A Friend for Dinner
|Theodora Hawthorne||When you’re a cannibal, finding dinner often turns into a creative endeavor. It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy regular, non-people food. She just happened to be the ancestral recipient of a hundred-plus year old curse, and anything not human cramped up her insides something fierce.
Theo didn’t always have to resort to measures such as clicking through the Missed Connections section on Craigslist. There used to be others like her, which made finding dinner much easier, but that was all over now.
She had responded to one of the people-finding ads on the popular website that happened to be a man searching for the “slutty pumpkin” from a costume party last weekend. It definitely hadn’t been her, but he wouldn’t know any better. The pumpkin in question had apparently had on quite a bit of bright orange facepaint.
They had agreed to meet up at a coffee shop in a less populated area on the outskirts of New Orleans called Holy Grounds Coffee House. It was later in the evening, and night had fallen. He was an average looking guy with a forgettable face and a tousle of mousy brown hair; she forgot his name almost as soon as he said it. She wasn’t interested in his polite, flirtatious conversation, and neither did she feel the slightest hint of attraction as she ran the toe of her nude Louboutins up his leg.
She was starving, and she needed to get him alone.
Theo had been getting careless. Brash. It would end up getting her killed.
It had been less than forty five minutes by the time she had him out behind the family run shop, distastefully allowing him to press her into the pretty designer stone wall as she waited for the right moment. Her fingers slipped into the back pocket of her black denim jeans and deftly grasped the handle of her serrated drop point folding blade.
In one smooth, practiced motion, she’d pulled his head to the side by his mousy hair and driven the point of the blade deep into his skull, killing him instantly. He dropped heavily to the ground, residual neural impulses causing his limbs to twitch. She stared coldly down at him with a bright amber gaze before glancing around her.
Coast was clear.
She dropped to her knees beside him and pulled the blade from his skull with a sickening squelch. Deftly, she began cutting away a long section of his right deltoid with the precision of a practiced big game hunter.
It was only very recently that she had begun preying out in the open like this. Perhaps it was the thrill of potentially getting caught that attracted her so.
With the ravenous hunger of a starved dog, she brought the large hunk of flesh to her mouth and ripped into it with her even rows of white teeth, nearly groaning with pleasure at the still-warm gore.
She had yet to be caught.
|October 15, 2017 12:27|
|Atticus Hammond||This isn’t Atticus’s first time in the Big Easy. He’s frequently jet-setting, always in search of secrets and unearthed treasures. As of late, he conducts himself with more discretion and urgency, a result of his recent nuptials. His last truly reckless endeavor had taken his life, and it was through the grace of Camille and an unthinkable sacrifice that he is still walking among the living.
He isn’t, however, wholly human. The “darkness”, an otherworldly manifestation of pure evil resides in him, routed around his soul in an unholy seal. There is no escape, and while he is not fully beholden to the archaic curse, he is eternally damned. There is no hope to control the urges that trigger his shift, an almost instant transition into the walking dead. His mind altered by the infection administered by the bite of a necromancer, his only goal is to reap the lives of every last living being.
Psychologically it has little effect on Atticus when he wakes up, more often than not covered in the ravaged gore of a victim. So long as he knows it isn’t Camille, it’s a matter of brushing and flossing well to get all of the flesh out of his gums.
It’s evening now, and Atticus has done his best to avoid Bourbon Street while traversing the French Quarter. What he’s looking for cannot be found at a market stand or bookstore. He’s grimoire hunting for fun, looking to acquire a gift for the lady in his life. Yes, books of death, decay and destruction can be romantic, as can the several shrunken heads tucked safely in his satchel. There’s no limit to the terrifying ways the two show their love and admiration for one another. So, following the rough directions that Samantha laid out for him, he’s in search of the perfect gift. Like most ‘witch doctors’, it’s almost always hedge-wizardry, and mostly non-lethal to any mortal trying to fiddle with magic. He’s been promising Camille a chance at casting spells of her own, and this, of course, is the best way of accomplishing that.
