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Immortal: Dracula's Return (Act II 1-2)

Author's Note: A vampire tour. An archaeological dig. A mysterious book. And the tomb of Dracula. Maybe. Here's the next installment of my screenplay, Immortal.  Act II Scene I

(Alex riding on a dirt road in the Jeep. The sun is low over the mountains. She pulls up to the site. There’s a good deal of activity with an undercurrent of tension. Morgan is nowhere in sight. Alex, looking troubled, heads over to the main tent. David Thompson is bent over the computer, downloading something.)

Alex: Hey, David. What’s going on?

Thompson: Jesus, Alex! Don’t sneak up on me like that.

Alex: Jumpy much? What’s that on the computer?

Thompson: You seen Morgan lately?

Alex: Not since I left here. Why? You sound like something’s wrong.

Thompson: I was hoping they were in town. They’re missing.

Alex: What do you mean, missing?

Thompson: They went with Kyle and Anders over to that new room and we haven’t seen any of them since. Dr. Morgan had a call on the cellphone, and when Kristof went to get him, the room was empty.

Alex: You’re not making any sense, Thompson. How could they be missing? Where would they go?

Thompson: How would I know? (sighs) Let me start from the beginning. Dr. Morgan and Dr. Antonescu went to open a new room.  You remember that, don’t you?

Alex: How could I forget? He sent me off on another dumb errand, remember?

Thompson: All right, well the room was bricked up or something, and from what we’ve seen, they knocked the wall in. It’s a crypt like with all these statues of saints and a big stone sarcophagus in the center.

Alex: You’re shitting me.

Thompson: Not one bit. Kristof went in there looking for Dr. Morgan. But there was no one in the room. Kris thought he saw blood on the floor and some on the sarcophagus.

Alex: This is a joke, right?

Thompson: Well he got some help and opened the sarcophagus lid. It was chipped on one side, and the damage looked fresh, so we figured they had opened it before.

Alex: If you even tell me one of them was dead inside of there, I swear I’ll kick your ass.

Thompson: No. What we found were these really old chains. And bits of what used to be a crucifix. And Anders’ camera. In pieces. That’s what I’m working on. I’m trying to retrieve the pictures off the memory card.

Alex: I so don’t believe any of this. I go away for like three hours and all hell breaks loose?

Thompson: We were really hoping they were in town with you. We sent someone off with one of the other Jeeps to check and see, but he hasn’t gotten back yet.

Alex: So what does all this mean?

Thompson: I have no effing clue. (computer beeps) Looks like it’s done loading. Let’s see what we can see.

(Thompson opens the first picture. We see the stone wall with the bricked in section. Thompson clicks quickly passed two more pictures of this. Then there’s a picture of Marica’s hand grabbing for the camera. They take a little time to figure out what they’re looking at, then scroll to the next one.)

Thompson: So far nothing freaky. Maybe I just watched too many horror flicks as a kid.

(he clicks to the next picture)

Alex: Oh my God.

(the picture is grainy and shadowed, it is a shot of Anders’ arm, clearly taken while the camera was still hanging around his neck. His shirt sleeve has been ripped open and there are three bloody gouges on his wrist.)

Thompson: What the fuck did that?

Alex: (holding her temples, shaking her head) This is some sick joke, this is not real.

(the next picture comes up. It’s almost completely black and impossible to see anything. There seems to be an image in one corner, so Thompson plays around with the computer, zooming in. A strange, ghostly face comes into resolution. Thompson and Alex are both on the edge of their seats.)

Alex: Oh shit, it’s just a statue.

Thompson: (relieved) One of the Saints. OK. Next picture.

(this one is blank, just a photo of darkness. The next one is the same. When they scroll to the one after that, they both jump back from the screen. This is a partial face-shot of Marica. You can only see the lower left half of her face. She’s screaming, and there’s a spatter of blood across her cheek.)

Alex: That’s Marica.

Thompson: Is that blood on her face?

Alex: What happened in there? A cave-in?

Thompson: I told you, the chamber was clean. Spotless even. Everything was packed into that sarcophagus.

(they scroll to the next and last photo. Alex looks like she’s going to faint.)

Alex: No. Oh no. This is a joke. That bastard Morgan is just fucking around with us – maybe he did it for that uppity Romanian bitch –

Thompson: I can’t tell what we’re looking at here.

Alex: Can’t you see it? That face?

Thompson: It’s just another Saint.

