Immortal III: Stealer of Souls (excerpt)
sat on her porch, watching them as they shuffled past: the weeping
willows and bluish brown waters were a soothing backdrop to their
passage. Shacks lined the main road, clusters of the little wooden
houses were scattered behind it. To the left, sprawled Master’s
hundred acres of farmland. To the right, for a half mile his serfdom
Sharecroppers, ages twelve to fifty, trundled along the dusty road. Jet black, ginger, caramel brown, tofu and butter colored. The men wore patched shirts, and threadbare trousers. The women, calico dresses, their hair tied back with colorful scarves or threaded with string. Fifty years ago, their mamas and daddies had belonged to old Master, now long since in his grave.
Today, the law said they belonged to themselves. But young Master Tom, with his frigid blue eyes and corn silk hair, owned them—like his father before him. Just not in name.
Year after year they planted cane and cotton. They paid Tom rent to live in his shacks. They brought supplies in his grocery. Shoes. Bolts of cloth. Tools. So by the end of the year, they owed their wages to him and had to spend the next paying it off.
They belonged to Master still. Even if that proclamation did free the slaves.
The sharecroppers greeted her as they passed. “Evening, Miss Annabelle,” Lizzy, an ebony skinned girl of twelve, sang as she walked alongside her tired mother.
“Evening, Lizzy… Mabel.”
“Evening, Miss Annabelle.”
The old woman took a wooden pipe from the tin plate beside her and filled it with tobacco. She puffed serenely, watching their exodus as the setting illuminae painted the horizon violet and gold.
Annabelle was dark brown and thin to the point of emaciation, with a wide nose and thick lips. Her bony skull peeked through sparse gray hair, pinned into a bun at the nape of her neck. Her brown eyes were rheumy, her face heavily lined. She looked to be a hundred.
In truth, she was much older.
She’d earned her cabin, free monthly rations and tobacco, as a young woman working in the fields for old Master Henry. That was before she caught his eye, before he brought her into the big house as mammy to his son. Later, she became his lover.
Mistress Sarah always knew Henry had a taste for slave women. After a while, it seemed all he had a taste for was Annabelle.
The slave community had whispered about this. Sarah could be a real hell raiser when she took a mind to it. She’d been known to throw tantrums – that included throwing dishes at Henry—and often had his lovers whipped and sold in his absence.
Now her husband’s favorite concubine was mammy to her son? The quarter held its breath and waited for the fireworks.
But Sarah never raised a hand to Annabelle. And she kept her mouth shut.
So night after night, Henry visited Annabelle’s little shack often not emerging until the next morning. It seemed he couldn’t get enough of her black flesh. Until he was too old to do anything more than dream about it.
She smiled to herself. He never knew he was shortnin’ his own days. The old woman rose gingerly to her feet and hobbled inside to check on dinner.
Pushed against the right wall, was a featherbed. At the end of the bed was a mirror, as tall as she, with a carved, wooden frame: both gifts from Henry.
To the left, iron pots and pans hung from the wall. Underneath, a bucket was filled with dishes and beside it, one for drawing water. Across from the bed was a fireplace; a pot filled with mustard greens and salt pork hung over the glowing coals. Hoecake bread lay amongst the ashes.
Annabelle fished a plate out of the bucket, and walked over to the fireplace to fix a plate. Do it after dinner. After they eat.
Darkness had fallen and everyone was asleep except the bullfrogs and crickets. It was a weeknight, and any man, woman or child who had a mind to work tomorrow was in bed.
Except at Elmo’s juke joint, where the night crowd still lounged about—drinking and dancing to the low down Blues—folks brave enough or stupid enough to think that they could guzzle hooch for half the night, and work the next day.
The juke was the only thing in the vicinity that Master Tom didn’t own. It belonged to Elmo, a strapping quadroon. But he paid Master to let him stay in business and Tom, in turn, kept him supplied with corn liquor and beer.
Annabelle stepped out into the warm night air. Above her, clouds billowed past two swollen, orange globes.
Elmo’s joint was two miles down the road, and behind a thicket of trees next to the river. In the distance, beyond the churning waters she could see the lights of the juke. She could see inside too.
Johnny was six feet, two inches of lithe muscles: his skin the color of brown sugar, his hair black and curly; his teeth like rice. He’d been a ladies man before he married and nobody in the quarter could quite believe it when, out of the gaggle of women that surrounded him, he’d chosen Sadie, a timid, little thing with about as much sex appeal as one of the bullfrogs now serenading the lake.
