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Tag: Contemporary Fantasy


Author’s Notes – Good morning (or whatever time it is where you are when you are reading this). The following is a small micro-fiction I wrote on my phone after taking a little picture during lunch. I just had the idea and thought it was a fun exercise in trying to find inspiration in the little things. I hope you enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think!

This was a land of giants, a land his mothers had long warned him against traveling. The lure of plentiful food had drawn him here though, with red-backed prey abundant and without much cover. And the giants had not walked these lands in ages – if they were even real. He had followed the prey that day, from the great green wilds across the sunbaked rocks of the gray flats and to that giants’ tower. The tower let off heat, baked in the sun but protected by the shade of the legendary palaces beyond. He climbed the tower to make his nest. This would be his hunting grounds and a place he could make his home. 
But in the days after he arrived, something changed. There came a great shadow that blocked the sun. Shade fell on the tower, and it’s very form twisted and turned. In fear, he leaped free of the soft branches of the towers and down to it’s central tier where the black webs wove a great disc. There he saw them. There were the giants. 
He had not believed the elders, but their stories did not do them credit. They were nearly as large as the tower. They came to with booming voices. He sought a place to hide and his legs carried him swiftly across the black rock webs towards the core of the tower. But there he met a giant up close. One had reached out and taken hold of the tower. It’s hand was massive. It wrapped about the tower – which had stood here for generations – and with one motion the being uprooted it and the landmark was moved. 
He had found a place to hide for a time, but knew it was best to escape. Along the central tier he moved, hoping to avoid the gaze and the anger they would feel at his taking of their hunting ground. But one saw him. It reached out towards him, a massive digit moving to crush the little thing. He scurried away. It was no use. He could not hope to flee such a creature and in fear he froze.
The digit descended. He felt fear and little else. Then a brush against his leg. Though the creature was massive, it did not crush him. Instead it merely brushed him. It was another soft touch. It ushered him off the web and to the safety of the edge of the disk. The massive creature looked at him and for a moment they locked eyes. Then it moved away from him. It went back to what it was doing. It had changed the tower but had kept him safe. When the giants moved on they left the tower for the him.
Perhaps the stories were wrong. There was nothing monstrous about them. Possibly, even, they had hoped he would watch over the tower and it’s changes while they were away. And so he would – as long as he could.
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Nanowrimo 2017 – Chapter 01

Author’s Notes: So, I saw people revisiting old works this week, and it inspired me to look back. The first Nanowrimo I officially joined was in 2017, and it was the first one I completed. That year, I wrote a contemporary fantasy about a teacher at a demi-human school and the dangers that came with that. It was my least favorite writing to date. By the end, the story didn’t work. I hated it. And I buried it. I didn’t even let my partner read it. I really never wanted to look at it again. I still don’t, if I’m honest – but it is important to do for growth. If I’m going to, I might as well share it with the world, right? Feel free to let me know what you think.

A New Home


               Aching legs, a sore back, a bit of nausea, but it was all worth it. These had been long hours sitting in this tiny little economy seat, with old faded blue cushions giving only the slightest of support. The point where cushion met plastic seemed to have been designed to find the most uncomfortable place on his neck. The cabin was stuffy, and the smell of the hundreds of people who shared the form of travel with him had grown unbearable for a time. The seat next to him filled with someone who barely made an effort to roll himself into the plane that morning, an all too thin pair of pajama bottoms, and an old ragged shirt seemed too little to wear out on a long haul like this. But none of that mattered. Not today. Today, he got a glimpse – his first glimpse – of his new home. All the waiting, all the discomfort faded away. Now, they were making a final descent, and Jonas couldn’t help but feel that well of excitement in his chest.

               His eyes were glued to the cloud line as the plane began its descent. The announcements of the pilot were just noise in his ears, and there was nothing more than that view. The plane hit the cloud, mists rippling past the fuselage, and along the craft before it entered that ethereal fog. Light turbulence rocked the flight slightly, but barely enough to alarm even the most anxious of fliers. A few seconds more and the cloud began to thin. The excitement built, he felt himself take a breath and hold – just waiting.

               The clouds broke under his flight, and the city came into view. Or, mostly did. There were shimmers of lights in the distance, blocked by the shadows of the rainstorm they were descending through. Towers of business, mixed architecture, and monuments were visible, but only as blurry silhouettes and faded shapes. There was nothing grand or spectacular from this angle. There was a tinge of disappointment in him, a sort of stab at his heart as his expectations slumped over. He sighed a bit. But the lights. The lights were still beautiful. And the view of the rain from the ground would be spectacular. The disappointment faded as the plane approached a runway.

               Then there was the sudden jolt of the plane, the sound of rubber screeching against asphalt. The backdrop of lights behind the airport fascinated him. The world was so new to him, so expansive, even if he couldn’t quite see it through the rain. The plane rolled into its taxi-way, and then to a full stop next to a walkway. The crew gave the usual exit speeches, and people began to stand and gather their things. Back quite a way, it took a while for his turn to get there. He didn’t mind. When there was space, he stood and opened his overhead. He noticed the other bag in the hold. He hesitated a minute, before his fingers wrapped around the soft cloth handle of his bag, and then the hard plastic of the other. He pulled them both down, setting the hard plastic travel case in his seat. He leaned over to the man in his pajamas and gave him a little shake.

               “Sorry to wake you,” He said, voice a bit dry from not having said anything in a few hours. “We landed. I got your bag down for you.”

               “Huh?” The pajama-man coughed a bit and looked drowsily around. He finally found the window, his head lulling over to the glass as he looked. “Oh, thank god… ground.” He spoke through a yawn, and as he moved, there was a little rattle. He stretched and gave a nod and a quick, “Thanks, man.”

               Jonas felt a smile start to creep up his lips and he gave a nod back to the man. “My pleasure,” He said softly, before joining the flow of people off the plane. He, like everyone else, moved like a stream – down the aisle and past the flight attendants who gave their cheery, if canned, responses. Then through the pedway and out a gate. Then a hard right down another corridor to a tunnelway. It was dimly lit, except for the incredibly bright direction signs. They were almost hard to look at this time of day, but the occasional point towards the baggage claim gave him some hope that he would soon be out of his travel portion, and to his new home.

               He finally broke with the stream of others that flooded through the tunnels. He sidestepped out of the stream as many people stepped onto one of the automatic conveyor belts. He just kept walking alongside them. It wasn’t faster or more efficient, but it felt good to walk after the long flight. He adjusted, swing his cloth bag from one side and trading it from one hand to another. His eyes trailed along with people. And then he stopped dead in his tracks. His sudden stop caused the person behind him to brush against him as he passed. It warranted a quick, “Sorry,” from Jonas, but his eyes never moved from his target.

               He saw her — a beautiful woman dressed in soft, airy clothes. Her deep black hair was tied back in a ponytail. His eyes trailed down her form though, pausing at her waist, where shirt gave way to the sash, which gave way to a shimmer of scales and a long tail. She weaved through the crowd slowly, yawning. That tail slipped between people as she moved along with the stream. He could tell many people were used to it, the way they stepped away and around the serpentine movements. How many naga were in the city? How many had to be for people to be used to moving around them in crowds?

               The thought made him excited. His heart raced a little bit. Back home, the only demi-human who lived anywhere near them was a literal old bog hag. Of course, she was nothing like the stories of hags. She was friendly and outgoing and ran an herb shop. One of those places you could find whatever rare spice you wanted, and with a room in the back labeled 21 and Over Only but only blocked by hanging strings of beads. The stories had always fascinated him. Now, he was watching a Naga move past him. It was brilliant, at least until she spoke.

               “Enjoying the view, asshole?” She barked at him as she passed by.

               He felt a blush fill his cheeks as she slipped by. He was embarrassed for a second, and then called out to her, “Sorry! New here – never met a Naga,”

               “Still haven’t,” She said as she slipped away into the crowd, though he did catch her add a “Fucking tourists…” As she moved out of earshot.

               There was some laughter – but Jonas couldn’t help but smile. He gave an embarrassed little nod to those laughing and began to move back on his way. The excitement was still there though, he had a bit of a pep in his step now, and moved a bit faster towards the baggage claim. This was it, his chance, and it felt amazing.

               When he reached baggage, he quickly found his bag. He was in a bit of a rush, it seemed, pushing past other groups with quick apologies every time. “Sorry,” He’d say and lean past a group to check to see if a bag was his. “Excuse me,” While reaching through another. Finally, he found his bag; a large, hard leather suitcase, likely older than him. He gripped the bag and pulled it free from the conveyor belt, and quickly moved out of the way of others. He found a chair and lifted his bag with a little bit of a heave. It was heavy, but not too bad. He sat it down and unzipped one of the smaller pouches. As he routed around, he saw a man holding a sign nearby.

               Lindstrom. The sign read.

               “Oh, hey!” Jonas called over, waving the hand that wasn’t rooting around in a pouch in his bag a bit frantically. “Hey, with the sign,” He called a bit louder. The man finally looked over to him, pointing at himself. “Yes, you.” He waved him over, “I’m Jonas.”

               “Oh.” The man said softly, a bit deadpan, “Good.” He spoke and walked over. “I’m Mr. Harmand. I am here to give you a lift to your apartment.”

               “Mr. Harmand. That’s an odd coincidence. One of my coworkers is named Harmand,” Jonas said before letting out a quick, “Finally,” And pulling a small silver charmed necklace from the bag.

               “Not a coincidence. I drew the short straw…” Harmand all but signed. “And you may not start yet, but I have class in the morning, so…”

               “Oh, right, sorry!” Jonas spoke quickly, pulling the necklace on and tucking the rune charm into his undershirt. “Sorry, sorry,” He repeated before taking a moment to zip up the bag. He lifted it up and then nodded to Harmand. “Ready when you are.”

               “You weren’t, but… whatever. Come on.” Harmand said with a bit of a groan. “Let’s see if we can’t get you home, and then I can finally go back home.”

               “I appreciate it, by the way,” Jonas added.

               “Don’t mention it,” Harmand spoke as they headed out of the baggage claim and to the exits. Then they were on the street.

               Jonas took a deep breath and cast his eyes around the airport as they walked. In the distance, he could see the buildings, the twinkling lights of the city. The rain cascaded down on him and Harmand as they walked out into the parking lot towards Harmand’s car. Each step they picked up the pace a little bit. It was pouring the rain, and he soaked through in seconds. The chill hit him hard and fast. When they got to Harmand’s car, the lights flashed on and off, and the doors unlocked. The two opened their doors and slid in, with Jonas pulling his cloth bag and suitcase into his lap and settling in. He shut the door softly and glanced over to Harmond for a moment, who just stared at him.


               “Nothing,” Harmond said, then he sighed. “Welcome to Gray Harbor, Jonas.”

               Jonas couldn’t help but smile. “Thanks, Harmond. Happy to be here.”

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Short Story – The First Magi

Author’s Notes – This is my second Short Story of the year. However, I think I failed completely at the idea of a short story this time. This feels much more like a prologue. The story here is only hinted at, and I don’t feel like it is a complete story. That all being said, I wanted to post it anyway. Maybe if people enjoy it, I might make it into a full fledged long form. I think there are some fun ideas to play with here, and it is always fun to explore magic systems. Take a look. I hope you enjoy. And next week, I hope to have a story that works much better for actually being a ‘Short Story’.

