Every year at about this time I always find myself surprised that it's almost time for Valentine's Day and more importantly, Holly Horrorland's Vampire's Day Soiree. This year is a special one, however, because February 14 marks the tenth annual celebration of this event.
While I don't know if I have taken part in every year's celebration, I do know that I've been here for most of them, and I'd like to thank Holly Strange for the personal invitation to this one. I wouldn't miss it.
The way this whole thing works is participants provide vampire content on their own blogs, Facebook pages, or whatever, and then link back to Holly's blog, which you can find right here. Posted on her blog will be the links to those of the other participants as well as commentaries attached to ;the actual Soiree post or her own vampire contribution. That's all there is to it.
My offering for this year is taken from a recently completed story entitled Rosalie: Return of the Righteous One. This particular tale is the sequel to Rosalie, which appears in my first book, Tales of Dark Romance and Horror. It also crosses into the story-line of The Arrival of Narkissa Laveau, which appears in my second book, The Darkness Beyond the Misty Veil: More Tales of the Macabre. So, please allow me to delve into the meat of ;this year's offering.
A young boy, who with his family lives on Haunted Mountain near the small community of Fox Grove, is found brutally murdered after being sent to perform a simple task for his mother. Even before the gruesome news comes to the Johnson Family, which also lives on Haunted Mountain, Rosalie, a young but powerful witch, expresses her intuition that some type of evil is lurking in and around the community. After learning of the boy's fate, she goes to her secret spot in the forest where she communicates with her long-deceased great-grand Mémére. After receiving her great-grandmother's guidance she decides to go to the local cemetery to see what she can learn. So, we pick up the story at the graveyard.
A vehicle pulled to the side of the highway two days later. It stopped just a short distance from, and just out of sight of the Fox Grove Cemetery. The driver turned toward his companion, handing her a flashlight before he spoke.
“I don't have a good feeling about this, Rosa. I wish you would just forget this whole idea. Whatever is going on, it doesn't directly affect us.”
“My Mémére seems to think that it will,” she responded. “You know that I had a feeling something was wrong even before we heard about the Buchanan boy. If we're in danger, or unknown forces are going to affect us, I want to know what to expect.” Her demeanor softened as she stroked his face lovingly. “Don't worry, Honey, I'll be fine.”
“Well, I'll just be at the turn around up ahead, waiting to hear from you,” Robert told her. “Call if you get into any trouble. I can get back here within a minute or two, if need be.”
She pulled him close, kissing him deeply before breaking the contact. “Will do,” she responded before exiting the vehicle. “See you soon—and don't worry!”
Rosalie waved Robert on before crossing the road. She decided not to be covert upon entering as that might cause suspicion, and instead, walked through the main entrance.
She nonchalantly passed by the grave markers, reading the various epitaphs in the deepening twilight as she made her way toward her great grandfather's final resting place. The young woman stopped upon reaching the familiar stone, and gazed down at it sadly before speaking in a voice barely more than a whisper. “You filled Mémére 's heart with joy, Grand-père. I wish I could have known you.”
Her reflections were interrupted by the sound of rustling leaves and snapping branches in the nearby woods—footsteps! Moving into a state of high alert, she shined her light in the direction of the sound, but saw nothing. The movement stopped with the flashlight's illumination.
It's probably just some forest animal, she thought to herself in an attempt at reassurance. Still, her instincts told her differently, and she had long ago learned to trust her intuitions.
Rosalie turned off the flashlight, but remained in place, looking in all directions, listening, dreading the possibility that she might soon confront some unspeakable evil.
A near silence engulfed the burial ground. There was only the sound of a gentle breeze as it swept through the treetops. The quietude was short lived, however, as the sound of footsteps from beyond the perimeter of the graveyard began anew. This time, the rustling upon the ground was accompanied by low-pitched, blood-curdling moans. They were unlike anything the young woman had ever heard before. They were unnatural, ungodly, and seemed as if they must have originated from within the very bowels of Hell. She again cast her light in the direction from which the sounds emanated, but to no avail. Whatever horror lurked nearby remained obscured, even as it shifted around menacingly.
Without warning, a church bell rang out, penetrating the relative silence of the night. It tolled from atop the steeple of the abandoned church, which adjoined the opposite end of the graveyard.
Rosalie, although startled, reacted by casting her light toward first the bell tower, then the main part of the structure and its immediate surroundings. She saw no sign of a human presence, however.
The bell rang out once again. This time, it continued to chime—solemnly, slowly; its mournful resonance echoing across the mountainous landscape. Time seemed to stand still as the bell, accompanied by the ghastly moans, still coming from the nearby woods, blended to form a dreadful cacophony, which betrayed the presence of something unspeakably sinister.
