The Iron Writer Challenge #8

1884 RunaboutThe Iron Writer Challenge #8

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #8

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Eryn LaPlantKirk LaytonNatasha JohnstoneRebekah Postupak

The Elements:

1884 De Dion Bouton Et Trepardoux Dos-A-Dos Steam Runabout

A Dung Beetle

A piece of Petrified Wood

Ginsu Knives

Sunday at the Swap MeetEryn LaPlant Rask

Eryn LaPlant

Who wakes up at five a.m. on a Sunday morning just to go to a swap meet? Tyler thought on the drive from Las Vegas to Pasadena. He was with his father, Rick, and a trailer full of restored antiques from their shop. Not a seventeen-year-old kid who works twenty hours on the weekdays and another twelve on Saturdays.

Four hours later, they arrived at the famous Rose Bowl swap meet and Rick bellowed orders and helped Tyler slogged back and forth, delivering the goods from the truck to their rented lot.  They had everything from 1930’s vending machines to the hand-made crafts his dad built in his spare time and one monster machine Tyler hated. Let’s see what was the big fancy name dad gave it? Oh yeah the 1884 De Dion Bouton Et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Runabout. A waste of space was more like it. It was heavy, awkward and his father treated it like gold.

The twin compound steam engine car was once owned by a French Marquis who liked racing the vehicle in Paris around 1900.  It wasn’t for sale, but it was the best and most challenging restoration his dad’s shop had ever performed. Rick had turned it from a bucket of rust to the gleaming raven and gold runabout that it was now. It was museum quality and would be going to auction at the end of the month.

Carefully, Tyler set the framed photograph of the original piece on the vertical boiler to complete the before and after display.

“What’d ya think dad?”

Rick eyed the exhibit. “Looks good, Ty. Now, hey, I need to walk around this place and see if I can find some petrified wood for the coffee table I’m working on for Mrs. Burton.”

Tyler rolled his eyes. “Sure, I guess.”

“Make us a lot of money, buddy,” his dad called over his shoulder as he walked away.

Kicking back with his DSI, Tyler started his dirt biking game. Selling expensive, refurbished antiques in a venue with Ginsu knife barkers and people lapping up bargains like dung beetles in a field of cow patties was next to impossible.  He might as well get comfortable and try to beat his high score.

Suddenly, the earth began to vibrate. Antiques clanked all around. Murmurs of voices ran through the crowds. Tyler jumped to his feet, spanning his body across the Tredpardoux. If anything fell on the runabout, his dad would kill him.

Pardon?”A heavy man, in a dark waistcoat, ballooning knickers, tall boots and bowler hat said. He had graying hair and a Charlie Chaplin moustache.  He looked he’d walked straight out of silent movie picture. “Sortez de mon véhicule!

An aftershock hit and as fast as the man arrived, he disappeared. What the hell!  The words the strange man said stayed in his head and as soon as the ground stopped shaking, Tyler reached for his phone, selecting Google translator. He typed the sentence the best he could and blinked as the answer stared at him from the screen. “Get out of my vehicle.”

Double Zerokirk layton

Kirk Layton

“Make a bid and we’ll carve you like a Sunday turkey.”

“I think you watch too much television.”

Both of them opened their jean jackets just a little. “Do these look like we’re kidding?”

“They look like a Shopping Channel special. Authentic Ginsu knives only 14.99, but wait there’s more. Look I’m not here for the auction. I just wanted to see the car. I mean how often to you see a double steam engine, right?”

“We’ll be watching; don’t forget.” They turned, eyeing the crowd and looking for others to have a chat with.

Henry had been robbed a couple times and had a beat down once that put him in the hospital but being intimidated by a couple of 50 year-old farmers was a first. I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often. Fortunately for me, this is Canada, or it could’ve been worse. Mind you, even farmers get to carry rifles around here.

The auctioneer checked his watch one more time, and, finding it to be noon, began the patter to excite everyone present to bid high and bid often. The newspaper listing had been clear that the household items would be sold first, followed by vehicles, the house, and then the farm.

Henry didn’t care about any of this, but still found his new farmer friends were back at his side a few minutes later. “So, guys, by the low turnout I’m guessing you’ve worked hard at shooing people away. Can’t say I blame you. What is this, the third auction this month?”

“Fifth. Banks just don’t care. So, why are you really here?”