Alex: The fuck that’s a Saint.

Thompson: I’ll clean it up and prove it to you.

(He fiddles with the program. We see, deep in shadow, the face of Dracula, eyes glimmering with their own light, mouth crimson with blood. Alex and Thompson look in silence at the computer screen, then turn wide eyes to one another. Throughout all this, it has been growing darker and darker around the tent.)

Alex: This can’t be. It’s got to be a joke. Morgan’s a sick fuck and this is just something he’s rigged –

(The power goes out. It is completely dark.)

Alex: Jesus fucking Christ!

Thompson: Kristof! Garrett! What’s with the generator?

Alex: If someone tripped over it again, I swear to God –

(They hear screams come from the rest of the camp. Yelling, in American and Romanian. Someone fires a gun.)

Alex: David?

Thompson: I hope you still have the keys to the Jeep because we are getting the hell out of here.

Alex: Grab the book.

Thompson: What?

Alex: I mean it. That thing’s a career-maker. We can’t leave it behind.

(Alex and Thompson dash out of the main tent, running toward the Jeep. The camp is in chaos. One of the Romanian workers crashes headlong into Thompson, nearly knocking him to the ground. Alex helps him up. Thompson notices blood on his hands – it’s not his. In the midst of all the chaos, they make it to the Jeep. Alex gets it to turn over. The headlights cut through the night. Just as she gets the Jeep in gear, the headlights illumine a lunging figure. It is Dr. Morgan. His eyes are wild and he is snarling like an animal. His eyeteeth have become fangs.)

Thompson: Dr. Morgan?

Alex: Fuck that.

(She floors it, driving straight at Dr. Morgan. He bares fangs, squinting, but does not move. Alex drives straight into him. He’s thrown onto the hood, rolling off to one side.)

Thompson: Shit, woman!

Alex: Just hold on!

(Tires screech as they careen along the dirt road, back toward town.)

Act II Scene II

(A richly appointed hotel room with a four poster bed. The furniture is large, heavy, and all wood. Livia walks in, quietly shutting the door. The lighting in the room is dim. Mara lays stretched on top of the comforter, apparently sleeping. Reverently, Livia goes to touch her arm. Mara’s eyes snap open before Livia makes actual contact.)

Mara: There’s another one here.

Livia: What?

Mara: Another immortal. I can feel him, but something’s not right. It’s all jumbled.

Livia: Did you leave someone behind last time you were here?

(Mara sits up and stretches.)

Mara: No. I don’t remember. It all happened too fast. The council was right to send me here the minute images of the book turned up. This could get ugly fast.

(Mara falls silent, her eyes focused far away. Livia waits, fidgeting, then tries to be cheerful.)

Livia: I have news about the site.

Mara: Tell me.

Livia: It’s several miles away from the town. There’s a road, but it’s mostly dirt and rocks. The only vehicles that will handle it are the Jeeps. They’ve been excavating most of the summer. A few weeks ago they found a library.

Mara: Go on.

Livia: The book was there.

(Mara sighs. She doesn’t look happy.)

Livia: They haven’t deciphered any of it.

Mara: Who did you talk to?

Livia: A nice British rock band. And the head archaeologist’s assistant, Alexandra Richards.

Mara: A rock band?

Livia: You wanted me to talk to people. They were more than happy to talk – and buy me a couple of beers while they were at it. One of them has been up to the site. I think the Richards girl has a thing for him. She’s not in the mood to give guided tours, but I might be able to convince the guy to take me up there later tonight.

Mara: There’s no telling where they have the book.

Livia: So we leave the tour and stay behind. It should only take a couple days. And I’ve got a perfect excuse. The band’s filming a video. They’ve already asked me to be in it. Though to be honest I think the lead singer just wants in my pants.

Mara: We can make use of that.

Livia: Don’t we always?

(Mara gets up and starts pacing.)

Mara: Well, that’s a start, at least. I don’t know what I’m going to do about this other one, though. I’m having trouble focusing on him – it’s definitely a him. That much I can tell. But his presence here – it’s unexpected.

Livia: Could it be connected to the book?

Mara: There’s no avoiding it. The question is how is he connected? Does he go all the way back to when we lost it? That’s something I don’t want to consider just yet.

Livia: Come on. Let’s not worry about it for now. They’re having a banquet. Full formal attire. Let’s have a little fun while we’re here.

