“Nice,” Alex Chan stated with a grimace.
Carlos Rodriguez hunched down and took pictures of the body part from different angles with his camera.
“That’s an arm right?” Alex asked, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “I mean there’s no freakin hand attached, let alone the rest of the body, but I’m pretty sure that hairy, shriveled up piece of a person is a man’s arm.”
“Yeah,” Carlos answered somberly, taking another picture. “But where’s the rest of him?”
“Nowhere around here,” Ana Santos replied as she walked closer to the pair. They stood in a large darkened grassy field enclosed by several streets filled with cookie cutter town homes. It was close to midnight and the body part was found in the open backyard of an unlit home. The owners so far were not present. “This isn’t the type of neighborhood where attacks usually happen. Half of these houses don’t even have any magic wards. What’s going on here?”
“Police are on their way,” Gabe stated in his slight Irish accent, coming from the nearby lit street. “They want to do a thorough search for a possible body,” he said with quotation marks. “I told them we found nothing but who am I.” He shrugged casually, hands stuffed in his pocket.
“Gabe, is this what we were supposed to find?” Ana asked.
“Nooo, we were supposed to prevent a possible attack I was told might happen around here. Happening upon a body part is a coincidence.”
“Alex, can you hold this?” Carlos asked handing him the camera. He then put on his plastic gloves he retrieved from his pocket.
“Dude, you going to touch it?” Alex asked.
Carlos gave him a questioning look as he pulled the gloves on. “How else can I properly inspect it?”
“The cops won’t like that.”
Carlos turned to Ana. “I’m sorry, aren’t we like the cops? What are our badges for then? I’m tired of waiting for them to jack up the evidence before giving us a shot at it. We aren’t just the exterminators. We can actually analyze things. I’m a damn CSI!”
Ana threw her hands up. “I agree. I’ve talked to Tyson about that several times. Look, we can’t bag it, the police need to check it out, but go ahead and inspect it. You already took pictures of the original layout.”
Carlos gave a nod. “Thank you.” He balanced on his toes and touched the arm. “It looks like the man was bled dry, maybe even before they tore the arm off.”
Gabe shook his head. “No. He would have died before he totally bled out.”
“Think its vampires?” Alex asked.
Gabe crossed his arms. “Vampires don’t drink the blood of the dead.”
“Is it that vampires don’t drink the blood of the dead or vampires don’t usually drink the blood of the dead?” Ana asked turning to Gabe.
Gabe sighed. “If a vampire drinks the blood of the dead it’s like drinking a very strong poison. They would die. Usually. But even if they were powerful enough to survive, it’d still be very unpleasant. They would suffer greatly.”
“Maybe he was very hungry.” Alex shrugged. “Got a little greedy and careless.”
“The only vampire that would get that careless would be a young vampire and then we’d be seeing a pile of vampire dust around here.”
“Well then maybe it was an older vampire that got a little careless. Maybe even a crazy rogue vampire.”
Gabe shook his head looking down at the arm. “An older vampire wouldn’t have drunk that much. Even if he was starved and mad, he would have regained some senses long before he drained the body to the point of death. And he wouldn’t have left behind any traces of this attack. Older vampires like to keep their existence a secret.”
“What about this being a group attack?” Ana asked, surveying their surroundings with her eyes.
Gabe shook his head. “Vampires don’t hunt in packs like that, usually. And they still would need to be pretty powerful to avoid death. Maybe it’s something else. Maybe a meat-eating lycan like a werewolf or werepanther. They could have caused enough damage that would bleed a person out.”
“A succubus could also have drained someone dry with one powerful kiss,” Ana nodded slowly.
“I’m still betting on vampires. They’re the only ones arrogant enough to do this,” Carlos said raising his right hand, eyes still on the arm, “Alex, can I get my camera back?”
Alex passed him the camera. “You found it again?”
Ana shined her flashlight on the arm to display the word cibatus etched into the underside of the arm. “That word again.”
Carlos flashed his camera. "The Latin word for food. What is that supposed to mean? And why Latin?”
