Immortal Holiday, Part 9: Homeward

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“What did we get?” I asked Cole after takeoff.

He tapped up a few screens on his laptop. “A few local exchanges and recent call numbers. It’ll take a while to go through the data. Tucker lives for this; I’ll send the entire sample to him.”

“Good idea. And good job tonight.” I glanced toward Travis. “Both of you.”

“We should have caught that sooner…”

“Me, too.” I noticed mom and dad together in the back of the plane where mom had napped out on the way up. They seemed okay, but it was all a bit of a shock: a bitter end to an otherwise enjoyable weekend. Now we were all questioning what parts were real and which weren’t… as well as who to trust. I went back to sit with them.

“He didn’t even seem apologetic,” my dad said to me, “like he was just doing his job.”

“And nothing else seemed weird before that? Mom and I had never met Ron or Cammie before.”

Dad shrugged. “Same old Ron… right up to the end.” He smiled. “Bet he didn’t figure on you sweeping him up like that!”

“Ron also didn’t resist, and I think Cammie gave herself away on purpose.” It reminded me of Nancy’s invasion of Cedarcrest. “Vampires don’t trust anyone they can’t thrall. Maybe if I was a little less trusting — ”

“You didn’t know, Sweetie,” mom reassured me. “But all-in-all, it was a lovely weekend. Good food, good company… surely Willie wasn’t in on it.”

I wasn’t convinced. “From what Ron started to say, this Adam took the time to find out who I was, who you were, who Ron was, and set all this up. I can’t imagine his intention was to do us harm; he passed up plenty of opportunities before that.” I shuddered at the thought of letting my parents sleep there, in his house, when they could have been kidnapped, murdered, or worse.

“We’re all safe now,” my mom said, ” and that’s what’s important. Well, that and me winning our bet.”

I eyeballed my mom. “What bet?”

She grinned. “On whether or not he could talk you into biting him.”

Dad rolled his eyes and smirked.

“You had a bet going?”

“You should have seen him!” mom said, imitating the way dad would act full of himself. “‘I know my daughter. If she thinks she’s fulfilling someone’s fondest wish, she’ll bend over backwards!’ Imagine his surprise when you refused. I said you’d think it was creepy…”

I flashed my fangs at my mom and pretended to scowl at her. “Maybe I should bite you.”

“Anything you need, Sweetie,” she replied in the most mom-like way possible.

I hope everyone had a good holiday. ūüėė

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

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Immortal Holiday, Part 8: Reveal

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“Please don’t hurt anyone,” a calm voice instructed. “No one has come to any harm, and I leave it up to you for that to continue.”

The sound was coming from one of those hockey puck-sized digital assistant devices. It had been sitting unassuming on a table the entire weekend and I hadn’t once considered it might have been listening to us — lessons learned.

“Janiss?” the voice continued.

I loosened my grip on Uncle Ron and drew my talons in. “Adam, I presume?”

“A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Connelly. Forgive my methods, but I’m something of a recluse and prefer this over an in-person meeting.”

“So you’re a coward.” Ladies and gentlemen: my mom.

“What you call methods,” I interrupted, “I call a serious breach of etiquette. You might have just messaged me.”

“I wanted to hear you as you were, gauge your demeanor in social interaction. I found rumors of your willingness to pass as mortal intriguing, but your ferocity in the protection of your charges? That has become something of legend in our circles.”

“Meet me alone and I’ll scratch my name across your forehead; that’ll give you something to talk about.” I saw Travis grin; someone was having a good time.

Adam’s brief pause didn’t go unnoticed; he was thinking about it. “Your aircraft is waiting at Bishop. We can continue this another time. It was good — ”

“Hear this, Adam,” I cut him off. “You’re on notice as of now, and I will find out all about you. Come at me or those under my protection again and you’ll serve as a dire warning. If you still want to talk, send an email.” I released Ron to better rip the audio puck out of the wall by its cords and launch it through a window into the front yard. “Travis?”

Switching places to guard my mother from Cammie — I loved the way she slinked backward as I approached — Travis got up close and personal with Ron, filching a mobile phone for his efforts. Tossing it to Cole, a quick copy of the contents was made through the data port; it was a start.