“Ooo eee ooo ah ah…” He sings the ridiculously fitting song under his breath, fingers tapping against the denim on his thighs as he wanders on. The streets are muddled with people, and Atticus quickly loses his orientation. The scent of coffee fills his nostrils, coaxing him to take a break, have a cup, and reevaluate. In fact, he’s coming to the sudden realization that there’s no magic quite as powerful as that of a strong cup of java. Like a moth to a flame, he’s following the scent.
And just as he’s getting to the tings, tangs, and walla walla bing bangs…
There’s something different in the air. His breath hitches, all of his senses catching just that faint whiff, and it’s enough. Blood. There’s no time to flee or react different. His sneakers are dragging him down the alley, once finely-toned skin now pallid. There’s a redness around his eyes, which have shifted from their normal gray to a deep pools of black. Perfect darkness, actually.
A strangled moan escapes his lips, closing in on the woman and her meal without more warning than that. He’s mindless, lost to reasoning. It will take a reasonable amount of force – or fatal maiming – to stop him. He’s driven now by unholy motivations.
To bludgeon the life out of this woman – to feast on her remains. The body she finds herself feeding on is of little consequence.
|October 15, 2017 15:13|
|Theodora Hawthorne||Like any good hunter, she kept an ear out for anyone that could possibly come across her deviant activities as she wolfed down strip after torn strip of muscle, fat, and ligament. The back of the building was not well lit, and there were few passersby around; they were all out front, on the main street. Even if someone did wander too close, her car was parked just around the corner.
Despite her confidence, the only warning that she’d been had was the strangled, guttural sound of a monster.
Amber eyes flashed in the darkness as her gaze lifted toward the source of the sound, the dripping chunks of flesh in her bloodied hands forgotten. She had only a moment to take in the scene before her, and the flash of thoughts were clear upon her face. Surprise, confusion… fear.
What the f*ck? Did she crash the set of The Walking Dead?
The stumbling creature gave her little time to react, and in her confusion she tripped over the body at her feet, landing hard on her back. It was charging at her, and she would have no time to find her feet and flee.
This was not a situation that she’d been prepared for.
Theo cried out in horror as creature fell upon her, clawing and grasping at her skin, clothes, hair; anything it could reach. Its snapping jaws were held at bay by her left forearm, braced frantically against its neck. Saliva flung from its mouth and onto her face as it snapped at her, and it was all she could do to reach for the blade she’d dropped hardly six inches from the hand not holding the creature from her throat. It’s skin was cold and clammy, like a corpse.
With a desperate cry, she lunged for the blade, grasping it hard and jamming it hard into anything and everything on the creature she could reach, over and over again. Thighs, back, sides. She could feel its blood saturating her clothing, but she didn’t stop.
|October 15, 2017 18:26|
|Atticus Hammond||The ability to breathe is not a concern for the creature. He continues to press mindlessly on, with near enough force to shatter windpipes – and surely would have had her knife not connected with his body several times. Despite the blood pouring from the stabs, he persists. In this state, there is no pain. There is only an unquenchable desire. The root of that desire has no one source, but she clearly understands this scenario ends with kill or be killed. At least, until so much trauma is inflicted upon his being that he rolls off.
He doesn’t clutch the wounds – he has no mind to understand what’s happening to him. He’s bleeding out from the several serrated lacerations that have shredded the material of his shirt and pants. It’s enough for his organs to go into immediate distress. In enigma of death residing without life, the repercussions of his wounds would be felt only if he manages to survive. His body convulses, crimson pooling beneath his body and staining his clothes.
The red around his eyes fade, his eyes return to their normal gray – his skin is a more anemic pale than that of a corpse. There’s a flicker, the hint of life. A choked sound – words that can’t form. It’s a mix of fear and remorse in his tormented eyes, that brief moment of despair every time he comes to. His hand, fingers soaked in his own blood, grasp hers. There’s an unspoken request passed.
