Bad Night’s Sleep

You were my perfect victim. You were young, bright and energetic and I was so glad when I stumbled across you when you visited that fake medium. You were the only one who believed in him because you had just a hint of my presence as I followed you home, but you shook it off and eventually went to bed for your lovely, long healthy sleep.

It was glorious. Here was someone who slept eight hours every night. That is a gift to one of my kind. During the day I could creep into a corner or a shadow and remain an unobserved spirit. I would even hide under the bed. Then, when night fell and you slid between your covers and slept, I could creep into your dreams.

You had never remembered dreams before. When I first crept into your sleepscape I was shocked at how bright it was, filled with sunlight and good memories. But it was also full of your energy and you were worth the effort. It took weeks for me to make it my home. I eroded the sunlight, filled the golden fields with a nameless dread and sent strange shapes to hunt your dreamself. I nibbled at the corners, cutting off the good memories and making the perfect opportunities for every shameful moment of your life to echo. Every dark thought, every insidious fear, every tiny morsel was savoured as I nurtured your sleepscape like a master nurtures a perfect pupil.

You didn’t notice at first. I’ve been around for a very long time and I don’t make mistakes like that. Instead you noticed that you were a little tired, a little run down. You laughed with your friends about your strange dreams and tried changing your diet around. Once I became settled, I took a little more. You were finding sleep harder and harder and the nightmares were scaring you. You cut out all caffeine and went to a counsellor. I went with you, of course, and took notes during your discussions. You gave me wonderful tools to use for your torment.

Then you cut out sugar and went to the gym more. I basked in the dark thoughts that were brimming in your sleepscape and fed to satiation. I gave you sleep terrors and laughed as you woke screaming. I noticed that your boyfriend was a little too perceptive, so I made sure your nightmares featured him. I was relieved when you dumped him, as he was getting close to the truth.

I drained draught after draught from you as you slept, your torrid dreams feeding me to repletion. You, however, lost weight as you tried different diets and exercises. You went to the doctor and got sleeping pills and I celebrated. You had started to wake a little too often and now these wonderful pills kept you in my domain for so much longer.

You were finding it harder and harder and I gave some thought to moving on. The bright, bubbly victim I first met had gone. You were gaunt and pale, with dull eyes and slow speech. You dragged yourself from work to home to sleep to work and suffered. You were now insipid fare. I looked around for a suitable candidate, but you were now far too exhausted to speak to anyone and my choices were becoming very limited. I couldn’t survive long without a host, but you were so drained that you were barely adequate to keep me in existence.

Thank goodness I had my lucky break. You were far too tired to drive but at the same time you were far too tired to see sense. You lost concentration as you drove to your work and so you swerved to miss a fragment of dream and hit a tree. I was frantic, wondering if I would be able to transfer to one of the crowd who rushed around to help you, but they brought you into this place.

I have never been in a hospital before. It is truly a marvellous place. As you slip deeper into a coma and I perch unseen on the end of your hospital bed and plunder the last of your sleepscape, I have so many other potential hosts I can choose from. The patients are not worth considering, but there are plenty of visitors, along with technicians, secretaries, cleaners, maintenance, porters and all manner of healers. The chirpy blonde girl who chats to your unhearing form as she cleans the room is perfect. I wonder what her sleepscape looks like.

A repost of an old favourite – Happy Halloween!

NaNoWriMo and Me

I use purple pen a lot because there was a box of purple pens on sale.

NaNoWriMo is awesome. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. Every November, people sign up to write 50,000 words in thirty days. In the run up to NaNoWriMo, writers can plan their ideas, organise their time and sign up to the site. The site for National Novel Writing Month is here and it’s amazing.

If you have ever wanted to write, this is a great chance. You have a fixed date, you have a structure of sorts and, if you sign up with the site, you have a wonderful, supportive place to go to. There are local meet-ups, online chats, Facebook and Twitter groups – all focused on the goal of writing 50,000 words in November and getting that novel out. They have badges! What is more, those badges encourage you to go further and write more.

The rules are quite simple. You start something new, you write the first draft and just get it out there. This is the first draft. You worry about punctuation, grammar, consistency and detail after 30th November. Then you can go back and tidy things up. After that amazing, exhausting and exhilarating start, before you know it, you have a novel.

I fail at NaNoWriMo. Part of the problem is that I was born to be contrary. If you tell me to go right then, no matter how much I want to be agreeable and helpful and conforming, I end up going left. It’s like the Fates hear me make a decision and snigger. And it’s absolutely not deliberate.

Last time I tried to do NaNoWriMo, I did something awful to my left shoulder and couldn’t move it for a fortnight. The time before that, my son, who was tiny then (I have avoided this for years), was really poorly for a few weeks. I think it was the year before that I had suspected heart failure (I’m fine). I’m not doing NaNoWriMo. Bad things happen. Besides, I have three novels started, each with over 20,000 words already, plus I’m working on a few collections of stories, so I cannot possibly justify starting something else. November is ‘tidy up the damned laptop and get the dratted things finished’ month for me.