“To see the car like I said. Mind if I go walking?” Henry moved away from the little stretch of brown grass surrounding the house and the auctioneer. That is one gorgeous view. He walked closer to the steep hillside of the Drummond the house was built on. These piles of rubble left behind by retreating glaciers dot the southern Alberta badlands and were a favorite for early settlers to build houses on.

“And the next item on our list is what many of you have been waiting for: an 1884 De Dion Bouton. Who will start the bidding?”

Henry started down the side of the cliff. “Oh my, what’s this?” Part of the cliff face had slid, exposing some fossils. “Kind of looks like a dung beetle in stone. Not quite what I need to find though.” Too bad the crops burnt last month; there’s nothing but black stubble as far as you can see. “What the heck? What is that?”

Going back up the hill was tougher than it looked. Any top soil had been worn off the cliff face by the constant dry wind during the past two years. Finding safe footing meant watching every step. Henry grabbed a piece of petrified drift wood and used it as a staff.

“Now the biggest lot we have up for today.” The auctioneer was in fine form as new bidders had emerged from stretch limousines.  “Check your brochure for the legal description of the land and remember that does not include mining rights.”

Henry didn’t even hear the bidding; he was too engrossed with the view to care. It was hard to see unless you were looking for it, or, in his case, saw it before the grain and grass grew back after the massive prairie fire. “A double ox-bow. I’ve never seen one like that.” The stream which wandered through the area cut new beds depending on what spring melt there was until it doubled back on itself. The leftover part of the stream bed remained dry and, this time, was almost a circle. This time, it had happened twice in the same area. “That must have been a hundred years ago at least. Absolutely remarkable.”

“Hello? Hello? Right, speak up because I have really poor cell reception our here. He was telling the truth. Right. Drumheller, Alberta or really close to it anyway. It’s just like he said, a number eight in the ground.”

Henry put the phone back in his pocket. “I need to get a shovel. It’s going to be a long night.”

Fostered by TimeNatasha Johnstone

Natasha Johnstone

It was that night that her life chartered a course that time whispered to forever alter her in ways she could not imagine.

The bright stars playfully winked at her on a warm summer’s night. Marty smiled as she silently sat there in her wheelchair looking at them. It was a night just like tonight that she met Bill in 1925. Her then boyfriend Charles had taken her to the Grand Exhibition in Grenoble, to see Henry Doriol’s display of the 1884 De Dion Bouton Et Trepardoux Dos-A-Dos Steam Runabout. Henry was a friend of his.

After the exhibition, they sauntered the streets in the night until they reached the alley by their hotel. In a flash they were surrounded by a group of delinquent underachievers, bursting to rid them of their possessions. Marty stood there like a piece of petrified wood. Her heart pounded a stuccoed tempo but the rest of her body was frozen in fear. One by one, each of their taunting attackers circled around them like a dung beetle doing an orientation dance. She could not hear what they were saying or speak.

Charles was negotiating feverously like an infomercial for a set of Ginsu knives.

“But wait there’s more” he added in the plea for his life as he emptied the contents of his jacket pockets as well, shifting his boutonnière in the process. His pocket watch, handkerchief and a small velvet box was handed over to the leader who stood there with a blade directed at Charles’ abdomen.

He boastfully smiled at his gang and seemed contemplative as he extracted a small diamond ring from the box and placed it in his pockets with the rest of Charles’ belongings. A glimpse around him and a second for a breath was all it took before he stabbed and killed Charles. Marty screamed and fell to her knees beside him.

It was Bill who convinced his leader not to do the unspeakable after he beat her senselessly. He promised his gang to finish her off, once they left. Instead he rushed her to the doctors and vanished. All efforts to trace him in the maze of uncertainty, surrounded by myriad of unanswered questions were fruitless. Soft words and gentle pleas to hold on for him and onto him while she etched his face into her soul, was all she could recall.

She met Bastille Durant 5 years later. They fell in love, got married and had three children and accumulated a wealth of friends. With all their friends and family gathered there she took one last look at the stars.

“Ready my love?” He asked softly as he approached and stood in front of her.

“Yes my angel” her croaky voice announced. He gave her a whisper of a kiss and then proceeded behind her to turn her wheelchair around. A huge banner was suspended from the entrance door with the words:

“Happy 60th Wedding Anniversary Marty & Bill – 1990″

La RevancheRebekeh Postupak

Rebekah Postupak

THWACK.