Six months later, everybody knew why. Sadie was so happy to have him she let him do whatever he wanted. Johnny’s affairs with other women were so frequent, they’d become legendary and made his wife the object of pity.
Still Johnny always managed to put in a full day’s work, no matter what he did the night before. The quarter gossiped about this too. His drinking was sure to catch up to him one day—that or the women. It was sure to kill him.
Annabelle shuffled over to the tin and picked up her pipe. She sucked upon it and blew, all the while murmuring softly.
Smoke rose into the air, thickening into a fog. It spread quickly through the quarter and over the river’s churning waters.
To Elmo’s juke joint.
She chuckled. Now they’ll sleep. I ain’t got to worry ‘bout some nosy rascal stickin’ his nose in my business.
The old woman laughed out loud, unbuttoned her calico shift and let it fall to her ankles. Annabelle kicked free of it, and pulled the pins from her hair.
Naked in the moonlight, she whispered his name: “Johnny…”
Now, beyond the forest the faint sound of drums began, invisible hands beating upon skin. Their rhythms swirled around the trees, moving over the river...
In the juke, women and men drowsed with their heads resting upon tables or lying on the floor. Elmo had fallen asleep leaning against a wall. Resting at his feet was a young man with light skin and black hair curled against his scalp.
Suddenly, Johnny lifted his head. Without so much as a glance at his sleeping fellows, the youth got to his feet and stepped out into the fog. He followed the dirt path, his feet floating just above the earth, carried onward by the mist suffusing the night air.
Johnny walked in the midst of a dream.
He climbed the porch steps to meet her—a dark woman with a thick mass of unruly hair, taunt skin, full breasts and buttocks—and fell on his knees before her.
The drums grew louder.
Clasping her thighs, he rubbed his lips against them. Annabelle filled her hand with his curls and pulled Johnny up to face her. He did not resist. Still holding his head, she pressed her lips to his then wound her arms about his neck. Her lover cupped her buttocks and lifted her from the floor. She threw her head back, moaning low in her throat like a cat. Her teeth lengthened—grew pointed and she sank them into his neck. Johnny groaned with pleasure.
Annabelle lifted her mouth, and licked the bloody punctures with her tongue. As they vanished life filled her body: Minutes. Hours. Days. Teasing and satisfying. A cry, shocking in its intensity, forced its way past her lips—the pleasure so exquisite she was tempted to take more.
No… remember last time.
He carried her across the threshold to the soft featherbed.
Johnny was her favorite: a consummate lover who knew just how to please a woman, just where to touch her, just how to grind his narrow hips.
And he was a womanizer, a “much right man,” as the Indigo quarter described him—much right for one woman, as he was for the next and a hard drinker to boot. No one would be suspicious if he dropped dead at fifty, instead of seventy-five.
When she’d had her fill of him, Johnny stretched out on her mattress, his eyes half lidded, his face vacuous. Tomorrow, he’d relieve their night together as nothing more than a reverie.
But he can’t sleep here. “Go home,” she whispered.
Without a word her lover dressed and staggered home to his wife. He didn’t look back.
Annabelle sauntered out the back door to the water pump—naked as she was—to wash his seed from her body. She jerked the handle hard to get a clean flow, splashing water between her thighs.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him watching her.
It was a boy child, who’d stepped outside to urinate. He paused in his task, staring at the naked woman with huge, unblinking eyes.
“Come here,” she commanded softly. Obediently he buttoned his pants, and walked through the long grass to stand before her: a boy of ten almost as tall as Annabelle, with a muscular build. That’s Ginger Snap, Bessie Mae’s boy.
Bessie, Jim and their six children shared the cabin next door. Ginger Snap, so nicked named because of his yellowish brown skin, and whose real name was Charlie, was their oldest child.
Annabelle sized him up. He was still fast asleep, but the mist effected children differently from adults. They saw and heard more while under its spell. Later to be remembered as dreams. Or nightmares.
What’s he gonna tell his Mama tomorrow morning when he wakes up?
Would Ginger Snap tell Bessie he’d dreamt of a naked, young woman washing herself at the pump behind Annabelle’s cabin? A young woman who didn’t fit the description of anyone living in the quarter but who, Bessie would know, looked exactly as Annabelle had in her youth?