Despite all he’s possibly inflicted upon her, he’s begging for his life. There isn’t time to explain, he can’t implore that as a human, he only frauds those who deserve it (mostly). He’s only now aware he’s rolled off onto a different corpse, but he’s too feeble to move. He doesn’t know that man is this stranger’s handiwork – he assumes he’s done it. His grip on her slips, fingers instead dragging against the concrete.
His consciousness fades, leaving his body at her mercy. To devour like the man he’s half on top of, or to save. The choice, inevitably, is hers to make. And he only has minutes, if that.
|October 15, 2017 22:32|
|Theodora Hawthorne||As soon as the monstrosity rolled its pinning weight from her body, she gasped and struggled to her knees to lunge back toward it, intending to finish what it had started. Breathing hard, she fisted a hand in its dark hair and yanked hard to expose its throat and the life sustaining arteries within. The serrated edge of her knife pressed into its skin hard enough to draw blood, although it went no further.
It had begun to convulse beneath her, choking out sounds that were almost, but not quite words. As though it had been a mirage, the blackened, bloodshot eyes became something recognizable as human, and the corpse-like tone of its flesh receded.
Her blazing eyes and blood spattered face was contorted in an ugly, enraged snarl, but she still couldn’t seem to drag the blade across the thin flesh to finish it off. She had seen the emotions flicker across the creature’s eyes. Fear, remorse, despair.
Like a punch to the gut, she instantly understood.
There was no way she could possibly know the cause of what had just happened, but all at once, she understood that choice hadn’t been a factor in this creature- this man’s attack.
He was begging, pleading with his eyes. A blood-slickened hand grabbed for hers, asking for his life.
The blade’s edge quivered against his skin. She couldn’t do it.
In some twisted way, she’d seen herself mirrored in his eyes. A flesh seeking monster, devoid of choice. If the situation had been reversed, she could only hope for a glimmer of mercy. A glimmer she didn’t deserve.
She felt the hand slide from hers to grasp weakly at the ground, seeking purchase on something; anything. Consciousness drains from his eyes, and her knife is withdrawn, choice made.
Immediately, she is searching along his body for the source of the most serious bleed. She doesn’t know if he can be saved, but she couldn’t kill him, and walking away would be just the same as if she’d cut his throat herself. She turned him over slightly with a grunt, lifting his blood soaked shirt to rapidly inspect the numerous wounds to his back. They were all bleeding, but there was an increasingly large pool of blood that wasn’t coming from any of them.
She let him roll back to his back, and her eyes snapped to his left thigh. With her knife, she slit the leg of his pants and an immediate spurt of blood erupted. She’d at the very least nicked his femoral artery. Moving fast, she unbuckled his belt and ripped it through his belt loops, using it as a makeshift tourniquet. She fastened it high upon his thigh, pulling hard until the spurting ceased. Roughly creating another hole in the belt to keep it where it was, she pulled out her phone and dialed 911.
The operator answered, and she rapidly gave their location. “There’s a man here, he’s been stabbed I don’t know how many times, and he’s unconscious. Yes. I stopped the worst of it I think, but he’s still bleeding badly… okay. Okay, thank you.”
One problem (hopefully) solved, she had to deal with another one. The matter of the corpse her nameless attacker was half sprawled upon.
Stronger than she appeared, she was able to lift the man from the ground and secure his corpse over her shoulder in a sort of fireman carry. She moved him to the dumpster at the back of the building, not ten feet away, and unceremoniously dumped him inside, closing the lid behind him.
That would have to do, for now.
She could already hear the sirens of an ambulance approaching, and she looked around to ensure she couldn’t see anything that could incriminate her. Her gaze landed on a satchel not far from her attacker’s body, and she moved toward it to retrieve it, briefly glancing inside.
A revolted sound erupted from her lips, and she closed it once more. Shrunken heads?! Who the f*ck was this guy?
The ambulance sped toward her then, coming to a rapid stop, and she hauled the bag over her shoulder, resolving to keep it for now.
