Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chapter Twelve: A Lovestruck Phoenix Amidst Serendipity

One never knows who is going to influence your life upon first meeting them. Well, unless that one is me. I always know, since I was a little girl. No, it did not make my relationships more meaningful, or help me keep friends. Here's the thing. If you know, absolutely know that the guy smiling at your from the other side of your locker, cute though he may be, won't even register enough for you to remember his name in two years, would you smile back? I never did. Kind of a self full-filling prophecy. Why get to know someone who will have no impact on you? Does that mean you will have no impact on them? Do other people absolutely know, also? I didn't know for sure when I was younger, and I never wanted to be the kid who no one remembers in two years. So, I didn't smile back. I earned the reputation of being a stand-offish bitch, which is hard to shake in a small Kansas town. Once you have it, there it is. Pretty much for ever, even if they don't remember your name, they will remember the bitchiness.

When I met Bruce I knew absolutely that he would not only influence my life, but that we would have sex together, live together and even break up. And I knew it wouldn't end there. I thought about just trying to run the other way and never even starting the fucked up thing I knew was going to end anyway. Would never have worked. Can't escape fate, no matter how hard you try, and he was already smiling that half smile at me. Like a lovestruck phoenix I went to him ready to burn to ash and be reborn.

You might be wondering why any of this really matters in my present situation, while my boss had me driven across town. With no pizza, I might add. I think he wanted me off kilter and hungry. Or he didn't want me to have an opportunity to have more booze. Well, it all matters because of what happened next. None of the crap I just said about 'knowing, absolutely knowing' will mean a damn thing..

The limo stopped in the industrial district just outside the north-west part of Lawrence, KS. Only a ten minute drive from down-town, but it seemed like a different world. From the quaint brick buildings with little trees out front and the smells of food and the sounds of happy shoppers and dogs walking, to the smell of waste and smoke and ammonia and the starkness of metal and huge stacks billowing steam and dust into the air. I really didn't want to be there. It made me even more nauseous and my head pounded in a different rhythm, faster and harder sending spots into my eyes.

“Seriously, I really have to eat.” Normally, I try not to speak to my boss, if at all possible, but hell, what did I have to lose at this point? For all I knew I was going to be 'disappeared' in a few minutes. It would be great to have a bit of food in my belly before that happened. Hate to go out hungry.

Alexander looked at me curiously for a moment, his ageless face showing little of his true self. Well, again, unless you're me. I could see all kinds of thing that would make other people run screaming from the limo. However, I knew he would just catch me anyway and I would end up doing whatever it was that he wanted me to do anyway. It would just hurt more. “No, Ophelia, but I would like you to drink some more water before we start.” He looked over at a bottle of water in the door holder, which I promptly picked up and downed. Never look a gift horse in the mouth, and never argue with an angry vampire.

Just as I was finishing, another car drove up. I recognized it as one of ours. Gavin and another guy we worked with jumped out holding up another little gnomish person, much like the grandma-evil I had had reason to kick in the head earlier in the day. Same white clothes, same wrinkled skin and what not. Not so much attitude though. His eyes were rolling back in his head and the two of them had to hold him up as they approached the limo.

“Now Ophelia, I would like you to take some time and really look at this one.” Mr. Harris smiled at me again, mouth closed of course and opened the window. I obediently looked out and stared at the poor little thing. Not that I didn't figure he deserved it. We all deserve it.

“Ophelia, what do you see?”

I stared, and let myself relax. Generally I try to just ignore everything I see off people, and the bitchiness actually helps. Now was not the time though.

“People. Lots of people.” Which was true. I was seeing hundreds of floating people zooming about the guy's head and body, floaty and white and vacant. Really vacant.

“I don't think the people are alive. They seem...empty, kind of.”

“Like zombies?”

“Crap. Yeah, I guess. Yeah.” They were starting to really creep me, with vacant eyes and no souls. Empty floaty shells. I knew they weren't there, but that doesn't mean they couldn't hurt me. If I had learned nothing else in the past two years, it was that you shouldn't take anything on face value. The weird thing was I couldn't see anything else. Nothing. No feeling of importance, no substance of who this guy was. Usually, when I'm sober, I can see all kinds of use-less crap. Right now, all I saw was a bunch of dead people.