“Looks like someone scratched it in with a sharp finger nail.” Alex leaned in. “So what, they tore the arm off and label it like some sort of chicken leg you get in the grocery store?”
Carlos took a couple more pictures of different sides of the arm. “I think that’s exactly what they’re trying to say. Except humans are the chickens.”
“Outstanding, I’m assuming you already touched the body!” cried a voice from behind them.
Ana rolled her eyes and turned around to look at Captain Jeffery Simons. “How’s it going captain? You do realize that we’re an extension of the police and hunter forces so we aren’t some Scooby Doo gang doing teenage sleuthing. We’re actually investigating a crime scene.”
The tall, balding man, frowned and placed his hands on his waist. To be in his early fifties he was in pretty good shape. Ana assumed fighting the latest crop of scary baddies gave a little extra push on the police force to stay in shape. “I thought we asked you to call us in when you find anything suspicious.”
“Which is what we did,” Gabe stated, giving him a tired glare.
Captain Simons ignored him and kept his eyes on Ana, his 6’4 frame towering over her. “If I hear that your team tampers with anymore crime scenes I will bring this up to the Mayor’s office.”
Ana, unaffected by his posturing, shook her head. “Oh please, our tampering, as you call it, only helps,” Ana cried. “It wasn’t us who jacked up that last crime scene by stepping on the victim’s blood and tramping bloody footprints through the house!”
Simons leaned back and huffed.
“Now we’ll share the pictures that we took. But this crime is not a human crime, it has supernatural literally written all over it,” Ana began. “That’s our field. So give us a little respect and let us actually do our jobs like the professionals we are. I’ve been in this game a hell of a lot longer than you have, sir. We know what we’re doing.”
She looked around at the rest of her team. “Come on, let’s get out of their way.” She turned back to Simons. “I trust you’ll share any information you get with Tyson.” She didn’t wait for an answer and walked away.
The group followed her in silence as they headed back to their jeep.
When they got to their black jeep Alex broke the silence. “So I gotta say it, Ana, you’re a sufficient bad ass,” he acknowledged before opening the driver’s side door.
She turned and winked at him before getting in the front passenger seat.
“So what we have here is the possible start of a serial killer,” Carlos said from the back seat, reviewing the photos in his digital camera.
“We can’t make that guess with just three incidents,” Ana replied, turning her head towards the back.
“Where else is this going to lead?” Gabe asked from the back seat, as Alex backed out of his parking space and began to slowly patrol the neighborhoods. “This is a message and a typical serial killer usually gives more than one message. Trust us, this is a start and how many messages this guy, girl or group gives us will depend on how quickly we catch them. Two is enough for me.”
“We haven’t dealt with serial killers yet,” Alex stated, turning down a street lit with street lights.
“I have, “Ana said looking out the window in thought. “Before I joined this group. A paranormal serial killer can be quite different from other types. Not always, but the motives aren’t always the same. For instance, a typical human serial killer doesn’t go on a killing spree for sacrifices to raise a powerful demon from the underworld.”
Alex nodded slowly. “Heard about that one. That witch killed ten people before your team found her.”
“It was eight but it just goes to show how much tougher this is when you’re dealing with the supernatural. So, I don’t know about you guys but I’m hoping this is not a serial-“
“Guys! “ Carlos cried, throwing a hand out against the back of Ana’s seat.
Everyone went still.
“Did you hear something?” Alex asked, slowly pushing down on the break.
Carlos slowly shook his head. “Feel it.” He couldn’t explain it. The feeling of a vampire presence or that of any supernatural being was stifling. If a particularly strong vampire was using his powers it became difficult to breathe. The air would feel thick similar to the feeling of being in a heated car with the windows rolled up. Carlos was sure the presence was that of lower level vampires. It was uncomfortable but he was not consumed by their power.
“How many?” Alex asked.
Gabe, sitting upright, spoke first, “Four, I think. They’re in a house nearby. Keep straight on the road you’re on.”
Alex drove down two more blocks scouring the area.