“Adam came to us months ago…” Ron started to explain, looking toward my dad for possible forgiveness.

“Don’t,” my dad replied. “You’re a liar and that’s quite enough.”

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

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Immortal Holiday, Part 7: Conflict

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“Hey, daddy!” I said, strolling in from the kitchen and finding a place to plop down on the couch… separating him from Uncle Ron in his recliner. Mom was on a love seat watching something on television.

“Dishes done, sweetie?” my dad asked.

I nodded before turning to Ron. “This has been an amazing weekend, but I have to know: whose idea was it to invite me?”

“Ron’s,” my father answered as I stared my so-called uncle down.

Not surprised. “Is that right?”

Aunt Cammie returned from the bathroom sporting a bandaid over her cut finger. She was moving toward my mother with purpose. I met her eyes as I spoke.

Stop,¬†Cammie,” I commanded her. She didn’t, of course, stopping instead behind my mom’s chair and within easy reach of her.

Ghouled… probably both of them.

“Mom? Dad?” I asked. “Are you both packed?”

Before either responded, Uncle Ron turned the television off with the remote. “I think there’s been a misunderstanding…”

There are times I amaze myself with the speed I can move when I’ve fed recently. Whether he intended to defend himself or not, I sprang from my seat and caught Ron by the throat, hauling him out of the recliner and pinning him against the wall. My ferocity seemed to have gotten his attention. “Cammie, if you so much as twitch in my mother’s direction, I will beat you senseless with Ron’s spine, so now would be a good time to start talking.”

I was impressed how well my parents were taking the whole thing in stride. Had they already suspected?

“Adam is Flint’s local lord,” Cammie explained… sounding surprisingly worried. By lord I assumed she meant Vampire. “You are here at his invitation. If you act out now, it won’t go well for you.”

I recalled that Michigan had a population of about ten million, so by Magdy’s estimates, there were about eight Vampires in the state. The sad part was that we had checked; there was zero evidence of any immortal activity in the Flint area, not for a decade.

I squeezed Ron’s throat a bit tighter, but I was certain he wasn’t fighting me. Cammie might not have been careless; I may have meant to discover the deception at this point. Were they both waiting to see what I would do next… or were they waiting for others to arrive?

Two doors broke open; Travis came in the front entry as Cole appeared from the kitchen. “Anyone else?” Cole asked as he surveyed the situation.

“Not in here,” I answered. “Dad?”

“Everyone else left hours ago.” Dad understood something was amiss; he and mom were keeping their cool wonderfully.¬†Travis inserted himself between mom and Cammie. I concentrated and couldn’t sense any Vampires close by. Unless the house was wired to explode, my guys had the upper hand.

I turned my attention back to “uncle” Ron. “You’re up. Are we expecting more company, or are you going to start talking now?”

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

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Immortal Holiday, Part 6: Trapped

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Aunt Cammie asked me into the kitchen while Uncle Ron continued to entertain with my parents on the enclosed back porch. I never knew her growing up, so there was a lot of trust set forth with my dad as the common denominator, but I also had no reason to doubt her. It had been an enjoyable weekend with people coming and going — even if I only saw them in the evenings.

“I understand you’re heading back tonight,” Cammie said. “Seems a bit late for a flight out of Bishop International.” She started washing dishes as she spoke.

“We have a charter plane through the place I work.” I joined in with a towel as she filled the dish rack.

“Your father mentioned you ran a big facility down in West Virginia. Glenville, wasn’t it? I wouldn’t have thought a rest home would generate that kind of revenue.”

I smiled. “We’re privately funded through a charity trust and also work on longevity research — cutting-edge biotech. I don’t how all of it works; I just administrate the residential facility.”

“That’s impressive for someone your age.” As she finished with the plates, she scooped up several pieces of silverware at once to scrub them together. “Was that what you’ve always wanted to do?”

“I enjoy helping people, but I had originally planned on becoming a teacher — ”

That’s when I noticed the way Aunt Cammie changed up how she washed the utensils, just in time to nick the side of her finger with a knife. I tensed at seeing the first droplet of blood form as Cammie shut off the water, but I stayed composed (having fed from both Cole and Travis before coming over) and casually ripped a paper towel from the nearby roll to hand to her. “I never do that,” she chuckled, wrapping her finger and holding it tight.

