Septem Daemorum 1 : The ritual

Septem Daemorum 1 : The ritual

A Chapter by M.R Steiner
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Nicola discovers that sneaking into a nightclub underage has its drawbacks. One of them being the discovery that a cabal of Vampires, Werewolves, Witches and Zombies are secretly running the world.

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Septem Daemorum




 

Chapter 1: the ritual

 

The air has a certain charge tonight, each breath seeps into my chest with the pulse of a mild static shock. Part of me wonders if it’s just in my head, a symptom of anxiety as I wait in line for what promises to be the party of a the year.

 

The damp latches to my fingers as I pull my back a sleeve to show my watch, I focus on the time, 11:30, well past curfew, it sends a jolt of panic up my spine. My parents are probably wondering where I am, after all it’s a school night. They’d probably go insane just knowing I’m in the middle of town, let alone outside a private club, at least that’s what it’s supposed to be? A quick glance to my left shows nothing but the red panel walls of a warehouse, not the kind of place you’d expect to find such an event.

 

A breath from the girl who got me into this mess warms the back of my neck. Her exhales seem to fall with my own. I consciously pace to match them, trying to avoid another panic attack currently stabbing my lungs.  

 

“Are you alright Nicola?” asks my friend, Lucy.

 

It’s too late. A wheeze billows out my throat. I hear the crinkle of turning jackets in front. Quickly, my neck cricks to the left; unsure where else to look. They can probably see me blush, even in the dark.

 

I keep my head turned. Lucy’s green polished nails catch my eye, reaching over to dig into my shoulder; the pressure seems invisible to the tingling panic. Then her hand tenses, scooping my shirt until I can focus on nothing but the slide of her stinging grip.

 

“Stop it Lucy,” I whisper.

 

The pressure rushes away while she still playfully rolls the red flannel fabric against my skin.

 

Lucy’s giggle rings in my ear, following her upbeat tone. “Sorry Nicola, I was just trying to ground you, but hey it worked right, you’re not wheezing anymore?”

 

It’s classic Lucy, only she would think to stop a panic attack with pure agony. She literally cut off the symptoms, but the cause is still standing around us. She doesn’t realise, or doesn’t care about how I feel.

 

 “Lucy, I don’t think this club is a good idea…”

 

I almost get the nerve to face forward. My neck slowly turns when I sense the touch of her other hand sliding down my neck.

 

“Nicola, we already talked about this, it’ll be fun okay?”

 

“Six more,” says a voice.

 

Wet footsteps squelch ahead us, compelling me to walk forward. Before I can lift a single foot, Lucy jabs my back. It’s as if I’ve forgotten how to walk. The rubber soles of my trainers judder across the puddled pavement before my legs start to compensate.

 

“C’mon Nicola, they’ll be full up otherwise,” says Lucy.

 

Her long black hair whips a sting to my nose as she steps up front. The cold gives it a lasting dull ache, one I daren’t rub for fear that someone may think I’m picking it. The last thing I want is to draw attention.

 

Lucy, on the other hand, seems to live more openly than she did a few years ago. I only realise how different our clothes are as I look up to see her strut away, that strapless dress almost catching the light, reflecting its green material to match those contact lenses of hers.

 

“Look at my clothes Lucy, they’ll take one look and they’ll know I’m not old enough.”

 

Her sarcastic barb sounds off mid-turn around the corner of the building. “Farmer-chic is sexy.”

 

I hate that word. She uses it every chance she gets. It sends me right back to junior year as I pace after her like a friendless freshmen, my fingers fumbling through the coarse fibre of my brother’s hand-me-down shirt, complete with hole-ridden jeans puckering both knees.  Who am I kidding, it is Farmer-chic. I look about 12 years old.

 

A glint of a red neon sign pierces my sight the moment I pass the corner. My eyes scrunch up, adapting against the burning glare as I nervously slide one foot in front of the other. A lock against my wrist wrenches me forward, I think it’s must be Lucy, growing impatient as if we really are still in junior year. It gets a little less blurry as we pass under the shadows of the people up front.

 

“For once, being short has its benefits,” says Lucy, hunching down at me to avoid the light.

 

She doesn’t realise everything she’s saying is making me want to leave more.

 

“Please, Lucy, let’s just go, we probably won’t get in anyway.”

 

“Nicola, how long has it been?”

 

“2 years?”

 

“That’s right, two long years, and this is my only night in town, don’t you want to catch up with me?”

 

“I do, but why here?”

 

“Why not here, it’ll be fun okay?”

 

“8 more,” says a voice.

 

The line funnels away. I decide to use Lucy as a shield this time, sinking my fingers into her shoulders as revenge for earlier. It fills me with a sweet delight as I listen to her wincing at the lights all the way to the end of the queue.

 

I peer around her as the neon shrouds behind a big plastic awning at the entrance. I wish it was still hard to see, it would make avoiding the knowing gaze of a chubby faced bouncer a whole lot easier. The fat of his arm holds my attention, almost hypnotically sagging against an open door to send a nauseous twinge to my throat.

 

He takes notice, eyes fixed on me, shaking his jowls alongside an angered voice, “What the hell are you doing here?”

 

A jolt of panic has me standing straight; he’s growing with every step.

 

That’s when I realise that he isn’t looking at me.

 

“Oh, how’s it going Zeus?” says Lucy, craning her neck over the velvet rope.

 

He blots out what little light remains as he taps the back of his shaved head. I almost think he’s going to bite our heads off when he cracks a crooked smile. The kind someone gives when you don’t know whether they’re serious or joking.

 

They keep staring at one another, both quiet, sporting the same neutral grin. I know Lucy well enough to guess what happens next. She jumps, Zeus flinches. They both drown out the alley with laughter.

 

Zeus’s speaks a happier pitch. “We did it girl.”

 

“We did it? Oh no, it was all you Zeus,” says Lucy.

 

“You two know each other?” I ask.