Mara: You enjoy all this commercialism? I feel like an Indian in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Livia: They don’t know what they’re exploiting, Mara. Besides, if we don’t have fun, people might ask questions.

Mara: Fine. I’ll put my game face on. But I haven’t gotten used to wearing dresses yet.

Livia: I haven’t gotten used to a lot of things since you died. But I picked out an outfit you’ll look really good in. Let’s just relax for a few hours. We can worry about everything else afterwards.

--M. Belanger

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Immortal: Dracula's Return (scenes 3 & 4)

Author's Note: Between Twitter and Facebook, a lot of you asked for me to post more of the screenplay. So over the next week or so, I'll post the rest of it here in 2 to 3 scene increments. I think it's a fun tale -- mostly fluff, but it doesn't really pretend to be much more than a cheesy vampire B movie. When I wrote it, it played out like a film in my head, so of course I had my "dreamcast" of actors -- some of whom aren't really actors at all but are drawn from among my circle of friends. Mara, whom we meet in the next scene, bears a resemblance to Trinity from the Matrix (which really helped me envision some later fight scenes). The band Falling Darkness was inspired by bandmates in URN -- as well as people I met through URN during my touring days. Johnny is what I'd expect to result if Don Henrie did a version of Spike from Buffy. I pictured Dr. Morgan as Sam Neill. If you've done vampire tours in New Orleans, the tour guide may seem familiar as well. Welcome to the cinema of my strange and twisted brain!

Act I Scene III

(A quaint Romanian village, early afternoon sun slanting in. There are very few cars, though one battered white conversion van a short distance from the Boyar hotel sticks out. It has a stylized Gothic cross and the words “Falling Darkness” in ornate lettering emblazoned on its side. On the main road, which is mostly dirt and gravel, a bus chugs over the hill. The bus pulls up in front of the three-story hotel, disgorging a group of tourists. The tour guide is a portly man of middle years. He wears his hair long and is dressed like a Victorian movie vampire, complete with top hat and cane. The archaic clothes are clearly warm for the season, and he mops sweat from his brow. About a dozen people emerge from the bus, mostly couples between forty and fifty. People chatter among themselves, snapping photos of the buildings that line the street.

 Among the last few people off the bus is Livia, a small-boned, buxom red-head. Behind her is Mara, a taller woman with an athletic build. Her dark hair is cut in a stylish pageboy. She wears a black tank top, black cargo pants and sunglasses. She has a striking piece of silver jewelry on a cord around her neck: an elegant, extended figure eight surmounted by an upturned crescent moon. A midnight-blue stone glitters in the center of the figure eight. It is the same symbol as the first page of the book.)

Guide: (clapping) All right everyone! Gather round so you can hear! My lungs will not last if you make me shout to the entire town. (tourists gather) All right. That’s better. Now, then. This is our second stop for Westenra Productions’ Draculamania Tour. You are standing now in historic Basarav, one of the many towns that lie in the shadow of Castle Dracula. Founded in the 14th century, this walled medieval town eventually became a stronghold of one of the local boyars loyal to Vlad the Impaler. We will have the privilege of staying in the boyar’s former mansion, now refurbished as an award-winning hotel.

The hotel is one of the oldest buildings in the town, with the original masonry dating back to the 1390s. Another Medieval building with an impressive history is the old stone church, which you will find a few blocks east and south. South of the town proper is what is known as the Saracen’s Tower. This crumbling stone edifice is a grim reminder of the bitter war this region fought with Turkish invaders. The crescent moon you will see carved over its main doorway is a sign of the Muslim religion, a sure indication that Basarav was Turkish-controlled before Vlad the Third won its freedom. We will be spending the night here in Basarav, and tomorrow morning we will be up bright and early at ten-thirty to take a tour of the church andSaracenTower. Then it’s back on the bus to make the thirty mile trek onward toBrasov, home of Castle Bran, better known to the rest of the world as Castle Dracula. …

(As the tour guide talks, the focus shifts to Livia and Mara. Mara is rubbing sunscreen into her pale skin)

Livia: Mara, you holding up ok?

Mara: (shrugs) I wouldn’t mind getting out of the sun.

Livia: He loves hearing himself talk.

Mara: He’s a tour guide, Livia. That’s what they do. Though I wish he’d hurry up. I want to go lay down in the room.

Livia: You want me to help you with the bags?

Mara: I’ll get the luggage. I want you to look around. Find out where the archaeological site is, and if we can get in.

Livia: All right. Are you sure you don’t need anything?

