Immortal Holiday, Part 5: The Feast (Happy Easter)

So: pre-Easter dinner… which I was already late for at sunset.

The idea was that I’d “already eaten” and could join the conversation at Uncle Ron’s without making too many excuses… which would have worked fine until the cook insisted the family wait for me. Also, the dinner party was bigger than I’d been told: in addition to my parents and myself, dad’s brother also invited his wife’s father and mother, Willie and Ezra… seven in all.

Ever meet anyone who insists Ezra can’t be a girl’s name? Anyway…

Uncle Ron’s house used crucifixes as a decorating theme, FYI. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have thought they were trying to keep me out. I found myself a little jealous of the ten-dollar all-you-can-eat fish fry Cole and Travis had discovered at a local VFW and gone to. They told me it was easy to find; just look for the tank in the front yard. Clearly, they were having a good time…

It turns out being “diabetic” is also a handy excuse without a lot of questions, a genetic anomaly from my mom’s side. She gave me a moment’s scowl when I said this was I why I wasn’t eating (which implies a talking-to later) but lovely Ezra added, “At least you come by it honestly. You look so thin!”

Ezra latched onto me like a new best friend, even rearranging the dinner table to sit beside me. Dad and Ron had done a lot of catching up during the day, but my fears of becoming the topic of conversation were allieviated by Willie leading the subject matter.

Willie was a veteran warhorse. He looked like he could be a curmudgeon and had earned the right to be one. Recent surgeries mentioned included his new elbow, a new hip, and waiting for his replacement knee to heal. His wife Ezra made sure he always had a fresh cold beer tucked into a cozy before the last bottle ran dry.

Somehow we started talking about Chevy HHRs; three of us drove them. In my only attempt to add something meaningful, I mentioned I didn’t like HHRs when I test drove one and had got a little red Kia Soul instead. Clamping down on my arm like a vise, Ezra warned me, “He’s a Chevy man!” but Willie the Warhorse took it in stride. “Only reason those Koreans can build those cars is because I saved them all to let ’em do it!”

Talk turned to “the war” and how bunkers were better than foxholes. When bunker guys got a day of rest and relaxation, Willie explained, they went to a place far away from “the bangers” for hot showers and cheap American beer; when foxhole guys got a day, they spent it in the bunker! Willie said he’s been in the country for nine months, respectfully adding the foxhole guys were “the ones who actually TOOK the hill.” When he’d been in South Korea, nothing was taller than a chimney but now they have skyscrapers.

Ezra mentioned later that Willie almost never talked about the war and that he must have liked me.

The conversation eventually moved out onto a patio to enjoy a cool Spring evening talking about speed limits being too low and weird craft beers. It felt very normal and entirely peaceful taking it all in. I noticed my mom looking at me with a sense of pride, I think, marveling at the predator who could still pass for human.

Happy Easter, everyone… but this little adventure isn’t quite over yet.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 4: Gravedigging

Destination: Michigan. I won’t say the city — hey, privacy, okay? We dropped off my folks where they’d be staying: with Aunt Cammie and Uncle Ron. I’d never met them before and only heard their names mentioned once that I can recall; Ron is apparently my dad’s older half-brother. Between Weston and St. Clairsville, we got to Michigan pretty late for a couple of welcoming retirees, so Cole, Travis, and I drove right on to our rental. Happily, it’s not terribly difficult to find a property with an earthen basement or cellar in the North.

It also never fails to amaze me that you can ask someone to dig a hole with the exact dimensions of a shallow grave and no one asks, “Are burying a body or something?” Pro tip: never fill the hole back in before you leave; otherwise, they’ll just dig it up and may call the cops… just in case. It’s easier to pay a little extra (not no-questions-asked extra) and let them wonder if it’s a Pagan thing or something. They’ll shrug, fill the hole back in, and never once think a Vampire rested there during the day.

Tonight: pre-Easter dinner after sunset with (shudder) “relatives.”

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 3: The Dad Talk

Totally worth it. I thought I’d have to carry my dad’s jaw separately onboard! For safety’s sake, they each got a medicine cup with a drop of Vitamin Cedarcrest (aka my blood) before being offered a real drink by the crew. I’ll thank Bobby and Amy for sticking with us onboard; they keep my secrets.

Anyway, my mom already looked sleepy after our pickup, so it wasn’t the cocktail that did her in as she ended up napped out while dad and I talked during the flight. Cole and Travis hung around for a while before slipping off to the front of the plane to check accommodations.

So, of course, my dad drops a bombshell on me. “I want you to drink from me.”