Alexander nodded to Gavin who drug the little guy back into the car, which was great, because all the little floaty things went with him. I sighed and put my head into my hands, pulling on my short hair a little, the pain of that actually making the headache go away a bit. I am usually not a crier, really I'm not, but I wanted to cry right then.

“Ophelia? Look up at me.” Of course I did, one tear running down my face. I saw the weirdest thing I have ever seen from my boss. A real smile, one filled with sympathy and something kind of like thankfulness. Weird. I wanted to look away but couldn't.

“Gavin, “ He called out the still open window. “You may bring it over now.” He looked back at me, his normal self again, all closed and mysterious and old. “I had Gavin make a stop on the way.”

Then I smelled it. Pizza. Oh-My-God. He brought me pizza. Gavin passed the box in to me, still warm and heavenly. I opened it and pulled out a piece taking a bite of cheese and pepperoni and sauce. Serendipity.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chapter Eleven: Five Things That Have To Do With Vampires That Don't Appear in this Story

I slid into the limo seats, not really enjoying the leather as I should. My palms were already sweating and I was so hungry that I was getting light headed. That coupled with the hangover was really fucking with my normal aplomb. 
I looked over at my boss. He wasn't a tall man, or a handsome man, or in any way remarkable physically. However, if anyone, after meeting him, would be asked how tall he was it would be well over six feet, not five six, and he would be two hundred pounds of solid muscle, not one forty-five and lean as a whip. If he was a D and D character, he would have a fucking twenty in charisma.

Ophelia”, Dammit. Why is he the only one I worked with who didn't call me sugar or angel or some other fucked up thing? “We have a problem.” His legs were crossed, his dark hair was perfect, his voice was soft like a shy teen-age girl's and I was still scared out of my pants.

There is nothing in there that I did wrong. Who ever Grandma-evil is, she's pretty fucking unconscious, and the zombie-voodoo-whatever it was, is just a bunch of parts for Duffy to scrape off the floor now.” His dark eyes widened just a bit, and I knew that we both knew any bravado on my part was ridiculously false. I just wanted to go home. And get some pizza. And not be in this limo. Unless maybe it had pizza in the mini fridge and then would take me home.

Ophelia, I didn't mean that at all. I'm sure you handled yourself as you normally do.” He looked amused, rather than angry. The alcohol was leaving my system. I really had to get out of this limo before I completely sobered up.

My dear, you need to be sober.” He leaned back into the dark shadows of the limo, right before he leaned further into my fucked up little head. Ophelia, you need to use your talents for me again. Sober up....Mmmmm...I think I should feed you.

Yeah, one more thing you should know about me. I know about these people, and non-people, and little witchy Willow like people, because my head is full of whatever is in their heads. Well, not entirely. I can't read minds, but I can can tell if they are human or just pretending to be. I can tell, before I even see them properly, whether or not they are dead, or undead or a ghost. I can tell if they intend to harm me, or anyone else, and I can usually point to who the target would be if that poor sod is nearby. The worst part is the little pictures in my mind. Or, at least I think it's in my mind. Alcohol helps, but not completely. I just thought I had weird dreams when I was a kid, and my kindred, all those people in my family, they just thought I had a dark-Gothic side. Which was true, I did. 
The first time I saw my boss I was unfortunately stone cold sober. I was on my way to get pizza at Joe's, ironically enough, and I was a starry eyed, thought I was a worldly freshman out about town. He walked out of this little Japanese Zen garden that people like to neck in, right near the other pizza joint, the one I hate that has all the healthy shit on the pie. He stopped and looked right at me, and I swear I saw shapes just zooming right out of him, like tentacles on Cthulhu. They writhed and ducked and speared right into a dozen poor unsuspecting people like little deadly white powdered glass shards. Right into me. No one felt them but me. Well, I'm guessing about that, but I was the only one who ended up on the pavement. When I opened my eyes, there he was, smiling down at me like I was his long lost daughter.

My dear,” he said in his velvety voice, “my name is Alexander Harris.” I think I laughed about that through the tears running down my face. I mean, come on. He might well have picked Van Fucking Helsing. It wasn't his real name anyway, not that a name really mattered. I knew what he was, he knew that I knew, and he had plans for me. He picked me up off the pavement and whisked me down the block to the old Mason's Temple building where he had set up his offices. (Okay, now think about that for a moment. A Free Mason's building. Lord, the irony.) Trust me when I say, I have reason to be concerned about my well being. It wasn't that he was evil, or good. He was old. Very, very, very, very, very, very, very fucking old. You don't get that way by being nice to freshman girls with a headache.