I’m happy to encourage anyone else to go for it! Sitting down to write 50,000 words in a month is like being poised at the start of the roller coaster, just before you drop down the first incline. But making it official helps most people concentrate and push to finally write the story they had always wanted to write. And while you are wrestling with those words, you can encourage and be encouraged by the lovely people who are taking that crazy journey with you. You can keep going with people who understand the struggle to fit the writing around work and family. You will be keeping step with those who wonder whether it’s safe to make the hero blond instead of dark, whether the heroine drinks tea or coffee and how the heck to spell ‘surreptitious’.

If you have ever wanted to write, now is a great time to warn the family, set up a good writing space and plan your work. If you feel like a little research, I wrote an overview for the lovely Eric Lahti here and a series on research for Three Furies Press which starts here. Or, if you are like me, you can watch the clock tick down to the start of November and plunge straight in.

Go for it – and good luck!

Garden Stories

You can read Kane’s story from the beginning here

Kane sat hunched over at the table. He had never liked the idea of seances. “I’m sorry, but I really don’t know what to do,” he said helplessly. “Normally the ghost is in front of me and ready to talk.” In his experience, getting a ghost to talk wasn’t the problem. The problem he had was getting them to shut up in the first place.

“But Joan said that you were very good,” Sandra said helplessly.

Kane managed an apologetic smile. “Nancy was very close to her all the time,” he said. “I didn’t need to look.”

“Well, here are mother’s ashes,” Sandra said, placing the urn in the centre of the table. She looked around the family huddled around. “And I’ve lit some candles. Why don’t we hold hands and see if anyone is there?”

“There’s no need for that!” a ghost behind Sandra said sharply. “I don’t approve of candles in the house. They make dust.”

Kane looked at her nervously, then turned to Sandra. “A ghost has just said that there is no need to light candles and that they make dust. Is that your mother?”

Sandra’s eyes went wide. “Yes, that sounds like her. Ask her if her name is Pearl?”

“Honestly, you would think she would know better,” Pearl sighed. “You never give a tarot reader or medium any clues. It makes it harder for you to swindle them.” She glared at Kane. “I know your sort. But yes, I’m her mother and you can tell her from me that she’s being ridiculous. The will was with the solicitor, the money was in the red handbag and Tony took the dog. What more does she want?”

“Is she at peace?” Sandra asked.

Kane wondered how he could tactfully pass on Pearl’s opinions. “Um, I think your mother doesn’t know why you are asking anything. Did you find the will?”

Sandra nodded. “We got in touch with the solicitor. She’d hidden a load of money in her red handbag, but we found that pretty quickly, and we knew that she always wanted Tony to have the dog. And we sold the bungalow, just like she said in the will and everything was split.” She fought back tears. “The funeral was lovely.”

“I know,” Pearl said smugly. “And much better than my sister-in-law’s memorial. Mind you, her family was always a bit peculiar.”

“Your mother said that she thought the funeral was fine,” Kane said. “What is it that you need to know?”

Sandra swallowed. “I miss my mum,” she said, her voice breaking slightly. “And the thing I always remember are the flowers in the garden.”

“I always loved my garden,” Pearl said softly, reaching out helplessly towards her daughter.

“I got a lot of the flowers planted in my garden now,” Sandra said. “I’ve got the same peace roses and asters. I’ve kept up to the wallflowers and alyssum, but there’s one plant I can’t find.”

“You have to be tough, when you have seven kids,” Pearl said. “I had to keep them in order. But I let them enjoy the garden. That was something a little different.”

“Mum could be a bit fierce,” Sandra said, with breath-taking understatement. “But when we were out in the garden, she’d tell us stories and show us stuff. She’d make the snapdragons pop for us and save the seeds so that we could see the faces in the seed pods.”

“Snapdragon, or antirrhinum,” Pearl said. “The seed pods look like little skulls – very spooky for kids. I grew sunflowers as well. I used to have all the kids, and the grandkids and great grandkids after them, plant sunflower seeds and we’d measure them and the one who got the tallest flower would get a little chocolate bar. And come Halloween we’d carve the pumpkins I’d grown and we’d save the seed…” Pearl trailed off.

“My happiest memory is of my mum in a garden,” Sandra said. “She grew one plant, and I could never remember its name. I always called it, ‘fairy silver’ and mum used to talk about the elves and the moon. I can’t find that plant anywhere. It’s the only one I can’t find, but it’s the one that always seemed the most magical. I need to know what it was.”