Oh no you didn’t, you silly old man. “What?” I answered, feigning inattention and relevancy to his words. “No… I’m covered. I’m here as your daughter, not to feast off of you.” I added a chuckle to make it sound less sinister, but I’m not sure he noticed. I nervously grabbed my mobile and pretended to thumb through something… anything.

When he said nothing afterward, I looked up again to see him staring at me. Actually, I felt it long before I looked, but I’d hoped I was wrong.

“Fine,” I said. “I’ll ask because you’re waiting for me to: why?”

“Guilt. Maybe.”

“We’ve talked about this.” And we had… at length, but never face-to-face. “I made you shoot me –”

“I put you in that position.”

“You didn’t know I was a Vampire.”

“Yet you showed restraint. I can only imagine how hard that was for you.”

“Damn straight,” I said. “Imagine all you like. I promise you’ll never know.”

He gestured toward my guys. “You drink from them, don’t you?”

I smiled. “And pay well for the privilege.” He was still serious and I wasn’t getting through to him. Was there more to it than the obvious? “Why would you want to be bitten by a Vampire, let alone your only daughter? That’s creepy on a couple of levels. Does mom know?”

That’s when I saw it: humility from my own father. “It’s the only way I know to still provide for you.” He was completely serious… wasn’t he?

I felt a tear form and, not wanting my dad see me bleeding from my eyes, took a moment to recover. What could I say? “I don’t need you anymore” would have been horrible. I kept thinking through the angles. Maybe it WAS guilt over not trusting his daughter once, but he’d made sure mom wasn’t hearing this. Was he just curious?

There was right after Ian turned me, the whole Louisa conversation. Daddy loved books about the supernatural, too. Have you ever heard the story why funerals in New Orleans have these grand parades that wind through the streets before burial? They say it’s to confuse the dead so they can’t find their way back home afterward… and likely destroy their surviving family.

I doubled-down before I left Cedarcrest — standard operating procedure: two full pints.

He was offering, and hey, I could eat.

Hmm…

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 1: Forethought

Vampires don’t travel on a whim. We must plan ahead if we’re to remain docile: where we’ll rest during the day, the travel time to get there, and of course “staying hydrated.” I didn’t travel much before becoming a Vampire, so I never gave much thought to traveling afterward.

Imagine my surprise, then, when my parents suggested taking an Easter vacation to visit a few distant relatives on my dad’s side. Wow — did all kinds of fears pop into my head! Then I thought, you know, I can do this. Figure out an itinerary, polish up a few ready excuses, and spend a few bucks to get ahead of any potential issues… hell, why not?

This little getaway, unfortunately, would lap the three-day facility limit Cedarcrest Sanctum has set for residential treatments, but Nancy volunteered to provide a draw in a pinch, so I could squeeze a good five days out for myself before having to get back.

All righty, then — let’s do this!

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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“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.

* * *


BloodDrop

Blood To Be Spilt – Vampire Verisimilitude

Confession time: sometimes you want to see someone bleed… just to watch the life drain out of them. Drop by drop, spilling onto the ground and wasted away. You want to see the look in their eyes of fear turn to panic, struggle to acceptance, knowing not a single taste will graze your lips as your prey dies without mercy.

It isn’t pretty and it isn’t nice.

I prefer willing donors — not because I feel less guilty about it (I don’t) but because it’s the right thing to do… in my mind.

Vampires need a connection to humanity, a reflection of our lost mortality. Without it, it’s too easy to lose touch, become withdrawn, and turn into what naysayers are always afraid we are: mindless predators. But even those aren’t as bad as what I see.

When the powerful exert themselves over the powerless merely because they can, I become attentive. They’re not taking from you because they can; they enjoy the take, reveling in your loss, feeding into their own power with the supreme confidence there’s nothing you can do about they can do to you.

2017streamofexistenceI hate myself for daydreaming about my taloned hands around their throat, enjoying their pointless struggling viewed through my empty eyes, and smiling at their raspy protests choked short before forming discernible words.

I take solace in one fact: time destroys all things… unless you’re a Vampire.

We get to watch you fall. You will fall. It will be miserable for you.

Comeuppances for the deserved. Bodies floating by in the stream of existence.

Until then, I hope those assholes see us in their nightmares chasing them unto the ends of the earth.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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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.”

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* * *

Local Color and Vampire Inspiration: The Big Easy

Today’s post has been copied from author Kevin A. Ranson’s blog at https://thinkingskull.com/2017/02/12/local-color-and-vampire-inspiration-the-big-easy/

I’ve talked previously about the inspirations for my vampire novel series, The Matriarch Vampires. The central West Virginia locations, Glenville State College, and the character nods. After shelving the original first drafts of the book two decades earlier, why did I feel it was time to dust them off and finally finish the story?