(the tour guide begins leading everyone into the hotel. The driver and a porter are unloading bags from the belly of the bus. Mara begins to lead Livia over that way. She looks among the bags, then grabs two large pieces of luggage practically out of the porter’s hands.)

Mara: I’ll take those.

(Mara slips him a bill so he doesn’t complain. She shoulders both bags with surprising ease.)

Livia: I can carry one of those.

Mara: You know it’s no problem. I want information on the dig. That’s what you can do for me. I’ll come down around dinner, when I’m feeling better.

(Mara strides into the hotel, shouldering her way past a few other tourists. Livia stands on the street for a moment, chewing her lip and looking worried. But then she begins to follow the rest of the tour group.)

Act I Scene IV

(The interior of the hotel. The front desk is along the left wall as you walk in. Across from the front desk are stairs leading to a second floor of rooms. Straight back, off the lobby, is a lounge. A garish woodcut sign above the doorway proclaims this “The Impaler.” Voices and music filter out from the lounge. Livia walks into the hotel, surveys her surroundings, then heads for the lounge. Inside is a bar, several tables, a very small dance floor, and several kitschy pieces of Dracula-themed décor. In one corner, a couple of tables have been shoved together. Seated at these is the band, drinking and chatting. A video camera and some related equipment sits on the table between them. When Livia walks in, the band members look up. Body and racial types vary widely among the members of the band, with Victor being the largest and most muscled. All wear Goth fashion, all sound British. Johnny's accent is the strongest, to the point of being overdone.)

Johnny: (whistling as Livia enters) Check that out, mates.

Victor: Not bad.

Wolf: (rolling his eyes) Why's it always got to be red-heads with you?

Victor: What’s wrong with red-heads?

Briggs: They’re crazy, that’s what.

Griffin: Hell, all women are crazy, it’s just a matter of degrees. (waving to Livia) You want a drink?

(Livia glances toward the bartender, then heads over to the band. She pulls up a chair and sits down with them.)

Livia: You guys weren’t with the tour.

Briggs: Hell no. We’re shooting a music video.

Livia: Oh really?

Johnny: (putting on an announcer-style voice) Live from Transylvania. It's Johnny Dark and Falling Darkness! You heard of us?

Livia: Um …

Wolf: It’s not like we’re top tier.

Briggs: Third rung, more like.

Johnny: Never mind them. They’re just mad we got turned away in Brasov. They wouldn’t let us film in the castle there. Bastards.

Wolf: Shoulda contacted the visitors’ bureau ahead of time.

Victor: And now we blew the tranny on the van driving over all the damn mountains.

Briggs: I told you she couldn’t handle the bloody mountains, but does anyone listen to me?

Johnny: Really, ignore them. What’s your name, luv?

Livia: Livia.

Johnny: That’s gorgeous. What do you drink, Livia? They got vampire vodka here. It looks just like blood.

Livia: I’ll stick with a beer, thanks.

(Wolf waves the bartender over, flirting with her as he orders the next round.)

Livia: (drinking) You guys staying here at the Boyar Hotel?

Victor: Only place in town.

Johnny: We’re looking into another location for the video. There’s this old factory on the edge of town, a weapons plant or something from the Cold War. It’s all creepy and abandoned. Perfect place to shoot.

Victor: It’s not like we’re going anywhere until that bloody part comes in.

Johnny: Speaking of which -- how long are you in town for, Livia?

Livia: The tour group heads to Brasov tomorrow.

Johnny: That’s rough. Sure you don’t want to stick around? We could use someone like you in the film.

Livia: I don’t know. The only location you have is a factory? No nice, convenient ruined castles nearby?

(As Livia and the band talk, Alex walks in and orders a drink from the bar. She takes her drink and walks over to the band.)

Alex: Hi, guys. How’s the music video coming along?

(The band greets Alex. Griffin pulls up a chair for her)

Victor: You look pissed. That Morgan bastard giving you grief again?

Alex: Doesn’t he always? It’s the same old story. He won’t let me near a new find. Anything that’s interesting, he comes up with some dumb errand to send me away. He’s such a glory-hound.

Griffin: You just have to wait till summer’s over, then you don’t have to deal with him any more.

Alex: I’m counting the minutes. Today was just too much. This uppity chick from the university stopped by, and he’s practically falling over himself trying to impress her. What that man won’t do for a little grant money.