A knife plunged deep into the “petrified wood”—in reality lacquered corkboard—somewhere near Anna’s left shoulder. From the sound, it was one of Marcello the Clown’s storied Ginsu knives, which meant she should probably be grateful it was The Grenouille’s bad-aimed turn to throw. She’d seen what one of those knives could do to a tomato.

WHUMPH.

Right shoulder now, half an inch closer. Sighing, Anna looked across the center ring to where he stood grinning in tacky emerald harem pants and matching cloak.

“I’m going to get you,” he mouthed at her, flourishing his next knife. Anna pictured the knife hovering over a steaming plate of frog legs in garlic butter.

THUMPK.

She felt a sharp pull as the knife stabbed uncertainly into the coil of golden hair just above her tiara. The hair wasn’t real (at least not after the first two feet, as Lord Percevel had learned the hard way; it was such a tall tower) but the tiara was, and if The Grenouille’s incompetence tonight cost her so much as a single diamond, the Ringmaster would get an earful.

The Grenouille pranced a bit more for good measure, while Marcello (why did his smile terrify her?) buzzed around the floor in his ancient steam runabout, tossing fake jewels to the children. The car was the old kind, maybe even the oldest. “La Marquise,” he called it, like the spluttering machine was a ship or a dragon.

“With La Marquise watching, we don’t have to worry,” Marcello often said, his own eyes gleaming. “She’s one great lady.”

Anna kept her wary eye on them both.

WHOOSHP.

The Grenouille had flung the knife too wildly: it sailed clean past her and landed in a pyramid of horse manure where even the dung beetles looked embarrassed. The audience booed loudly, and Anna’s lips twitched as The Grenouille slunk off.

She turned her eyes toward the velvet curtains. Two knife throwers tonight, the Ringmaster had promised the crowd. Twice the knives; twice the danger! Philippe was in his quarters nursing a slipped disc, which meant the second thrower had to be dear, furry Jean-Marc, who was still in love with her, or Charmant, curse him. (Charmant’s ire was patently undeserved; if he’d disliked how things were going, he ought to have complained long before the whole glass slipper debacle.)

Marcello circled the arena again, now tossing candy. He circled back. Where was the knife thrower?

The car’s motor ground to a stop and Marcello climbed out, his painted smile fixed on her.

“My turn at last, girl,” he said, drawing three long knives out of the bag, “unless, of course, you can guess my new name. WITHOUT CHEATING.”

Anna growled in sudden recognition and frustration. Who could’ve guessed that one tiny misspoken magical word—the fairytale princess instead of fairytale princess—would wreak such havoc?

“I don’t suppose you kept Rumpelstiltskin, eh?” she said as the first knife soared through the air.

The Iron Writer Challenge #7

1940 Ford TractorThe Iron Writer Challenge #7

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #7

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Dawn NapierDon CorcoranMichael K. EidsonWill Millar

The Elements:

A 1940 Ford Farm Tractor

A Space Monkey

A Nursery Rhyme

Sushi

The Space CowDawn Napier

Dawn Napier

Ethan clambered onto Grandpa’s old Ford tractor.  He pretended that he was Star Blaster, the space explorer.  His ship was a big rusty bucket, but it was sturdy and strong and could take him across the entire galaxy.

He called it the Space Cow.

“Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the Cow jumped over the moon!”  He swung his feet as he pretended to steer the ship.

“Nice landing, men.  Time to explore this wasteland.”

He climbed off the tractor and crawled underneath.

“Keep under cover.  There could be monsters anywhere.”

There was a chattering sound from the shadows.

Ethan scrambled out.  Mom and Dad always said to stay away from animals that didn’t act afraid.  They could have rabies.

He saw nothing, but he heard another chatter.  Ethan backed away.  But he didn’t leave.  He wanted to see what the animal was.

A furry little hand poked out from under the tractor.  It had four fingers and a thumb, just like his.  Then a furry face appeared.  Two enormous purpose eyes blinked at him, and the creature chattered again.  It was some kind of monkey.

Could monkeys have rabies?

The creature chattered, and its pearly little teeth gleamed.  It was wearing some sort of suit or jacket.

If it was a pet, then that was why it wasn’t afraid of him.  Ethan put a hand out for it to sniff.  The monkey hopped close to him and touched his fingers with both hands.  Its hands were warm and soft.