 

Their laughter dulls, I feel ready to blush as they fixate on me.

 

“So who’s your friend?” Zeus asks her.

 

“Oh, this is the one I told you about. It’s my old buddy from school, Nicola.”

 

His voice goes low, almost suspicious. “A little wholesome for this place don’t you think?”

 

“Zeus, be nice, Nicola is nervous enough as it is.”

 

“Okay ladies, I’m sorry.”

 

“Last two,” says a voice.

 

The clink of the unhooking rope resonates with me for a second. Like a meditation bell, it chimes to another plain. My thoughts are 100% internal. I don’t even want to check my watch; it’s probably quarter to midnight. I’m going to be in so much trouble. If there’s ever a moment to turn away, this is it.

 

A grind of metal hinges snaps back my focus to see Zeus holding the door open while Lucy has vanished.

 

Her voice echoes at me from inside the entrance shouting, “Are you coming Nicola?”

 

Okay, just relax, I think to myself. Nevertheless, the nervous jitters start spreading back to every limb. It resonates with the buzz of pins and needles, holding me down as if my body is trying to warn me. Still, I press forward, the roll of my joints tickling each step until I stop to peer through the entrance.

 

Lucy is nowhere to be seen. Only the flicker of an orange light against a hallway is visible, I don’t even hear music. It builds my case for leaving. I’ll track her down tomorrow and apologise. Maybe my parents won’t ground me if I fess up?

 

“You looking a little apprehensive there, am I right girl?” asks Zeus.

 

I’m so embarrassed, I can’t look up. “I’m sorry, Mr Zeus.”

 

“Please, it’s just Zeus. Hey listen; you want a little advice about your situation tonight?”

 

A half smile lifts the corner of my lip, dropping the moment I tilt my head to see Zeus’s scowl pointing back.

 

“Don’t do it,” he says. “Maybe you’re not the right fit for this place, understand?”

 

It strikes me as a little presumptuous, how could he know me so well? Then I remember what I’m wearing. “Is it the clothes?”

 

“You could show up wearing a whale bone corset on each arm and I’d still say the same thing, it’s not your clothes girl, it’s your attitude in general.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I mean that folks in this club will have a way about them tonight, know what I’m saying? Wholesome girl like you may not fit in, especially since you’re about two years short of finishing high school.”

 

How does he know? A nervous stutter wobbles my lips. “What, high, school?”

 

“Relax; I owe your friend Lucy, big time. Take as long as you need.”

 

I accept his offer, pondering the advice. I’ve almost had two panic attacks from waiting to get inside. Will it only get worse the deeper I go?

 

I make my decision. “No, I think I’ll head home, please tell Lucy I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s for the best, and don’t worry, I’ll be happy to tell her.”

 

Zeus cuts past me as my stomach twists from watching the door slowly fall shut.

 

“Screw it,” I whisper to myself.

 

The sensible voice inside is screaming to turn away while my legs stagger towards the door, its heavy steel scrapes my chest, but I make it through.

 

A clang of the lock shoots down the hall while muffled groans reverb outside. I feel so proud that I almost stroll along the concrete floor, my legs free from the burden of worry, at least for the time being.

 

Damp air overpowers every other stench inside, lifting from warming pools of water below. A little fear starts to build as I realise my only path is a rusted steel ladder, stretching down into the dark.

 

“Guess I’ve come too far to back out now,” I say out loud.

 

My foot presses against the first rung, a thump of a beat lightly shakes against the metal. It grows with every step; bass is rattling my fingers as I reach the floor of a narrow dark hallway. All I can see is a blue light beaming through the rectangular seams of a door at the other end. The music rolls through me in waves, more defined the closer I get, a kind I’ve never heard before.

 

“I knew you wouldn’t let me down,” cries Lucy.

 

A reflex of shock shoots me off the ground; it’s so dark I can barely see. “Don’t scare me like that.”

 

 “Oh I’m sorry, how should I have scared you?”

 

“You know what I mean…”

 

“I’m just excited that you showed a little backbone for a change. Who’d have thought that Nicola, of all people, would be sneaking into a club on a school night?”

 

I laugh, I don’t mean to, but it happens anyway. I’m not sure if I’m excited or manic. Tears are pooling up my vision while a growing piece of me wants to see the rest of this night through. “Well, you know, I didn’t want to let you down.”

 

“Hope you thanked Zeus for being so patient, he must have taken a shine to you?”

 

His warning still echoes in the back of my mind. “Yeah, he was very helpful I guess… Lucy, how do you know Zeus?”

 

“Other events, nothing special; I’ll tell you about it after a drink.”

 

My back stings as both her arms slam into me, petty revenge for what happened outside. I don’t fight back. I just walk forward, outstretching my arm to press open the metal handles of the doors.

 

A violent ringing shoots into my eardrums. I start to stumble against the deepened tune shaking through my shoes, my eyes caught in the bright dazzle of flood lights, whipping around the room.

 

Lucy tugs my shoulder to stop me. I rub the sleeve of my shirt to soak the tears away and realise I’m standing on a balcony. A few more steps and I would have ended up in the dance floor below, another body among the revellers who writhe in a sea to the music.

 

“Welcome,” shouts Lucy.

 

An unmistakable scent of smoke singes each breath I take before it cycles out my mouth on its journey to the roof. I follow its wisp to the arc of a circular sculpture on the ceiling. It looks very strange, 7 silver orbs around a circle.

 

“What is that?” I ask.

 

“What are you talking about?” says Lucy.

 

“That thing on the roof, what is it?”

 

“This is your first time in a club and all you care about is the decorating?”

 

“No, just nervous I guess…”

 

“Don’t be. I’ll take care of you.”

 

She takes my wrist, her smooth palm sliding to lead me away, gentler than before as we navigate the tables and chairs. I spot the silhouettes of people all around me with voices akin to a veil of whispers.

 

“What do you mean we can’t leave till midnight?” asks a random voice.