The ghost of Pearl swallowed. “I didn’t realise, I didn’t know how much it meant,” she said. “I would have told her.” For a moment she shut her eyes and a trace of a phantom tear slid down her face. “It’s honesty, or moonflower, fancy name lunaria. You can get the seeds on the internet. It’s quite common. I got the variety with purple flowers.”

Kane relayed the information to Sandra. “I don’t know much about gardens, but it sounds pretty,” he said.

Sandra nodded. “It really is,” she said. “And it will always be full of stories for me.”

Pearl blinked back tears as she faded. “As long as she remembers to tell those stories to her kids,” she said. “And her grandkids.”

“She’s gone,” Kane said.

Sandra shook her head. “Not while I’ve got a garden,” she said. “And I can share her stories.”

Image from Unsplash, taken by Paul Berry

A Knock at the Door

The first part of this story can be found here, Rat. The second part of the story can be found here, A Civil Conversation.

Mary knocked and then carried the tea tray into Lachlan’s study. She came to a sudden halt. Not only had Lachlan remembered to wind up the aether lights but he had also put a match to the fire. He had even drawn the curtains across against the cold November evening. Mary stared at the room, then realised that Lachlan was not in his usual place at his desk but sitting in front of the fire. To Mary’s alarm, Lachlan indicated the armchair in front of him. “Good evening, Mary. Would you please sit down.” He jumped quickly to his feet and took the tray from her. “And perhaps you should have a cup of tea. I don’t really drink it these days, but I’m sure that you would appreciate it.”

Mary sat carefully down. “Is everything satisfactory, sir?” she asked. She saw Lachlan lifting the teapot. “I’m happy to pour the tea, sir, if you like.”

Lachlan shook his head. “I don’t propose to make a habit of this, but I feel that I perhaps should show you some consideration.”

Mary felt sick. “Are you giving me notice, sir?” she said, trying to control her voice.

“Not at all,” Lachlan said hastily, nearly spilling the tea. “Not at all. You have been an exemplary housekeeper despite your youth. It’s just…” He handed Mary a cup of tea. “I feel that I must be honest and open with you.”

Mary felt cold all over. Surely he wasn’t going to make an indelicate suggestion. There had been no sign of that. “Thank you, sir.”

Lachlan swallowed and looked paler than ever. “You have been an absolute treasure, you know,” he said. “And so supportive of my work. You’ve never flinched at the rats.” He tried to meet Mary’s eyes and failed. “Mary, do you remember that the rat bit me?”

Mary nodded. “It looked very painful and was so shocking. It was very unlike Cedric as well.”

“And you wanted to call the doctor, but I wouldn’t permit it,” Lachlan continued. “Though you bound up my wound very skilfully.”

“Yes, sir. Does your wrist give you trouble now?” Mary asked.

“No, it’s quite recovered,” Lachlan said. “If you recall, it barely bled and it healed almost completely by the next night. Mary, do you know how to take someone’s pulse?”

Mary nodded. “Of course,” she said.

“Then please take mine.” Lachlan shrugged off his jacket and meticulously straightened it before hanging it over the back of the chair at the desk. Then he rolled up a sleeve and held out his arm. “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.”

Mary rubbed her hands down her apron before reaching out and gently placing her fingers on the vein. His skin was ice cold and she could feel nothing. She moved her fingers across the wrist, but there was no trace. “I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t find a pulse. Perhaps I should call the doctor after all.”

Lachlan placed his free hand over hers. “No, you can’t find a pulse, because I don’t have one. I don’t have a heartbeat, either, and as you have mentioned, I don’t want to eat or drink. Have you read Dracula by Bram Stoker?”

Mary nodded. “But that was just a story,” she said as she looked down at his white wrist.

“Perhaps,” Lachlan said. “But I am only casting a shadow in a mirror, not a true reflection.” He hesitated and added softly, “And I was unable to pick up my late mother’s crucifix this morning. Poor Cedric was only destroyed by a stake through his little heart, so I fear that he also became a sort of monster. Let us use the word, ‘vampire’. It’s as good a word as any and I must face facts.” He looked anxiously at Mary. “I don’t feel any sort of bloodlust, though, which is somewhat of a blessing. I don’t feel inclined to attack you in any way.” He smiled wanly. “I seem to be attracted to the aether waves and the crystals generate enough for me. Though I shall miss your incomparable plum cake.”

Mary gently withdrew her hand and sat up very straight. Nothing had prepared her for this. “So just to be sure, sir, you don’t have any improper inclinations to me?” she asked, picking up the teacup and taking a large drink.

“No, not at all,” Lachlan said. “But I rather hope that you would continue as my housekeeper. No-one has ever been so deft at keeping house. You’ve made me very comfortable and I would hate to change that.”

“Would there be extra duties?” Mary asked, trying to make sense of everything.