And what would she make of her child’s story? Bessie was as superstitious as everyone else in the quarter. Ghost and witches were everyday events, no more unusual than the orange tinted moons floating above her.
Ginger Snap hadn’t moved. He stood patiently: awaiting her next command.
Annabelle had never stolen from a child, but not out of pity. Men from birth to death were vermin—pets to do as with as she pleased. She took what she needed and cast them aside.
Still, children didn’t wither and die like adults. Stealing from them meant taking dangerous risks. I should kill him. Snap his neck like a chicken, and hide his body in the woods. Maybe tie a rock around him, and tell him to walk into the river. Might be months before they find him. Might be never.
“Mama…?” Ginger Snap screwed up his face, and began to cry.
Annabelle recoiled as if slapped, pain from near forgotten memories cutting her to the quick. Memories of an ancient promise: “You be an unnatural thing.”
“I ain’t your Mama!” she hissed. “Go back to bed!”
She watched him shuffle back to his cabin. The night, so exquisitely begun, had left a vile taste in her mouth.
Seventy years ago, Annabelle had arrived with a cartel of slaves. A young woman, dark and comely, she’d fetched a tidy price. The Indigo and Copper community didn’t wonder that she’d arrived without family. So many of them had seen their kin—husbands, wives, daughters, sons—sold away from them.
But Annabelle was fickle—changing lovers like shoes. She seemed to have no heart. And she was barren. Yet men flocked to her like bees to honey. She exerted a strange control over everyone she touched.
After a time, the quarter began to whisper about her. And in the years to come, no relative ever sought her out, even though the proclamation had set them free.
Annabelle was an oddity. A woman without family, who could make the master do her bidding. Somebody to be feared. The children didn’t play about her steps or clamor on to her porch in the evening, as they did with the other old folks. She was treated with polite, distant respect.
They mamas and daddies talk about me. I know they do. Now Ginger Snap’s seen me. It’s time to go, before one of ‘em sprinkles something in my garden, or my clothes while they hanging on the line.
The woman climbed the steps and walked back inside. She took a long look at the cabin that had been her home for more than sixty years and continued out the front door; picking her way through the long grass. Now she regretted not taking more from Johnny, when she’d had the chance.
I could call him back to finish him off. But I never did that before, I never called one back twice.
Annabelle walked to the river’s edge and shut her eyes. She breathed in the moist night air, letting it caress her skin, roll over her tongue, ooze past her mouth and nostrils; then she turned and retraced her steps, savoring the feel of the rough, patchy grass between her toes.
She climbed the steps to her cabin and paused: looking down at her pipe. She picked it up and snapped it in half; then placed the pieces beside the ashtray and continued inside.
Annabelle pulled her gown on and lay upon the bed. Her breathing slowed until it was only a whisper, her body growing rigid… becoming an elderly woman’s once more. A mist crept from her frame. It hovered over her—suddenly bursting into iridescent beads that fluttered about like fireflies. They soared to the mirror… shimmering upon the glass.
Annabelle’s chest rose and fell. Then she was still.
On the other side of time a fair skinned daemon stood atop a rocky precipice. His long robes undulated in the winds, making him look like a great bird of prey. Hek-teon shut his turquoise blue eyes and let his body stiffen, slipping into a trance.
Across the void two shapes wavered and came into focus. The first, Geth, was a powerfully muscled creature with eyes like black pebbles. He was covered with green scales. Golden talons glittered on his hands and feet.
Beside him sat Paltus: a withered blue daemon with the head of a hawk. His black eyebrows curled upward to frame his bald skull, and he had silver talons on his fingers and toes. These were the Reviled: Geth and his brother, Paltus.
“Have you found her?” Geth hissed.
“Yes my lord, she spoke to me from beyond the abyss,” Hek-teon answered. “She is coming…”
Like a gal starving
I’m hungry for your touch
need your lovin’ bad
just can’t get enough
come on over daddy
fill your baby up…
Salty Papa Blues
From The Book of Legend
The Time of Legend had come to Tundra: the time of revolution. And New World Topaz reflected the turmoil boiling across the planet. Suburbs shared blocks with bombsites, upscale city flats sat next door to the rotten skeletons of building.
Topaz bridge could be seen from anywhere in the city. But the comely, blue-green waters of the bay flowing beneath it were poisoned. It was a city of violence, of gangs warring for territory, of hungry citizens rioting, of drug addiction and thievery.