“Make a left!” Carlos called with urgency.
Alex made a quick left down a suburban residential street.
Identical, three level homes with garages lined the street of the clean and quiet neighborhood. The thought that some vampire was in one of those homes terrorizing a family sickened Carlos. “House at the end of the street on the right,” he stated tensely.
Alex stopped the car and turned the engine off a few houses away. “Should we call the police for back up?”
“We can take them. They aren’t powerful; newbies,” Carlos replied, taking hold of his weapons. They were all fully loaded. Sheaths with knifes or daggers inserted around their wrists and ankles. Flame throwers, machetes, or stake guns strapped to their backs. Exploding silver bullet guns or holy water pistols in their right or left hip holster. Most hunters added the protection of a cross around their necks and a belief and faithfulness to God in their hearts. They were ready.
Gabe opened the jeep door and was the first to get near the house. He was the only one in the group who could get close enough to access the situation without raising any awareness from the vampires.
He ran across the street and crept to the house. The blinds were closed so he was unable to see anything but he could still hear and feel with his sixth sense. He knew that three vampires and four humans were in the room closest to the front door, possibly the living room. Upstairs there was one vampire and one human but he couldn’t tell what room. He relayed this to the other teammates through the mics they all wore to stay connected if separated.
After Gabe circled the house completely, he headed back to the others in the jeep. “It’s pretty simple; kitchen, great room and possibly a bathroom on the ground level; living area on the bottom level; three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the top. I’m going to knock on the door. Maybe someone will answer it; once they do we’ll bust through and shut these vamps down. I’m not concerned,” he stated with a nonchalant shrug. “Ana, follow me and then Alex and Carlos run up after we get inside. I think Ana’s smell will throw them off.”
The group nodded and followed closely, waiting and watching as Gabe walked up the steps and rang the doorbell. He waited patiently. No one answered. He rang the doorbell a few more times. “Hey, I know someone’s in there, the lights are on. I just need to use a phone. My car broke down across the street and my cell has died. If you could just let me get some help I’d appreciate it!” he shouted. “I’m not going anywhere, so please help!”
Finally after a minute, the door creaked open and a woman with tousled hair and a smile appeared.
Gabe gave her one of his Hollywood grins. “Hi, Miss. Thank you for helping me.” His voice seemed to say more than those words. Seemed to say he would help her. Her raised shoulders relaxed with relief. Gabe mouthed the words “Get back” and she obeyed as he shoved the door open, slamming the vampire behind it against the wall.
Ana came in quickly behind him, surveying the room, weapon pointed out. Gabe kept the vampire behind the door pinned to the wall, although it struggled to be freed.
Carlos and Alex quickly followed, racing to the living room, weapons rotating to opposite corners. Once they reached the living room they found a little boy of about 6 years old and a girl of about 12 years of age huddled together in a corner of the room crying. A man lay on the floor bleeding from the neck, his hand covering the wound as if trying to keep the blood from pouring out.
Ana quickly turned her attention to a vampire hissing in a corner on her left side. It moved, much faster than her eyes were able to catch up with but she knew where it was going. She didn’t even turn around as she grabbed the silver stake in her pocket and shoved it behind her making contact with the now howling vampire. She quickly spun around and with her other hand held the cross around her neck out and pressed it against the vampire’s fore head. She said a short prayer and asked for forgiveness for the lost soul while ignoring the screams of the vampire as the cross burned into its forehead like acid. She removed the stake then re-shoved it into him, this time connecting with his heart.
She stood back as the vampire arched its back, head moving from side to side at an inhuman speed, crying out in agony as it died the familiar vampire death. Silver stakes would keep them down, anything else and one would usually need to decapitate the vampire to make sure he stayed down. Flesh melted with the clothes from the muscle, things unknown to her oozed from his body, muscle, fat, and organs, dropped from the bone. Soon the bloodied skeletal frame dropped to the floor and then even the skeleton began to disintegrate until there was only a pile of dust that remained. She coughed, covering her nose as she turned away from the gruesome scene, the smell of decay filling her nostrils, making her nose hairs burn. She retrieved the stake with black gloved hand and moved on.