And use me he has. Repeatedly. But that's another story. Today, in the limo, with my hangover and injured foot, my ex-boyfriend outside, and no pizza in sight, I was getting another little vibe off my boss. I saw it before I had even touched the shiny chrome door handle. He was angry. If you looked at him, even up close, he would have looked calm, even lazily content. Unless you happen to be me. I was seeing blood, and people impaled on spikes, and the very flames of hell. Use me, he would.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chapter 10, Silent Apocalypse and Duffy

Gavin got on the phone and immediately started talking non stop, which he does the week of a full moon. “Hey there pretty lady! I couldn't help overhearing. So we have some zombies at Joe's. Oh, God, is Joe dead? Man that would suck, he makes the best freaking pizza, like the absolute best. Way better than over at Keno's. You remember when we went there for Liz's ten year? That was cool...”

I cut the little chatter box off, but I had already missed half of what Bruce and Joe had been saying. “Gavin! Shut. Up.” Blessed silence from the other end of the line. “I need a clean up crew here now.” I looked down at the recently knocked out Grandma-evil. “Send Duffy. He'll at least know what to do with the little madam I found, and we don't want another silent apocalypse like we had last year.” Bruce stopped talking at that one and gave me a quizzical look. “Yeah, look, it's a long story, I'll tell you later.”

Gavin popped back over the line, “Tell me what?”

“I wasn't talking to you, fuzzy. Just get your tail over here now, with Duffy, the cleaners and...” crap, I didn't want to say this last bit. “Bruce is here. We better tell the boss.”

“Ummm...okay, Bruce, huh? Is he mad about the bottle you broke over his back last night? Because, damn, if you were my ex, I would have you up on assault charges. And all the pizza that you ordered for everyone...”

“What?!? What pizza? There wasn't even boxes in my..” and I was cut off again.

“Well, there wouldn't be, sugar, you threw most of it out of the window. That's why everyone left! Hell, I'd still be there, but I was hungry, and there are all these little rabbits that had been living in the park...”

“GOD!! GAVIN!! SHUT THE FUCK UP!!” We both paused and there was a couple seconds of silence all around to digest the bitchiness that is me.

“Yeah, okay, I have stuff to do.”

“Too right you do!” I slammed the phone down and took a deep breath. Yelling made my head hurt. I went over to where Bruce and what was left of Joe were on the floor. Their conversation seemed to be over, and of course I missed it. Joe peered at me with filmy dead eyes that still had a bit of frost on them.

I really didn't know what to say. What can you say to a man whom you barely know, but who has fed you repeatedly for the past two years? Sure, I paid for it, but...”You made the best pizza Joe. Thanks.”

He smiled a bit and closed his eyes. There was a little flash from the amulet and Bruce reached out and took it off Joe's chest.

“Okay, that's that.”

We looked at each other over the now completely dead Joe. “So,” I asked the question not really expecting an answer, “What did you have to ask him?”

“Ophelia Lenore Flowers, you know I can't tell you that.” God, I hate my name. I blame my parents for every single weird thing that has ever happened to me.

Before I could answer there was knock on the alley door and Gavin came in, scruffy and looking like a younger, skinnier Grizzly Adams. “Hey there, sugar, lets get this show on the road!” I looked behind him and saw the long limo that meant my boss was here too. Tinted glass, motor running. Gavin followed my eyes, even as he started directing the workmen he had brought with him to various stages for clean up. As he passed me he leaned down. “Just get it over with. It's daylight for another five hours at least, so he's pretty mellow.”

Duffy passed by us with a big bag slung over his shoulder and gave me a sympathetic smile, but he kept walking.

I looked at Bruce, who was standing now, and I walked out the door. As I reached for the door handle of the big black limo, I couldn't help wonder, once again, what had Joe had to tell Bruce that was so important that he came back from the dead to do it?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Chapter Nine: A Lunar Anomaly and A Spider

I dialed the office, not waiting for Bruce to answer my question about pizza and praying someone other than my boss was there to answer the phone. My prayers were answered, but, as often happens when praying to gods, their sense of humor is not my own.

Hello, you have reached the Fellowship, can I help you?” The voice was chipper and gravely all at the same time, with a genteel Southern drawl that brought up pictures of plantations and the movie Gone With the Wind . I knew that voice.

