“The Lucky Five” – A Matriarch Vampires short story

A Matriarch Vampires short story by Kevin A. Ranson

Originally published at https://cedarcrestsanctum.com/the-lucky-five/


Between the passengers and their equipment, six people occupied the space of twelve, almost the capacity of the elevator.

Five of the riders wore blue gloves and knee-length white coats over scrubs; the sixth wore a dark suit and a wireless earpiece. A lab cart had been assigned to each of the technicians while the man in the suit carried a computer tablet. Everyone looked straight ahead in silence, focused on the task at hand.

The doors opened; the stop switch was pulled. The suited man started a timer on his tablet as the five techs pushed their carts out of the elevator. Of the thirty rooms connected to the long hallway, five had been pre-selected; in concert, the techs knocked and waited while the suited man watched.

One by one, the techs disappeared into the rooms as each door opened. The suited man quietly observed from the hallway so as not to interrupt the collection; time was of the essence.

In the first room, the elderly resident had been watching a movie before pausing it. He surrendered his right arm as the tech prepped his skin and expertly inserted a needle attached to a cup. The resident winced for a moment and relaxed.

Collection was already proceeding in another room. The tech quickly inserted a red-capped glass vial into the needled cup and twisted it to begin the flow of blood. When it was filled, she twisted it out again and replaced it with another. The move was practiced and smooth; the donor smiled at the absence of any discomfort. Once the needle was removed, a sterile gauze pad was taped over the skin as familiar instructions were hastily issued to the donor.

The suited man checked the time as the technicians emerged from their assigned rooms. On each of their carts were ten red-capped glass vials filled with blood, fifty in all. Noting the collection on his tablet, the group headed back to the elevator. Once everyone was inside, the stop switch was depressed to release the elevator; the doors closed.

On the ground floor, the collection carts were pushed into the secured blood lab while the suited man followed. Each of the procured vials were quickly but carefully inserted into a circular tray that held the exact number of samples collected. The tray was pushed beneath a stainless steel apparatus that aligned with each vial simultaneously; a lever raised the tray into the metallic device and locked it into position. Levers on two support arms elevating the apparatus over the table were disengaged, allowing the entire device to be inverted.

LuckyFiveCover-smallAlerted by the beeping from a standard microwave oven, a warmed ceramic cup was withdrawn, black on the outside and white on the interior, the tall kind used in trendy coffee houses. After securing the cup beneath a nozzle, a button was pressed that drained the vials into the waiting cup below, filling it to within half an inch of the top – a perfect pint.

The suited man noted the time on his tablet, nodded in approval to everyone in the lab, and took the cup away with him. In the office he worked out of, he set the cup down on the far edge of his desk and checked to ensure there was no spillage. Satisfied, he sat down and resumed his work, waiting.

Within a few minutes, the executive administrator entered the office. Going right to the cup, she smiled at its warmth as she picked it up.

“It never ceases to amaze me that you have this waiting every time I come in,” she said. “Who are today’s lucky five?”

The suited man looked away from his laptop. “You tell me.”

After flashing him a knowing smile, the administrator lifted the cup to her lips and drank deeply.

* * *


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“The Situation Room” – A Matriarch Short Story

“The Situation Room”
A Matriarch Vampires short story ~ by Kevin A. Ranson


Under the cover of night, Mr. Chamberlain exited into the hallway. He pulled the door closed, adjusted his black Borsalino fedora, and met the eyes of a young man in a dark suit. “What’s your name?” he asked, being polite.

“Jimmy. This way, Mr. Chamberlain.”

It was too warm and too humid in Florida for Mr. Chamberlain to be wearing his classic-style London Fog trench coat, especially so close to the ocean. He knew how it made him look: like a throwback to the Cold War. That seemed fitting somehow in light of being smuggled into a country club to assess a so-called “potential situation.”

After a few turns and easily passing a dozen other men in suits with radios, Jimmy opened the door to another room at the Palm Beach estate. Before Mr. Chamberlain could enter, Jimmy took a step to intercept him.

“Is there anything you need, sir?”

Jimmy looked strong and able but still the youngest staffer he’d seen on site; it was also clear he had been briefed. “Are you offering me a drink?”

There was an uncomfortable pause. “If required.”