The First Magi

There was little age on his hands, few wrinkles marking the passage of time, but the tremor in his hand as he gripped a feathered pen was clear. This was a man who had seen time pass into memory for ages uncounted. It was the tiredness in his grip and the weight in his eyes that showed the wearing on his soul much more than anything about his body indicated. He took a long breath. His shoulders rolled to find a more comfortable seated position. His joints cracked just a bit as he sat up a bit straighter.

Those tired eyes drifted across the length of the library he sat within. A crackling fire in an old stone fireplace shone light across the large room, with shadows dancing across the countless tomes and scrolls that lay stacked in endless corridors of bookcases. This was not a flowery description or overly inflated assumptions of the size of the place, it was the truth – or as close to it as a Magi could ever get. The corridors of books twisted in impossible fashions, bending through space and wrapping around one another with no semblance of reliance on the bounds of physics. A corridor may have spiraled over one of the others, disappearing into one of the open spaces in a distant bookcase, and exiting through the back of another on the opposite side of the room.

His eyes caught his apprentice as she approached from a distance. If you had asked him a few years prior, he never would have considered taking an apprentice – but as she searched for a scroll or tome, angled as if she was standing on the wall from his perspective here, he couldn’t imagine having left her behind. The thought let his breath escape for a moment, a sigh. He tapped the pen on his desk and leaned back in his chair.

The tapping seemed to awaken a nearby piece of paper. It perked up like a curious, sleeping cat. With a small flitter, it lifted off the floor near the desk, and it was picked up by some unseen wind and brought up to the desk. It floated softly to rest just next to the man’s hand. He twisted his hand to place the nib against the parchment, and with a swipe of his fingers, the first trail of ink followed behind.

To the Council of Magi, he wrote.

When we last spoke, I submitted that I would not take another apprentice of the Arts in the future. I found myself unwilling to consider such an event would again present itself to me, but I write to you today to say that I have changed my mind and will be taking an apprentice. His eyes drifted up to the distant girl, who struggled to pull a scroll from its base just out of her reach. He shook his head softly and turned back to his writing, I have found an assistant who exhibits exceptional power in the use of magic. 

There as a clattering which caused him to raise his head. In the distance he could see her standing with a hand outstretched, a single scroll levitating under a silver sparkling wind as a mess of books settled around her on the pathway that spiraled above him. He shook his head.

“Alejandra!” His old voice bellowed out.

“I’m okay,” She squeaked out a startled response, leaning back to look down at him – though it was up from her perspective, and her neck was stretched back as far as possible to look at him.

“The books, Alejandra,” He looked away from her for a moment and to the letter. He rarely second-guessed himself, but this was one of those times.

“Right,” She called back. His eyes returned to watch her for a moment – and that hesitation was gone. She stretched out her hands and her a swirling silver mist raised up around her. Her clothes billowed as if she was in the wind, or perhaps falling a short distance, and all the while, the books rose from their resting points. They rose gently, twisting harmless in the shimmering gray winds summoned by the young woman.

He turned back to his writing shortly, his wrist twisting with the letters as he wrote. Despite everything the Council has ever done, despite everything they have said, her very existence has called me to question our leadership. In the thousands of years we have existed, they have spoken of one single truth. Humans are not able to weave the threads of fate. And yet, here I sit, He paused and glanced back up to view his assistant. A handful of books floated back to their spots in the bookcases as she floated just a few inches above the ground, her clothes and hair tossed around by the mystic winds that followed her hands and the direction they gave to return the books. He continued, watching as she uses magic for the mundane tasks I set upon her, having learned from little more than observing me as I work. 

Her potential is there and yet her existence is threatened by the very people who should be embracing her skills. He took a breath and glanced up again. He couldn’t spot her immediately. She had wandered deeper into the stacks on his task for her. For a moment, he hesitated. You. He wrote finally. He tapped his pen against the parchment for a moment before his resolve returned. He sat up straighter, his mind was made up. This facade ended here. Alejandra is my apprentice, let it be known from this moment forward. She will be the first magi of her kind. 

There was a reason he had steeled himself. Again, hesitation reached him. The line he was about to cross was worth it though. My duty to the threads comes first, and I will fulfill it to the best of my ability. Wrongfully holding back an entire people will not stand. You may hunt her and seek to stop me, but know that I will protect her with every ounce of my power. Any attack on her or her kind on her behalf will be known to me.

So it is written, so shall I take my new apprentice, and when her training is complete, she will stand before the Council.

“Sir,” Her voice broke through the silence of his mind as he wrote. He glanced up from his writing to see the young girl with a hand full of scroll cases, standing a few steps distant from his desk. She was shadowed by the flickering light of the fireplace. She gave him a weak smile. “I’ve gathered the scrolls you asked for.”

He started to speak. He stopped, though, and he nodded to her. “Good,” He said with a trailing of the word as his next question came to the air. “Do you want to be a Magistrix, Alejandra?”

She seemed to draw a blank for a moment, before her head hastily bobbed up and down, “Yes, yes, I would.”

“It won’t be easy. It won’t be safe. The art of magic itself is dangerous, and because of what you are people will try to stop you from succeeding.”

“I understand,” She said sternly. There was a confidence there. “So was life before,”

“This is different than people treating you like a mutt,” He spoke coldly, “Or living on the street. Those things are dangerous to this body,” He reached out a finger and pressed hard into her shoulder. “The dangers I speak of will tear at your soul. A mistake in magic, a lowering of your guard, and the very fabric of the universe will seek to erase you to repair the mistake. Even in success, you may find yourself at odds with powers most of your kind only consider to be mythological. You have seen some of the dangers I have faced.” He raised a finger, “There is no shame in choosing a life away from these dangers. Are you sure you are ready?”

She paused for a moment. There wasn’t an answer for a time, but her shoulders shrugged after a moment, “Of course not,” She nodded to herself, “But you said that you hadn’t seen a magi like me before. Humans weren’t seen as capable of using magic, right. So,” She glanced at him, her hands rubbing and wringing nervously, “It would be wrong not to take advantage of that. I think. So I don’t really have a choice.” She shrugged, again, a nervous tick. “I mean, I want to learn. It’s amazing…”


His voice shook her to a bit of a truer decision. “Yes, I’m ready to learn,” She nodded her head hardily. “I accept the dangers.”

He nodded to her and lifted a finger to point to the scrolls and tomes she collected. “Good,” He smiled, “Those will be your first proper lessons,” He gave a dismissive wave, “Take those with you. Return home, and rest. We’ll begin tomorrow.”

“Are you sure? I don’t feel like I’ve done much today.”

He nodded, “I need to finish up some things here. So, you’ll learn nothing more today,” He looked past her to the entrance to the library, “Besides, some relaxation will make you a better student tomorrow.”

“Okay. Is there anything else you need?”

“No,” Was the only response. Neither said anything else. She stood silently for a moment, but then gave a quick nod and took the scrolls and tomes with her as she headed out. She hesitated from time to time, but eventually, she moved behind him and stepped beyond the threshold marked by large oaken doors. When the doors closed behind her he turned back to his letter. The pen in his hands tapped on the paper again, leaving some errant droplets of ink to stain the parchment. He finally put the nib to the end of the letter.

Justiciar, Magister of the Watch. He signed off. A small flicker of silver flame fell from the pen and onto the ink. It spread across the page and in mere seconds the document had turned to ash. He looked off to the distance, and for a moment there was silence and stillness within the room.

Moments passed before there was a flash of light, a blue flame appearing where the letter had been, and leaving a smoldering remnant that formed into another letter. This letter was different.

Justiciar, It said, You have made your choice. You are hereby relinquished of your council seat, and exiled from Magister society. You have chosen the enemy. We will not suffer a traitor, especially one who has fallen as far as you. Then, signed at the bottom was a simple, So it is written by the Council of Magisters.

He turned his eyes up again looking out to the libraries beyond. One by one the stacks began to spark with that same blue flame. Roaring fires soon engulfed the countless tomes and pathways beyond, riding through until they reached the points where the stacks met the library. There was no heat, there was no sound, only the visual representation of the magic tearing through the cases of books and tomes. Once they had all reached the library where he sat, the fires relented and faded. They left nothing. Unadulterated void stretched beyond, with no sign of the knowledge that had been within moments earlier.

Still. He was happy with his choice. She deserved to have one soul believe in her. He was proud it was him. It was a familiar feeling to be so alone from one’s own kind, and only fitting that she would take his place. She would become the next Justiciar, with or without the Council’s resources. With that thought, he stood and took a breath. He reached out towards the fireplace and slowly closed his fist. The flickering fire was snuffed by a silvered wind, and he turned to head towards those oaken doors.

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Day Shift – Chapter 21

Chapter 21 – The End of the Year

Mattias had barely finished with an irate customer seconds before. Christmas had come and gone, and now it was that stretch between the holiday and the new year. It was a strange twist that very few people really understood. People had their gifts now and were trying to figure out how to use them or set them up – and they no longer felt the need to be polite. It would be a couple of weeks before it calmed down, but it was just as busy as it had been for the past week or so. It was tormenting, but the light at the end of the tunnel gave a bit of hope that it wouldn’t be forever. Those things would go back to normal soon.

As he leaned back, he worried that normal wasn’t what he wanted it to be. There was a dread to keep doing this. Even after the realization that these people were closer to him than he cared to admit. He took a breath and finally turned his head to the person that had drawn his attention. One of the Human Resources goons had shown back up at his cubicle and flagged him down. He saw the man waving at him and waiting for the call to end. He pulled off his headset and tossed it down on the desk.

“HR,” The vampire spoke with an unhappy smirk on his lips, “I guess we’re here to talk about the whole Eve, thing.”

“Something like that,” The HR man said with a twist of his forefinger into a come-hither motion before moving off towards Ed’s office.

For whatever reason, that really unsettled Mattias. Oh well, he assumed he was getting fired. One couldn’t throw down with a werewolf and not get fired. The camera’s caught the whole thing, so the police and district attorney had no intention of charging him with anything, sure. It was only fair that the company opted to fire him over it though. After all, he had spent Christmas in jail. Oh well. It was a good run. One he was happy with overall.

He took a breath and pushed himself back and away from his desk. “Alright, I’ll be back.” He glanced around and realized no one could hear him. He shook his head. He’d at least have to come back and get his stuff. He pointed down at his small and constant companion of a Lunchbox. “Stay.” He ordered before stepping up and heading out of the cubicles and into the hall. He kept getting stares from people as he passed by. Between the scarred up face, the shattered glass doors as a reminder, and the rumors, he couldn’t have guessed what exactly brought their attention to him.

He never liked meetings with HR. He was pretty sure no one did. And in this case, he expected it to be his last. He didn’t think he would have a job after the meeting. The look on the faces of the HR personnel waiting for him in Ed’s office. There were three of them, and he hadn’t ever seen them before. Each was dressed impeccably but in that meticulously designed way as to pretend to be a little more approachable. And they all watched him with the same level of bland disinterest that marked so many in their profession.