“Barnaby, what the fuck are you doing answering the phone?”

“Oh, hello, my dear! You are going to be late if you are calling from anywhere but down-town.”

“I'm calling from Joe's. A zombie infested Joe's. Don't change the subject. Are you at my desk?”

“You, my dear, are crabby.” I could hear a drawer being opened. Damn parasite. “Yes, as a matter of fact I am at your desk. It is a mess. I was thinking about cleaning it out for you...”

“Touch anything and you will not live to see your next lunar anomaly you fucking spider.” Like my boss being a life-sucking vampire, that statement was more or less accurate.

“My, my, very crabby!” I heard the drawer being closed. Barnaby sighed, and I heard a bit of a shuffle which probably meant his eight hairy arms were putting things back where I left them rather than where he put them. “All right, sweet thing, I won't touch. Now, zombies you say? How exciting! Not ours I take it?”

“Would I be calling you if they were ours?” My head was killing me, and my foot was definitely bleeding again. “Get your hairy ass away from my desk and put someone on the God Damn phone who can do more than just clean it!”
I heard Bruce clicking his tongue from the other room, and there was silence from the other end of the phone. I sighed and tried to get myself under some semblance of control. It wasn't the fault of a gender confused mutation that I was having a bad day. “Look, Barnaby, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I'm just.....” I turned away from where Bruce was in the kitchen and spoke more quietly. “Look, Bruce is here, okay, and I don't...I'm not dealing well with things...and I have a hang-over...I'm sorry...”
I heard more shuffling from the other end of the phone line, then a distinctive sniff. “Hmmm, well, apology accepted, but only because of our long standing friendship and because of the completely enjoyable party you threw last night.” Huh. I don't even remember him being there. 

“Gavin is here. Will he do?”

Speaking of lunar anomalies. “Yeah, I suppose. the boss in?” I was hoping for a negative. It was morning after all, and he was more of a night person. But we were all more or less night people, including the ever sunny Barnaby.

“He came in about twenty minutes ago, but seems to be distracted with something else. You want to keep this quiet?”

“I don't want to bother him with it if we don't have to. Might be some new people in town.”

I could actually hear his eight eyes blinking as Barnaby digested this. Probably the layers of mascara I'm sure he had on. “Oh, that is not good, honey.”

“No kidding. Get Gavin.”

I waited on the phone for Gavin, and looked back at Bruce. He was taking what was left of Joe the rest of the way out of the freezer. I felt a little odd admiring his bunching back and shoulder muscles as he moved a corpse that really was too heavy for one guy to be moving so easily. A little odd, but not much. He looked up and caught me looking. Good thing I never blush.

“Hey, I could use that amulet now.” He stood up with that little half smile on his face and sense of humor showing through. Dammit, I wish I didn't look like I know I looked, like some chick with a hang-over who didn't care enough to even take a shower. I had forgotten about the amulet.

“Sure.” I put the phone between my neck and shoulder and fished in my bag for the ebony amulet he had given me. Really should have given me instructions, honestly. He was lucky I had brought it at all. I tossed it at him, and he easily caught it without even breaking eye contact with me. Mental sigh.

I watched, curious as hell as to what that thing did. He carefully put it onto Joe's chest and leaned down to whisper something into a dead man's ear. Wicca stuff. If I had been anybody other than me, I would have been creeped out when Joe opened his frost covered eyes and looked up at Bruce.

“I'm dead.” It wasn't a question, but a statement of fact.

Bruce nodded. “Yeah, man. Sorry bout that, but I have to ask you some questions.”

Gavin got on the phone at that moment, so I didn't get to hear the whole conversation. I should have told Gavin to hush the fuck up so I could listen. It would have made a difference later, but hind-sight, right?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chapter Eight: The Ludicrous Swimmer and the Cauldron

Bruce moved first, which was good, because I was fucking tired. The day was not going well, what with the hangover, the glass in my foot (now removed), the zombies and the evil grandma Moses. I think the kick I laid into her head opened up my wounded foot again. I could feel blood seeping into my shoes. Fantastic.

Bruce walked cautiously down the steps, knowing that I looked ready to snap, I'm sure. I would have moved cautiously around me and I like me. Bruce had every reason to truly hate me, but he didn't. Life is complicated. “Have you been in the back yet?” He glanced over the counter top, taking in the plastic bottle full of voodoo crap.