“You’re no dingbat, are you?” Mr. Chamberlain grinned, intentionally flashing a fang.

“No… sir.”

“Stop harassing the kid and get your ass in here,” a gruff voice commanded.

Mr. Chamberlain gave Jimmy a polite nod and entered, hearing the door close behind him. Every corner and edge of the room looked overpriced, from the pattern fabric and dark wood on the furniture to the intricate molding and textured wallpaper… and everything was some hideous shade of gold or a garish color meant to call attention to it. Soft light came from gaudy chandeliers and hanging fixtures dimmed to the point of most people having to squint to see.

Fortunately, he wasn’t most people. “This looks like the bathroom of a Saudi prince. Who on this side of the Atlantic decorates like this?”

“Glad you could make it, Neil.”

Mister Chamberlain, if you please, General… or do you prefer Mr. Secretary now?”

“I thought we were friends.”

“This is business.”

The General nodded. “Fair enough. Did you ask him?”

“No.”

While the General looked like he was about to spit tacks, Mr. Chamberlain removed his hat and placed it carefully on a cushion — inverted to keep the shape of the brim — before sitting in a chair next to it. He was comfortable and ready to bear the brunt of it by the time the General found his voice again.

“God damn it, this isn’t a joke! I didn’t invite you down to this… this…” He gestured at everything, even the palm trees planted outside the windows.

“Hackneyed seaside hacienda?” Mr. Chamberlain offered.

The General pointed an accusing finger. “You know what’s at stake here more than any living patriot I know.”

“You forget I’m not alive — keep your stakes to yourself.”

“Yada, yada, vampire bullshit! Your job is to compel him to answer one damn question… like every sitting president before him.”

“Except Jack. JFK had a bit of the ancient blood in him.” Blood workers were immune to a vampire’s thrall, although Jack probably had no idea.

“You already know, don’t you?” the General accused, eyeing with suspicion. “What’d he admit to?”

“How many subs do you have off the coast right now? I’m guessing three in the triangle, one in the gulf.”

He took the question personally. “I wouldn’t tell you if the Fourth Fleet was beached in plain sight on the waterfront.”

Mr. Chamberlain smiled at the old Marine. They both loved their country, but like every election when a new commander-in-chief took office, the old guard became nervous. There was nothing new about America’s enemies testing the mettle of an incoming leader, but too many questions about loyalties were coming up.

“I didn’t ask him tonight because I’d already asked him… back in D.C.”

The General sneered. “When?”

“Before the inauguration. You thought a businessman’s son — who made it a point to avoid the draft during Vietnam — willingly surrounded himself with career military personnel? Don’t think about it too hard; just say ‘you’re welcome,’ General.”

The General looked impressed. “You said you didn’t do that sort of thing. I have a list if the gloves are off.”

“Little things aren’t harmful, especially if you can build on what’s already there. Every president needs a soldier’s point of view, especially one with neither military nor political experience.”

Instead of standing tall with intimidation, the soldier-turned-adviser finally sat down. “So what the hell does he want?”

“What all men want: a legacy.”

Grumbling followed. “That doesn’t tell us much.”

Mr. Chamberlain shrugged. “It wasn’t easy getting an answer. He’s a bit all over the place. I’m not sure even he knows or understands that.”

“All we want to know is if he’s in bed with the Kremlin. Why can’t you just ask that?”

“You haven’t been watching the news, have you? You’re talking about a former world superpower that now has a functioning economy smaller than California, New York, and Texas… separately. The problem is, those states don’t control a nuclear arsenal.”

A harrumph escaped the General’s lips. “Well, as I live and breathe: American Dracula got one right.”

Mr. Chamberlain smirked, narrowing his eyes to fixate upon his host. “I’m not a fixer; I’m an assessor. There’s no ‘Vampire Team Six’ that’s going to parachute into Red Square.”

“I figured y’all could fly.” He didn’t smile one bit saying it.

“Your problem is image control. There’s never been a president with a direct line to the citizenry and the willingness to use it. Can you imagine if Tricky Dicky had access to this?”

“I shudder to think.”