One of those reasons was certainly Jonathan Weiss.

neworleansjacksonsquarenight2010My wife and I enjoy walking through old cemeteries and taking local ghost tours. There are many haunted places around the U.S., often in old cities like Birmingham, Alabama, Savannah, Georgia, and St. Augustine, Florida. Back in 2010, we traveled to New Orleans and took such a tour, and our guide to the city at night was none other than Jonathan. He looked the way I imagine a time traveler might, combining a classic appearance with a modern sensibility, a person whom has long since reconciled the old and new ways with a natural ease, elegance, and an eagerness to share his experience.

Not having given much serious thought about fiction writing for twenty odd years, Mr. Weiss captured my attention and filled my imagination with stories and embellishments as we toured the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, recounting local legends with intriguing details and playing to the crowd… and yes, much was said about vampires. He and other occupants felt like a necessary part of the city, a piece of its soul that would be lost forever if abruptly cut out.

Yet, as I understand it, that’s exactly what some are trying to do.
Continue reading “Local Color and Vampire Inspiration: The Big Easy”

Cedarcrest Sanctum 101 – Vampire Verisimilitude

I didn’t create Cedarcrest Sanctum — another Vampire did that.

On the surface, it’s easy to assume, “Oh, she just wanted a stable of living donors to drink from whenever she wanted.” There’s some truth to that — a Vampire has to survive — but it was more. Louisa wasn’t only interested in her own survival; she wanted others to share in it and take a benefit for themselves. Our blood is sustaining to the living — what is best described as ghouling — meaning our residents live virtually pain and symptom free from any ailment at any age. It’s not a cure, only a suspension… but it must be maintained.

But that isn’t all that Cedarcrest is. The term “sanctum” is significant and intentional, no matter how archaic the word might sound. Sanctum has two definitions:

  1. a sacred place, especially a shrine within a temple or church.
  2. a private place from which most people are excluded.

campusmontageI think she combined these ideas for Cedarcrest. While she certainly ruled the roost, I don’t think she saw herself as the high priest or queen of the damned; it was a place of refuge and safety — a sanctuary. Even under the guise of an elder care home, she actively sought her residents, scouring public records for the homeless and those in dire situations. Her days were long past acting the part of den mother to a sorority… something she actually did for a time after she was turned.

Our best evidence is her legacy: she wanted another Vampire, one she could trust, to carry on in her place. While she was done with the world, she didn’t consign her charges to a similar fate; there’s something noble in that.

Louisa’s long-term investments were transferred over to Cedarcrest as a trust and portfolio long before she left us; our continued charities and research branches are well-funded and self-reinvesting, but we can’t help everyone we want to. We operate without any outside funding but must maintain in-state oversight — it is a retirement home, after all. In spite of everything we do, this is still considered low-profile. Sometimes to help those in need, we have to do it under-the-table, anonymously, or even out-of-pocket.

cedarcrestsanctummainentranceWe can really only maintain sixty residents, forty staff, and one immortal… by design. For people who don’t know about The Program (a clever nondescript name for our mutual mortal-immortal arrangement), we’re often asked why we draw no state or federal funding yet still provide no-cost boarding to our residents. Timothy told me the truth of it: even before Cedarcrest’s creation, Louisa was an outspoken advocate in caring for homeless elderly and funded other facilities to offset costs from her own personal fortune before forming the Cedarcrest Foundation of Appalachia (CFA).

Those who benefited didn’t feed her; she only ever met a handful of the ones she supported. It wasn’t about guilt or obligation; she did it because it was the right thing to do.

Paraphrasing: “But it’s your money, Louisa — why spend so much of it on them? You don’t even know them.” Is that really a question?

How do you explain to people it’s important to care about other people?

I almost made this mistake. I guess it must be something all new Vampires have to struggle with, wanting to continue old relationships and family ties but afraid you’ll hurt those you care about; it takes time, but it’s not impossible. Take care of your elders and spend time with them: parents, grandparent, and great grandparents. Listen to their stories and help them stay current.

You’ll miss them when they’re gone and regret if you failed to connect… and that’s forever when you’re an immortal.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe.
~ Janiss

Email janiss.connelly@cedarcrestsanctum.com
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Happy New Year from Cedarcrest Sanctum!

It’s been a tough year, lost some good people along the way, but now we turn toward a new cycle. Hope you enjoyed your favorite drink last night and got some well-deserved rest afterward. Happy New Year, everyone.

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Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe.
~ Janiss

Email janiss.connelly@cedarcrestsanctum.com
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