She eyed Carlos and Gabe finishing off their attacks of the other two vampires, leaving three piles of dust total for that floor.
“Nothing a good vacuum can’t clean up,” Gabe stated, pleased with himself.
Carlos raced back to the man on the ground once satisfied that he killed his vampire. “An ambulance is on its way, sir,” Carlos said to the injured man. “He’s losing a lot of blood. They weren’t kind to his neck. I just have to try to stop the blood from spilling.” He removed the gun holster on his back and quickly took his shirt off. Then he pressed it tightly against the gushing wound on the man’s neck.
“Everything’s going to be all right miss,” Gabe stated to the scared woman, who was sitting in the corner holding tight to what he assumed were her children.
“Who are you people?” she asked, sobbing.
Before Gabe could respond they heard a cry from upstairs. “Get back here you fanged faced fiend!” Alex shouted from above.
“Oh, no! Shelly!” the woman cried, getting up.
“Right. Stay here!” Gabe ordered, pointing to the family.
Gabe raced up the steps and found a teenage girl with a ripped shirt holding a large lamp in both her hands. She brought it down on top of the intruding vampire’s head but it did not faze him. He backed slapped her and she was sent flying towards Gabe, who caught her around the waist while maintaining his balance on the top step so that they both would not fall down the steps.
He quickly released her. “You ok?”
She nodded, her face streaked with tears.
“Good, your family’s safe downstairs, go join them,” he instructed her. She did as she was told and quickly ran down the steps.
Alex got up from the floor at the farther end of the hallway and took out the machete he had strapped to his back. “This will hurt you more than it hurts me.”
“You can do whatever you want to me but you can’t win this!” the vampire cried proudly, chin jutted out as he crouched in a pre-attack stance. “You’ll see, we rule this earth! Vampires will control this planet. He will show you to fear us like it used to be. The world will know and respect us! Humans will be our cattle. He will allow us to-“
Alex sliced into the neck of the vampire with his machete, removing the head from the neck in a clean and swift motion, splattering the wall with blood and gore artwork. “Yeah, yeah, tell it the devil,” he stated as the head dropped to the ground. He looked up at Gabe. “You all right there, partner?”
“Yeah, man.” Gabe looked over as the headless body fell and pointed at it. “That there was one crazy vampire.”
Alex bent down and staked the vampire in the heart for extra safety precautions.
“True. I’ve never met a vampire that talked so much while in an attack. Wonder what or who he was talking about.”
Gabe shrugged. “The man was talking in riddles. But he said “he”, so we can narrow our search to a man at least.”
Alex, standing up, looked down at the now pile of vampire dust. “The police clean up crew is going to be so pleased.”
Gabe turned his head to the stairs as he heard the sirens approach. He looked to Alex. “Cassie’s going to be pissed we didn’t leave anyone alive for her to prosecute.”
Alex shrugged. “Eh, sweet talk her,” he replied as they headed down the steps.
Ana stood beside the front door next to the mother and children as she watched Gabe and Alex walk down the steps. Carlos was already outside talking to the police as the ambulance pulled into the drive way.
“Ma’m, I would look into getting a magic alarm system. Depending on your home owner insurance the police can do a sweep of the house for free to see what areas you’re vulnerable to the supernatural. Here’s our card if you need us,” Ana told the mother, handing her their card and then turned to leave.
Alex looked back at the family. The mother gave a small smile. “Thank you,” she stated.
Alex nodded. “Just doing my duty.”
“You aren’t the police. Who are you?” she asked a confused look on her face.
He gave her an all too serious look. “I’m Batman,” he replied then broke off in a light laugh that no one else joined in on. “And this is Robin.” he said gesturing to Gabe.
“The hell I am,” Gabe replied exiting the house.
The family still held a confused look at Alex who was backing away to the door. “I’m sorry; I’ve just always wanted to say that. But seriously, we’re the Paranormal Unit. Look us up in the yellow pages!” he cried, running out of the door.