“No, not yet. It's on my to-do list.” I picked up my bag and put my umbrella in, before heading to the little door by the counter that led through to the kitchen.

“Are you sure you want to put the umbrella away? Might be more old people to hit back there.” Gotta love a man who can do sarcasm without sounding bitchy. He always just sounded happy. No matter what. Opposites attract I suppose.

“It's here if I need it. You coming?”

“Yep. You still have the amulet I gave you?” For a second my brain cycled through all the presents Bruce had ever given me while we were dating, and I wasn't coming up with anything until I remembered the ebony amulet I found this morning and had put into my purse. Oh, yeah, that.

“Yeah, I have it. What's it for?” I walked into the kitchen and passed a cauldron bubbling away with some evil smelling crap in it. It also had a couple of cockroaches looking like ludicrous swimmers in a tub of goo. I turned down the heat to a simmer and made a mental note to check on the little guys in a few. It would be interesting to see what a radioactive-zombie-making-voodoo potion would do to the most resilient form of life on the planet. That's me, always working.

“You'll see in a minute." I hated when he did that. Just answer the damn question. But I was too tired to be bitchy about it. “Think your boss will help clean this up?” Bruce had come to the open door to the deep freeze and I could see a pair of Joe looking shoes attached to some dead Joe legs hanging out. Probably what grandma-evil had been dragging..

“Maybe. Maybe. He doesn't much like other people working his town. It upsets him.” I shuddered a bit. My boss upset was not a pretty picture. Remember when I said my boss was a life-sucking vampire? Wasn't being poetic. That would be more or less accurate.

“I have to be at work soon.” I sighed and picked up the phone, getting ready to call the office. “Before we do this, do you know some other place to get pizza that doesn't have all that healthy shit on it?”

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Zombie News

Okay, hope to have the new art up tomorrow with chapter eight, but in the meantime, here's some breaking zombie news straight from Ophelia's office:

Talk at ya all tomorrow, when the weather is warm and zombies are at the gate.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chapter Seven: Smelly Bananas and Cigarettes

Just as the little evil voodoo elf in front of me smiled, I heard a noise behind me. I swung my umbrella around in a arching rap shot in the hope of blocking or at least stunning, whatever had made grandma evil smile. The heavy wooden handle vibrated in my grip as it struck a rather lively looking Voodoo-Joe-doll, which moments ago had been just sitting there in the middle of the pizzeria floor, completely inanimate. Just my luck. Now at least I knew what they were doing with the hemlock and plutonium. Crap.

The thing was over six foot, like Joe, had a hefty weight to it, like Joe, and smelled like cigarettes and smelly old bananas, also like Joe. Unlike Joe, however, it obviously had an oak skeletal structure, or some other hard wood, as my numb fingers would attest to. Zombie voodoo dolls. That's weird even for me.

The thing was glaring at me with its button eyes, or at least I think it was a glare. Hard to tell with buttons.

“You should have gotten your pizza down the street at Keno's like everybody else today.” Grandma evil was practically jumping up and down with glee.

“Yeah.” I dodged a chunky, white clad arm as the Voodoo-Joe-doll swung clumsily at my head. “But I hate that healthy shit.” I dodged away again, narrowly missing the still glowing green fountain. “All feta cheese and spinach with avocados...” I did a flip with a bit of a spin landing on top of the Joe things back. “I prefer grease..” I pulled on the hat, pulling it off and quickly rammed my umbrella into the soft head, yanking backward and pulling it off. “...and pepperoni.” I jumped off the now falling, smelly Joe and landed on my feet in front of the now gaping Grandma-evil.

“What...? Who the hell are you?”

“A refugee stranded in Kansas.” I rabbit kicked up into her small head, knocking her into the wall behind. “And all I want is some GOD-DAMNED-PIZZA!” I screamed the last into her prone form and stood panting, my feet aching with the wounds left from the earlier glass, and my head exploding with the even earlier tequila.

“You have got to start getting your anger issues under control.”
I spun around to see Bruce standing at the stop of the stairs that led from the street to the now rather wrecked pizzeria. He looked good with his hair short, still black, and his too pale skin. Dammit, I wanted him to look like crap. I looked like crap. “Yeah. You should be glad all the bottles in here are already broken.”

“Fair enough.”
We stood there, staring at each other for a few moments, wondering what to say, whether the other would speak first and all the other stuff people wonder when they see their ex. God, I hate Mondays.