Race wars erupted across Tundra. But many citizens—especially the younger ones—came together united by poverty and oppression. Communes of diverse races sprang up. Bartering for food, water, and other necessities became popular.
One year ago the werewolves, Karla and Joseph, had journeyed to this time from the 29th century. They came in fulfillment of a prophecy that foretold told the coming of a new age—an age that would see an end to war, hunger and racism.
The prophecy also spoke of six Others: Joan, José, Consuela and Mark, who would fight at their side. And the prophecy spoke of a Council who would take a stand against corrupt politicians. For in the year 2675, the global corporations controlled the planet’s wealth and hoarded its resources, while working and middle class citizens scuffled for crumbs from their table.
So Topaz’s citizens nominated the Council to take back their province. Across the planet Tundra, world Councils representing their citizens were elected.
But the daemon Tehotep pursued the Others into The Time of Legend. For he knew of another prophecy—one in which he ruled Tundra; one that spoke of darkness covering the planet for a thousand years.
If he could rewrite history.
The corporations put a price on the Council’s head. In a street war that was still whispered about on the grapevine, the Others fought against the gangs. Even with the Council’s warriors fighting with them, the Others were outnumbered; yet they possessed supernatural speed and strength. Soon, only a handful of their enemies were left standing.
Hundreds of enforcers arrived and came to the gangs’ defense. Then things really got strange.
Five Guardians appeared, and the battle began anew… While they fought, Tehotep crept into the Council’s bedrooms. To anyone looking on, it would seem that he’d planned to murder them to sabotage the revolution.
But his ambitions were not so simple. For if he murdered the Council history would be rewritten and the daemon prophecy would come to pass.
That same night, an enforcer slipped away from the guards and tasered the Others, while Tehotep crept into the Council’s brownstone.
But he only succeeded in killing four members. Joan, Consuela, José and Mark took the place of the victims with the surviving Council members, Naomi and Michael; they were elected to serve for the next five years. This new High Council ended the wars. Karla and Joseph returned to the year 3075.
And a New World began.
Sonya stood before the mirror, holding the long sleeved knitted blouse against her body. Schools had just reopened this year, after the wars ended, and Normal HS semesters were running through the summer. But she didn’t care, she was graduating this year.
Cute, but it’s too hot to wear now. She walked over to the bed, and picked up a tee-shirt from among her selections.
Topaz mornings were cool. But I can wear a sweater the first part of the day. The girl held the shirt against her body, turning to get a side view in the glass. Yeah, this will look good with some jeans.
It was only last year that Sonya had begun to appreciate her tall, slender body; her full breasts, narrow hips and rounded bottom with long legs. She’d even made peace with her wide nose and dark brown complexion. But she liked her wavy hair best of all. Lighter Indigo and Bronze citizens, especially females with straight hair, were preferred mates. The informal color caste system of Topaz made this a fact. It wasn’t spoken about, never discussed in polite company. It just was.
Then her best friend Nona, told her about a boy that actually had a crush on her: “Girl, he say every time he see you he thinks about milk chocolate—dark and sweet!”
The boy was Darrin: honey colored and muscular with a clean shaven head, aquiline nose and full lips. But his eyes! His eyes were brown, slanted, and they followed her every move. Each time Sonya caught him looking at her, she felt like melting chocolate on the inside.
Tomorrow, Nona’s gonna hook us up. I’m not gonna be able to sleep!
Thinking about tomorrow made her feel all fluttery inside. So the Indigo girl pushed these thoughts aside and picked up the jeans. She held them against her waist, gazing into the glass.
I love this mirror. It was the single touch of elegance in the tiny house she shared with her mother, sister and two brothers. Cassandra had given it to Sonya last year on her sixteenth birthday—just as the gift had been passed to Cassandra by Sonya’s grandmother.
Sonya’s father had been killed in the wars, leaving her mother to fend for herself with four children. They were lucky to have a roof over their heads at all.
So, she kept her chagrin about the cramped living space to herself and her pride in the mirror. It was tall enough to match her height, with glass as clear as raindrops and a wooden frame carved with all manner of birds, wolves, cats… and others she couldn’t even recognize.
She’d once tried to follow the etched shapes with her eyes, until she made herself dizzy. How long did it take to do this? How many hours?
The mirror was exquisite and it was all hers.
But late at night sometimes the glass would go dark, as if a muddy river was running over it.