That was fine with him. They needed to be distant. It made their job easier, and frankly, he didn’t begrudge them for it. Well, maybe he did a little bit. He glanced into the glass out of instinct, trying to check his reflection. It was just a blur. There was nothing there to point out that he was anything but a smudge as far as he could tell. He could almost see through it now. That was a depressing realization. He would have liked to know if any part of him was still hanging off or was an obvious give away for him being a member of the undead.

He approached the door and took a moment to look back. He had grown to like this place, or rather the people inside of it. Now, he was kind of sad to see it go. He didn’t know what else to do now but go on in. He pushed open and stepped in, watching the three keep their eyes on his every single move. He’d make the first move.

“You wanted to see me?” He asked with a little nod of his head.

“Yes, Mr. Holland. We need to talk about your future with the company,” The middle Human Resources goon spoke up.

“Of course. That’s what I expected,” Mattias admitted.

“Most people,” The Left one said with a little nod out of the room, “Would not have come in today. They would have taken a few more days to recover, or may have even sought some sort of benefit from the company.”

“But you,” The Right person said quickly, “Are not most people, are you?”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Mattias felt a bit of defensiveness slide up his spine.

“Just that. You are not most people. You have scruples, and always seek to get the job done,” The Center spoke up again.

“We have to ask if you understand that your actions have consequences,” The Left added.

“And if you are prepared to accept those consequences.” The Right concluded.

Mattias was already tired of glancing back and forth between them. He didn’t like feeling as if he was being treated like a child as if they were buttering him up before tearing him down. He took a deep breath and waved a hand at them. “Yes, I did. Get to the point.”

“Company policy is to wait for security or the police.”

“And let one of my team get eaten by a lycan? I don’t think so.”

“There was no sign that she would have been injured. Until you intervened,” The Center spoke coldly, placing both hands on the desk and standing up.

“There was. Plenty before and at the time,” Mattias spoke, “I acted. I won’t apologize for that. Do what you have to do.”

The three stood quietly and looked at him for a moment.  They each gave a slow nod, and the center one turned towards him again. “And what is it that we should do?”

“Fire me, I assume.”

They all gave a quiet nod again before the Center smirked. “That would normally be what we would do. But today is not normal. You fought a Lycan to protect a team member, despite every bit of evidence pointing to the fact that you had no desire to be here. You’ve been an exceptional employee, even with your personal challenges. And a position has just opened up that we would like you to consider.”

Mattias didn’t trust them for a second, but he had to admit he was intrigued by the fact that he wasn’t getting fired. “What position?”

The Left and Right stepped away from the desk, as the Center took a step back, pulling with him the chair he had been sitting in. He waved across it, “This one.”

There was a moment when the vampire took them seriously, but then a smile crossed his lips and he let out a small laugh. “Ms. Chambers is the boss here, not sure how she’d take me sniping her position.”

“Ms. Chambers quit, effective this morning.” Both Left and Right spoke at the same time.

Mattias’ smile dissipated. “What, why?”

The three looked between one another, and then looked at him. Center cocked his head to one side, “I’m sorry, Human Resources can’t offer an answer to personal questions about employees. But, the position is open. It would come with a large jump in pay, a more flexible schedule, full benefits, and of course, your own private office.”

There was a moment of silence in the room. A pin could have dropped and sounded like a hammer. He had wanted to get away from all this, but now that he had started to feel attached he was having second thoughts. He likely needed stability. He needed to have a little extra cash flow and a more secure set of benefits now that he was progressing as far as he was. He never would have assumed this curse would have brought him to this point. He never thought it would trap him in a job he hated, and a cubicle farm he could have cared less to see again. The thought of security was hard to miss in his place. Every part that fell to pieces needed to be replaced and surgeons were expensive in the best of times. After all, discretion was the better part of valor, and his team needed a watchful eye.

Still, a minute to talk it over even with just himself would be a good plan. “Can I get back to you?”

“Sure, take the day,” Left responded.

“We just need an answer by tomorrow.”

The day finished and Mattias went home to consider the options. Of course, he spoke to Rory and Olivia about it. He didn’t want to talk to his team about it, but he did eventually ask Hal about it as well. All of them said the same thing. None of it helped. He had one more person he needed to ask about the job before he decided. One last person to talk to about it.

He was lucky that the weekend came fast, and with the new year stretching it a bit further, he wouldn’t need to be back to work for a while. It gave him time to do some research, to find out where Ed had gone. After a day or two of pestering everyone he knew that might have known where she was, he finally found himself standing on a sidewalk on a busy street. The same busy street he had met her on that night with Ava.

He tapped his knuckles against a glass door, the dim-lit building completely abandoned, but recently cleaned. There was a light flickering in the back of the building and after a few moments, Ed appeared from one of the doors. He gave her a little wave, and she waved back. He took a step back as she moved to the door.

She looked different. She wasn’t as sharp. She was smiling, spattered with paint and wearing loose-fit clothes. Her hair was a mess, barely staying in the loose ponytail she had pulled up recently if the small streaks of paint on the strands of hair were anything to go by. He kind of liked her better like this, though he didn’t quite understand it yet.

She pushed open the door, “What are you doing here, Mattias?”

“I heard you were here, so I had to see for myself,” He said with a grin and a nod to her. “So you decided to go your own route,”

She nodded, “Yes. I quit after your… well, fight. Put my entire savings into it. Probably stupid…” She waved in, “But I had to try. Want the tour?”


“What about you?” She asked, “Human Resources told me you were their pick to replace me.”

“Yeah, that’s what they told me too,” He said with a nod. He stepped into the building and glanced around. “So downtown, easy for people to get to, close to a busy street for students and things. You’re going through with your plan, right?”

“Might as well try. Right?” She smiled over at him. Her hands waved out and gave a quick image, “I figure I can get this well lit, well painted, offer something like coffee or ice cream or whatever. You know. Give people a safe place to find themselves.” She paused for a minute. “I know it’s not much yet. I’m still painting, and then I have to get the floors…”

“No, I see what you’re saying. It’s a good open room, plenty of light fixtures…” He shook his head. “A little work will go a long way. I have faith in you.”

“Well, I wouldn’t have expected to hear that from you,”

“Really? I thought we bonded pretty well as things went on.”

“Good, I’m glad. I thought we did too.”

He took a breath. He was going to say something else, but she beat him to a question.

“Like the new gig?” She asked with a sly tilt of her head.

“Wouldn’t know.”

“Haven’t started yet?” She asked.

“No,” He said taking a deep breath. “I quit.” He said with a little nod, “I’ve only got one life, turns out. Not going to waste it there.”

“What are you going to do instead?”

“Well, I was hoping you might be willing to listen to a proposition. I had this dream I kept putting off, and with a friend starting down the same path… I thought I might tag along.” He said. Her smile widened a bit, and she gave a nod. That was the beginning of his new life, and there was nothing about it that didn’t terrify him. It was better than wasting away though.

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Day Shift – Chapter 20

               Mattias stared at the blank wall behind him, the cold stone a welcome distraction from the constant roaring hum of the industrial fan set up just on the other side of the cold county prison cell he found himself sitting in. They had been kind enough to set up a heater behind it for the other people in the cell, and it was set low enough that it was only a nuisance. It was incredibly uncomfortable, though, feeling the force cycled air pushed against the bare bones of his upper arm and jaw. It chipped away at him with a relentless constancy that would have irked him under normal circumstances, but under these, it made him anxious and it made him itch.  He assumed the latter was due to the dust in the gaping open wounds he had, but he wasn’t sure. It could have been that itching for the blood he had lost.

               It had not endeared him to the other prisoners, that was for sure. The constant wind was uncomfortable for everyone stuck here. Mostly, it was drunk folks who had been enjoying their Christmas Eve a little too much. Or succumb to the loneliness of the holiday season. Either way, this is where they ended up. Of course, to them, it was a bit more hellish, as they were sharing a tank with a broken and torn up undead.

               Luckily, Hal had been put in the tank with him too, at least after a couple of hours. He went to the hospital to get checked out first with a nice police escort before being brought out to the station to serve his time there until the district attorney or a judge was available to set up their possible crimes and come up with whether they were going to be charged. Even the police seemed to agree it would be a self-defense situation, and that they shouldn’t expect to hard of a fight from the DA or authorities. Still, they were going to be treated like criminals.

               So, here, on Christmas eve, he sat staring at the wall with a fan blowing his clothes and hair all about him in a torrent of discomfort designed specifically to keep him from turning to mist and floating away harmlessly. Though, he had no such plan to do so. That would just make the situation worse, though he had to admit, he wondered how they would even be able to book him, or anything given that they couldn’t take a picture of him.

               It was an odd way to spend Christmas Eve. He mostly sat against the walls, and eventually adjusted to glance out and around himself from time to time. The others here were as pathetic as he was, asleep on benches in a county jail cell waiting for a chance to get out and go back to whatever it was their lives held for them. He didn’t know, he didn’t talk to any of them except Hal, but they all looked as excited with the idea of going forward in life as he felt.

               He didn’t really look forward to anything. He didn’t regret his actions, of course, but he didn’t quite understand the way things unfolded. He was having to conclude that he cared about his team. They were his friends, or as close to friends as he had nowadays. Aside from Rory and Olivia. He even kind of cared about Ava, as weird as she was. He hoped he hadn’t drained too much, but she was able to call the cops, so he supposed he hadn’t.

               It was a long night. He couldn’t sleep for a variety of reasons, but most of them were vampiric in nature. He wasn’t in his comfortable environment, his lair. There were a lot of little aspects that made it uncomfortable here. The smell of others, the fact that he wasn’t near any of his supplies, and that he was already in poor shape.

               But it didn’t matter.

               He had done what he needed to do and now he was being punished for it, and the world kept spinning as it always did.

               That was the thing, he supposed. That’s what bothered him. Nothing would change, he felt. Not in a way that mattered to him in a lot of ways. Ashley might be a little better off, and that was good, but would she just go straight back to work? Straight back to the same old job she hated. He’d fall into the same trap most likely. He always did. Things would come along that were just similar enough that he could settle for them. He always settled.

               He drifted off for a few minutes. He honestly didn’t know how long. There wasn’t a dream or anything similar.

               “Vampire,” An officer called out, rapping his knuckles against the bars of the little local jail. “Good news and bad news.”

               Mattias didn’t feel like turning around but forced himself too. His eyes squinted in the wind as he tried to look out to the guard. Try as he might, though, the winds made him look away.

“Bad news is the DA won’t be back until next Tuesday, so your sentencing is going to be a bit.” The officer hadn’t even asked which he wanted if any of it. He just started in on his explanations when the opportunity arose for him. “Good news is your lawyer is here,”

“That would be good news if I had a lawyer,” Mattias spoke as he stretched.

“Mattias, I’ve always got you covered,” Rory’s voice came from behind the officer, as he stepped out into view, well dressed in a fine and expensive suit, complete with tie and cufflinks. He looked as if he had just walked in from a deposition or a courtroom, though it was well into the wee hours of Christmas morning. “Can you turn off this fan, Officer? If he was going to escape, you don’t really think this would help do you?”