 

“Look at the farmer grunge girl,” says another.

 

It’s as if their eyes are burning into me, picking out the one who doesn’t belong. Lucy keeps walking regardless, leading me down a set of stairs towards the dance floor.

 

A wash of pins and needles begins to seep back into my knees, setting both legs in clay of apprehension as Lucy picks up the pace. I have to keep walking or I’ll fall over. No punishment in life is worse than that wave of gravel and ants moving around my skin.

 

I see Lucy slide sideways into the crowd, soon it’s my turn. My hand is numbing, her grip’s gotten so tight that I can’t run away. A dancer’s sweat flicks up my elbow as I pass beyond them, surrounding me with a flurry of arms, twisting and grinding around us. A hard bump rocks my legs to one side. Lucy’s fingers slip free and floor kisses my face, one smack, and then another.

 

The impact flexes my body shut, nervous and in an almost foetal position. The forest of legs stamp around as though I’m not there. I wait for a chance to stand back up when I spy a faint glow against the surface. It’s almost purple, running in strips across the floor. There isn’t much time to ponder it when I feel a tug of Lucy’s hand choking my collar.

 

I’m more curious than tense as I prop myself up and shout, “What’s that paint on the floor?”

 

“Ultraviolet, same as my contacts, c’mon, the bar isn’t far,” she shouts back.

 

We emerge from the other side of the dance floor where I see our reflections cast into the infinity of a massive double mirror. They grow warped the closer we get, twisting out of proportion in dented curls as I audibly gasp with surprise at all the different bottles stacked beside it. 

 

“Hey Beatrix, how about some service?” shouts Lucy.

 

Her words turn the head of a tall slender woman behind the bar.  She stares across the beaten wooden surface at us with the same contacts as Lucy; even her green dress is similar.

 

“Ah, Sister Lucy, I’m glad your homecoming hasn’t proved fruitless, and this must be the famous Nicola you’ve been talking so much about?” she asks.

 

A shrill tone sounds off in my voice. “Sister Lucy?”

 

“It’s just my nickname Nicola, and to answer your question Beatrix, I never expected tonight to be fruitless, not when I have my best friend with me.”

 

Beatrix blows an angry huff in our direction, slanting her brow with a scornful look towards Lucy before she turns it on me. “Tell me Nicola, friend of Sister Lucy, have you ever been jealous of someone?”

 

I don’t know how to respond. My eyes unconsciously roll from side to side as I pull up a fake grin in face of the awkwardness. “Maybe, I mean sure, why not, everyone has, right?”

 

 “No, you don’t understand me child,” says Beatrix, running two fingers atop her forehead with a look of frustration. “I mean have you ever been so jealous of somebody that you absolutely needed to be them, or destroy them in the process?”

 

No one has ever asked me such a weird question. Both of them are staring with not a smile, as if my response has become the only thing that matters.

 

Time seems to speed up, my pause taking a lifetime as I frantically think up a reply to satisfy. “I don’t think so…” I say.

 

A slam of Beatrix’s fist shakes the table under my elbows.

 

“What is this trash you’re bringing into our midst Sister Lucy?” she cries.

 

I stand well back, thinking a fight is about to break out.

 

“Trash, you’re calling my friend trash? You’re the lowest standard here Beatrix, that’s why you’re serving drinks, speaking of, pour us a couple, then get back to cleaning up, you old witch.”

 

Beatrix scowls as she begrudgingly clinks two shot glasses in front of us, followed by a large bottle sloshing with purple drink. It casts off a stench of liquorice as it splashes down, growing more intense as Lucy shoves one under my nose.

 

“Cheers,” Lucy calls.

 

The rim of the glass hooks onto my skin as I take it from her, stuck to the overflow as the smell transforms into a bitter taste at the back of my throat before I take a sip.

 

Lucy down hers without a second thought before she shudders and says, “C’mon Nicola, it’s supposed to be that way.”  

 

I try not to breath, hopeful it will cover the backwash I imagine, but something odd happens when it hits my tongue.

 

“What flavour is it?” asks Lucy.

 

It’s sweet, almost watery, my favourite. “Blueberries…”

 

“I knew it,” she says. “Mine tastes like soda, not the fancy kind mind you, the high syrup stuff from the old dirt mall.”

 

“How is that possible?”

 

“Sister Lucy,” calls Beatrix. “Don’t you two have somewhere to be?”

 

“Oh yes, you’re right,” she replies, taking the glass out of my hand. “C’mon Nicola, it’s almost time.”

 

They’re obviously hiding something. The thought takes up my attention as I follow her down a hallway by the bar. My throat dries up every time I try to speak. It’s as though a piece of me doesn’t want to know how much she’s changed. Clearly, Lucy knows these people, but how?

 

I’m lost in my own head when a ray of blue light attracts my attention. It casts a grid over my face from the shadow of chicken wire split between layers of smudged glass that separate it from the hall.

 

I nearly jump as a muffled thump shakes the other side.

 

“Get him.” shouts a voice.

 

My eyes strain into double vision from trying to follow the murky outlines. They’re definitely people in there. Are they’re fighting?

 

Lucy’s footsteps get further away. I turn to see she’s nearly at the end of the hall, her dress flowing against the lights of two more rooms. My pace slows up as curiosity takes over. I turn to face the neon red glow of the next space. The images through the glass are clear, shocking me to turn away, but I don’t. Instead, a curious need to watch takes over as I see a dozen different couples in the throes of each other’s embrace.

 

“Hey pervert,” cries Lucy.

 

I feel like a kid caught with a cigarette, not knowing where to look or what to do.

 

Lucy giggles for a moment. “Relax Nicola; there wouldn’t be a glass wall if they didn’t want people to watch.”

 

But I didn’t want to watch, not until I saw them. It’s as if they pulled out a darker half of me, something buried.

 

“Just avoid the buffet in the yellow enclave; they can get a little… handy. I’ll be in the green room around the corner, don’t be long,” she says before walking off.