“You can read and write, can’t you?” Lachlan said. “Then I would appreciate if you would assist me in research. I need to find out what I am, and if anything is to be done.” He pulled over a covered tray. “I brought these together, and while we will look at better precautions. I think you should keep these with you at all times.” Lachlan pulled off the cover. “That’s a stake, which you could wear in a belt, I think, or in your apron pocket.” He pushed the sharpened wood into Mary’s unresisting hand, nodding in approval as she tucked it into her apron pocket. “And this is my late mother’s crucifix. It was extremely painful for me to even look at, so it should be some protection if you wear it under your dress.” Lachlan waved vaguely at Mary’s prim and high buttoned blouse. “Tomorrow I’ll look into getting some Holy Water and you will have to purchase some garlic, if you can find it. Obviously I would have to add to your wages…” He turned a second before there was a sharp rap at the front door. “I’m not at home,” he said.

Mary nodded. “I’ll be right back, sir,” she said, jumping to her feet and hurrying out of the study to the front door.

The man at the door was tall, slim and intimidating. “Good evening, I’m here to see Mr Lachlan Aberford,” he said, stepping forward and taking off his top hat.

Mary stepped in his way. “I’m afraid Mr Aberford is not at home,” she said. “Would you like to leave a card?”

Benedict strode past her. “Of course he is in, I can sense him.” He handed Mary his hat and cane. “There is no need to announce me.”

“I must ask you to leave immediately,” Mary said, gathering all her courage. “And if you don’t, I’ll have to summon the constable.”

Benedict turned to her, his piercing eyes almost glowing in the aether lamp in the hall. “Your master is dangerous to you. You should leave until I have dealt with him.”

Mary drew herself up to her full five foot and two inches. “Mr Aberford is a very considerate employer.” She held out Benedict’s hat and cane. “Indeed, I feel far more at risk with the stranger at the door. Oh!”

Benedict’s fangs showed white in the hall aether light. “Perhaps you are,” he said smoothly. “But I’m in control of myself. How about your employer? Perhaps he has been a little… odd lately.”

Mary held on to her temper. “Mr Aberford may or may not be having a few issues with his health,” she said primly, “but his behaviour towards me has remained exemplary. Unlike yourself,” she added. “You have not even had the courtesy to introduce yourself.”

Benedict leaned forward and studied Mary. “I’m Sir Benedict Roydon. And you remind me of someone. But not a housemaid, I think.”

Mary took a deep breath. “You may have known my father, Sir Algernon Smithers.” She pushed the hat and cane towards Benedict. “Please leave.”

“Of course,” Benedict said softly. “Please accept my condolences. The tragedy was in all the papers. I knew your father slightly. I knew your mother better. Is she…?”

“She died two days later. The doctor certified a broken heart. Please, Sir Benedict, please leave.” Mary hated the desperation she could hear in her own voice, but she couldn’t bear it.

“And you are reduced to a housemaid,” Benedict said quietly. “But a spirited one still. And you say that Mr Aberford is not dangerous?” He took his hat and cane from her and carefully placed them on the hall table.

“Mr Aberford knows nothing of my family matters,” Mary said. “And he is not at home to visitors.” She held onto the hall table to steady herself. Today was becoming a little too overwhelming.

“But I do,” Benedict said. “And if you tell me that your employer, Mr Aberford, is not behaving erratically, I will believe you. But is he well? And do you know what happened to the rats?”

“Yes, I know how the rats changed,” Mary said. “But please, Sir Benedict, I can’t betray my employer’s trust. He’s a good man, and while he may be…” she hesitated over her words. “Things may be a little trying, but I assure you that he is no danger to me or to anyone.” She rallied a little. “Can you say the same about yourself?”

Benedict smiled. “I can be extremely dangerous,” he said. “But I do not plan to hurt you, and I am intrigued that you do not believe that Mr Aberford could be dangerous. I think that it is more important that I speak to him than ever. There is information that he needs to know, and I need assurances that he is no threat to the general public.”

Mary swallowed and nodded. “Of course, sir. If you would follow me.”

Before they could leave the hall, there was a crash from the study followed by Lachlan’s cry of alarm. Benedict ran towards it, almost a blur to Mary’s bewildered gaze. She hurried after, following in through the study door before coming to a lurching halt. A strange man had Lachlan by the throat.

“Lysander, stop,” Benedict called out. “Wait a moment. I’m not sure that this is a threat.”

“Do you think that this is the first abomination I have dealt with,” Lysander hissed, turning to Benedict, his teeth lengthening. “You do not even know the half of it. These aether kind, they are shadows of us, mockeries. They endure daylight and there is still a shadow of them in mirrors. They are a link to us and cannot be permitted.”

“Let him go!” Benedict cried. “We don’t know what could happen.”