“Everybody does it. Where do you keep your bandaids and Neosporin?”

“In the bathroom. Go on back in — ”

“Go ahead,” I told her, starting in on finishing the dishes. “I’ve got this.”

“I… see that. Be right back.”

I rewound what saw in my mind: perfect recall. She had tensed in anticipation of her cut, but why would she cut herself? It felt distinctly like a Vampire test — one I assumed I passed — but it was the first inkling I’d felt all weekend that anything was amiss.

If the cut wasn’t an accident, my parents and I were already caught in the trap… and Uncle Ron was certainly a part of it.

I finished the dishes, put them away, and calmly considered all the ways I could¬†eviscerate¬†my dad’s half-brother.

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

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

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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

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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

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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 2: The Plan

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While there aren’t any travel perks to being a Vampire, having boatloads of cash and one-sixth of a private jet never hurts. No lines, no TSA, no luggage limits… feel free to hate me now, but just a little. You also don’t have to travel to a major airport; any permissible airstrip will do.

Weston, West Virginia has just such an airstrip, so we scheduled a pickup for early evening. Even though this is a holiday primarily with my still-living parents, I’m still taking my buds Cole and Travis… for all the reasons I haven’t thought of. We’ll visit a bit on the plane, but once we get up to Michigan, they’ll have accommodations ready at a local rental to make sure my day-bed (read: grave) is up to specs.

I’ve made up the convenient excuse that part of my time in the area will be split between visiting and local scouting of charitable entities for the Cedarcrest Foundation of Appalachia; while it’s technically true (I use this excuse often), it means I shouldn’t be missed since I’ll be blissfully six-feet under while Mr. Sun is patrolling the skies.

My dad always tried to give my mom and I the best of everything growing up as his businesses improved, but I’m looking forward to seeing the look on his face when I invite him onboard our Gulfstream G650ER.

Otherwise, there’s no plan here; just me dealing with any relative-prompted situation that comes to pass. What could go wrong, hmm?

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

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Immortal Holiday, Part 1: Forethought

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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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Sex and the Single Vamp – Vampire Verisimilitude

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“Let’s talk about sex, ba-by — all the good things… and the Vamp things… that may be!”

That Salt-N-Pepa song came out two years after I was born — the first time. My second birth was twenty-two years later, and I have no delusions about what I am: an imitation of life meant to lure in prey. I can stop my heart with a thought because it doesn’t need to beat; I can cease my breathing because I don’t need air. The brain in my head isn’t even really where my memories are stored — so why should a Vampire’s body benefit from or even desire sex?

I’ve often questioned the nature of my existence. Am I soulless? Did my spirit move on to leave this echo in an animated dead body where nothing I do has any actual consequence to my afterlife? I’ve asked this to others of my kind — the ones who wonder about such things — and we’ve all come to the same conclusion.

Vampires imitate life but also crave the benefits of it. Interaction allows us to become better hunters but also to empathize with our prey — we don’t have to kill to survive.

But why sex? We can’t procreate to create half-undead babies no matter what popular fiction suggests: animated dead bodies can’t conceive… but we CAN feel. All of our senses are heightened and we can become inexplicably aroused. Living blood is some of it — okay, most of it — but even without the thirst, we crave touch, an intimate familiarity with someone other than ourselves to quench a different thirst.

I have a personal theory, too. Vampires fear almost nothing — it’s one reason we can be tricked into our own destruction — and many of the inhibitions and consequences of sex are no longer concerns: pregnancy, disease, if it’ll be weird, if he won’t call the next day, if he blasts it across social media… none of it matters to a Vampire. Well, except maybe that last part…

There’s only the feeling and emotion of the act itself, those too-brief moments bodies become intertwined and drive one another into a frenzy of unbridled sensation before exploding into a body and mind-numbing calm.

Feeding is a near-religious experience for a Vampire but also instant gratification, searing blood pouring down our throats and igniting every fiber of our being. Sex, however, is a shared personal experience, and for all the blood in the world, Vampires still crave intimacy.

As for why I’m sharing this? No inhibitions… remember?

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

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