 

The idea of being alone in this place fills me with dread. It sends a worrisome shake down my body, warning me to pick up the pace as I turn the corner, caught off guard by the aroma of chicken. Its hangs in the air from the exposed wooden panels of the yellow room, the herbs are sending my mouth into a drizzle. I almost want to go in and try some.

 

“Hey,” says Lucy, stealing back my focus with an annoyed pitch. “Good thing I decided to wait, trust me, you don’t want to go in there, this spot is more, us.”

 

 She’s holding the door open to a bright green room. The hairs on my neck rise the closer I get.

 

“Lucy, what is this place?” I ask.

 

She almost mumbles, her glare cast anywhere but my face as she says, “Just take a seat inside and I’ll explain everything.”

 

I don’t believe her. She’s got that same distant stare as when she left 2 years ago. “Just explain it to me here.”

 

“Nicola, we don’t have time for this…”

 

Her hand ruffles up my sleeve to yank me through the entrance. I offer only a slight resistance as my body twists against the motion. Soon enough we’re both inside. The shutting door blows a last billow through my hair. I can’t hear the music anymore.

 

 

“Let’s sit down,” says Lucy. 

 

My legs won’t budge. They’re almost taking a life of their own, bypassing my curiosity to tap a well of fear.

 

“Please Nicola, it’s about my dad, have a seat, or don’t you want to know why I really left all those years ago?”

 

 Her words are enough to keep me there, but I still have to force myself to sit down.

 

I look over to her, trying to stay motionless as a thousand niggling body twitches steal my attention. Not a word passes between us at first. I bob my head, trying and catch her wandering gaze, but she just looks away.

 

Finally, she lets out a click in her throat before nervously asking, “Nicola, how much do you know about the day I moved?”

 

The answer has been rolling around my head the moment she mentioned her dad. “Just what you told me, your old man had a heart attack, so you were moving down south with your aunt.”

 

Her contacts shine above a brief smile on her face before falling back into a grimace. “Right, I forgot about that…”

 

The day she left is something I haven’t thought about for ages. Now it’s the only thing I can focus on. It was all so sudden when she moved. Lucy showed up outside my house, her face in tears, telling me she needed to go. Even back then, I could tell something was wrong, now I have chance to find out.

 

My words sound strained, afraid of the truth as I ask, “What do you mean, you forgot?”

 

“You remember how my dad was right, he’d knock me around the house and I’d come stay with you?”

 

“I remember begging my folks to let you live with us, that’s for sure.”

 

She lets out a frustrated laugh. “Yeah they weren’t too keen on me, remember when your parents said I couldn’t stay, so we camped on the garage roof?”

 

 “Yes, then the wind blew the tent over.”

 

 A small giggle erupts between us. For a second it’s almost like the old days.

 

We’re both changing the subject, too nervous to delve into the facts. It eats away at me until I stop and ask, “Lucy, what did you want to tell me?”

 

Her face sinks back into a sulk, those contacts shimmering green as she speaks in a serious tone. “Nicola. I wanted to tell you that my father didn’t have a heart attack, I killed him.”

 

A lead weight drops in my stomach. “What?”

 

“Don’t freak out, let me explain.”

 

I jump out the seat, barely processing her words. “Explain what Lucy; you’re a murder on the run?”

 

She’s become a stranger; everything I thought I knew was a lie. All I can think is that I may be next.

 

I pace closer to the door, my eyes fixed on her as she slowly stands up.

 

“Where are you going? The exits to the club are locked, no one can get out,” she says.

 

 “Lucy, why did you bring me down here?”

 

“Because I have to tell you something else, it’s important, for old times’ sake just hold up a minute because it really needs to be said.”

 

A rational person would run away the minute she confessed. Instead, I stand there, my senses begging to flee as I give her a chance to speak. “What is it?”

 

She looks down at the floor, and then rears her head up with an ecstatic grin as she gleefully says. “I’ve always hated you Nicola.”

 

The shock freezes me on the spot. “Excuse me?”

 

She steps forward, every word growling with anger. “You heard me. I hate your perfect little life, I hate the fact that I had to depend on you all those years, and I hate that humble farm girl act. That’s why I chose you.”

 

I turn to reach out for the door handle. A snapping sound shoots past both ears. My hand seizes up, something’s wrapped around the skin, no, my whole body. I can’t move.

 

Another snap hits my ears. The heels of my shoes squeak, spinning the rest of me around. A green glow beams at my face, coming right out Lucy’s eyes.

 

She gets closer, her voice deepens. “You think you’re better than me Nicola? Well tonight it’s my turn.”

 

 My necks burns with the rough trim of an invisible rope, a noose forcing a splutter of breathe through each gasp. I can’t stop looking at those eyes; they keep shining, brighter and brighter, growing with her smile, scorching a vision of twin suns into my skull.

 

 I let out one last wheeze of a word, “Please…”

 

Her voice quakes the floor, “Please!”

 

The lights shut off. My knees knock to the ground, my vision shrunk to a set of darkened shapes as I struggle to wriggle my legs.

 

Lucy’s voice sounds normal as she laughs, “You know, I don’t think you’ve ever had to say that word to me before?”

 

A crackle of a speaker floods the room, “Sister Lucy, finish the Daemorum.”

 

“Shut up Beatrix, I want to enjoy this.”

 

Adrenaline perks up my body, fulfilling that unheeded need to flee as my fingers fumble for the way out.

 

“Oh you’re going to run?” says Lucy. “That’s fine, I’ll give you a head start, it’s the least I can do since you let me crash on the floor all those times. I’ll even get the door.”

 

A whoosh of air follows the sharp thud of the steel doorframe to my face. The grind of my neck mid-recoil sends me numb. Another snap shoots past me in a wave, my body slides out to hall under that same constricting force.

 

“5 minutes, not a second more,” says Lucy.