The suit was purple, like its eyes.  It was a jumpsuit that covered its body and all four limbs.  Only its hands, feet, face and tail were exposed.  Its tail was long and curled like a cat’s.

It wasn’t a real monkey, Ethan realized.  It had eight fingers on each hand.

The creature ran its tiny hands over Ethan’s fingers and wrists.  Then it tugged on his sleeve and pointed at the tractor.

“Oh, that’s just pretend,” Ethan said.  “It’s not a real ship.”

The monkey tugged harder.  Then it scampered up the tire and sat down on the seat.

“All right, I’ll show you.”  Ethan climbed up after the monkey and sat down in front of it.  “Space Cow, away!  See, it doesn’t do any—”

The huge ship blasted into the sky so fast that Ethan was thrown backwards.  He rolled across the floor and hit the back wall.

The monkey sat in the padded chair.  Its fingers raced over the console, and the ship rocked.  The window-screen showed a blue sky that slowly darkened to black.  Stars cut through the black like diamonds.

“Are we going to your planet?”

The monkey chattered.

“Is there any food?”

It chattered and pressed a button.  A tray slid out, exposing a neat row of green and white circles.

“I’ve never had sushi before.”

Then he shrugged and picked up a piece.  He would probably eat weirder things when they got wherever they were going.

The Day Before Take-OffDon Corcoran

Don Corcoran

“What was it you’re looking for?” asked Rufus.  He eyed the kid with the white shirt and fancy tie. A piece of grass clung to his bottom lip.

“An astronaut, sir.”

“Can’t say I’ve seen any around here, since,” he shouted over his shoulder, “What? Ninety-seven, Mildred?”

“’Bout right,” nodded his wife as they sauntered up to the Weatherford’s barn.

“But you said you heard something in your barn?” asked Spencer.

“Yessir.  Wasn’t no astronaut though.”

Rufus slid open the barn door, and Spencer let out a sigh.  It was packed to the gills with old car parts and farm equipment and no way to move around.  Spencer stepped in as far as he dared, craning his neck to scan the mechanical detritus.

A screech and a clang rang through the old structure.  Everyone leapt back, alarmed.

“What the?” exclaimed Rufus.

A chimp’s head poked up from the rusted machinery, and Spencer immediately started to rummage through his backpack.

“Hey mister,” the grass dropped from Rufus’s mouth.  “There’s a monkey in my barn.”

Without looking up Spencer explained, “Yes, that’s Penelope. She’s not a monkey.”

“Pardon?  That’s a monkey if I ever saw one, or the gosh ugliest farm-girl I ever laid eyes on!”

“Chimpanzee.  Penelope isn’t a monkey, rather an ape.”

“What’s she doing?”

“Probably fixing something.  It’s what she’s trained to do.”

“Fixing something?  That hasn’t run since, what?  Fifties, Mildred?”

“’Bout right.”

“1940 Ford-Fergusen.  My granddaddy tilled the south plot with her.”

There was another clatter from the tractor followed by the ring of metal on metal.  Penelope stood waving a large, red wrench over her head.

“Your monkey best not break nothing, that there’s an antique.”

“She’s not –  Oh never mind.  Hold this.” Handing Rufus a collar, Spencer pulled out a Tupperware container.  As soon as he popped the seal, the racket stopped and Penelope’s head made an appearance, her nostril’s flaring.

Spencer took the tuna roll out of its plastic coffin.  “Come on baby.  Spence has your favorite.”

A little off-key he sang, “Rock-a-bye, baby, on the treetop.”

“Now, what are you doing?”

Spencer glared at Rufus, “It calms her.  Help me out – when the wind blows the cradle will rock.”

Rufus looked at his wife and she spurred him on.  “I don’t got all day.  There’s a ham in the oven.”  In unison they joined in, “And down will come baby…”

By the third “cradle will fall,” Rufus was singing harmony and Spencer waved for the collar.  Penelope’s arm crept from behind paint cans and street signs.   Her fingers gingerly wrapped around Spencer’s wrist, her lips enveloping the food.  Spencer sighed in relief.

Rufus picked his way through the barn checking to see what damage the ape caused. Spencer and Penelope waved farewell.  Their car kicked up dust in its departure as a pop and a chug brought the old tractor to life.  Rufus took off his cap, and scratched his head, “Well, what do you know.”