“He can turn into mist.”

“It’s not mists, its an incorporeal form and the refraction of the light in the ectoplasmic residue makes it appear as mist to the uninitiated,” Rory corrected as he pulled a hand from his pant pocket, “I have a few courses I can suggest if you and your officers would like to get more acquainted with non-humans,”

“No thanks,” The officer said nothing else but did reach over to turn off the industrial fan.

The sudden lack of fan noise was almost disconcerting in a way, but that infernal itching stopped quickly after, and Mattias had to admit that it

“Halil too,” Rory pointed to the sleeping Hal, who was twisted awkwardly around one of the cell benches. “Matt, if you’d wake him up.”

“You’ll have to fill out his paperwork separately…”

“I understand how paperwork is done,” He waved his hands across his suit, “Note the lawyer suit,” He grinned, “Let them out and I’ll get all that done,” Rory spoke before walking back off towards the front office of the station.

Mattias shook Hal awake. “Hal,” He said a couple of times as the barred door was pulled open.

His old manager groggily sat up, quietly stuttering out a bit of a word or two, but none that were fully formed yet.

“Rory’s getting us out, come on,” Mattias said, tapping him lightly on the shoulder.

The men both stood and stretched and walked out of the cell on their own volition. The officer just waved them down the hall. Neither said anything, but both were as relieved as they could be to be out of that place. It would still be another quiet half-hour, or maybe a full hour. It was hard to say, really. Again, he couldn’t help but doze off a little bit from time to time, and Hal didn’t help. The man sat down in the lobby and fell right asleep. Again, he was sitting alone. But again, he felt like, at least for the first time in a long time, he wasn’t actually alone. And on Christmas, that was a nice feeling.

“Come on,” Rory spoke as he entered the room and wandered on past them. “Let’s get you guys fed. They haven’t fed you, right?”

“What?” Hal spoke as Mattias helped him walk up and get standing. “Hey, Rory,”

“Hey Hal,” Rory smirked and gave him a nod, “So, food?”

“Food sounds good,” Hal said with a groggy yawn and nod.

“Where’s open?”

“There’s one of those twenty-four-hour diners across the street,” Rory said with a clear hand motion in what Mattias assumed was that direction, “I go there a lot of nights like tonight when clients do something stupid. Usually, they’re buying me dinner, though.”

“I can pay,” Mattias spoke, “Least I could do.”

“I was kidding,” Rory shook his head, “Come on, my car’s just outside.” The man yawned and marched out of the jail’s lobby, a few folders tucked under his arm. He didn’t wait for them, but it didn’t take too long for Mattias and Hal to fall into step behind him.

Just as he said, his car was just outside. He wasn’t one to show off, so there was just an older mid-sized sedan waiting for them. Mattias looked up when he stepped outside but kept walking towards the car. He climbed in, and there wasn’t a conversation. There was just a short drive. There was the darkened sky, his natural habitat. The stars, while dimmed by the light of the city, were pretty visible. And it was quiet. Unnaturally quiet. The city was asleep. Families were resting and waiting for the big day tomorrow. No one was waking up early to rush to the gym, no one was having trouble falling back asleep before work. There was a peace to the air that couldn’t be denied. There always was this time of year.

All in all, humans had a habit of sucking the fun out of everything. Humans embodied the seven deadly sins more than any of the non-humans. He struggled to survive, trying his best to be a decent person, fighting against his personal challenges. Everyone did that. Every single person on the planet had their challenges, but then nights like tonight came along. Christmas Eve. There wasn’t that worry. People weren’t bogged down by their usual struggles, not as much. Yes, there were outliers. An abusive partner could ruin the thought of holidays. A bigoted family who didn’t want to see you because of your life choices. Those things happened. Those were part of the challenge.

There was still hope, though. Hope that humanity would prevail, that the holidays would bring out the best of people. He needed to be reminded of that sometimes, and Rory showing up in the middle of night to bail him out of jail was one of those reminders. Perhaps not as big of one as the crowd waiting at the dinner for them.

As the car pulled up to the diner, he saw that the parking lot was full. As Mattias stepped out of the car with Hal and Rory, the trio walked up and stepped up onto the sidewalk outside of the diner. It was one of those old places that were always open, where the cooks made the food for you on a slab just behind the counter and waitresses always said hello when you entered. The food was greasy and perhaps not the best food ever, but on late nights like this it was very welcome.

And there, waiting for them to arrive was a table full of familiar faces. Olivia caught his eye first, a habit he still couldn’t break. But she sat next to Ashley, who was trying her best to understand how Olivia’s purse could communicate with her. An older couple sat next to her, her parents perhaps. They shared a lot of features. He could see the back of Lindsay’s head too and even spotted Maddox jogging back to the table with wet hands.

“Well, what’s all this?” Mattias asked.

“You should’ve asked for your one phone call,” Rory said as they paused outside the door. He sighed and turned around to face Mattias. Hal paused as well. “Luckily for you, you have people that want to watch out for you.”

“So, Ashley called Ol..”

“It doesn’t matter who called who, or any of that,” Rory said with a smirk. “Maybe, just maybe, you should try leading by example more often.” He took a breath. “I’ll sew you back together tomorrow morning, alright. Anyone who is going to freak out with skeleton Matt showing?”

Mattias watched as Maddox paused, giving time for someone to move off the boot. Ava popped out of the booth with a little bit of a bounce, and her eyes just happened to catch a glimpse of him. He couldn’t hear her but he saw her mouth move. She gave an excited bounce on her toes and rushed towards the door. That got everyone moving towards the door. He even spotted Ed, letting others go before her.

“I’m not worried about it. I don’t think this crew sees the vampirism,” He spoke with a little smile. “At least, not tonight.”

“Not ever,” Hal spoke up with a smile before he pushed open the door.


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Day Shift – Chapter 19


For the next week, work was hellish. Then came that fateful day. The one that every countdown had been working towards. All around the nation people sat and prepared to spend one of the most revered days of the year with their families. For the most part, after a week of relentless calls, it made the day relatively straight forward. It was no less busy than any other, but it was much less painful. Most of the questions and comments moved from trouble to happy people just wanting to make sure something got set up correctly to make the holiday go off without a hitch. It was much more doable. No less busy, but a much more pleasant sort of busy.

Still, by the time lunch finally rolled around to give him a break, Mattias was in a state. His throat hurt and he didn’t want to talk anymore. He just wanted to walk off the conversations for a while and be out of the office. So, he went out into the halls, outside his company’s office, and he walked in circles. He tried drinking his bottle as he walked. He was going slow though. Between the daylight from random windows he passed by, and general nausea from dealing with people all day, it was slow going. He made sure to finish the bottle before he finished his walking in circles. He couldn’t risk losing control again. And he wouldn’t.

From time to time, he’d stand in the hall and just concentrate on sucking the blood out of the bottle for a few seconds. At least on one occasion he awkwardly locked eyes with some worker from another company and gave him a friendly single nod. He was kind of curious if the man knew what he was doing. It wasn’t a common thing, and the bottle was just red-colored with minimal branding, so it wasn’t like he was out in the open drinking blood. Still, it was an odd thing to do, he thought. It must have been at least a little morbid for those around him too, but he really wasn’t sure what he could do about it. The only real alternative was to lose control and drain people, and that would be much worse. So, really, he wasn’t sure why in the world he felt like it was awkward to choose this option.

Either way, his break came to an end. His pocket vibrated as the alarm on his phone went off, giving him the two-minute warning on his time, and he let out a defeated sigh. He began to schlep his way back to his office. He was in no hurry and had no desire to return to work. So, he took his time. A minute or two late wouldn’t hurt anyone.

When he came back through there was a woman at the counter talking to Ava. He thought about passing on by, but a burst of familiarity with the brunette and the look on the receptionists face both made him linger for a second. The lady turned towards him with a sort of scowl. She was annoyed about something.

“Can I help you?” Mattias spoke up softly, turning on his customer’s voice and adding a little smile.

“I’m looking for Ashley Tran. I need to talk to her.” The woman said. He couldn’t quite put a finger on where he knew her from. Her voice wasn’t familiar to him.

His eyes turned to Ava, who just shook her head and shrugged. There was something else there though. “It is Christmas Eve so she…”

“I know she’s here. And I want to talk to her. I’ll go back there myself to get her if I have to.”

“Sorry, ma’am. I’ll check for you,” He replied. The tone the woman had didn’t instill him with any trust, though. “Anything I can pass along to her about who was asking to speak to her?”

“I just need to talk to her,” The woman turned and stared straight into the vampire’s eyes. She bore a hole in him with her look, anger virtually dripping out of the air around her.

“Okay, fair. Business or personal?” He continued, though there was enough snark in his voice to be picked up. Enough that her eyes narrowed deeper on him. A shame that he lacked the empathy most humans enjoyed. He was tired, and with his human parts still recovering, he couldn’t quite find the courage to give in to the worry he knew he should have felt.

“Personal.” She spat the word at him.

“Okay, I’ll see what I can do. Ms. Mays, would you be kind enough to treat the lady to some coffee or cookies or anything she needs,” Mattias said as he walked off and through the doors.

“I don’t want any treats,” The woman howled after him.

He didn’t see poor Ava’s response. It wasn’t the first irate customer she had to deal with. Or team member. Or whoever this lady was. He didn’t care. He walked back to his desk and paused at the edge of the cubicle. Every one of his agents was sitting and talking to a guest or team member and going just as hard as they could go. He walked over and set his bottle on Ashley’s desk, which caused her to look up at him. She never flinched or changed her tone of voice with the guest. She was on a roll, and she just kept going.

He took a pad of paper and jotted down a quick message. Someone up front to see you. Seems pissed.

He didn’t need to write anymore. She just nodded and went back to the phone call. That was good enough for him. He stretched and moved towards his desk, but then the curiosity got the better of him. He tried to remember where he had seen the woman before. He couldn’t put a finger on it. He thought about it for a moment and decided to walk back up to the front and talk to her.

He was surprised when he saw Hal there talking to her already. He wasn’t against it. A couple of managers was better than one, after all. Especially at calming down an irate guest. He hustled a bit to get to the door quicker and pushed it open in time to hear some words.

“You aren’t welcome here,” Hal didn’t pull out a stern voice often, but with a confident point to the exit. “Now, leave.”

Mattias started to say something, but then he noticed the blurred reflection on the brass of the receptionist’s desk, with Hal’s reflection being fine. His heart sank a bit. She looked taller than when he left too, but surely that was just in his mind or the way she was standing.

“I want to talk to her now, and I won’t take no from some random jack off,”

“Whoa, that escalated. What the hell is going on here?” Mattias held up his hands.

“Fine, Ava, call security,” Hal ordered the receptionist, who was nervous.

“This fat ass won’t let me talk to my girlfriend,”

“Girlfriend?” Mattias said quietly. Suddenly he saw it all come back together in his mind. She was the woman he spotted on the texts. He had seen her here before. And, then there was Thanksgiving. “Hal’s right, you need to leave. Now.”