“You destroyed the half formed and mad,” Lysander snarled. “But I found the scientific, the experimenters, they inquisitive ones. And just like the astrologers and charm peddlers before them, I destroyed them. They study and pry and pull at the fabric of our lives and cannot be permitted. They will bring us all out of the shadows far more than any blood maddened half turned berserker! Now get back, Benedict, before your soft heart undoes you.”

“You call yourself a duke,” Benedict snapped, “But you can’t make decisions like this for all of us.” He strode over to Lysander to pull him from Lachlan.

“Get back, idiot!” Lysander kept one hand around Lachlan’s neck, holding him hard against the chair and leaving Lachlan struggling to respond. Then Lysander pulled something out of his pocket with his free hand and hurled it at Benedict.

There was a multicoloured flash and Benedict was flung backwards, staggering helplessly as the aether energy pulsed around him. “Don’t do this!” Benedict yelled.

Mary watched in horror as Lysander snarled down at Lachlan, tightening his grip with sadistic deliberation. “No!” she cried and snatched up the crucifix that was still sitting on the tray next to Lachlan. In desperation, she thrust it against Lysander’s face. He fell back, howling as the crucifix burned into him.

Lachlan crashed to the floor. “Run, Mary, get away!” he gasped, pulling himself shakily to his feet.

Aware that Benedict was thrashing helplessly behind her, and seeing the murder in Lysander’s eyes, Mary reacted in the only way she could think of. Brandishing the crucifix in Lysander’s scarred face, she pulled the stake from her apron and thrust blindly forward. There was a long moment of silence as Lysander stared into Mary’s shocked gaze, then he crumbled around the stake, leaving nothing but a pile of rags and ashes. She dropped the stake and stepped back, appalled. Lachlan put a comforting arm around her shoulders.

“That was informative,” Benedict said, getting shakily to his feet. He walked over to the pile of dust and bent to pick up Lysander’s ring. “And somewhat unexpected.” He looked at Lachlan and Mary. “I think I need to explain a few things to you. Your lives are now going to become so much more interesting.”

This was originally meant to be part of the October Frights Blog Hop, so please feel free to dip into the amazing authors taking part.

Be Afraid of the Dark

Hawk’s Happenings

Carmilla Voiez Dark Reads and Intersectional Feminism


Frighten Me

Brain Matter – The Official Blog of JG Faherty

Angela Yuriko Smith

James P. Nettles

A Civil Conversation

Image from Unsplash, taken by Alexander Grey

You can find the first part of this story here – Rat

Benedict stalked across the black and white tiled floor, past the maroon leather sofas and the aspidistras and stood in front of Lysander. “It’s getting worse,” he said.

“Good evening, it’s nice to see you too,” Lysander said. “Please, Benedict, take a seat. I trust that I find you in good health?”

“This is no time for fripperies,” Benedict snapped. “I have just destroyed half a dozen vampiric rats.”

Lysander raised an eyebrow. “I would have thought that they would be your perfect pets.”

Benedict’s fangs lengthened. “Do not try me, Lysander. I am in no humour for this. They were not hunting blood. They were hunting the aether currents. That cannot continue.”

“Our Creator has made such a wonderful variety of life,” Lysander murmured. “Of course creatures will feed on the aether currents, especially now that there are so many amplified sources.” He looked down at his ring. The iridescent aether stone gleamed in the heavy silver setting. “And I am grateful for it.”

“You were not always so fastidious,” Benedict snarled. “We are vampires – dark creatures. Our nature demands that we embrace that darkness. Relying on a chunk of stone is ridiculous! When did you last feed from a living mortal? And I don’t count the geese and bulls you have bled in the past.”

“Does it matter?” Lysander said wearily. “Please, sit down and try and relax. I can summon Brigitte. She is always willing to be your chalice and perhaps you will be calmer if you have fed.”

Benedict dropped into the neighbouring armchair and a little tension left him as his fangs retracted. “We are what we are. You cannot hide from your own nature. We feed on blood.” He glanced around and smiled thinly. “And I ate before I came here.”

“We don’t have to be enslaved by our nature,” Lysander said. “Now that aether stones are so common, many of our kind are glad to be free of the need to always tend our…”

“You have always called your food ‘chalices’ and not people,” Benedict said. “Half the time you don’t even remember their names. Using the aether stones instead of feeding properly cuts us off from who we are and why there should be so few of us. London is one of the greatest cities in the world, and there are perhaps no more than a dozen or so vampires here. Any more would be a risk to us all.”

“There are a few vampires that we know of,” Lysander said. “But who knows what else is in the shadows. I agree, there can’t be too many of us. I remember the lynch mobs in Tirana too well. That was a new vampire that became, what is the word?”

“The bloodlust overwhelmed them,” Benedict said coldly. “Jomar calls it ‘berserk’. But do you think that things would have been so much better if they had been feeding from the aether currents? I heard all about it from Alexias. It was the power that went to their heads. They deserved to be destroyed, and you know it.”