A Marriage Proposal in Space

Michael K. Eidson

Having flown non-stop from Baltimore to Kansas City, Julia and I are headed south in a rental. Julia drives because she knows where we’re going.

Julia jokes a lot about getting married in space. I can’t afford that, but I had proposed at the National Air and Space Museum. I’d waited until we were alone, our only audience the preserved corpse of Able the space monkey. I’d dropped to one knee, shown Julia the expensive diamond ring and popped the question.

“No,” Julia had said. “You have to meet my family first.”

I hadn’t said anything. Just gulped. As long as they’re not all murderers, what’s the big deal, right?

After a few hours on the road we pull off at a restaurant with a gravel parking lot. A sign proclaims the eatery belongs to Mama Goose. The interior walls depict scenes from a nursery rhyme: a cat with a fiddle, a cow jumping over the moon, a dish and a spoon running away together. A little dog laughing. I know how he feels.

Our waitress is maybe sixteen years old. She rolls her eyes when I order sushi. It’s on the menu, along with fried green tomatoes. “Somebody wants sushi, Mom,” she yells.

“Sarah, please tell Mom we’re here,” Julia says.

A minute later, Mom waddles out like a gushing goose. We all visit until some old guys come in and Mom has to cook for them.

“We’re going to the house,” Julia announces.

Sarah slaps some keys in Julia’s hand. “Mom says don’t drive your car up the hill.”

We travel on a two-lane road with no shoulders but lots of double yellow lines, eventually parking outside a boxy, graying wooden building. This can’t be the house.

It’s a garage. Julia climbs into the seat of a gray tractor that belongs in a museum, beckons to me and pats the tire wall. “Ever ride on a 1940 Ford farm tractor?”

I tug at my tie. “I’m overdressed.”

“Climb up.”

The tire wall is obviously not intended as a passenger seat. I set my butt there and find places for my feet.

Somehow Julia starts the relic. We ride it uphill on a rocky road so eroded the rental would have bottomed out. Cresting the hill, I see the house, greying and wooden. Not boxy.

Two bare-chested young men run to meet us, followed by an older man with overalls, suspenders and a jaunty gait. Julia introduces me to her Dad and brothers Johnny and Sam. I’ve never been punched in the shoulder so many times in my life.

I wouldn’t have guessed Julia came from such a family, but she wouldn’t be the Julia I love if she’d grown up anywhere else. Right?

The next morning, Julia takes me for another ride on the tractor. Turning it off, she kisses me and says, “You can ask me now. If you want.”

We’re in a large field. Lots of space. Now I realize where Julia wants to get married.

It Means “Strangle-FaceWill Millar

Will Millar

The witchfire crashed near the edge of Barrett’s field, where kudzu had overtaken a 1940 Ford Tractor so completely that it was merely the suggestion of a hump buried under ravenous vegetation. I cursed under my breath and grabbed my shotgun. Ever since my neighbor experienced some unpleasantness vis a vis stepping outside one morning and finding 4 cows and a Weimaraner all burnt up amidst some kind of looney-tunes crop circles I make it a point to carry the heater. It pays to be prepared.

Two minutes later I was stumbling and cursing through the tall weeds like an idiot. At the center of a small crater was a smooth, egg-shaped pod no bigger than a Frigidaire. A hatch popped open and I made a show of racking the scattergun and hoisting it at said hatch.

“Come on out nice and slow,” I said, sounding more confident than I felt.

The voice that came back sounded like that Hawking feller – the smart guy in the wheelchair. He’s always going on about space; maybe he got it in his mind to try launching himself. People get funny ideas.

The Stephen Hawking voice wasn’t speaking any English that I knew of. “Dos vedanya,” I think he said. And: “Tovarisch.”

“Never mind all that,” I said. “Get to where I can see you.”

“Da, da…” Two furry little paws popped out, followed by a furry little face. He looked at the shotgun and came out slowly, hands high, grinning; a capuchin monkey, wearing an orange jumpsuit. Slung around his neck was some contraption like an oversized calculator.

I lowered the gun. The monkey hopped down, still grinning. He gestured at the gadget and shrugged. May I? I suppose he meant.

I nodded. He typed.

That Hawking voice chirped: “Dos vedanya, tovarisch.”

“Is that Russian?”
The monkey tipped me a salute.