Mr. Chamberlain gently smacked the back of his hand against the General’s shoulder. “You can handle this. Let him do his rallying thing and see where it goes. It’s a good distraction, not to mention a catalyst for getting people into politics like never before. The average citizen knows who the press secretary is — by name. Election fatigue historically sets in by now, but people are talking about changing things in two years instead of four, watching carefully to see if their rights are being tread upon. I’ve been meaning to ask, by the way: does the government have a right to your personal digital information in the name of security?”

“Damn right it does,” he answered, walking into the trap.

“‘Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.'”

“You’re quoting Ben Franklin to a Marine?”

“A key on a kite in a thunderstorm seemed a bit subtle. Were you hoping I’d bite someone and make everything easier again?”

The General let out a long sigh. “I’d settle for mass hypnosis to just shut everyone the fuck up.”

“Sadly, that only works in person.” Mr. Chamberlain collected his hat, gave it a once-over, and put it on. “It’s been good seeing you again.”

“Likewise, in spite of being a necessary prick to you.” He wouldn’t apologize for it, of course.

“‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty…'”

“A Jefferson quote I can handle.”

“That was Wendell Phillips, and the rest of the quote goes ‘… power is ever stealing from the many to the few.’ He wasn’t talking about foreign powers; he was referring to a leader hardening into a despot while drunk on power. Let’s settle upon ‘we will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.'”

“Done… and you can go now.”

Mr. Chamberlain stood and took a last look around the tasteless room. “Is a little humility out of the question?”

The General smirked. “Get out before I put you out.”

“The night that ever happens will be an interesting one.”

matriarchmrchamberlainbranded

* * *

The Shepherd Wolf

Every full moon, the wolf would appear to devour another sheep — it was the way of things.

Always at night and always hungry, the wolf would appear to chase the herd until one could run no longer. When it fell behind, the wolf took the weakest sheep into its powerful jaws and disappeared into the night.

While most of the sheep looked away, one did not. It watched, saw how frightened the other sheep were, and offered comfort to others.

But the wolf noticed the sheep that watched, and on the night when the moon became darkest, it came and took it away.

“Why do you watch?” the wolf asked, not yet having devoured the sheep.

“To understand,” it replied. “There must be a secret that can save us all.”

The wolf laughed. “I will reveal my secret, for it cannot save anyone.” With that, the wolf became a sheep.

“You’re one of us,” the sheep gasped.

“One need not be seen as a wolf all of the time, but it is ever what I am inside. You see such things and that is dangerous to me, but you will watch no longer.”

The wolf bit the sheep, and the sheep fell into a deep slumber.

When the sheep awoke, the wolf was gone, and so the sheep wandered back to the herd. No one in the herd had ever survived such an attack, and a few accused the sheep of bargaining with the wolf, for how else could it survive? The sheep denied the accusation but could not speak the whole truth, for it understood it would be shunned.

wolfchallengeOn the next full moon, the wolf returned. When the herd scattered, the spared sheep did not run.

“Join the hunt,” the wolf commanded, and the sheep became a wolf as well.

The fear from the herd was palpable upon seeing two wolves, and the sheep smelled delicious to the predators, but the new wolf turned and faced the old wolf down.

“Why fight me when there are sheep for the taking?” the old wolf asked.

The new wolf answered, “Because I remember being one of the sheep, and I will watch no longer.”

And it became the way of things.

Copyright © 2016 Kevin A. Ranson. All Rights Reserved.

* * *

It felt like a parable kind of day today.

You can buy an art print of the image here.

Keep each other safe.

~ Janiss

Email janiss.connelly@cedarcrestsanctum.com
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“The Orderly” – Vampire Verisimilitude

The orderly opened his eyes; I waited patiently for the reality of his dire situation to set in.

2016OrderlyHandsHis eyes darted around in panic, finding himself in a hospital bed rather than tending one. I watched his shoulder lurch as he attempted to use his hand, but I had already told him he couldn’t use his arms or legs; he’d simply forgotten — also my doing. Did you know screaming sounds a lot like someone gasping for breath when they can only whisper? That was when I stood up from my comfortable chair. He recognized the illusion I had planted into his mind.

“Ms. Johnson?” he whispered. I could have heard him were I on the opposite side of the assisted-care facility, but I was playing a part: the kind, gentle, and elderly Vivian Johnson who had come to stay a week before.