She gritted her teeth. There was a visible vein on her neck for a moment, and her face twisted to an angry red. Hal gave a nod of his head, “We know all about your anger problems, so why don’t you,”

He never finished the sentence. The woman raised a hand and backhanded Hal. There was a sickening slap and it knocked him off his feet. Then another sickening snap as the woman’s leg twisted and shattered, growing and reforming. Then it got worse. Her face twisted, her nose tore and twisted, a maw growing out of her face and fur beginning to sprout from every visible point of skin. This wasn’t some movie like transformation where she stood still though. She stomped forward on mismatched legs. One hand, half transformed to a claw reached out and caught Mattias by the throat and she lifted him off the ground with no trouble what-so-ever. He might as well have been a doll. Then the transforming lycan threw him.

Not just tossed him aside. Threw him. She launched him back and hard, and he slammed into and through the glass doors that separated the foyer from the cubicle farm. He rolled limply up against one of the nearby cubicles in a shower of shattered glass shards.

“Mattias!” He heard Ava’s voice. By the time he looked up to see where she was, Hal was back on his feet. He was bravely if stupidly doing his best.

The heavyset man charged the werewolf with all his might and heft, catching her in a tackle rather low. With only one leg transformed she was easy to bring down in that first second. She kicked him off of her and tossed him up and onto a nearby chair like a ragdoll.

Ava had taken the opportunity to run out of the foyer and over to the vampire’s side, “Are you okay?”

“I just got thrown through a glass door, Ava…” He muttered as he pushed himself up. “Get out of here, get to Ashley. Call the damn cops while you’re at it.” He said quickly.

“Right, what… you’re going to fight?”

“Gotta save Hal.” He said quickly, before standing up. She stood too, and then an idea crossed his mind. This fight wouldn’t be fun. “I hate to ask, but do you mind if I get a boost?”

“A boost…?” She asked before she saw him bear his teeth. Even in this situation, the sudden realization excited her more than he would have liked. “Oh, fuck yes,” She said as she pulled her hair away from her neck.

He didn’t wait for further permission. He just leaned forward and latched onto her neck. She let out a noise that was too close to euphoric for him, or this situation, as his venom began to slip into her veins and he pulled forth some of her life force.

Now frozen donated blood was sustaining for him. He didn’t need to worry about that. But fresh blood. Fresh blood was an entirely different thing. And from a neck, there was so much. He felt a warmth in his veins he hadn’t felt in years, a flow of energy stolen from a willing victim. It was invigorating. Dangerous. But invigorating. He released her neck and watched the woman slumped over for a second, taking a moment to catch her breath and let herself restore a bit of energy. Looking down at her, he could not help but want to drink more, even if the woman and her obsession bothered him to no end. He gave her a light smack on her shoulder.

“Do me a favor and call the cops,” He spoke as he sat up and cracked his knuckles.

She gave a nod but didn’t say anything. He didn’t look back. He just trusted she would do what he asked. In the meantime, he turned his attention back towards the danger that awaited him. There before him was a pissed off woman, half-way transformed into her lycanthropic form. Her body was still twisting. Bones and ligaments tore and twisted, snaps and disgusting tearing sounds were light on the air. He stepped forward back into the room and dusted himself off.

“Sorry I gendered you,” He asked coldly, his eyes twisting up to the massive beast. “I just assumed Ashley’s loser with a temper was a guy.”

She snarled down at him and it seemed the fight was on.

Now, it was important to remember that there was no glory in fighting. That this had devolved into hand to hand combat was a great failure on his part, and he knew it. Then again, he knew what she had done to Ashley and personally he thought she deserved a beating. He had a good line in mind too. His celerity would be perfect to slip in and out of her blows, to bob and weave, and launch small attacks of his own when he had an opening. Then he’d coolly ask if she was done yet once she was visibly winded. A solid line, a good plan, he was ready.

Of course, no he wasn’t. No one was ever ready for a fight. No plan ever survived being introduced to someone else. He was reminded of that when she pounced him, and once again caught him in one great paw. She tackled him to the ground without hesitation and dragged his head up in preparation to slam it back down.

After his head was put through one of the floorboards he realized he should have done something smarter. Turn to mist maybe. That would have been good. Luckily for him, she assumed he was dead. She was right, but off on her timing. She bounded forward, towards the cubicles – but that was something he couldn’t have. He closed his eyes and his body rose from the ground without a movement, carried by the solemn winds of the grave back to his feet.

He pushed off from the floor with one foot, and he was on her within a second. He didn’t have a catchy phrase to give to her right then. He just grabbed her by the back paw, and with a moment of undead strength, he yanked her back and threw her with all of his might.

She did not go as far as he had hoped. He was hoping for a heroic throw where she flew back across the foyer and through the glass doors. But no. She just toppled a few feet and scrambled onto all fours, charging him once again with her teeth bared. That was enough to let his instinct take over and when she reached him he was just a cloud of mist. She tried to snap at him, but traveled right through him, tumbling against the pathetic cloth and board wall of the nearest cubicle – which startled a few people beyond.

“Hah, missed me,” Mattias spoke as he reformed in the lobby. “Ah, damn. Mist. Mist me. Shit.” She turned with a howl and rushed back towards him. That warranted another move from him, and with his unnatural speed, he slipped away from that charge. He didn’t realize how quickly she could pivot, though, and she very quickly caught him in the side as he tried to turn to face her. Her momentum, even staggered by the change in direction, was more than enough to slam him hard into the receptionist’s desk. That snarling maw snapped at him and caught him in the cheek, tearing flesh from bone.

He had plenty of blood in him at the moment though. The pain wasn’t there, just a feeling of anger. He slashed at her with his claws, fingers across her arm. A small spray of blood and a howl from her was all he needed to get a little wiggle room. She wasn’t holding as tight with the wound, and that let him send a swift kick to her knee. His enhanced strength was more than enough to add another sickening snap to the series that had been filling the room. He did not enjoy the feeling or the sound, or her angry howl afterward.

She snapped at him again, and he tried to dodge and pull away from her. Her teeth sank into his upper arm, and he didn’t have time to change his mind on pulling away. Instead, he pulled his arm out of her teeth, causing his flesh and cloth to be ripped away like it was nothing. It left only a bloody bone and some hanging flesh on his arm, and the wolf spit out the flesh, her maw twisted into a look he could only describe as ravenous.

He raised the now partially skeletal arm and pointed at her. “We can stop this anytime, you just need to calm down.”

He should’ve left that last part off. She roared and charged at him, and he bolted towards the foyer door in response, with the werewolf right on his heels. At least she was concentrating on him for now. He pushed through the doors and into the hall, not glancing back as he heard shattering glass. He wasn’t sure what he was doing exactly. Leading her away, he thought. So he headed down the hall towards the stairs. When he reached the fire exit he kicked open the door and vaulted over the side and down the stairs.

His little bit of levitation let him snake his way between floors, hitting the ground on the first floor after falling a few stories, while the wolf was bounding down levels of stairs one at a time. He ran through the door into the foyer and waved off the nearest work. “Go, leave,” He yelled before he turned to see a couple of police officers, “Oh, thank god, she,”

He felt an odd sensation. Two small pricks, then searing pain and his body locking up hard. He twitched and collapsed to the ground, convulsing as one of the police officers loosed every ounce of juice into him from his taser. Luckily, they seemed prepared, because as soon as that werewolf ran through that door, she met the exact same fate.

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NaNoWriMo Day 22

Author’s Note – This is what I got written today. No where near a full chapter, but I just wasn’t quite finding the words. This chapter isn’t exactly as easy as I had hoped it would be to write. I’ll admit, climbing action is a little harder to do with slice-of-life, and that is making it more of a challenge for me to write. But, that’s the good thing about trying new things. You learn.

Chapter 19 – Eve

For the next week, work was hellish. Then came that fateful day. The one that every countdown had been working towards. All around the nation people sat and prepared to spend one of the most revered days of the year with their families. For the most part, after a week of relentless calls, it made the day relatively straight forward. It was no less busy than any other, but it was much less painful. Most of the questions and comments moved from trouble to happy people just wanting to make sure something got set up correctly to make the holiday go off without a hitch. It was much more doable. No less busy, but a much more pleasant sort of busy.

Still, by the time lunch finally rolled around to give him a break, Mattias was in a state. His throat hurt and he didn’t want to talk anymore. He just wanted to walk off the conversations for a while and be out of the office. So, he went out into the halls, outside his company’s office, and he walked in circles. He tried drinking his bottle as he walked. He was going slow though. Between the daylight from random windows he passed by, and general nausea from dealing with people all day, it was slow going. He made sure to finish the bottle before he finished his walking in circles. He couldn’t risk losing control again. And he wouldn’t.

From time to time, he’d stand in the hall and just concentrate on sucking blood out of the bottle for a few seconds. At least on one occasion he awkwardly locked eyes with some worker from another company and gave him a friendly single nod. He was kind of curious if the man knew what he was doing. It wasn’t a common thing, and the bottle was just red-colored with minimal branding, so it wasn’t like he was out in the open drinking blood. Still, it was an odd thing to do, he thought. It must have been at least a little morbid for those around him too, but he really wasn’t sure what he could do about it. The only real alternative was to lose control and drain people, and that would be much worse. So, really, he wasn’t sure why in the world he felt like it was awkward to choose this option.

Either way, his break came to an end. His pocket vibrated as the alarm on his phone went off, giving him the two-minute warning on his time, and he let out a defeated sigh. He began to schlep his way back to his office. He was in no hurry and had no desire to return to work. So, he took his time. A minute or two late wouldn’t hurt anyone.

When he came back through there was a woman at the counter talking to Ava. He thought about passing on by, but a burst of familiarity with the woman and the look on the receptionists face both made him linger for a second. The lady turned towards him with a sort of scowl. She was annoyed about something.

“Can I help you?” Mattias spoke up softly, turning on his customer’s voice and adding a little smile.

“I’m looking for Ashley Tran. I need to talk to her.” The woman said. He couldn’t quite put a finger on where he knew her from. Her voice wasn’t familiar to him.

His eyes turned to Ava, who just shook her head and shrugged. There was something else there though. “It is Christmas Eve so she…”

“I know she’s here. And I want to talk to her. I’ll go back there myself to get her if I have to.”

“Sorry, ma’am. I’ll check for you,” He replied. The tone the woman had didn’t instill him with any trust, though. “Anything I can pass along to her about who was asking to speak to her?”

“I just need to talk to her,” The woman turned and stared straight into the vampire’s eyes. She bore a hole in him with her look, anger virtually dripping out of the air around her.

“Okay, fair. Business or personal?” He continued, though there was enough snark in his voice to be picked up. Enough that her eyes narrowed deeper on him. A shame that he lacked the empathy most humans enjoyed. He was tired, and with his human parts still recovering, he couldn’t quite find the courage to give in to the worry he knew he should have felt.

“Personal.” She spat the word at him.

“Okay, I’ll see what I can do. Ms. Mays, would you be kind enough to treat the lady to some coffee or cookies or anything she needs,” Mattias said as he walked off and through the doors.

“I don’t want any treats,” The woman howled after him.