“Well I’ll be. Speak any English?”

He seemed to consider this, and then tapped a few more keys. “American?”

I nodded.

He went back to typing. Hawking chirped “Three. Blind. Mice.” The monkey grinned so wide I thought the top of his head was going to slide off.

“Not bad.”

A second foo-lite exploded up the road. The monkey screeched and jumped onto my shoulder.

“Friend of yours?”

He typed. What came out sounded like “Zadushit Litso.” He was trembling.

“Should we check it out?”

He paused, and then typed again. “Da.”

*****

Whatever it was had smashed into the trailer that used to be Ma Barrett’s Fresh Sushi and Fireworks Stand. It must have torched the fish something awful, either that or Ma was taking creative license with that whole “Fresh” angle.

“Zadushit Litso,” the monkey typed.

“I don’t know what that is.”

He typed some more. “Three blind mice.”

“That’s not helping, either.”

As we got closer, my eyes started watering. The rotten fish smell was like a punch in the face. “Ma?” I called out. “Doc?”

“Three. Blind. Mice.”

“Cool it with that.”

From the gutted trailer, I saw something emerge that hurt my head to look at. I’ll call it an octopus, but that isn’t right. It was wearing something like a fish bowl on something like a head. These aren’t the right words, just something that’ll have to do. One horrible yellow eye was fixed on me. “Zadushit Litso?” I said.

The monkey nodded, frantically stripping off his jumpsuit as this thing advanced. I drew down on that eye and pulled the trigger.

Click! 

I may have forgotten something at the house.

The creature made an awful chuckle. It slithered at us with sickening speed. From the corner of my eye I saw the monkey hurl something. A split second later, a sodden diaper struck the creature, stunning it. Without thinking, I reversed the grip on the shotgun and swung it like a baseball bat.

The fishbowl exploded, showering us in space-glass, ichor, and monkey-piss. We did a little victory dance.

A dozen more foo-lights ripped across the sky.

The Iron Writer Challenge #6

vampire hunting kit 1880

The Iron Writer Challenge #6

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #6

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

B R SnowBernice AgyekwenaDon CorcoranMoira McArthur

The Elements:

An 1880 Vampire Hunting Kit

A Nudist Colony

A Cell Phone Charger

A Carp

Eyes UpBernie Snow

B R Snow

“The things I do for this show. My ass has frozen off.”

“No, it’s there. I mean…I’m not…it’s…just…there in the moonlight.”

“Eyes up. Had you pegged asexual. Now focus. We’re scouting this location for a show.”

“We’re naked.”

“We’re blending in.”

“Why would a vampire hang around a nudist colony?”

“Maybe it likes to take a good look before dining. Japanese restaurants hang pictures of their food in the window. And don’t say nudist colony. Permanent residents; it’s a community. Temporary visitors; it’s a campColony evokes overtones of servitude and oppression.”

“So what’s this place called?”

“This place? It’s a bunch of naked people on ten acres. What the fuck do I care what it’s called? I’m starving.”

“It’s late.”

“I like eating late. Check out the pond. Nice soft lighting.”

“The Koi are pretty.”

“Fancy name for carp. They’re bottom feeders that eat anything. I hate bottom feeders.”

“Bottom…yes.”

“Eyes up. I was talking about carp.”

“A lot of people eat carp.”

“So what? A lot of people watch the Kardashians. Doesn’t make it a good idea. Damn, my nipples are like granite. So what’s your deal?”

“What?”

“Eyes up. Your deal. If I’m forced to have a co-host, I need to know your deal.”

“Well, like I told your producer, I’m a vampire hunter who uses ancient techniques.”

“Uh-huh. What’s in the box?”

“It’s my great-grandfather’s 1880 vampire hunting kit. I hunt vampires the way others might use bow and arrow for game. I have a Bible, flint-lock pistol, silver bullets, mahogany spike, special serum-”

“Special?”

“Holy water, garlic, honey, and salt.”

“You killing vampires or making salad dressing, Freddie?”

“It’s powerful.”

“Somewhere vampires and lettuce heads are cowering in fear. You into low-tech?”

“Only for vampire hunting. I love technology. See? An Apple. Well, it’s a cellphone, but made by Apple.”

“Got it.”

“I need to call my Mom. I don’t want her to worry.”

“Living with your mother?”

“Yeah…I’m gonna get my own place soon.”