I leaned in close, feigning confusion. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”

“Help me!” he said, sounding a bit horrified.

“No, no. You said something else before that…”

“Please!” he gasped again, but his inability to achieve any actual volume only terrified him more.

Good; I had his attention.

I took his chin into my hand and forcefully turned his head toward me. “It feels different when you’re on this end, doesn’t it? Helpless and entirely dependent upon someone else. You can’t walk around, you can’t lift anything, and that bed is your entire world.”

“How…how did I get here? How did I get like this?”

“Tsk, tsk. You’re asking the wrong question.”

The terror in his eyes turned to confusion. I glanced down at his uniform, reminding myself to use the name on his badge.

“Tucker, do you think you’ve treated your patients with the dignity and respect they deserve?”

A slow realization set in as his features softened and reflected genuine guilt…or at the very least the acknowledgment he’d earned his predicament. He wasn’t a complete idiot.

“I’ve been watching you, Tucker. You’re cruel and thoughtless. You’re too rough with your patients, you don’t listen to them, and they hear you when you dismiss them under your breath. The only thing that gives you any pleasure is seeing the fear in the eyes of your charges when they realize it’s you being sent to assist them. Do you enjoy that kind of power, having trained everyone to be afraid of you?”

Confusion played across his face. With luck, maybe he realized there was no excuse for his actions.

“Well, I don’t have the kind of time you’ve had to earn that fear, so I’ll skip ahead if that’s all right.”

I let Tucker watch my transformation. In his mind, Vivian opened her mouth to show him her piercing fangs, looked upon him with blackened eyes, and snatched up his arm with taloned fingers. As his heart raced and his skin oozed sweat, I ran my mouth close over his arm, even letting one fang rake his flesh ever so slightly. The entire bed vibrated with his trembling.

I wouldn’t have bit him, of course. I imagined his blood tasted like hate and raw sewage.

“Am I dead?” Tucker asked. “Is this Hell? Did I die?”

I couldn’t resist a toothy grin. “Is that what you want, what you think you deserve? I can grant your wish…”

“No!” He didn’t blink; he didn’t even breathe.

I casually released his arm and placed it next to him. “No? Then what do you deserve for your sins?”

Oh — he wasn’t going to cry, was he?

I pulled in the fangs and talons and allowed my eyes to become normal. “How about we consider this a preview, hmm? A taste of things to come, when you’ve reached your golden years and things begin to break down — ”

“I’ll do better,” he pleaded. “Just fix this!”

“That won’t do, Tucker,” I explained. “You’re going to quit. You’re going to find another profession where you can’t intimidate people who have to depend upon you. I want you to think hard about the way you’ve treated others and how you’d like to be treated.” I leaned in close, lowering my volume to a whisper. “Because I will be watching you for the rest of your life. If you return to your old ways, I’ll know, and while I may not come to you immediately, rest assured I will…and you’ll wish you were only bedridden after what I’ll do to you.”

Tucker nodded, still looking afraid.

I looked him dead in the eyes. “You can move your arms and legs again, Tucker, and your voice is no longer restricted to a whisper. After you leave this room, you will be able to see me as I am and see the real Vivian Johnson again.” While the thrall was in place, he wouldn’t remember I had given him any commands. I released him and said, “You can go now.”

He tested his arms; his hands worked. He cleared his throat and spoke in a normal tone. “Thank you…”

Still appearing as Vivian, my eyes blackened and my voice deepened. “Don’t thank me — get the hell out of my bed!

Tucker scrambled like a caught cockroach to get out of the room.

Vivian couldn’t help but laugh. “Thank you,” she said after he was gone, “for putting the fear of you in him.”

“People like him should never be hired to work in places like this, but limited resources and finding good folks to help take care of others isn’t easy.”

“Or a good vampire?” she added.

“What I did just now wasn’t exactly good…”

Vivian touched my arm. “I know Cedarcrest Sanctum doesn’t have the resources to monitor every assisted-living facility in West Virginia, but this thing we did, dropping me off and looking around a bit? We should keep doing that.”

I smiled. “It’s still risky. Something could happen to you.”

“Not ghouled on your blood, it won’t. So…where to next?”


Email janiss.connelly@cedarcrestsanctum.com
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