“That’s why I lit the pyre when they were caught,” Lysander said calmly. “But it is still unsafe for vampires, even a decade later.”

“As coldly pragmatic as ever,” Benedict said. “But you don’t understand. Half the time, it’s the tie of the blood that keeps us in check. The reality of hunting, hiding in the dark and knowing the darkness inside you stops the excesses. The aether stones release us from that tie. They remove limits.”

“And that is a bad thing?” Lysander asked.

“You know it is,” Benedict snapped.

“We could achieve wonders,” Lysander said dreamily. “We have the resources to forge to the coldest wastes, the deepest, fever-ridden jungles and into the thinnest air of the mountains. Think of what we could discover! Think of all we could do!”

“We could end on a pyre,” Benedict said. “Even those who feed from the aether leave traces, like these rats. It is my belief that we have another new vampire, another debutante who has been playing with aether crystals. They turned rats, and have no doubt turned themselves and have no sire or dam to explain what has happened or how they need to protect themselves and the rest of us.”

Lysander paused. “There have been several such recently. They have not had happy transitions.”

“None of them survived,” Benedict said brutally. “And what of that office worker who turned wrong and ran crazed in the slaughterhouses at the East End. It took all of my time to track and subdue him. Where were you when that happened?”

“I found out a little too late,” Lysander said. “Perhaps you should have called earlier. I’ve dealt with problems at other times. There was that rogue from Croatia a while ago, and I’ve spent my fair share of time patrolling some of the more obvious hunting grounds.”

Benedict snorted. “It’s not enough. It’s always bad when someone turns with witchcraft or curses, but the aether kind are dangerous. They are dangerous to mortals and they are dangerous to us.”

“How are they so dangerous?” Lysander snapped. “Because they don’t hurt others?”

“Because their wills are unstable, they have no direction, and they have no hunting ground to track,” Benedict snapped back. “They have all been insane – you know what they say about aether miners! And because they have no hunting ground, we can’t spot them to let them know the proper ways and introduce them to Society. And because we can’t track them and find them, and because they are insane, they run amok and mortals get hurt. At some point there is going to be a link between these sad creatures and Mr Stoker’s creation. Too many have heard of vampires. And once these aberrations have been destroyed, they will start looking for us. How well do you hide yourself, Lysander, with your discreet club and loyal servants. Is it discreet enough?”

“I am confident in my situation,” Lysander said coldly. “But perhaps you are correct. The thought of so many potential kindred unknown to us and quite out of our influence chills me. Besides, those created by the aether crystals have all been somewhat deficient. We should cull them before they become a risk to us. I’ll share my thoughts with the rest of us. I shall also spend some time studying the latest scientific papers on aether waves. Perhaps then we can take further steps.”

“And are you going to look for this debutante?” Benedict asked.

Lysander stared at his ring for a moment. “I doubt that they exist,” he said. “Rats get everywhere and now so many crafts are using aether stones, there are bound to be a few incidents. I think I shall speak to the rat catchers.”

“So you won’t look,” Benedict said.

Lysander shrugged. “If there is an aether kind, and I doubt it, they will make themselves known soon enough. But don’t let me stop you from hunting. You always did enjoy the exercise.”

“I’ll look, and I’ll look carefully,” Benedict said. “They are out there, and when I find them, I’ll deal with whatever situation that I find.”

“Kill them,” Lysander said.

“I’m not killing for the sake of it,” Benedict said. “But I’ll deal appropriately with any rogue.”

“I’m sure that you shall,” Lysander said. “And so shall I. Where did you find the rats?”

Benedict looked at him thoughtfully. “Why? You said that you wouldn’t be looking.”

“I wish to speak to the local rat catchers to see if the contagion has spread,” Lysander said, staring at the play of light on his ring.

Benedict raised an eyebrow. “I trust that you will enjoy the encounter. I found the rats at Woolwich.” He stood. “I’ll take my leave.”

“Let me know if you have found and killed anything,” Lysander said. “Leave nothing that could be a risk. There should be no vampire outside the influence of our Society.”

For a moment Benedict’s fangs lengthened, then he shrugged. “I’ll send a message. Goodnight.” Then he swept out of the room and into the London fog.

This is part of the amazing October Frights Blog Hop. Please check out the awesome authors that are also taking part.

Be Afraid of the Dark

Hawk’s Happenings

Carmilla Voiez Dark Reads and Intersectional Feminism


Frighten Me

Brain Matter – The Official Blog of JG Faherty

Angela Yuriko Smith

James P. Nettles


Mary carefully opened the door to Lachlan Aberford’s study and paused to allow her eyes to adjust. Outside the November afternoon was drawing down to dusk and Lachlan’s study was unlit and dim. It was a stark contrast to the bright aether lights in the kitchen and hall and, for a moment, Mary struggled to see her employer. “Good afternoon, sir,” she said brightly. “I’ve brought the tea tray. Shall I put on a light?”