 

The slam of the door quiets her insane cackle. I finally get back some control as my eyesight starts to drift in chunks. Blocky outlines are all I can see. But the beat of the music down the hall is shaking the floor against my fingers. I claw towards the wall, following the rhythm as I prop myself up, the smell of chicken stronger than ever.

 

“Food?” sounds a voice beside me.

 

I squint, just about seeing the shape of an arm, waving in front.

 

I’m desperate. The dull ache is fading into punches of raw pain all over. Maybe he can help?

 

My throat croaks with each word, “Excuse me sir, can you help me?”

 

“Food?” it’s his only response.

 

I struggle to take a deep breath before saying, “Please sir, can you help?”

 

His fingers are wiggling in the air. I reach out to them and feel something sticky slather to my skin.

 

“Food…”

 

The arm flails at my collar, clenching the scruff as I struggle. I’m so shook up that my legs buckle, pulling his arm down with me.

 

“Food.” His voice is still in the same place.

 

The fleshy mass is tugging at my clothes regardless. A copper scent of blood wafts against my hand when I pry it away.

 

 I refuse to believe what actually happened. I have to wipe my eyes and wait for some semblance of sight to return before I realise the truth.

 

It’s an arm, a blood soaked arm, and it’s moving like it’s attached to someone.

 

“Food,” says the voice.

 

I turn round to see the owner of the limb, his eyes white, the severed shoulder swollen pustule black.

 

This can’t be happening? Lucy must have spiked my drink, that’s it. She got that Beatrix to slip me something? This is just a bad trip, their idea of a joke. 

 

Another glance at the severed arm gives me an almost certain doubt. I slide away on all fours down the hall, picking myself up before I pass the pane of the red room. A funnelling of smoke engulfs everything inside, only my own reflection is clear as I see Lucy’s handiwork. My swollen cheek is the size of beech ball, pulsing from the impact of the door while the rest aches with the spectre of a dozen future bruises.

 

Red smothers my reflection in a splatter. I stagger back; nearly choking down a stomach full of swallowed air, there’s so much blood. It fills me with urgency to run past the blue room as a snarl rolls into my ear before the punch of the music takes hold.

 

The people on the dance floor are none the wiser, still moving as if everything’s normal. The floor sends a shine of purple into my eyes; it’s rising in strings of smoke, almost to the roof.  How are they not seeing it?

 

“You’ve only got to the end of the hall? You really are disappointing me,” shouts Lucy.

 

Her voice sends me into a desperate frenzy, running into the crowd, my shoulder bouncing against the dancers. They just keep moving regardless. The music rumbles louder, they spin impossibly fast, my mind a flurry in the purple fog as I press forward.

 

My arm tightens to the cold metal of the stairs as the tide of bodies sways side to side, nearly pulling me back in as I tumble to the steps. I find the top of balcony deserted, the sparkle of silver chains against the door refracting the light. There’s no way out.

 

A ray of florescent orange shows a small side door close by the exit. It’s my last hope.

 

I see it’s a dead end as my shoes splash up a spray of yellowed water spread across a tiled bathroom floor.

 

Lucy’s voice calls out behind me with joy. “Hurry up Nicola.”

 

I have no choice but to wade deeper, the liquid chills my trainers then finally floods into the soles. My only option is to hide in a bathroom stall. The lock of the door is thinner than my little finger. It won’t hold her back, nevertheless, I reach out and slide is rusted metal surface shut.

 

A ripple of water bows towards me, footsteps splash closer, a thump rattles the door. I’m trapped.

 

The stall keeps shaking, I back away, a thousand screams locked in my chest.

 

A man’s voice calls, “Open up the damn toilet.”

 

Maybe he knows a way out? I flick open the lock as a gruff guy with long hair rushes past me to dive his face into the toilet. He doesn’t seem to care that he’s knee deep in piss as I listen to him splatter chunks into the bowl.

 

I still ask the question, “Hey, do you know a way out of here?”

 

He speaks with his mouth full, “Go away…”

 

“I just want-”

 

“Go away!”

 

He flicks a rain of wet hair at me, cranking his face backwards. His eyes are red atop a mouth of razor white teeth.

 

A long awaited scream rings past my throat; it nearly outstrips the music as I run out to the balcony. I try to look over the railing when a flash heat fires up in a green flame below. I jump back to the floor, my hair smelling of burnt strands.

 

I see the people below, all screaming, some running, while others lie bloodied on the floor. All the while that purple mist is climbing closer to the symbol on the roof, 7 orbs around a circle.

 

A click then a hiss rushes past me, I take in a final breath before it hits. That same sensation, as though a snake is swallowing me whole.

 

“I told you there was no way out,” says Lucy.

 

I’m helpless. She spins me round, her hand open palmed towards me.

 

Her eyes shift to that blinding green light as she shouts, “Thank you Nicola, it’s been fun catching up.”

 

She raises her arm. The tension pulls me up, the pressure of my feet slowly reducing off the ground as I climb higher and higher. Lucy snaps her fingers as everything becomes a rushing blur, stopping with a flash of red, my body laid out on the dance floor.

 

My nose is throbbing with channels of blood, it’s about the only part of me I feel, the rest is hazy, almost shivering, my limbs too heavy to move as I look towards the roof.

 

The purple mist touches the ceiling, the music and lights go dark, only the glow remains as the symbol ripples the air with a pitched static rumble. It shakes my ear drum to the core, gaining intensity, until the very floor is quaking. I lie there watching the spheres and circle gain a bright white flash of brilliant light. I can’t look away.

 

Then silence.

 

A white void presents itself amid the gaining tone of a whisper; it flows in a wave behind me, bearing down in my ears.

 

“Bring us home Nicola.”

 

 



© 2016 M.R Steiner


Author's Note

M.R Steiner
I always review back. No token reviews please, give a full review or don't even bother, you get one back just as detailed, if not more as long as your work isn't a freaking Tome, it's that simple.