Johnny: Livia, this is Alexandra Richards. She’s with the archaeological team.

Livia: Archaeological team?

Griffin: You think you’re seeing some neat stuff on your vampire tour? They’re busy digging up the tomb of the real Dracula, Vlad fucking Tepes himself.

Livia: I thought that was near Bucharest?

Alex: We don’t know if he’s actually buried here.

Griffin: That library you guys found a couple weeks back is more than enough to put you on the map. Ancient tomes of magic scribed on metal plates …

Livia: You found a magic book?

Alex: It could be a cookbook for all we know. Why do you guys always make things sound weirder than they really are?

Wolf: We’re a Goth band. What do you expect?

Livia: Is the dig part of the tour? I’d really like to see it.

Alex: Of course not. It’s closed to the public.

Livia: You couldn’t even sneak me in? I’m really into archaeology. I’d love to see a real dig.

Alex: There’s not much to see. Most of it’s underground, and a lot of that’s not really safe. Never mind that Dr. Morgan would eat me alive if he found me sneaking anyone else up to his site.

Griffin: Hey -- I helped out with that wiring problem.

Alex: (warmly) You did more with that generator than the guy with the engineering degree ever could. But no, I can’t just take random people up there. Sorry.

(The tour guide and several other people on the tour begin filtering into the bar. The tour guide is busy pointing out the cheesy vampire decorations and expounding on what each represents.)

Alex: It’s getting kind of busy in here, and if I’m late getting back, they’re going to be pissed. Thanks for letting me rant.

Griffin: Any time, sweetie. You ever throw down with that bastard Morgan, you know who to call.

Alex: As much as I’d like to smack Dr. Morgan for the way he’s treated me, it wouldn’t exactly be a career move. But I appreciate the sentiment.

Livia: If you change your mind –

Alex: (firmly) No. Nice meeting you anyway.

--M. Belanger

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Pills and Potions

Author's Note: Another fractured fairy tale (remember that cartoon?), the moral of which says essentially that there is no such thing as a quick and easy cure -- especially to this terminal condition we call life.

 

Pills and Potions, or:

The Savior from Over the Sea

Long ago in a far distant land nestled on the coast of the great ocean lived a race of simple people. They were artists and crafters, writers and dreamers, and they lived together in a city made beautiful by their art. Much like the folk of our own land, the people in this distant city were not perfect. They had good days and they had bad days, but on the whole they were content.

And then one day a stranger came from over the sea. She was tall and pale and wore a long coat of sparkling white. She carried herself proudly, her clear gray eyes shining with a keen intellect. The people of the beautiful city immediately took her for a magician or sorceress for not only did she seem to possess great wisdom, but she also brought with her trunk after trunk of curious potions.

The stranger called a meeting of all the wisest folk of the beautiful city. She pulled out bottle after bottle, each shining a different color under the noonday sun. She told the people that she had come from a faraway land that was greatly advanced compared to their own. She had been sent by her own people to help the people of the beautiful city. The city leaders were naturally puzzled. Their lives were comfortable. Their city was attractive and well-maintained. By their reckoning, they didn't think that they needed any help.

“Oh, but you are wrong,” said the stranger. “My people have developed powerful magic that can drive away all of your suffering, sadness, and pain. Just one drink a day from one of these little potions and you can be free from all of your problems. No one will ever be unhappy again. ”

The people were eager to accept her offer, for who wouldn't want all of their cares and complaints erased so easily? So the stranger met with each of them, and if they said that they were sad, she gave them one sort of potion. And if they said they were anxious she gave them another. And for those who said that they didn't have any problems at all, she gave another potion still.

“But I don't really have a problem,” one lady protested. “I’m unhappy, but only because my husband died recently. That’s natural. Why should I take something like this when nothing is really wrong?”

“Just take it and see if it doesn't make you feel better,” said the stranger. “If you feel better after taking it, then you really did have a problem. You just didn't know.”

She told them to take just one sip a day, but if that didn't seem to be working, they were to return to her, and she would give them something stronger. They trusted her because she assured them that the potions always worked to take care of every problem. It was just a matter of finding the right potion for each complaint.

Weeks passed and the citizens of the beautiful city dutifully took their daily potions. And when something terrible happened in their lives that would ordinarily make them sad, they didn't cry because the potion was working. And when something happened that would ordinarily make them anxious, they didn't worry because the potion was doing its job. All of their cares and concerns were erased just as promised. While the potions didn't solve any of the problems themselves, the people found that they simply didn't care enough anymore to get upset.