She would return it later.
|October 16, 2017 10:46|
|Atticus Hammond||Atticus is unconscious when the paramedics arrive on his brutalized body, and it’s perhaps for the best the woman has taken his satchel. No license, no identification. He wouldn’t have to awake in a hospital bed with Sookie Hammond at his side to chastise him. Having his property stolen, really, is a small blessing.
There’s little hope among the EMTs that he’ll survive the drive to University Medical Hospital, considering the makeshift tourniquet and how volatile a position it holds. It’s not just tissue damage, but deep, muscular tears – an ER surgeon’s wet dream.
He starts to come to as they enter the chute leading to the trauma ward, paramedics and doctors all talking around him at urgent speeds. It’s not a charming awakening, senses assaulted by bright lights and antiseptic, but in his brief instance of lucidity, he knows he’s alive. He keeps the semblance of consciousness until the morphine hits his veins and then he’s out again, blissfully unaware as he’s poked, prodded and repaired.
By some stroke of luck, he manages to pull through, and several hours later he’s resting in a private room. The ER nurse, Ben, comes in to check his vitals. It’s the first time that Atticus is well enough to answer questions.
Answer, but more to ask. “My satchel? I had a bag with me. Where is it?” He interrupts as Ben is in the midst of asking for his social security number.
“No belongings. Other than the clothes on your back, but I don’t think you’ll want those back. Now, Mr. Hammond…”
It doesn’t bode well. He didn’t have anything of life-or-death importance in the bag, but they all carried sentiment with them. Journals, a grimoire he’d acquired while in New Orleans – at least it wasn’t the one he had intended to buy for Camille. He grows despondent, agitated as the nurse continues, unable to physically turn away – but he isn’t going to continue cooperating for the time being. Instead he murmurs something about pain, and allows the morphine to once again carry him away.
He’s well aware that he should call Camille and let her know he’s safe – it’s been about 24 hours since they last spoke. He’s just about to ask for a phone, when Ben re-enters his room. “Mr. Hammond? You have a visitor.” Atticus squints in response. His voice is croaky, not about to consciously quell the twang that parts from his lips.
“Is she young an’ gorgeous? ‘Cause I don’t need my momma in here.” His reply evokes a bashful smile from Ben, who snorts and shakes his head.
“Definitely not your mother, cowboy. I’ll let her in, since you seem like you’re feeling up to it.” Ben takes the chart from the end of Atticus’s bed and retreats, leaving his patient to fuss. He’s combing fingers through his hair, while simultaneously pressing the button so the bed puts him in a more upright position.
He should have known Camille would show up. Except, it doesn’t take much to realize how much the approaching woman is not his wife.
|October 16, 2017 18:21|
|Theodora Hawthorne||Theo slept little, for nightmares of being eaten alive plagued her out of any meaningful rest. The irony wasn’t lost on her. She’d abandoned any hope of sleep and decided instead to search through her attacker’s satchel. Cross legged on the floor with a red tartan blanket draped loosely over her shoulders, she retrieved item after item from the bag and set them upon the carpet in front of her. Multiple journals, a heavy leather tome, a GoPro, his phone, a couple of loose papers, and of course the shrunken heads. However, those remained in the satchel.
Studiously, she flipped through the journals and thumbed through the loose papers, searching for hints of the man’s origins. It quickly became apparent that he was some kind of scholar or perhaps even a historian. However, he didn’t seem to be a purveyor of conventional knowledge. The most recent entries spoke of necromancers, spells, sacrificial rituals… hell, maybe the guy was a science fiction author or something.
Theo was left even more bemused by the large tome, as it seemed to be a spellbook of some kind. Much of it was illegible to her. Hoping for some kind of clarity, she reached finally for the GoPro and scrolled to play back the most recent footage.
The small screen lit up her face in the dim lighting, and she watched as her assumption that he was simply a fictional author was stricken from the short list of possibilities. The video was of his raid of what had to be a necromancer cult, if his most recent journal entries were anything to go by. The images that flashed before her quickly turned violent, and her brows descended as he was caught and maimed.