My Review

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Featured Review

What you’re doing is mentally watching the film version and explaining/commenting on what you see. But is that the same as making the reader see it? No. Look at the words from a reader’s viewpoint, one who knows only what the words have said to any given point:

• It starts on the night of my death.

Ah well..no sense in reading on. I know how it ends. Was that what you intended the reader to get? No. Bu it is what you said. Don’t talk about the story. Don’t be the kindly storyteller, curled u in your study with the reader and talking to them about events once experienced. That’s passive. It’s informative but NOT entertaining. Don’t make the reader know your protagonist is frightened. Scare the crap out of the READER.

And “it?” What can that mean?

Yes, you can say, “Read on and find out what I meant,” but readers won’t. They have no assurance that you will clarify, and in any case, you cannot retroactively remove confusion.

• The date is November 7th and I am absolutely freezing.

Again, from a reader’s viewpoint, meaningless. This could be November in California with the speaker in a sundress, or in Siberia with the protagonist reaching their thermal limit due to starvation. Instead of explaining, show the reader. Have the character pull their jacket more tightly around them, or huddle against something. Never tell when you can demonstrate.

And why does the date matter to the reader? Unless it matters to the character, in the moment the protagonist calls now, it’s a waste of time to tell the reader because it’s irrelevant to the character and the scene, and so, to us, too.

Fingers of frost keep tickling my nose, tempting that kind of sneeze that only gets worse the more you fight it. No club is worth this, I think to myself.

I’ve been out in -12, when the air freezes the hairs of your nose on every inhale, but never felt “fingers” of frost. But that aside, because we don’t know who we are, where we are, or what’s going on, mentioning “the club” tells us nothing useful because we have no context.

You know. The character knows. But who did you write this for? Why not let them in on the secret?

• This queasy drop hits my gut. “I don’t think this is a good idea,” I say to my friend.

This pretty much encapsulates the problems:
1. “This queasy drop?” As against that one? What can that mean if we only have an overview of events? What does this person notice that brings on the change? Could be almost anything. And without that it’s just a voice devoid of emotion droning, “This happened…then that happened…and after that…”
2. Why doesn’t the character think it’s a good idea? Were this a film her body language, expression, gestures, and all the skills an actor spends so much time learning would tell me that in an eyeblink. But I can see nothing of the mental image you held as you typed. And I know nothing of the character’s background and what led to being there.

So in the end YOU and talking to me, in a voice I can’t hear, telling ME a story as if I can see what you see, and know what you know.

Stop for a minute and take a look at this graphic novel. It has direct bearing on the problems I mention: Http://www.gocomics.com/lostsideofsuburbia/2011/07/26

Use the arrow at the top to read a few pages. Ask yourself if the words would have even a fraction of the impact were the pictures not included. Then ask yourself how close to the way you’re telling this, the author is telling that story. Go now, I’ll wait. ;-)

Here’s the deal: story isn’t “told” on the page because you have none of the tools of a storytelling performance available to us. The reader can neither see not hear our performance. And its in them that the emotional content lies.

Think of a simple phrase like, “Good morning.” On the stage, or as a story told aloud, how it’s said is critical

Place a couple in bed. Have them say “good morning” one way and it’s an invitation to make love. In another it’s “Who the hell are you and how did I get here?” It could be a perfunctory greeting of someone the speaker sees, acknowledges, but doesn’t care about. But unless you set it up and make the reader know the protagonist’s state of mind, or at least how it’s said, it’s just words. Never lose sight of the fact that it’s their story. And to them it’s real, and of critical importance. To you it’s just a story. Which of you do you think the reader wants to be with?

Of the two methods, making the reader know the speaker’s mind, first, is the better method, because they “hear” it in the proper tone. Adding a tag that says how it was said comes after the reading has finished, and it’s too late.

Added to that, the page is a serial medium, where film is parallel, and inherently slower. So every word not describing action slows pace. As Jack Bickham observed, “To describe something in detail, you have to stop the action. But without the action, the description has no meaning.”

What I’m talking about has nothing to do with talent, good/bad writing, or the story. The problems stem from a problem we all share. We all leave school believing we learned how to write. But what did we spend so much time writing? Mostly reports and essays, where our goal was to inform, clearly and concisely. So our practice writing was fact-based and author-centric. In other words, nonfiction. We leave school with skills useful to a prospective employer, but are exactly as well prepared to write fiction as to skillfully perform an appendectomy.

The sad thing is that we’re aware that we need medical training, but not that we need training in the techniques of fiction. So, we just jump in and then wonder why it doesn’t seem to work the way we hoped it would. But who’s to tell us? People in the online forums? Who is there to tell, them?

See the problem? If you want to write like a pro you need their skills and knowledge, because there’s a lot that’s neither obvious nor visible when we read.

Reading fiction matters, but we can no more learn to write by reading than learn to use a chefs knife by eating a chef prepared meal. To produce any product we need to know and understand the process.

And you can. It’s no harder to learn fiction technique than the skills you learned in school. And it won’t take the twelve years that took. In fact, you’ll probably find the learning fun, like going backstage in the theater. And lots of it will make you shake your head and say, “Why didn’t I see that for myself?

Simple, right? It is…but not easy, I’m afraid. Your current writing skills feel intuitive, after all the time you’ve spent practicing. And they are going to shout with anger when you try to write to entertain instead of inform. They are going to try to grab the controls and guide your into what they see as “proper” writing technique. But when you do get it under control you’ll wonder why you ever thought it hard. And you’ll love the improvement in readability.

What you’re doing now is focusing on events and their progression. But that’s plot, not story. Story takes place in the heart and mind of the protagonist. What they feel, and why, matters a great deal, because it makes the reader know what motivates the character. And that provides a reason for what they do.

At the moment, you’re talking primarily in overview, so there is no uncertainty for a reader, just a steady progression of facts. But place the reader into the protagonist’s “now” and the future is uncertain—and interesting. Make the reader know what the protagonist is trying to accomplish and they’ll wonder if it works—a hook to keep the reader turning pages.