He didn’t see poor Ava’s response. It wasn’t the first irate customer she had to deal with. Or team member. Or whoever this lady was. He didn’t care. He walked back to his desk and paused at the edge of the cubicle. Every one of his agents was sitting and talking to a guest or team member and going just as hard as they could go. He walked over and set his bottle on Ashley’s desk, which caused her to look up at him. She never flinched or changed her tone of voice with the guest. She was on a roll, and she just kept going.

He took a pad of paper and jotted down a quick message. Someone up front to see you. Seems pissed.

He didn’t need to write anymore. She just nodded and went back to the phone call. That was good enough for him. He stretched and moved towards his desk, but then the curiosity got the better of him. He tried to remember where he had seen the woman before.

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Day Shift – Chapter 18

Letters to Santa


               The week before Christmas was such a unique experience in the Customer Service Industry. While it was unique for each different type of worker. Retail workers perhaps had the most demanding job, as hundreds or thousands passed through their gates. Warehouse workers shipped with an unending frenzy of items to process and move on. Food workers dealt with hungry and happy people non-stop, watching dramas of countless lives unfold before them. And every single mistake made in that time, no matter how benign or human in nature, would end up at the desk of a Customer Service Representative – by whatever title they held at their respective company. It was no different for his team. Every slip, every mistake, every team member pushed just beyond breaking, would end up with a call to their department. Everyone would be the worst. They no longer received calls from confused team members or guests. All hands were on deck. So that Monday before Christmas, Hell Week started. Every call was angry, every one a problem to fix or solve, and those scant few that weren’t would only last a few seconds before they were over and it was back into the trenches. There was no break, no relenting of the wave of trouble that followed them here. It was eight to ten hours a day of constant trouble that needed to be solved. Every second of this weighed on his team, each building their stress more and more, until they were all exhausted and broken, smashed into the dirt and left there begging for the release of silence at any cost.

               Of course, they were professionals. All of them knew the secret to survival. All of them knew how to make it beyond this week and to the next. Each had been prepared.

               Helena was the newest, and she struggled the most. Lindsay had a kind heart, and she was right there with the newbie. The others, though. They had the secret down pat. And that secret was.

               Let them win.

               Let the waves of complaints destroy you. Don’t try to survive. Once you were broken, everything became easier. Nothing hurt you. All you wanted was for it to end. You could do your job without the worry of being defeated because you had already lost. This wasn’t a pit of despair. The guests had done nothing wrong. There was no reason to hate them or be hurt by them. The reason this week was so hard was the company, the expectations. All that faded away with one simple idea.

               “Worst they can do is fire me,”

               It was true. Every discount, every refund, every little breach of the company’s policies to make the guests happy and find the solution needed to keep things moving was worth it. The guest was happy, you were done with it, and the worst-case scenario was that you were fired. At this point, with this much stress, the idea of being fired was one of many lights at the end of the tunnel. Survive with a job, or survive without. Either way, once you were broken the week was already won.

               “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Ed said with a shake of her head, standing with a box of donuts in her hands, already half-empty from the ravenous desire of the various team members who had jumped up. “You all don’t believe that drivel right?”

               “I mean,” Maddox spoke up first with a mouth full of donut. “You pay us shit, and expect us to provide excellent service, go above and beyond, work extra hours.”

               “And benefits suck,” Ashley added before taking a bite of her donut.

               “Right, and when we push for better wages you say dumb stuff like… you make well over minimum wage, there are a lot of perks to this job, blah, blah, blah,” Maddox continued.

               “And you two?” Ed looked over to Lindsay and Helena with a bit of a scowl.

               “I’m new here, don’t look at me,” Helena said with her arms up, and a donut daintily placed on a napkin at her desk.

               “I think Maddox is being too polite,” Lindsay shrugged.

               “Really? I mean, this is a good job,” Ed gave a glance to Mattias.

               “Sure,” The vampire said quietly with a slouch and a sigh, “But it’s not what any of us want to do forever.”

               “Well yeah, but until then,” Ed argued.

               “Until then it’s a drain on our life force, our very souls,” Ashley gave a little bit of extra verbosity and staged drama.


               “Actually, she’s not wrong. It’s just good enough to keep you here for the money and benefits…” Mattias said, but before he could finish, he was interrupted.

               “But exhausting enough that you can’t really look for anything better.” Maddox spoke up, “I mean, of all of us, only Mattias can pay for his apartment,”

               “And he lives in a shithole of a tiny box they can sort of classify as an apartment,” Ashley tossed a little barb towards her boss.

               “It isn’t that bad of an apartment,” Mattias had planned on saying that. He didn’t, though, it was Ed that said it. Which made the conversation pause for a few seconds before the awkward silence was broken by Maddox.

               “Oh, ho. So the boss’ boss has seen his apartment too,” He teased.

               “Shut up, Maddox,” Ashley bit back. “I have, Lindsay, has,” She waved between the two, “You just leave instantly after every shift and don’t want to help out.”

               “I signed the card,”

               “Oh,” She laughed, “My bad,”

               “Guys, it’s fine,” Mattias waved a hand down to try to draw them away from that.

               “You all think this way, though? That we don’t treat you well?”

               Mattias sighed, “No company treats its employees like family, they just pretend they do. We don’t make enough, we get decent benefits, but doing this eight hours a day is hard during the slow periods. You take on everyone else’s problems, and by the time you go home, you are exhausted. You forget what you really want to do. But, you make enough to survive. Just not enough to thrive. So you keep going, hoping it will get better, or you’ll stumble beyond your station. That’s what I did. Got comfortable, and kept a job that exhausts me and really kills me… and I’m ranting. Nevermind,” He suddenly stopped talking and glanced away. The others stared at him for a minute.

               “What did you really want to do boss?” Ashley asked.

               “I didn’t say,” Mattias almost bit back at them.

               There was a long silence this time. The soul of the conversation had been touched on. There was something else each person here long term had shared, something they didn’t admit. Each of them had a dream they had set aside because of this job, because of the toll it took on their balance of life. The drain of emotions for the service of others was a real thing. It left so little time to do what one wanted to do. When broke it down workers, they worked eight hours a day, plus the commute. Mattias was closest, and that was another hour or two a day, depending on traffic. Then there was getting ready before the day and once one got home. Another hour would be gone if there wasn’t a haste to that getting ready. Decompression was also necessary from a job like this. Some people did it better than others, of course, but most days it easily ate up another hour – just getting away and over whatever it was that had eaten away at the mind from the worst that day.

               At the least, this was eleven hours of the day. Days when a team member worked more, or got caught in traffic, or faced off against an angry guest or employee – it could easily reach thirteen or fourteen. Sleeping eight hours a night was necessary too, or mistakes were made and irritability became a much easier trap. It was a dangerous combination. One that could compound swiftly. Three or four hours to one’s self was not enough. Not enough to have a healthy balance, at least. Things got left behind.

               It was dreams that were easiest to drop. They felt distant and less than essential.

               Mattias was realizing that might have been a mistake. That dreams might have been all there was separating them from the monsters at their core, whatever those were.

               They all realized that is where this conversation had moved. Mattias had been here the longest, but he wasn’t speaking up.

               “I wanted to be a gymnast,” Lindsay spoke up softly. “In college, I studied that, and communications. I was too big to make professional or Olympic teams, but I always thought I could work with teaching gymnastics somewhere.”

               Helena spoke up, “That’s awesome,” She said with a feigned bit of excitement that was something they all had practiced to such a degree that it became second nature, though she wasn’t great at controlling her switches in and out of that mode yet. “Sorry,” She realized what she had done as the other eyes glanced over to her, “Why don’t you?”

               “I probably could have right after starting here… but,” The Fomorian sighed and slunk down in her chair slightly. “Now I just want to go home after work, and I don’t feel like doing anything. I’m shy by nature…” She admitted, “So this takes a lot out of me. I don’t have the energy to deal with more people after work. So, I don’t.” She played with the edge of her shirt nervously.

               Again, there was a short, silent pause.

               “I wanted to go back to school. Learn magic, you know, properly,” Ashley spoke up next. She let out a harsh sigh, knowing exactly what follow up question that would warrant. “I didn’t have enough money to pay to go much. Thought I’d take a few little classes, community college stuff…” She sighed, “Even that made me have to get help from my folks. Then last Christmas it got busy, even on night shift…” She looked away, “Didn’t make it. Failed out. It’s hard to look at a computer screen once you get home from this, you know.”

               Maddox gave a smirk, “My turn, right?” He took a deep breath, “I’m always looking for another job. I should’ve quit when I realized how unhealthy it was making my… what do you call them…” He snapped his fingers, “You know, that thing you do instead of dealing with it?” He gave up and threw his hands to the side, “Well whatever it is called. I stopped doing that well. Tried a few different things to cope. None of them good. Now I’m medicated, which helps. But, still.”

               “You’re medicated?”

               “Yep. I mean legally, like psychiatrist approved anxiety-reducing wonder pills,” He snapped his fingers a few times. “Make everything more doable. Still, haven’t found another gig yet.”

               “Should I be worried about having taken this job?” Helena asked quietly, trying to lighten the mood slightly. It didn’t work for her though. She sighed, “I might have made a lateral move. I wasn’t too happy being overlooked and forgotten by most people in my last position.”

               “Oh, being walked over,” Ashley said with a nod, “Yeah, you’re not getting away from that here.”

               “Yeah. I’m the tallest person here, and no one knows my name,” Lindsay added.

               “Partially the shy thing, Linds,” Maddox spoke.

               Though no one had said it, they had all noticed that Mattias hadn’t said anything. Not yet. He clearly didn’t want to talk about it, or he hadn’t been convinced yet. Ed had watched him for a moment. He had tried to zone out, to ignore the situation. She had noticed. It was working on him. He wanted to open up, but there had not been quite the push he needed.

               “I wanted to open my own business,” Ed spoke quietly. “It was stupid. There was this old radio show I listened too when I was… really young,” She shrugged. “There was a place the kids in the show always hung out. I never had that growing up… my room was about the best place I could find. But I always wanted to make a place like that. You know? Sell snacks for after school. Somewhere kids wouldn’t have to worry, where they could study or hang out…” She laughed, “And here I am, a corporate stooge instead,”

               “Aw, you aren’t a stooge,”

               “More like a high-ranking minion.”

               “Not helpful, Maddox,”

               “Somewhere to teach non-humans how to handle it,” Mattias spoke in a little over a whisper. That silenced the conversation completely. His team watched him as he took a long sip of his blood in a bottle. “I was incredibly lucky to know some non-humans… and it was still stupid hard to learn how to deal with all this bullshit.” He said looking down at the bottle, the crimson liquid swirling back to stillness near the bottom. “Every non-human is a little different. And those of us that changed later in life… it’s a damn minefield. If I had a place where I could have learned, where I would have known there was someone to talk to. I wouldn’t be this far gone.”

               His voice trailed off. Then there was stark silence.

               “That’s… nice, boss. The idea,” Ashley said with a nod.

               “And…” Ed spoke up. “Working here made you hold off on it?”

               Mattias nodded, “It gave me an excuse to.”


               “Remember when Christmas was all about presents?” Maddox said with a nod.