“Sure.”

“Honest. Darn. My phone’s dead.”

“I’d lend you mine but I didn’t have any place to put it.”

“No problem. See? Battery-operated charger.”

“Wow. It’s tiny.”

“Only one inch long.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s cold.”

“What?”

“Nothing…bad joke. Let me see it. The charger, not the frightened turtle. Damn. Dropped it right in the pond.”

“And swallowed by a Koi.”

“Told you they’d eat anything. Christ, I’m starving.”

“How long will we be here? She worries.”

“Not long. I’ve seen all there is to see.”

“Seen what? We’ve barely moved.”

“Japanese restaurants, Freddie.”

“What? Are those…?”

“Yes. The same ones I used on your garlic-infested, great-grandfather. Gave me wicked indigestion. Forget the box, Freddie.”

“How…why…?”

“Questions?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t worry. I’m 200 years in and still don’t have all the answers.”

“Please…”

“Look on the bright side. You’re going to die staring into the eyes of a beautiful, naked woman. Damn, I need to grow some hair. My cooter has frostbite.”

“What?”

“Eyes up, Freddie.”

Trapping the Vampires at BongoBernice

Bernice Agyekwena

Sergeant Ali snorted as he sat at the wheel of the police jeep with Jacob Herman in the passenger seat. He hated waiting. Corporal Atinga, the best marks man and the only one who knew the route to where the vampires that had been preying on Bongo were hiding out was late. The vampires were said to reside 600 miles away, beyond a primitive nudist community that wanted nothing to do with modern civilization.

Vampires in the twenty- first century? They were supposed to have died out! Yet the 230 deaths that had taken place within the last three months at Bongo all bore the tell-tale marks of a vampire attack. The deaths had sent inhabitants fleeing to other parts of the country. The Police had been under pressure to track the killers, whether man, animal or spiritual being and put an end to the horrific deaths.

Atinga arrived with the excuse that his phone charger had failed to function so he had to borrow one to charge his phone. The trio took off.

Not all his training and experience tracking armed robbers, drug traffickers and ritual killers had prepared Ali for the task on his hands now. How do you hunt down something that is not human, can disappear and has supernatural powers? When it had become clear to the Police Force that the killers besieging Bongo could not be defeated by machine guns and grenades, it had sought the assistance of spiritualists, juju men, fetish priests, pastors and priests but still the mystery killers had eluded them. An intensive research on the subject had led them to a website advertising the Herman family, a famed German family with a track record for hunting and killing vampires.

At the request of the Police, Jacob had arrived at Bongo, armed with an 1880 vampire hunting kit. Now Jacob, together with Atinga and Ali were making the trip to the rugged mountains to trap and kill the vampires.  Several hours of travelling and they chanced upon a nude couple.  They had arrived at the nudist community. An hour later and the rugged mountains loomed before them. They left the vehicle and skirted around a stream to the mountain which was inundated with caves. Moving from cave to cave, they looked for the clues of the vampires with the help of the kit. The instrument showed a red flashing light in a very large cave; a vampire was close. They hid in a corner and waited. At midnight a vampire appeared and amidst a lot of struggle, they trapped and killed it. But then came a second, a third, a fourth, and suddenly dozens of vampires. They fled!  “Run for the stream”. Jacob screamed to his companions. “Vampires cannot survive in running water.” They run and jumped into the stream.  Atinga grabbed something in the water. It was a fish. Was it a vampire fish, a trophy for his adventure? He held on to it until morning and took a good look at it. It was a carp!

Picture ShowDon Corcoran

Don Corcoran

He was handsome enough.

“Hope you’re enjoying the party,” he said.

Claudia smiled, her head nodding to the monotonous bass-line.

“You don’t come to these often, do you?” he asked.

Her eyes widened and her smile grew tighter. “That obvious?”

“Nipples are a weird thing… in our society, I mean.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Aside from not moving from that spot since you got here, I think your drink has gone untouched. Mostly because you don’t want to expose nipple.”

Claudia blushed.  Not so much because of the nudity.  She liked her body and, as thirty Illustration 101 students could attest to every week, she wasn’t shy about exposing herself to strangers.  He was right.  She felt foolish standing there without a lick of clothing while taking the obligatory stance of a woman whose breasts were getting too much attention.

“Hey, not everyone here is from the colony.  Some are friends of friends.”