And will you find that information as a series of “Do this, not that” tricks that can fit into a few posts?

If only. We’re talking about a profession, one for which they offer four year degree courses.

The simple version: to write like a pro you need to know what a pro knows. Your writing needs to be emotion based and character-centric, not the detailed history of a fictitious character.

You’ve demonstrated the desire and the perseverance. That’s great. And you have the language and descriptive skills and visualizations. That’s great. What you need to do is trade that sturdy dray horse we’re issued in school for Pegasus. And mounted on a winged steed, who knows how far you’ll fly?

The local library’s fiction writing section can be a huge resource. The articles in my writing blog can give you a sort of overview. But my personal suggestion is one of two books.

Dwight Swain’s, Techniques of the Selling Writer, is the single best book for learning the basics. It’s an older book, and talks about your typewriter. And Swain, a product of his time, thinks of serious writers as men. But that being said, he is the best. And because he tends to be a bit dry, I would suggest a two-pronged approach. Download the audio recordings titled, Dwight Swain, Master Writer, if you can. The problem is that the “buy it now price, US is $5.95 on Amazon.com, but 16.85 on Amazon.co.uk, which makes no sense.

If you can buy from .com I suggest the recordings to get a feel for what the book will say, and incidentally, teach you how to murder with a doorknob.

The book itself, needs to be read slowly, with plenty of time to think about, and practice each point as it’s raised, so it should take several weeks to read the first time.

If you cannot get the audio files, buy Debra Dixon’s, GMC: Goal Motivation & Conflict. It’s a great book, covers much the same ground, and some points Swain misses. (so in the end it will be good to own them both) It’s good as a first book because in many ways, it feels like having a chat with Deb, while Swain’ book occasionally feels like trying to take a sip from a firehose.

But either way, and whatever you do, hang in there, and keep on writing.

Jay Greenstein
https://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/category/the-craft-of-writing/

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 4 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

M.R Steiner

4 Years Ago

hey there Jay, don't suppose you could give this new version a quick look for me, just so I know if .. read more
JayG

4 Years Ago

Much better. Comments in parenthesis)

• The damp latches to my fingers (were the fi.. read more
M.R Steiner

4 Years Ago

you have my gratitude Jay G, your advice has been a massive help to me, I'll keep trying to get ther.. read more



Reviews

What you’re doing is mentally watching the film version and explaining/commenting on what you see. But is that the same as making the reader see it? No. Look at the words from a reader’s viewpoint, one who knows only what the words have said to any given point:

• It starts on the night of my death.

Ah well..no sense in reading on. I know how it ends. Was that what you intended the reader to get? No. Bu it is what you said. Don’t talk about the story. Don’t be the kindly storyteller, curled u in your study with the reader and talking to them about events once experienced. That’s passive. It’s informative but NOT entertaining. Don’t make the reader know your protagonist is frightened. Scare the crap out of the READER.

And “it?” What can that mean?

Yes, you can say, “Read on and find out what I meant,” but readers won’t. They have no assurance that you will clarify, and in any case, you cannot retroactively remove confusion.

• The date is November 7th and I am absolutely freezing.

Again, from a reader’s viewpoint, meaningless. This could be November in California with the speaker in a sundress, or in Siberia with the protagonist reaching their thermal limit due to starvation. Instead of explaining, show the reader. Have the character pull their jacket more tightly around them, or huddle against something. Never tell when you can demonstrate.

And why does the date matter to the reader? Unless it matters to the character, in the moment the protagonist calls now, it’s a waste of time to tell the reader because it’s irrelevant to the character and the scene, and so, to us, too.

Fingers of frost keep tickling my nose, tempting that kind of sneeze that only gets worse the more you fight it. No club is worth this, I think to myself.

I’ve been out in -12, when the air freezes the hairs of your nose on every inhale, but never felt “fingers” of frost. But that aside, because we don’t know who we are, where we are, or what’s going on, mentioning “the club” tells us nothing useful because we have no context.

You know. The character knows. But who did you write this for? Why not let them in on the secret?

• This queasy drop hits my gut. “I don’t think this is a good idea,” I say to my friend.

This pretty much encapsulates the problems:
1. “This queasy drop?” As against that one? What can that mean if we only have an overview of events? What does this person notice that brings on the change? Could be almost anything. And without that it’s just a voice devoid of emotion droning, “This happened…then that happened…and after that…”
2. Why doesn’t the character think it’s a good idea? Were this a film her body language, expression, gestures, and all the skills an actor spends so much time learning would tell me that in an eyeblink. But I can see nothing of the mental image you held as you typed. And I know nothing of the character’s background and what led to being there.

So in the end YOU and talking to me, in a voice I can’t hear, telling ME a story as if I can see what you see, and know what you know.

Stop for a minute and take a look at this graphic novel. It has direct bearing on the problems I mention: Http://www.gocomics.com/lostsideofsuburbia/2011/07/26

Use the arrow at the top to read a few pages. Ask yourself if the words would have even a fraction of the impact were the pictures not included. Then ask yourself how close to the way you’re telling this, the author is telling that story. Go now, I’ll wait. ;-)

Here’s the deal: story isn’t “told” on the page because you have none of the tools of a storytelling performance available to us. The reader can neither see not hear our performance. And its in them that the emotional content lies.

Think of a simple phrase like, “Good morning.” On the stage, or as a story told aloud, how it’s said is critical

Place a couple in bed. Have them say “good morning” one way and it’s an invitation to make love. In another it’s “Who the hell are you and how did I get here?” It could be a perfunctory greeting of someone the speaker sees, acknowledges, but doesn’t care about. But unless you set it up and make the reader know the protagonist’s state of mind, or at least how it’s said, it’s just words. Never lose sight of the fact that it’s their story. And to them it’s real, and of critical importance. To you it’s just a story. Which of you do you think the reader wants to be with?