And one night, Sonya could swear she’d glimpsed people moving behind the glass. She’d lain in bed gazing at them—unable to look away, a scream trembling on her lips.
I thought for sure I was gonna get rid of it the next day. As soon as morning came, I was gonna tell Mama to sell it.
By the illuminae’s first light, she’d changed her mind. When Sonya finally cornered Cassandra, she didn’t mention the specters she glimpsed, only the inexplicable changes in the glass.
Her mother’s eyes had shifted away from her daughter’s and down to the pot she was stirring. “You probably just imagining things. Sometimes at night the shadows play tricks with our eyes.” Before Sonya could say another word, she’d shooed her away: “Honey Mama’s real busy right now; ain’t you supposed to be watching the kids for me?”
At seventeen, Sonya was almost an adult but still enough of a child to know that Cassandra’s face was one that grown-ups made when they were hiding something. The next epiphany struck her like lightening.
Mama’s sacred of it too! But then why did she give it to me?
The dark girl carefully laid her choice of clothing on the battered arm chair across from her bed. She hung the rest of her clothes in the tiny closet facing her bed; got undressed, picked up her long nightshirt and slipped it on. She started to climb into bed, changed her mind and walked back to the mirror.
On impulse, she laid her palm on the glass… and was not the least surprised to feel it grow warm beneath her touch. All at once, the mirror gleamed with an orange reddish light and Sonya shivered, no longer afraid. But yearning.
After the first session of classes, Naomi cornered Sonya at her locker. Darrin and Nona’s beau, Willie: a tall, dark bowlegged youth, with thick hair trimmed into a cloud about his face, stood beside her.
Sonya hugged her books to her chest, leaning against the metal panel. She wore the short sleeved shirt and hip-hugging jeans she’d picked out the night before, her thick wavy hair spread out over her shoulders.
She couldn’t meet Darrin’s eyes, so she turned her attention to Nona: a plump, shapely girl with a long, curly Afro that framed her face. Nona’s skin was the color of caramel; and she had thick eyebrows, full rosebud lips and a faint mustache that drove Normal HS’s male students wild.
Nona had told Sonya Willie treated her like a queen. And no stranger to lovemaking, she’d also described the size of Willie’s equipment in graphic detail.
Gazing at her, Sonya was suddenly consumed with jealousy. The only reason she’s my best friend is ‘cause I ain’t no competition!
Guilt followed on the heels of this thought. Nona had been her best friend since the first grade. Over the years she’d fought beside Sonya; cried when Sonya cried; told and kept secrets with her.
Nona grinned, pushing Darrin towards her friend. “Sonya, this is Darrin… Darrin… Sonya,” then grabbed one of Willie’s big hands. “Come on, baby; let’s give them some privacy.”
Willie tipped a wink at Darrin, then let Nona drag him away his long legs moving as gracefully as a panther’s.
Sonya dropped her eyes to the floor, as Darrin moved closer to her. “Hey, I’m glad we finally got a chance to meet.”
“Me too,” she stammered.
“You know,” Darrin went on, “you the prettiest girl in school.”
“Uh-uh!” Sonya protested, smiling.
“Yes, you are. I watch you all day; and then when I go home at night, I can still see you.”
Gazing up at him, Sonya knew her life would never be the same.
After finally meeting at school, Sonya and Darrin spent every possible moment together. They met at Sonya’s locker between classes. Darrin walked her home every day; and, as soon as his chores were done, rushed back to finish his homework with her.
Then they’d snuggle on her ragged couch, listening to the console. Sometimes they’d stay outside: Sonya leaning against him, his arms around her, watching the lights of Topaz Bridge. The city was beautiful at night when the twin moons rose in the sky; with its steep hills and tree lined streets; the dusk softening the bombsites and condemned houses.
At ten or eleven, Cassandra would emerge from her bedroom and lean over the railing behind them or stick her head outside.
Her comments usually ran along the lines of: “Boy, go home! You know it’s too late for you to be over here.”
“Mama—!” Sonya would protest.
“Uh-uh, Sonya. It’s a school night.” Or if it was on the weekend: “It’s long past midnight. His Mama will be calling over here, asking me what kind of house I’m running.”
“She don’t care!” Darrin would retort.
“Well, I do! Now go home.” Then Cassandra would smile indulgently. “We’ll see you tomorrow.”