Just as quickly as the ringing had begun, it ceased, as did the grotesque vocalizations from the forest. Rosalie, completely unnerved by the experience, pulled her cell phone from her pocket and made the call.
“Robert, come git me, and hurry!”
“Be right there,” came the response.
She had just begun to make a hasty retreat toward the highway when a louder snapping of branches just to her right sounded a new alarm. Halting her retreat, Rosalie froze in place as she again shined her light in the direction of the sound, revealing a man-like figure emerging from the woods. She gasped as the being stood in place, staring at her menacingly. It had the shape and size of a man, but its skin and remaining teeth were rotted. One of its eyes was hollowed out. Its clothing was torn and ragged, but what startled her the most was the Stetson hat that sat upon its head.
Rosalie backed away in disbelief and horror. The creature growled in an act of recognition--mutual recognition!
She screamed, running for the highway as fast as her feet could carry her, reaching the two-lane just as an illumination in the distance signaled the approach of Robert's vehicle. It was when she got by the road and looked back toward the cemetery that she saw, in the growing illumination of the headlights, a darkly dressed woman, standing on the dirt road between the church and the highway. The woman was gazing in her direction; her eyes shining an unnatural green as the vehicle slowed. Her stare was compelling, even mesmerizing. Rosalie stood in place, staring back into her paranormal orbs.
Robert's voice broke the spell as he opened the passenger's door. “Come on, Rosa, get in!”
His partner broke eye contact with the woman and quickly got into the car. “Robert, look! Look!”
“Look at what? Where?”
“Over there, on the road alongside the cemetery; that woman!”
“I don't see anything,” he responded.
Like an apparition, the green-eyed one had already vanished from view.
“Never mind. Just git us out of here. Go, go!”
Robert hit the gas pedal, and the vehicle sped back toward town--and home!
Rosalie didn't look at the road ahead. She simply sat, staring downward; one hand supportmg her head.
“What the hell happened back there, Rosa?”
At first she didn't respond, and only continued covering her face.
“Come on, sweetheart, talk to me. What upset you?”
The shaken young woman slowly lifted her head, turning her attention toward him.
“It was him,” she began. “Fuck! It was really him.”
“Who?” Robert pressed with an air of impatience in his voice. “Who bothered you?”
“It was Crawford,” she continued. “I saw the Reverend Ronnie Crawford back there.”
“Now, how can that be? He's long dead. We both saw him die.”
“I'm tellin' ya,” she countered with annoyance, “it was him. But he's different. He's a monster now, a total monster.”
“Well, he always was a monster if you ask me.”
“Not that way,” she informed him. “I mean physically. He only has one eye, his teeth are rotted. So is his skin. He looks like something from out of a horror film.”
Robert was having a hard time wrapping his mind around what she was telling him, but he knew better than to question or challenge her; at least, not now.
“And that woman,” Rosalie continued. “There was something sinister about her. While I was outside the car she kept staring at me with her green eyes. I felt like she was trying to hypnotize me.”
“People can only be hypnotized if they want to be,” he interjected. “At least, that's what they say.”
“This was different. There's something about her. She's kind of magnetic. I could feel it, but she's scary as hell.”
“I've heard stories about a strange woman being around town,” Robert explained. “Thing is, nobody seems to know anything about her. She doesn't seem to live anywhere, but folks keep seeing her.”
“Yes, I've heard the stories too. Well, she's as real as I am--and so is Crawford. Somehow, she's got something to do with him.” Rosalie added, “I know it.”
The vehicle turned off the main road after passing through town. Not another word was spoken as they traversed through the dark countryside and climbed the steep terrain toward the top of Haunted Mountain, and home.
After the experience at the graveyard, Rosalie is haunted by the woman she saw there. She returns to her secret place in the forest on next night, seeking solitude. Here is what transpires:
Rosalie headed directly to the clearing in the woods, and set about starting a small fire. The flames, within minutes, had begun to illuminate the small clearing, the trees casting long, dancing shadows, which stretched almost beyond the fire's luminosity. The young woman always derived a sense of contentment by sitting in front of a fire in the forest. She stared into the flames drawing upon both the calm they projected and the warmth they provided against November's chill.
Without warning, a pronounced rustling from nearby broke the silence. Rosalie turned toward the source of the sound. That's when she saw them—two green eyes, gazing in her direction from behind the shrubbery—intense orbs that reflected the flickering light from the fire. She gasped as a figure sauntered out of the darkness into the light of the clearing. It was that woman; the one from the night before. She was sure of it. The stranger wore a long, black hooded cloak. Her face was partially hidden by the head covering, but that which was exposed left little doubt of her beauty.