“Hmm?” Lachlan stared out of the window at the hansom cab trotting along towards Plumstead Common. “Yes, of course.”

Mary set the tray down on the side table near the door and wound up the aether light. “I’ve got the evening paper as well,” she said. “It’s all about the Boer War on the front page.” With the ease of practise, she set out the teapot, milk, cup and saucer, side plate, sandwich and slice of fruit cake on the edge of Lachlan’s desk. “They say that Kitchener is likely to be sent there.” She shook out the paper and then folded it again neatly.

“It’s nearly a new century,” Lachlan said, still staring out of the window. “The century starts in 1901, you know, and we are on the edge of such discoveries.”

“Yes, sir,” Mary said, deftly pouring a cup of tea. She shivered and realised that she could see her breath steaming in front of her. “It’s very cold in here, sir. Would you like me to light the fire? If nothing else, it will be better for the rats.”

Lachlan pulled his attention away from the window. “Of course, although we have sadly lost all but Cedric now.”

“Oh dear!” Mary said. She took down the aether lighter and knelt to light the fire. At least the fire was still coal. It may make more work for her, but the amount of aether crystals in the house made her uneasy. “Poor things. What do you think it was? They had plenty of food, didn’t they?”

Lachlan slowly pulled the heavy curtains across the window. “Yes, I made sure of that, with lots of fresh water. And you did a splendid job of cleaning the cages.”

Mary repressed a shudder. She didn’t have much choice of employment, and this situation had a lot of good points. The rats were a small price to pay. “Thank you sir.” She stood and brushed down her skirt before walking around the room and turning on the lights. The study was the biggest room in the house, with the small fire and desk at one end and the large table with rat cages and experimental equipment at the other. “I’m sorry to hear about the losses. Will Cedric be alright?” Mary looked around. “Perhaps I should leave you to eat your tea, sir. You haven’t had anything all day.”

Lachlan walked slowly over to the cages. “Cedric seems to be tolerating the effects of aether waves much better than the others,” he said, ignoring the food. “But it still doesn’t answer the question of the effects of aether rays on a man. The relative size of an aether crystal to a man compared to the rat is significant.”

“I heard that the miners in aether mines go mad if they spend too much time in them,” Mary said. “It was in the paper. Can I tempt you to a little beef broth, perhaps, sir? Or some nice buttered toast?”

“I put the remains of Cedric’s companions out on the rubbish heap,” Lachlan said. “I wonder if I should have preserved their remains.”

Mary took a deep breath. She couldn’t afford to give notice, not even if there were preserved rats. “I’ll give the cages a good wash tomorrow with carbolic and hot water,” she said.

“Do you think you would be able to clean some of my equipment for me?” Lachlan said, waving a hand at a large bowl full of wooden clutter. “It’s quite specialised, to work with the aether crystals, so needs a certain amount of care, but it’s not too complicated.”

“I’m sure I’ll be able to do that, sir,” Mary said.

“There are no real traces of rats, I promise,” Lachlan said. “I used some rags to clean the instruments off and burnt the rags. But a wash with hot water and carbolic soap would improve them. They are made of wood, you see, instead of metal, to try and reduce aether conductivity.”

“I see,” Mary said. They reminded her of her brother’s equipment, many years ago, and for a moment the sadness washed over her. Then she pulled herself together. “So these sharpened sticks and dowels, then, and these…” Mary poked at the full bowl.

“I designed a lot of these myself,” Lachlan said. “These may look like toothpicks, but they are specially filed and sanded ironwood. They are much more robust and quite sharp so you can rub them quite briskly in water but be careful of their points. These I suppose are a type of chisel but with only the very edge made of metal. And while the oak clamps are nowhere near as robust as their iron counterparts, they don’t spark with aether interference. Wood seems to be non-conductive. It’s not ideal,” he said, frowning, “but it gives clearer, results and helps me get a better idea of the aether flow.” Lachlan paused and stared back at the window now hidden by the curtains. “I’m getting so attuned to the aether current. Sometimes I feel I can see the currents with the naked eye, without the use of an aether scope.” Lachlan put a hand on Mary’s arm. “You mustn’t try and wash the delicate instruments,” he said quickly. “Just these wooden and metal pins and probes.”

“Your hand is very cold, sir,” Mary said. “Are you feeling quite well.”

“Don’t worry about me,” Lachlan said, stacking the notebooks to one side. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt better. But I’m not sure about Cedric. Perhaps he will take a morsel of my sandwich.”