As the weeks became months, things began to change in the beautiful city. The great structures of marble looked gray and dull because no one worried about cleaning them anymore. The painters and the artists and the sculptors stopped creating any new works because they no longer felt inspired. Once, the lush parks of the beautiful city were filled with young couples engaged in amorous pursuits. Now, husband and wife didn't even share the same bed because no one was interested in having sex anymore. No one was really happy, but not a single one of them was unhappy either. It was just as the stranger had promised.

And then one day, something snapped. Some shred of the former glory of the once-beautiful city rose up in the minds of its citizens. They dragged themselves out of their dull, shuffling complacency long enough to realize that they had become fat and flaccid, and all the joy had been drained from their lives. On that day, every citizen of the once-beautiful city took up his or her vial of potion and cast it into the sea.

The stranger railed and screamed at this, telling them what a mistake they were making. They were trading contentment for all of their old worries and cares. When people still refused to restart her regimen of potions, she began to threaten them. She was responsible for their well-being! If they wouldn’t listen to her good advice, then she would summon her own countrymen from across the sea, and they would descend upon the backward and ungrateful city, making certain that everyone took the potions for their own good.

The citizens refused to listen to her threats. Instead, moving as one, they seized her and tossed her into the sea after her precious potions. Then they walked back to their once-beautiful city. There, they picked up the pieces of lives that had never been perfect, but at least had possessed some measure of joy for every counted sorrow.

--M. Belanger

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The Vampire's Christmas

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The Vampire's Christmas

Bourbon Street Christmas

Author's Note: Sharing this little story-in-poem is becoming a winter holiday tradition of mine. I wrote it on a lark a few years ago, and while it started out a little silly, I actually liked the story that unfolded. It is, of course, shamelessly adapted from "Twas the Night Before Christmas." Silly & serious by turns, I hope it amuses you as much as it does me. The Vampire's Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, and along Bourbon Street, The vampire was searching for someone to eat. The shops were all quiet, having closed for the night, But the vampire was restless and hoped for a bite.

The partying crowds had all cleared away, Heading home to prepare for tomorrow's big day. The streets were now empty and nobody stirred. The vampire walked, whistling, but nobody heard.

He stopped for a moment in the pale streetlamp's glow And the only thing sparkling was the light scrim of snow. When off in the distance, a strange sound was heard. The vampire froze, listening, and breathed not a word.

He thought he heard weeping, but he could not be sure. So he ran toward the sound. He took off in a blur. Far away in an alley, a girl sat and cried, Huddled close to her mother, who sadly had died.

The vampire stepped softly, staying out of the light. In silence he pondered the poor child's plight. The track marks were clear on the mother's thin arm, In a fit of despair, she had done herself harm.

As he watched from the shadows, he felt mounting rage. The child was a bare five or six years of age. "I might not be Christian," he thought in his head, "But today's not the day to mourn someone who's dead."

He paused but a second before he stepped near. The little girl jumped and looked up in fear. "I know what this seems like," he said with a smile. "But ruining your Christmas is just not my style."

He bent to the child and held out his hand. "This once, you can trust me. I'll help if I can." The look in his eyes made the child feel bold. She soon clutched his fingers, so pale and so cold.

They walked through the streets toward old Jackson Square. He thought he could leave her in the church that stood there. At Saint Louis Cathedral where they held midnight mass, The light flooded warmly through scenes of stained glass.

The vampire's steps faltered the closer he got. He felt his skin prickle and sting and grow hot. A cross in the window shone forth with the light, And it took all his courage to not flee from the sight.

"You see those big doors there?" he asked, cringing away. "There's safety within and a place you can stay." The little girl seized him, unmoving as stone. She wept and she wondered, "Must I walk in alone?"

Reluctant to face what he knew did him harm, He nevertheless took the small girl by the arm. He moved slowly forward, though each step was a strain, And he struggled to hide from the girl all his pain.

At the top of the steps, he reached out for the door, With his flesh nearly singeing and his fingers so sore. As he pulled the door open, they were both bathed in light And the sounds of the hymns flooded out in the night.

They stood in the threshold, the vampire and child, His face a rictus, hers sweet and mild. The priest at the altar stopped short in his prayer. He could hardly believe who he saw standing there.

Years ago, as a boy, he had seen such a fright, Wandering the French Quarter alone in the night. He had been drawn by the sound of a poor woman's screams And the face of the vampire had since haunted his dreams.