It was Friday, their favorite day of the week because it meant that he could stay until midnight—even later if Cassandra fell asleep. It was only 11, but Darrin already had his hand inside her blouse, squeezing and fondling her breasts, both of them listening for the sound of her mother’s bedroom door opening. Most nights, Sonya stopped him before he went any further. But tonight she let him slide his hand down between her legs.
Darrin gently rubbed the open V; then fingered the snaps on her pants. “Please Sonya,” he whispered, “let me do it to you…I won’t hurt you…”
He unfastened her pants, slipped his hand down inside her panties, and slowly ran his fingers over her hard little nub; then pushed a forefinger inside.
“You know I love you.”
Sonya dug her nails into his arms, soft moans escaping from her lips. “I love you too, but—”
He spared another glance at the stairs. “Let’s go to your room…okay? Please?”
“Mama will hear us!”
He kissed her, and broke away breathing hard. “Naw, she won’t… You go up first. I’ll wait a little bit then follow you.”
With a pounding heart, Sonya crept up the stairs into her bedroom. She wasn’t a virgin, but her past fumbling encounters had retreated to the distant shores of her mind: eclipsed by him. She kept her eyes on the door, desire and fear of discovery twisting her stomach into knots…
Afraid that the bed would squeak, they spread Sonya’s comforter on the floor. She stripped naked… and was rewarded by his eyes drinking in the sight of her body like dark wine…
After that first night, they made love at every opportunity. Cassandra pretended ignorance. But a week later, she told the younger children to stay in the living area and called Sonya into the kitchen.
Something about her mother’s tone frightened Sonya. They’d been so careful! She didn’t know… Did she? The Indigo girl dragged her feet behind her mother. In the kitchen, she backed against a wall, staring at the floor to avoid Cassandra’s searching gaze.
“You taking care of yourself?”
Mama what you talkin’ about?”
“Girl, don’t play with me!” Cassandra shot back, then she softened: “You’re a woman now and you in love—I can see it in your face. I guess he’s in love too—or thinks he is. But you’d be surprised how quickly some men fall out of love when your belly begins to swell.”
“Darrin’s not like that!” Sonya blurted, then bit her lip.
The older woman nodded. “Uh-huh; that’s what I thought. You using anything to keep from getting pregnant?”
“Yes Mam,” Sonya mumbled, “the sheaths.”
“Good, baby,” the older woman smiled, “that’s real good.
“I knew I didn’t raise no fools.”
For two months they were inseparable. But as the third month drew to a close, Darrin told her he was moving away. “My momma found a better paying job up north! I asked her if I could stay here with my Aunt—I begged her! But she said I got to go. I turn eighteen this year… I can come back!”
They clung to each other, Darrin crying almost as hard as she was. He promised to write.
His letters came, every other day, for three weeks. And suddenly they stopped. She wrote him. She sent a second letter, and a third. He never answered.
Sonya cried every night after that; curled into a ball in the middle of her bed, unable to sleep; eating just enough to stay alive. She’d never felt such emptiness. Her lost was an ache burning in the pit of her stomach. She attended classes, came home each day to do her chores and homework, but barely opened her mouth to speak, spending most of her time in her bedroom.
Louis, Patricia, and even baby Charlie, grieved by the change in their beloved older sister, hovered around her whenever she emerged from her room. But her mother left her alone. Sonya’s behavior wasn’t all that different from her own when her husband was killed in the wars. Sonya had lost her first love. Cassandra knew the only cure for such things was time.
“Let me know if you need to talk, baby,” was all she said.
In the late afternoon, Sonya liked to sit outside and watch the blue and peach setting of the illuminae. When the moons rose, she could see the lights of Topaz Bridge twinkling in the distance.
Sonya would close her eyes, let the night breezes caress her face and imagine dark waters flowing under the bridge, while the streetcars rode up and down the steep hills… And her pain would fade to a dull twinge.
But she began to notice curious rustling in the bushes alongside her house. She could never catch a glimpse of what it was, before it scurried out of sight.
It’s probably just a cat…It sounds kind of big for a cat. So it’s a bigger animal. Who cares?
She’d started having nightmares too: dreams of bending over in a cane field, her head covered by a rag, wearing a rough shapeless dress walking through a sleeping quarter, her path lit by the stars. She was following a child, a small boy, leaving the cabins behind her… Lightning flashed in the sky; then a drum roll of thunder.
“Storm’s coming! We got to go back!”