The intruder stopped just inside the clearing's perimeter, lowered her hood, and smiled sweetly as her long locks fell across her shoulders and down her back. She began to speak. “Surely you were expecting me, witch.”
Rosalie's instincts warned her of danger. There was a darkness about this woman that was unlike anything she had ever encountered. Yet, there was something calming about her; she was mesmerizing.
“Didn't really know what to expect,” Rosalie answered as she arose from the rock she'd been sitting upon. “Just who are you?”
The stranger drew closer as she offered a chilling response.“Oh, dearest, your witch's blood smells so sweet! You might be young, but the craft runs powerfully through your veins.”
A perverse visage of sensual hunger and thirst--a deep, deep thirst, formed on the stranger's face. Rosalie sensed the woman's perverse desires toward her. Yet, there was something captivating about her, something compelling.
“Folks here talk 'bout you. You make them uneasy. Some are downright afraid of you, I suspect.”
“As they should be. The question is, are you? And now that we're face to face, all that turmoil you've been feeling since last night has just kind of vanished, hasn't it? I know you can sense my intentions toward you; yet, you're not so sure that you want to resist me, are you?”
Rosalie was taken back by this strange person's perceptions--her knowledge of feelings she could not yet admit to herself. “You still ain't told me who you are,” the young witch persisted.
“I am death,” the woman told her over the crackle of the fire. “I am sometimes also the giver of life, but it's a kind of life that you have never dared to imagine. I, too, am a practitioner of magick, my dear. I come from a different tradition, but I suspect that you and I have a lot in common. As a matter of fact, something tells me that you and I are going to become very close. I am known as Narkissa, Narkissa Laveau.
“But now, I'd like to ask you a question. What were you doing in the graveyard last night?”
“Visiting my grand-père's grave site.”
Narkissa laughed heartily before continuing. “Oh please! Do you really expect me to believe that? You were there by yourself after dark. Don't you think that's a bit strange?”
“Not for me it ain't.”
“Oh really? And how about the car that came to pick you up just when you needed it? You want to know what I think?” Narkissa began to move closer as she continued speaking. “I think you were looking for something--something frightening.”
Rosalie felt disarmed, having been caught up in her own attempt to deceive. She remained speechless.
“So did you find what you were looking for?”
“Some of it I s'pose, but it doesn't make no sense.”
“Ah, you must be talking about your meeting with Rev.”
A look of confusion came over the young witch's face. “Rev?”
“Yes. He's my pet. Wasn't he once referred to as Reverend around here?”
“That obscene creature is your pet? He's dead. I was there when he died.”
“Yes, dear, he's dead. But now, you might do better thinking of him as living dead. I'm sure you've heard the term.”
The horror Rosalie had felt the previous night at seeing the ghastly semblance of the Reverend Ronnie Crawford returned. Her blood began to run cold as she began to grasp what she was dealing with. Narkissa, sensing her fear, moved closer, staring deeply into her eyes. She stroked the young witch's cheek tenderly; sensually. Rosalie did not recoil from her touch.
“Don't worry, sweet one. I won't let him hurt you.” Narkissa's closeness to Rosalie caused her breath to quicken. “No, your blood is too sweet for the likes of him.”
Under ordinary circumstances Rosalie would have rejected a woman's advance, and she was fully aware of the danger posed. Yet, a part of her welcomed Narkissa's touch. It put her at ease, while at the same time, thrilling her in a way she'd never felt before. She reveled in this one's womanly charm.
Narkissa sighed audibly before withdrawing. “This is enough for our first encounter. There will be others. Eventually, you'll join me, but I want you to do so of your own free will. I can already feel a conflict growing within you--your discomfort with your attraction to me--knowing what I am--knowing that I'm female. The process has been set in motion. You'll succumb.”
She walked to the edge of the clearing before turning toward the mesmerized and confused young woman a final time. She blew her a kiss with a wave of her hand before speaking anew. “Until next time, my dear.”
She pulled the hood back over her hair and returned to the darkness of the forest.
There you have it! If this story interests you and you'd like to know how it concludes, you won't have very long to wait as it will be included in my next book, which will be entitled A Day of Reckoning and Other Frightful Tales. The plan is to have it published some time by early spring. Once it is available I will make the announcement here and will put other details on my other website at Romance and Horror dot com.
Now, don't forget to head back over to Holly's Horrorland in order to see what's brewing over there. Congratulations to Miss Holly on her tenth year of making this happen, and thank you all for reading!