Now that same monster stood unchanged by the years With a girl in his clutches and her face streaked with tears. The fiend stared at the priest with his eyes glowing red. Then he pushed the girl forward in an instant and fled.

His good deed accomplished, through the dark streets he ran, And he tried to ignore the harsh burns on his hand. His courage had cost him. The thirst raged like a storm. And he thought to himself, "Hope the mother's still warm."

--M. Belanger

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Laying Blame

Author's Note: The "Long-Suffering Queen" was a heavy piece. Can't say I didn't warn you. But since I'm sharing these works freely in part because of the holidays, I suspect everyone could use something a bit more light-hearted. I've reposted the following on my livejournal before (wrote it at least a decade ago), so it may be familiar to a few of you. Still, I think it's fun and pithy.

The Plague of Blamekins

 

Once, long ago, there was a great land that had been completely over-run by vermin. Now, these were not rats or locusts, but a greater plague still.  They were a particular species of fairy, very small, that had a habit of buzzing about peoples’ heads.  They were called Blamekins, and they had fat, round bodies with tiny little wings.  As their wings were hardly of a size to keep their corpulent bodies afloat, the Blamekins chattered all the time.  It was through the constant, pneumatic action of their lungs that they remained airborne at all.

These verminous fairies are not only naturally fat, they are also naturally lazy.  They do very little but flutter around, chattering and carrying on.  Of course, the fairies don’t like to think of themselves as lazy, and so they make a great show of being very concerned about things.  They observe people’s actions to the minutest detail, and offer lengthy commentary on what they feel is going wrong.  In doing this, they serve several needs at once.  By carrying on about other peoples’ business, the fairies feel that they are accomplishing something, and by voicing their opinions often and quite loudly, they perpetuate the hydraulic action that helps keep them afloat.

In this terribly afflicted land, the number of the fairies grew to a monstrous proportion. Night and day, the air was filled with the insect buzzing of their wings and the incessant whine of their voices. In every home, in every business, in every public park, you could hear them tut-tutting about how people needed to be more careful with things and how someone should be held responsible for all the ills of the world.

If a woman walked by with a child in her stroller, the fairies would swarm her, telling her how she was pushing the stroller wrong, and how the child was not strapped in tightly enough. When she adjusted the straps, just out of the vain hope that the fairies would shut up, then they would mutter and murmur among themselves, subsequently deciding that the straps were now too tight and she was such a bad mother to let her infant suffer so. If she dared to shoo the hordes of obese little busybodies away, they would fly straight to a social worker and carry on and on about the woman was abusing her child, how it was crying all the time, how the quality of its life was just soooo poor, and wasn’t someone going to do something about it?

It’s not that the things the blamekins were saying were right or even entirely fair. It’s simply that they were so loud about it, and they carried on so incessantly that people wanted nothing more than to make them shut up.  Nothing would quiet the blamekins save for giving in to their demands, and so the beleaguered populace began to enact laws. Mothers were sued for tying their children into strollers too tightly. The stroller companies recalled all their models with straps and replaced them with bars, but when the poor infants wailed in their mobile cages, the blamekins cried about that, too. Parents were brought before judges and blamekin-style justice was dispensed, with everyone paying hefty fines. Quite often, whole new crimes were made up on the spot just to appease the blamekins and garner the rest of the world a little peace from their constant whining.

Of course, the peace never lasted very long, for the fairies would find yet another victim, yelling and carrying on over increasingly more ridiculous things. Because they were loud and only got louder when ignored, people gave in to them, until a dangerous precedent had been set and the legal system of the once-great land was clogged with cases that would have been considered ridiculous trifles before the plague of fairies came along.  Yet such was the nature of the people that many of the lawyers eventually grew proud of the work they did to distort the law in order to appease the vile fairies, and the people themselves began to see everyone around them with the same jaundiced eyes. Nothing ever happened just because it happened – every crack in the pavement, every branch that fell from a tree was found to be somebody’s fault, and the guilty parties were charged and fined accordingly.

Eventually the entire society crumbled under the debts created by its own litigious system, and those that didn’t die a miserable death fled to parts unknown.  All that remained were the wrecks of cars and houses, and the swarms of pesky fairies, buzzing about and carrying on among themselves about what a shame it was the civilization had come to such a mean end … but by that point, there was no one else left for them to blame.

--M. Belanger

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