The rain began to fall, a drizzle at first then a great downpour. But the boy only looked up at her, water pouring off his small face. He tugged her relentlessly forward, past the cane fields into the high grass beyond, to the river.
Lightning flared in the sky again, silhouetting a two story house. It hadn’t been there before.
The house vanished. Lighting flickered and it was there once more...
If Sonya wanted to, she could calculate the time since Darrin had left down to the hour. She couldn’t remember missing anyone so much except her daddy. He’s not coming back, I know he isn’t… I just wish I could stop hurting.
The bushes on her right shook violently and she scowled. Here we go again.
A paw with black nails crawled over it.
Sonya stared in horror as a creature rose from behind the foliage. It was man, covered from head to toe in coarse brown hair. His eyes were a deep shade of violet, his long snout tipped in white. Talons curled from his fingers and toes. He grinned at her: exposing jagged, razor sharp teeth.
She leaped up and raced for the door—fumbling for the knob, a scream pouring from her throat. This isn’t happening—it can’t be happening!
In an instant he crossed the distance between them—moving swifter than humanly possible— clapped his hand over her mouth, and wrapped his free arm about her throat.
“Sh now!” he whispered, his voice barely more than a growl. “You don’t want to be making all that noise. We’re gonna take a trip together, you and me. My master’s real interested in you.”
Sonya whimpered, struggling against his iron grip. He pushed himself more tightly against her buttocks. “Don’t be afraid. I ain’t gonna hurt you. You come with me, don’t gimme no trouble, and your family will be okay.”
But the hunger in his voice said otherwise. He chuckled, and she felt her bowels loosen with terror.
Suddenly someone was standing between her and the changeling: a greedy presence full of power and rage. The entity was female. She could feel the length of an invisible body pressed against her back. The woman entered her, and Sonya screamed at the unbelievably alien sensation of two inside her skin…
Annabelle snatched the werewolf’s hand away. Still clutching his wrist, she whirled about with preternatural speed.
The werewolf roared in fear, stumbling backwards. He’d been told of the Other sleeping inside the girl. Yet his master had assured him that she was indeed asleep. She puckered her lips as if to whistle and mist flowed from her mouth thickening in the air about them.
“NO–!” Too late the werewolf realized that he should have run when he had the chance. His arms dropped to his sides his face turning slack, his eyes vacant.
Annabelle stretched her arms above her head, smelling the night and foliage. She lifted her face to the twin moons, drinking in their glory. Ohhh, this feels so good!
The vampire turned her attention back to the changeling, eyeing him contemptuously. The young woman hadn’t seen him when he’d began stalking her. Sonya’s sorrow had made her listless and he was fast.
Wonder what his master wants? I guess I could ask him but he’s just a flunky. He won’t know nothing.Besides she had a feeling she already knew, and that their paths had crossed once before.
The thirst took her by surprise. She was hungry too. Hungry for a man. But she wouldn’t touch this creature, though he belonged to her now.
What kind of animal rapes a woman—especially one as young as Sonya? Such a man wouldn’t be worth her time.
But I can drink. She blurred to the werewolf, her face inches from his, pressed her lips to his neck and sank her fangs into his flesh.
When she lifted her mouth, she saw without remorse that his hair had gone completely white. Deep lines had appeared in his face too. She didn’t know how many years she’d stolen. He might live another ten years. Or another day.
Annabelle put her fingers to his cheek, turning his face so that his vacant eyes met hers. “Now, you listen to me: go tell your master if he wants to meet me, he got to come to me himself. Tell him if he sends another one of you—or a whole group—I’m gonna send him back bodies. You understand?”
The werewolf nodded, lips quivering. Even in his delirium he was afraid of her.
“Good. Now get outta my sight.” He turned and shambled off to do her bidding.
She licked her lips. The feeding had aroused her even more. Sonya’s screams woke her family, but the spell had lulled them back to sleep. Tomorrow they’d remember her cries as only pieces of a dream.
I can fly though this city and find a man, a real man, take all night if I want to. Annabelle pursed her lips. Naw, she’s sleeping but if I push too hard, she might wake up. She’d be scared out her mind if she woke up under a strange man.
When Sonya had been with Darrin, she’d been tempted more than once to come forward and show what she could do—teach him what he could do with the right woman. The boy held such promise! But that would’ve spoiled everything.
Annabelle knew how to be patient. How to wait. She’d waited for centuries. There was still time. Time enough to claim what was hers.
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