“And you?”

“I let them use my backyard.”

They looked out at the dozen writhing bodies dancing to the rhythms the DJ spun.  His body caught her eye. His exhibitionism was apparent.  It was obvious he worked out, and his tattoo – two koi swimming in a circle across his left buttock – wouldn’t be seen by just anyone.

Claudia shook her head, bringing herself back to the moment, “What? This is yours?”

He nodded, trying not to be smug.

It all came together for her.  “I’ve been looking for you all night.”

He did a double-take seeing the look she gave him as if he were all she’d ever wanted, all she ever needed.  He flashed a broad grin.

“What?”

Excitedly she dug into her purse and pulled out a black cord.  A hunk of lifeless glass and plastic dangled from the end.

Dubious, she smirked, “Um, do you think I could charge my phone?”

His head dropped as he chuckled, “Sure. Follow me.”

Inside was a museum: hundreds of DVDs, a massive television, and framed posters depicted vintage films. Her eyes wandered over the walls.

In an apologetic tone he confessed, “I’m a bit of a horror nut.”

“I’ve seen most of these.  My dad raised me on creature double features,” she beamed. “But I’ve never seen some of these posters.”

“They’re mostly signed imports.  Vincent Price, Peter Cushing.”

She took a closer look at the Dracula poster.  While Christopher Lee got top billing as Dracula, the poster showed Van Helsing removing a cross from a wooden suitcase filled with eldritch vials, stakes and silver bullets.

He stood closer to her.  She turned and he could feel her breath on his chest.

“Um, the outlet’s over there.” he smiled down at her.

She blushed.  “Thanks.”

They were suddenly aware of their nudity.

As he made his way back to the party, she gathered her courage to ask, “Why?”

“Pardon?”

“Why didn’t you try anything?”

“I dunno. Seemed obvious. Inappropriate.”

She brushed by him with a grin, “Well, it’ll be charged soon.”

FishingMoira McAtrthur

Moira McArthur

She looked at her dwindling stock from the 1880 Vampire Hunting Kit, withdrew the knife and stabbed him through the heart.

Monday nights. Going out with friends. A habit. Together in the local run down pub. No-one else in on a Monday. Every year they all booked a long weekend in some equally crumbling destination. Full of old folk, rubbish entertainment and free bar. A way of making money in the empty months before the Xmas trade began. All near a fishing lake.

Last outing, a small seaside town where it poured with rain the entire weekend. The hotel, separated from the town by a good mile of deep rutted puddles. Sheila, tired of hearing John and Allan going on and on about fishing carp, had stood up and announced she was going for a walk. Her husband, never a fisherman, was pointedly reading a book on his i-Phone. She noticed he’d brought his cell phone charger. The fishing talk could go on for ever. The ladies of the party, deciding it was much too cold to venture out, had brought down their knitting. Sheila said, “Bye, then” and went for her raincoat and boots.

Stomping along, she went over the other holidays they’d had. Never again, she thought. No matter what, never again.

The town had a closed appearance as if it too was giving up. Another cloudburst and Sheila stepped into a shop doorway to shelter. The door opened behind her. She turned to see an old man saying ‘Come in, come in’. Needing no second bidding, Sheila went inside.

She looked around. Shelves of curios.

The man motioned her to take a seat and went through the back. Reappearing moments later with two mugs of coffee. They sat looking out at the rain. Sheila suddenly found herself talking about the holiday and how, please, she could not think of going on another. The old man got up and went to a shelf in the corner. He brought out a small leather case. “This will help. Don’t open it now. Wait until you are back at the hotel.” Sheila reached into her purse but the man laid a hand on her arm. “Take it”, he said. “A souvenir of your holiday.”

Back at the hotel, Sheila went up to her room and opened the case. Dried garlic cloves, a small pistol, jars of unidentifiable objects. A sheet of paper, tucked in at the back, said ‘1830 Vampire Hunting Kit’.

Over the course of the year, the Vampire Hunting Kit did indeed become useful. Garlic cloves kept moles from digging in the garden. An iron cross went over the grave of her daughter’s hamster.

The time for discussing the next year’s outing came around. They all sat open mouthed at John announcing the venue, a nudist colony with an amazing fishing lake, Sheila took the only route possible then calmly sat back and waited for the police. Whatever happened next was vastly preferable to crumbly holidays and fishing talk.