               “Maddox, not now…”

               “No,” He waved his hands down. “I know I’m kind of an ass, but I’m serious. Remember how we used to write Christmas lists and letters to Santa?”

               Everyone but Mattias just stared at him. Mattias stared at his desk, or the floor.

               “I’ll take that as a yes,” Maddox continued. “My therapist says writing down dreams, goals, all that, is helpful in finding a path and keeping yourself calm. In my case, it helps things keep from getting overwhelming. So, I just had the stupidest thought,” He smirked. “Why not write our dreams that this job killed as letters to Santa? You know… what we’d need to pull it off and stuff. It’ll celebrate the season, and maybe give us a couple of ideas on where to go from here.”

               Again, silence for a few moments. Maddox sat with his arms wide, glancing from person to person and expectantly awaiting an answer. From the smile on his face, he expected an affirmative.

               “Huh,” Ashley intoned with a little neutral shrug.

               Ed glanced to Mattias, and took a small breath, “Mattias, I kind of like the idea. I’ll write a letter if you will,”

               The others gave small nods, but it was Lindsay who finally asked outright, “We’re all in. What do you say, boss? Want to write a letter to Santa with us?”

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Day Shift – Chapter 17

It’s a Wonderful Afterlife

Mattias had needed a few extra days to recover from the damage dealt to him by his unfortunate and uncontrolled transformation into his more bestial side. He had forgotten just how disconcerting such an event could be. For his recovery, he didn’t feel like himself at first. He was tormented by fear. Countless what-ifs flooded his mind and gnawed at his sanity for those nights after. His friends were kind enough to visit him and watch over him.

Not just Olivia and Rory either.

That part surprised him. Ashley stopped by to stay with him for a couple of day shifts once he was back and awake. That filled in one of the scents he hadn’t been able to identify – the vanilla. She admitted she felt a bit at fault when she heard what happened, but he quickly quashed that line of thought. It was no one’s fault but his own. Even then it was debatable. She understood that though and seemed to respect it. She didn’t wish to push the topic at the least, and that was all that really mattered to him.

She did always seem to arrive around the time Olivia was coming, and eventually got a few tips on animating objects from his ex-wife. He had some visits from other people as well. Hal dropped by and spent a couple of nights. He had apparently been one of the first people that offered and spent some of the nights when Mattias was still completely unaware of it. Rory had even taught him how to draw blood in case Mattias had needed it while the others weren’t around. He didn’t seem to remember his scent from that time though. That may have been a hint of selective memory, though. Hal wasn’t a foul-smelling person, but he did choose a scent that the vampire didn’t particularly relate to fond days.

In their conversations, though, Hal admitted that the office was different without him. That people were worried. Lindsay and Maddox constantly asking for updates, and Ashley pretending to be a hard ass. Ed and HR both asked but did so carefully. And Ava had been relentless wanting updates, but Ed asked that Hal only give her ‘minor’ updates at most. Which he didn’t understand. It was kind of nice to know that his absence had meant something at least. It was nice to be missed, and something he didn’t think that would be the case.

He had prepared for his first day back more than usual. Olivia had come over the night before and stuck around to help him get ready. He couldn’t see himself anymore, and his body was still torn up and scarred from the transformation. So, an extra pair of hands was essential in getting himself prepared for work. She even offered to drive him. He didn’t want to take that bit of charity though. By all means, he should have been willing to take it. He hadn’t driven for a while, and jumping right back into rush hour traffic with sunlight beaming down on him was likely a really bad way to start getting back out there. He was nauseated, hotter than he wanted to be, and nervous to be driving. It didn’t give him much time to think, though.

When he got to work and joined the throngs of people. It was uncomfortable for him. He felt like all of them were looking at him. He could see every little thing they did, and he could almost hear the blood pumping through the veins of the souls in the room with him. The elevator ride was even worse. He held himself back and close to the inner wall of the elevator, concentrating on Lunchbox in hopes of being ignored and left alone. For a moment, there was a sudden clarity as to why so many vampires chose a more secluded life. This was challenging. People were challenging to be around. For countless reasons. He watched them eat, drink, chat, and stare. He had never been fond of humans, but something was different with this twist. He didn’t feel close to them.

He glanced at the bronzed walls of the elevator. Despite the smudges and general wear, they were still reflective. Faces and profiles of the various denizens of the company riding the elevator. And there he was, a blur of universe defying undead – a lack of reflection of more than the shadows and blur he cast upon other reflections. It was a gruesome reminder of just how different he was from those that walked around beside him in the light. He took a breath and steadied himself, wishing he could see how he looked. He didn’t know how rough he appeared still, though Olivia said he looked fine. Tired. But fine.

He should trust her. It was a challenge at the moment though. He couldn’t trust his own eyes, his own body, how could he trust someone else.

As the elevator opened on his floor, he followed a few people out. Most went their own way. One woman walked in the same direction as him. She had a box under her arm, and when she opened the door, he instinctively reached out to hold it open. She gave a small smile and a nod back over to him.

“Thanks,” She said before stepping into the foyer and over to the receptionist’s desk.

Ava, meanwhile, had spotted Mattias and had bounded to her feet. She was stopped by the woman, though, who held out the box. “Can I help you?”

“Yes, I have a package for someone here,”

“Do I need to sign for it?” Ava said quickly, with a glance over to the vampire as he tried to slip by before she could end the conversation.

“No. Note on the top for who it goes to.”

“Awesome, I’ll get it to them. Mattias, wait!” She was all but dancing around the desk, and when she thought the conversation was over, she jumped around the edge and rushed him. He had almost made it to the threshold of the cubicle farm. Almost.

He had been so close. “Ava.”

“You’re going to pass by without even saying hello? You’ve been gone for more than a week. Is everything okay?” She was talking too fast, and not giving him a chance to get a word in edgewise. “IS the rumor true? Did you, you know? Did you find someone to…” She was slowly talking quieter and quieter until she was in a whisper.

Luckily, the woman that had dropped off the package had left.

Mattias closed his eyes. “Were you worried, or just want to hear a vampire story?” He was already exhausted by her. Her fandom for his ailment was not endearing, it was taxing. He knew she meant well, and he didn’t begrudge her for it. It just made him tired.

She was clearly hurt by the response. Her face went from excited to blank in a split second and she backed away from him. “Mean.” Was all she said, still quiet.

He sighed out a small, “Sorry,” Before shaking his head. “I’m a little raw, right now, and you come on strong, Ava.”

She didn’t respond for a few minutes, instead just standing quietly before a little smile crossed her lips. “I know.” She tilted her head to one side. “Sorry you, you know. And I do want to hear about it.” She said quickly and then added a defensive, “I was worried – and I do want to know the vampire stuff. I get that it isn’t the same as the fiction and its weird,”

“You have no idea,”

“I know, but I would kind of like too.”

He paused for a second and glanced over to her with a shake of his head. “How so?”

“Like… I love the stories and the romantic ideas of vampires and stuff, but,” She bounced on her heels just a bit. “But, I get it. I get that it isn’t like that at all, and those are just stories,” She bobbed her head back and forth slightly, “It’s like those people obsessed with anime. I’m like that, but I actually want to know about Japan too, in this metaphor.”

“I think it’s just an example, not a metaphor,”


Mattias sighed, “Fine. Maybe we can talk on a break,” She didn’t let him finish before bouncing once more, a little higher, a little faster, and with a quick little clap. “But give me a couple of days at least to get used to being around people again. This is… well, hard, at the moment.”

“Got it. Won’t ask a word for a few days.” She spoke, making a little cross on her heart.

He just stared at her for a second. She was still looking at him.

“About you. Can I still ask general vampire stuff?” She released that particular thought in a swift wave of verbalization.

He closed his eyes for a second and took his breath. “Fine.”

“Is it true that there’s an Asian vampire that throws its own head at prey,”

“No, that’s a mistranslation. Those are more closely related to Dullahan,” He responded, giving a point into the cubicle farm. “I’m going to work now.”

She just nodded and smiled, giving a little wave before moving back towards her desk.

He wished he had never seen her out in town. He would have rather not known about that part of her, and it probably would have kept her from acting this way around him. At least she cared. He had a moment or two of silence as he walked. Ed’s office was empty and dark, and most people hadn’t arrived yet. Those that had, for the most part, watched him from a distance. He made his way to his cubicle and turned into the desks. His team hadn’t arrived yet for the most part, but Ashley was here particularly early.

“Welcome back to the land of the living, boss,” She spun around in her chair to face him as he walked in.

“Hah. Hilarious,” He responded with a sarcastic smirk.

“You love it.”

“Did I hear Matt?” Hal’s voice called over from the neighboring cubicle group. He appeared in theirs just a few seconds later, with his arms wide and waiting for a hug. He laughed heartily, “It’s good to see you up and out in the land of the…”

“Already made that joke,” Ashley said with a grin.

“Damn it,” Hal seemed dejected, his arms dropping softly to his sides. The smile on his lips didn’t fade though. It was clearly not something that really bothered him. “Oh well. How are you feeling today?”

“I’m alright. Still a little…” Mattias didn’t have the words. How did one really explain a sense of existential solace and loss of self to other people in a way that didn’t encourage further followup questions and unending check-ins? “Weird,” Was what he settled on.

“I bet,” Hal said quickly, adjusting slightly to make way for another person to pass by, some nameless coworker that wasn’t on their team but worked even deeper in the hold. Jonas or James or something, if Mattias remembered correctly. “Well, you just take it easy. Get your feet wet again and don’t worry about the big stuff. You just let us handle that for you today. You’ll be back at ‘em in no time, better than ever.”

Mattias wanted to say he doubted it. This one felt different. He felt different. Something about this was more penultimate than he could put into words. He didn’t need to say that, though. These people, as much as he was loathed to admit it, were as close to family as he had. “Thanks. It’ll be a while, but here’s hoping.” He knew that particular thing was not going to keep eventual questions, but it might buy him some time this morning.

It seemed he was right, at least for the time being. As he unpacked Lunchbox, he heard another bit of movement from Hal, who stepped aside to let in another person. Before he could turn around he had a pair of arms around him and he was pulled into an awkward hug from a woman very much taller than himself.

“Hi, Lindsay,”

She didn’t say anything. She just went on over to her work station. She understood a bit more than most and had likely heard him talking just before.

It was quiet after that. Maddox came in and said something snarky, but didn’t push on the idea. Helena was a bit nervous because she was a bit late. She said she was glad that he was okay. She was tense though. Before long, they were all back to work, taking calls and awash with customer questions and the occasional complaint. It was an ordinary and unremarkable day for the first couple of hours. Then he sensed something familiar. There was a scent, one he remembered from his time spent out of commission.

Ed popped her head in the cubicle for a second, “Glad to see you back, Mr. Holland,”

She was very clearly wearing the scent he remembered but couldn’t place. He gave a little smirk at the realization, “Good to see you again, Ms. Chambers.”

“When you get a minute, come by my office and we’ll catch up on the numbers,” She said with a little dismissive wave of her hand just over the cubicle wall, “Not urgent, so don’t rush.”

“Will do, Boss. Probably after the lunch rush,”

“Sounds good,” And she was gone.