“And I then could make you some fresh just for you,” Mary said. “I made ham sandwiches for you, with some nice Wiltshire ham, but there’s some cheese in the kitchen. Do you think that would tempt him?” She peered past Lachlan and into the cage. Like all of the cages, it was placed carefully out of the draughts and provided with lots of straw. There were dishes of water and untouched feed and, at the back, the iridescent and experimental aether crystal strapped in place. Her heart broke a little. Cedric had always been her favourite. He may have been a rat, but he had been friendly, playful and even willing to be cuddled as she cleaned the cages. Now he was uninterested and unmoving. “Perhaps I could even try some bread and milk.”

“Yes, that may be an idea,” Lachlan said as he frowned over the rat lying listlessly in the corner.

Mary moved the notebooks away from Cedric. Lachlan had the finest notebooks but had strips of old maps as bookmarks. He paid her a generous salary but his boots were worn almost to pieces. The rats were given the best care he could manage but insisted on the plainest of food for himself. She had been here nearly a year now, and while the work wasn’t hard, there were quite a few quirks that needed to be considered. Caring for sick rats was barely a tithe of it. “I could get a hot water bottle for him to sleep on,” she said. “I could wrap it in flannel and it would keep him snug.”

Lachlan opened the cage and reached in. “That is probably a good idea. The poor little chap has been quite cold to the touch. Ouch!” Lachlan stared in disbelief at the rat. “Cedric bit me!”

Mary stared. “But Cedric never bites! Did he hurt you, sir? And the poor thing must be feeling even worse than we thought.”

Lachlan frowned. “His eyes look quite red. I wonder if I will be able to get a photograph of this. Ouch!

Cedric squirmed out of Lachlan’s hand and fell heavily onto the bench. Instead of fleeing, he turned and reared up on his back legs, glaring at Lachlan and squeaking defiance. Lachlan grabbed at him but missed. Mary tipped the bowl of instruments out and tried slamming it over Cedric, who slipped easily out of the way, chittering as he went. Wooden skewers and chisels scattered wildly over the notebooks and desk. Lachlan swore as Cedric fastened onto his wrist, sinking his incisors deep. “Mary, get back!” Lachlan cried as his attempts to pry Cedric from him failed. In desperation he caught up a wooden stick and stabbed up into Cedric’s belly.

Mary watched horrified as Cedric shrieked and seemed to shrink and fold in on himself. The poor rat shrunk and collapsed around the wooden pin as the red light faded from Cedric’s eyes and he looked at them with a final sad squeak. Then there was just a husk of bone and dusty fur where Cedric had been and a stain was creeping up the ironwood skewer. “Poor Cedric,” she whispered before wrenching her gaze back to Lachlan. “Your wrist, it’s hurt.”

Cedric had torn a ragged gash into Lachlan’s wrist and it was oozing blood. Lachlan stared at it, growing paler. “This is all wrong,” he said.

“Mr Aberford, please come and sit down and I’ll tie up the wrist before fetching a doctor,” Mary caught Lachlan’s elbow and steered him quickly away from the bench. “Just sit nice and quiet with this tea. It’s lovely and hot.”

“I don’t need a doctor,” Lachlan said quietly.

“I think it best to be safe,” Mary said. “I don’t want to be presumptuous, sir, but you have a hole in your wrist. It needs to be seen to.” She pushed him gently into his chair.

“And yet there’s hardly any blood,” Lachlan said, his voice carefully controlled. “I don’t seem to be feeling the cold. I rise later and later and spend most of my waking hours in darkness. My night vision is currently greatly improved and I am not hungry at all despite a lack of food. I think that I have more than Cedric to worry about.”

This is part of the October Frights Blog Hop. Check out the awesome authors taking part

Be Afraid of the Dark

Hawk’s Happenings

Carmilla Voiez Dark Reads and Intersectional Feminism


Frighten Me

Brain Matter – The Official Blog of JG Faherty

Angela Yuriko Smith

James P. Nettles

And don’t forget to keep an eye out during the rest of the week for more spooky fiction!

Dinner at Dark – I’m A Best Seller

Today I am overwhelmed to find that I’m Number 3 on in 90 Minute Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Fiction. And here’s my inexpert screenshot to prove it.

I’m also 41 in Horror on Kindle in the US Amazon store, which is incredibly flattering and it just goes to show – I’m too much of a scaredy cat to read horror. I just write it!

I’m completely taken by surprise – but I’m thrilled.

And just in case anyone has downloaded this and enjoyed and found this post, I’ve recently revisited the hills in the story, and you can find a series of short pieces that came to an exciting conclusion yesterday here – Under Dark Hills

Now I am going to spend the evening basking in the glow as I carry on with some more fun posts for the October Frights. Let me know if you’d like to see more of these characters. I had so much fun writing them, and I’m sure that there is plenty of mischief they can find yet!