Of the two methods, making the reader know the speaker’s mind, first, is the better method, because they “hear” it in the proper tone. Adding a tag that says how it was said comes after the reading has finished, and it’s too late.

Added to that, the page is a serial medium, where film is parallel, and inherently slower. So every word not describing action slows pace. As Jack Bickham observed, “To describe something in detail, you have to stop the action. But without the action, the description has no meaning.”

What I’m talking about has nothing to do with talent, good/bad writing, or the story. The problems stem from a problem we all share. We all leave school believing we learned how to write. But what did we spend so much time writing? Mostly reports and essays, where our goal was to inform, clearly and concisely. So our practice writing was fact-based and author-centric. In other words, nonfiction. We leave school with skills useful to a prospective employer, but are exactly as well prepared to write fiction as to skillfully perform an appendectomy.

The sad thing is that we’re aware that we need medical training, but not that we need training in the techniques of fiction. So, we just jump in and then wonder why it doesn’t seem to work the way we hoped it would. But who’s to tell us? People in the online forums? Who is there to tell, them?

See the problem? If you want to write like a pro you need their skills and knowledge, because there’s a lot that’s neither obvious nor visible when we read.

Reading fiction matters, but we can no more learn to write by reading than learn to use a chefs knife by eating a chef prepared meal. To produce any product we need to know and understand the process.

And you can. It’s no harder to learn fiction technique than the skills you learned in school. And it won’t take the twelve years that took. In fact, you’ll probably find the learning fun, like going backstage in the theater. And lots of it will make you shake your head and say, “Why didn’t I see that for myself?

Simple, right? It is…but not easy, I’m afraid. Your current writing skills feel intuitive, after all the time you’ve spent practicing. And they are going to shout with anger when you try to write to entertain instead of inform. They are going to try to grab the controls and guide your into what they see as “proper” writing technique. But when you do get it under control you’ll wonder why you ever thought it hard. And you’ll love the improvement in readability.

What you’re doing now is focusing on events and their progression. But that’s plot, not story. Story takes place in the heart and mind of the protagonist. What they feel, and why, matters a great deal, because it makes the reader know what motivates the character. And that provides a reason for what they do.

At the moment, you’re talking primarily in overview, so there is no uncertainty for a reader, just a steady progression of facts. But place the reader into the protagonist’s “now” and the future is uncertain—and interesting. Make the reader know what the protagonist is trying to accomplish and they’ll wonder if it works—a hook to keep the reader turning pages.

And will you find that information as a series of “Do this, not that” tricks that can fit into a few posts?

If only. We’re talking about a profession, one for which they offer four year degree courses.

The simple version: to write like a pro you need to know what a pro knows. Your writing needs to be emotion based and character-centric, not the detailed history of a fictitious character.

You’ve demonstrated the desire and the perseverance. That’s great. And you have the language and descriptive skills and visualizations. That’s great. What you need to do is trade that sturdy dray horse we’re issued in school for Pegasus. And mounted on a winged steed, who knows how far you’ll fly?

The local library’s fiction writing section can be a huge resource. The articles in my writing blog can give you a sort of overview. But my personal suggestion is one of two books.

Dwight Swain’s, Techniques of the Selling Writer, is the single best book for learning the basics. It’s an older book, and talks about your typewriter. And Swain, a product of his time, thinks of serious writers as men. But that being said, he is the best. And because he tends to be a bit dry, I would suggest a two-pronged approach. Download the audio recordings titled, Dwight Swain, Master Writer, if you can. The problem is that the “buy it now price, US is $5.95 on Amazon.com, but 16.85 on Amazon.co.uk, which makes no sense.

If you can buy from .com I suggest the recordings to get a feel for what the book will say, and incidentally, teach you how to murder with a doorknob.

The book itself, needs to be read slowly, with plenty of time to think about, and practice each point as it’s raised, so it should take several weeks to read the first time.

If you cannot get the audio files, buy Debra Dixon’s, GMC: Goal Motivation & Conflict. It’s a great book, covers much the same ground, and some points Swain misses. (so in the end it will be good to own them both) It’s good as a first book because in many ways, it feels like having a chat with Deb, while Swain’ book occasionally feels like trying to take a sip from a firehose.

But either way, and whatever you do, hang in there, and keep on writing.

Jay Greenstein
https://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/category/the-craft-of-writing/

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 4 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

M.R Steiner

4 Years Ago

hey there Jay, don't suppose you could give this new version a quick look for me, just so I know if .. read more
JayG

4 Years Ago

Much better. Comments in parenthesis)

• The damp latches to my fingers (were the fi.. read more
M.R Steiner

4 Years Ago

you have my gratitude Jay G, your advice has been a massive help to me, I'll keep trying to get ther.. read more
I really like the overall feel of the story so far.I think the characters have a really strong presence,in addition the dialogue flows naturally and nicely.My only critique as a reader is I find myself rereading occasionally because I am not sure which character is talking.Other then that really awesome!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

M.R Steiner

4 Years Ago

don't suppose you take a quick look at this new version, need to know if its an improvement or just .. read more
HeyJadeXO

4 Years Ago

Yes I can.I will take a look now.
M.R Steiner

4 Years Ago

you are a star :)
this story has it all gods zombies and vampires im going to have to read it again man

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

M.R Steiner

4 Years Ago

Thank you so much dude, I have a long ways to go, this is just a fun project for me as opposed to th.. read more

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Added on December 12, 2016
Last Updated on December 16, 2016
Tags: Vampire, werewolf, zombie, witch, demon, saint, dark, love, romance, life, sad, evil, devil, horror, suspense, monsters, good, angels, religion, hybrids, animals, supernatural, depression, sin


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M.R Steiner
M.R Steiner

a terrible city, an even more terrible region, United Kingdom



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looking for advice and feedback, every critic welcome no matter what, I will thank you :) more..

Writing