It was strange, for the first time in a long time he wasn’t sure what to say. He felt a little smile on his lips. It was genuine. It was instinct. He could not help it. It was one of those smiles that were paired with a moment of freedom and realization. It was one that wouldn’t be stopped, that crawled across his lips with a mind and a soul all of its own. It was a true smile. It hurt a bit, stretching the stitches under his skin that had held him together after his transformation, and showed off his fangs just a hint. But the people here on his team did seem to worry about it. You couldn’t worry without caring, and it was nice to realize that they cared.

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Day Shift – Chapter 16



               Mattias had to rest for the next few days. He slept on his couch, uncomfortable and fraught with poor sleep and unnerved dreams. He would wake up from time to time, barely aware of his surroundings, and usually due to getting his tooth injected with fresh blood or someone putting him back together. He could tell days were going by – but to be in torpor was much different than sleep. There was a strange awareness of everything around him, of all the things that happened around him. Though he didn’t have any sight, there were other senses. A muted sense of sound, the sensation of touch made his rest confusing. His mind tried to fill in the blanks there, to give him some sense of reality as he slept – though, in truth it just made his dreams stranger than normal.

               It was his sense of smell that made them truly strange. He could smell everything in his home. While muffled talking, pricks and pressure made strange twists of his dreams, the smells dictated more of what was driving the direction of his dreams. He found he could determine who was around him, to some degree, through those.

               Olivia was the easiest. She smelled like she always had. There was a slight undertone of the ingredients needed in her witchcraft, things like sage, lavender, and pennyroyal. She had never been one for perfumes – but she did like fruit-scented soaps and shampoos. There was a hint of charcoal in the scent as well, which his mind took as a bit strange, but the others matched. He knew when she was there and could sense when she was with him. That was a strangely comforting feeling. She was not there all the time, though. She’d trade off with others from time to time.

               Rory was likely the next easiest. He had worn the same deodorant and used the same soaps since they were in high school. That was now decades gone. He would have thought they were long since discontinued, but there they were. They were that stereotypically male scents most related to salt and wood, the ones you saw stupid commercials the played only far enough into sporting events to know the audience was at least partially inebriated. It had a reputation for being the brand of stupid teens, or at least it once did. Now it was mostly forgotten.  He noted that Rory was there quite a bit. While Olivia spent a good amount of time watching over him, he thought Rory was there more.

               There were a few other scents. A subdued and bland scent, not unlike vanilla. It was there a couple of times. Another that visited his down and out self was the scent of something else. His mind thought of Halloween. He wasn’t sure how that was, or what the smell actually was – just that it was that holiday that it reminded him of when he found the scent.

               He couldn’t recognize voices. Even when sure of the person, it sounded as though he was under running water, and there was just no way to hear a voice well enough to understand or identify it. He might know that Olivia was speaking to him, but he would only know so due to the scent. For those he couldn’t identify through his other senses, he was simply at a loss. He didn’t know what they said or who they were, and that was less comfortable of an experience as he was hopelessly vulnerable and in the hands of those around them.

               The reminder that he had people that cared enough to stay with him, though. That was important. That was something that made this experience survivable, beyond the fact that he was put out of his beast state by a stake. Had he feasted, he would have recovered alone, but he didn’t think he would have survived the after. The Torpor would have taken everything out of him, all that was left of his soul. He wasn’t sure there was much left. He wasn’t sure how much of him was left, and how much had been replaced by this thing. He didn’t feel like he was Mattias now. He felt like he was his vampirism. And he hated that sensation.

               Eventually, he finally felt himself wake up – genuinely reaching the land of the living once again. It was the middle of the night when he woke up. His apartment was dark, except for the dim blue light of his television frozen on some screen of an old sitcom, with a warning up on the screen. Are you still watching? He smirked and glanced around trying to find out who was here with him. It was Olivia, curled into an uncomfortable-looking ball on his recliner. She didn’t even have the recliner, well, reclined. She was just curled up under a pile of blankets and with a small legion of animated items curled up on her, in her arms, or around the bottom of the chair. Her purse, Lunchbox, and plenty of others sat with her. It was nice to know that she had so many loving pets.

               It was a bit disconcerting as he adjusted and sat up. Most twisted as if to look at him, but then ignored the movement and went back to sleep with their creator. That was fine with him. He felt his stomach growl, and though he ached at every single joint, he swung his legs around and off the couch. He felt pain in his throat. It was dry, scratching pain. A lack of use for however long he had been in the state of torpor had not been kind on the poor dead body he inhabited.

               He stretched, moving his palms along his upper legs and glanced down to his hands. They were still gaunt, but they were by no means skeletal. He took one long deep breath through his nose and pushed himself up. Standing was more of a challenge than he expected. He could feel his legs, but only just. It was like standing on a ghost of himself. He did not enjoy the feeling. He took the first step, carefully watching as he moved to try to make sure his feet found the floor and didn’t end up atop any animated creature. Still, he needed to walk. He needed to see himself. If he still could.

               He moved slowly, slumped against the wall from time to time as he realized just how little energy he had upon waking up. He felt weak, but he could feel again. He watched his legs moving slowly but surely, each step measured and with purpose. There still was not enough feeling to really trust his steps. It was coming back, though. By the time he reached the bathroom, he could at least stand without too much worry.

               He took a breath and looked to the mirror. There was nothing but a blur, his image broken and twisted by a universe that couldn’t deal with the existence of an undead monster. Whereas he could see himself somewhat a few days prior, now it was just a blur. There were still some colors but only vague shapes. It was a strange sensation. He reached out and pressed his fingers to the mirror. His fingertips pressed against the cold glass, but where they met the mirror there was an aura. The pale skin color flowed like a puddle out from his finger to the reflection that all but melted into a blur on the smudged glass.

               The realization that his reflection had further deteriorated was a hard one to come to grips with, not just at that moment. There was a bit of shock, of course, while he felt nothing immediate he could sense the impending weight of a lifetime growing on his shoulders. He knew that looking back, this would be a memory that would scar him and stay with him forever. The time he realized he would never again see himself. It was a strange realization and one that was too important and impactful for his long-term development for his mind to really wrap around swiftly or effectively. He wouldn’t dwell on it. He could not. It would drive him mad. He knew that plenty of nights would be spent attempting to come to terms with it. No sense in starting now.

               He did take some time. His eyes were glued to the mirror. He just stared at this blob that would have once been himself. He felt his eyes drift, his vision relaxed and his mind blanked. It was a moment of silence, though unwitting and unplanned, for himself. A somber feeling had washed over him, and so he did what he was want to do. He turned around and stepped over to the shower and twisted on the water. It was set as hot as it could, and the water hissed out of the head slightly. It was odd, he remembered it not working quite that well. He paused and moved back to the toilet, and just sat down on the seat.

               It may have been a few minutes before anything changed. He had zoned out. Even missed the first time that she spoke to him, but when Olivia repeated herself from the doorway, he finally raised his head. He glanced at the doorway and shook his head apologetically. The room had filled with a small layer of steam, blocking off the view of the mirror, which was a relief to him. Of course, now with his ex-wife staring at him from across the room, with a few of her legion of animated items scattered around and bumping the back of her legs.

               “You can’t get in the shower, Mattias,” She repeated. Her voice was quiet and broken. She waved her hand about his body. “You’re still broken and falling apart. Rory hasn’t been able to put you completely back together.”

               He paused for a few moments and gave a bit of a smirk, but he could feel the stitches in his mouth. He shook his head. “I know.”

               “The steam isn’t good for you either,” She added with a long sigh.

               He gave a shake of his head and glanced over to the shower for a minute. He waited for a second and then took a glance back over to her, just his eyes moving to her. “I know that too,” His voice was quiet and raspy still, “But, I just need a few minutes. The steam helps.”

               “Not physically,”

               “Mentally is more important right now,” He spoke with a small defensive twist towards her.

               She relented and her shoulders slumping slightly, “I know.”

               That was it. That was the entire conversation. They both sat quietly in the bathroom for a moment. Him sitting, her leaning against the door frame. Her arms crossed and the two were just silent. There was something peaceful about it though. Only the sound of the shower and the feeling of the steam. It was nice. But he finally needed to say something.

               “Thank you,” He said softly, “For watching out for me.”

               “You’re welcome. We’re family,” She admitted. She adjusted, standing up a bit straighter with a slight roll of her shoulders and movement of her feet. It gave enough room for Lunchbox to barrel beyond her legs. It stumbled over her foot and rolled back to its own little nubs and waddled swiftly over to its master. It twisted its head up towards him and knocked against his calves to try to spur him to some sort of action.

               “Weird thing for an ex to say,” Mattias joked.

               “Shut up,” She snapped her teeth at him, “You know that part only has to do with the weirdness with aging.”

               “And the thing didn’t help.”

               “True,” She shrugged her shoulders high. Neither spoke to what the ‘thing’ was, and the conversation twisted away and faded from the verbal part of the conversation. They both knew what they were talking about.

               “No, I really can’t,” He tilted to one side and reached down to give Lunchbox a pat on the head. “It is weird and kind of awkward.”

               “Mhm,” She spoke and stepped over towards the shower. She reached out and turned off the water. “Come on, let’s get you out of here and get some food in you,”

               “Food or blood?”

               “Blood, Mattias. I doubt you can metabolize food properly still,” She reached over to a towel and dried her hand before offering a hand over to him. “Need some help?”

               “I’ll take it,” He took her hand, and she tightened up to let him pull himself up. Then the two moved back towards the other room. He returned to the couch where he had been set up to rest and finally took a better look around his room. It was cleaned up for the most part, though there were plenty of little messes around the room. Leftover food and drinks, and some casual reading brought by friends that were watching over him.

               He was surprised when Olivia sat down next to him. The couch bumped a bit and laid her wrist on his arm. “Here, eat up.” That offer confused him. She bounced her arm a bit when he didn’t say anything for a moment.

               “Are you sure?” He put his hand on hers and paused.

               “Sure. It’s no problem,” She responded. “I figure I’m the most comfortable being fed on, and someone else will be here in a while to watch you.”

               “Oh. That’s probably true,” He spoke with a slight pause.

               She moved her hand towards him, and he took a breath. She gave a smirk, “Hand me the remotes. Might as well find something interesting to watch…”

               He did so, offering over the controller and letting her find a show to put on. They ended up on some old sitcom, and he took her wrist and took a bite. There were two sides to this ritual. For the victim, or in this case volunteer, his venom was quick-acting. It made the person sedate and did so with a similar feeling to powerful antihistamines. It was a drowsy state, designed to make the prey easier to feed on and move past without danger of them fighting you during the bite. After all, a vampire’s teeth were no stronger than human teeth. For him, that warmth of blood was almost instantly calming and each minute of taking in the blood, he felt a little bit more human.

               It took a few minutes of feeding to get his fill, but soon enough he had. She would need a few minutes to recover, and he was still fatigued – so the two dozed off on the couch. Honestly, he was comfortable for the first time in a long time. He felt content. He felt more like himself, despite the loss of control, than he had in a long time. He couldn’t yet put a finger on why.

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