When the playback stopped, she placed the camera back upon the floor and pulled the edges of her blanket in closer around her body, chilled somehow by what she’d seen. Amber eyes moved to the clock ticking on the wall, and she resolved to make good use of the hospital’s visiting hours once they started.
It wasn’t hard to find him. She didn’t know his name, but a quick description of his injuries set her in the right direction and earned her the elusive name. Satchel slung over her shoulder, Theo walked toward the recovery ward and quietly announced herself to the woman manning the nurse’s station, politely asking where to find ‘Mr. Hammond’. She was given directions, and a male nurse, ‘Ben’ by the name tag, appeared to show her the way.
She waited outside the room until she was told it was okay to enter. Brushing past Ben when given the green light, she entered the room to behold her new possibly-a-zombie friend.
Theo flashed a white smile at him, noting that he’d tried to gussy himself up a bit. Clearly he hadn’t been expecting her.
“Still alive, I see.” Sort of.
The smooth croon of a born and bred Southern woman tinged her voice with that casual tone of familiarity. The accent didn’t consume the pleasant cadence, but it was certainly there.
Theo crossed the small room to take the seat near the bed. Nearby, but not too close. She let the satchel hit the ground pointedly with a soft thump. She crossed her right leg over her left and leaned back into the chair. “I might be the pot calling the kettle black here, but what the hell was that night?”
|October 21, 2017 21:09|
|Atticus Hammond||Atticus has enough sense to blush, embarrassed that’d he’d been caught, and naturally flustered that this woman, who he has no recollection of, is looming over his bed. Still, as if his mother mentally tugging on his ear, his manners return to him. Her words catch him off-guard, confusion muddled on temporarily red façade. “Yes, ma’am. Still kickin’.” He tries to get a read on her, only truly understanding her purpose as she steamrolls him.
The color in his cheeks drain, his expression faltering. Gray eyes are tempestuous with contemplation as they burn holes his satchel, the strap pooling at her feet. His brows link together, his thoughts muddled and non-linear. “How did you get that?” His southern drawl has returned in full-force, always making a come-back in times of stress. Masking it, naturally, isn’t his top priority at present. “You..” Those eyes, once looking over him so piteously resonate with his memory. He gives a brief nod of understanding, seeming to string together enough information in his own head.
Enough to presume, she’s the culprit to his stab wounds. He cannot blame her – a 200-something pound zombie trying to rip your throat out with his teeth? It’s not an ideal situation, and he also allows the assumption that despite this, she helped preserve his life. It’s a fine line between anxiety and gratitude. Will she hurt him again? Extort him for his secrets? He doesn’t know her well enough to assume any less of her.
“I suppose that’s a fair question.” He motions towards the chair at his side, the jut of his head indicating she is welcome to stay. Not that he can physically done anything to bar her from the room – it’s a gesture of hospitality. “Is everything in the bag? Did you..?” He trails off, the answer to his half-asked question obvious. Of course she’s gone through his things. Poured over the pages. Watched the videos, struggling to comprehend his nature. His wife had done the same at one time. Curiosity is a persuasive mistress, one Atticus is quite familiar with.
“I don’t know how to explain it in Layman’s terms. I’m not even close to the right answers, and hell, I’m an expert.” His chest puffs out some, knowing that if she has read his writing, she’d best be impressed by the layers of research, dedication and scholarship. It is his life’s work, after all. “I was bitten by an ancient Necromancer. We’re talking of the earliest manifestations of Homo sapiens. Maybe even the oldest. There is little to no writings or epitaphs to decipher their age, endeavors or religion, but for having come from the dawn of time, they’re aggressively well-organized. I learned that the hard way.”
Atticus tugs down the collar of his gown, revealing the pink scar running along his jugular. “I don’t know what I am. At least, I don’t know what origin it is. As far as I know, there’s no case quite the same as me. I should be dead, but…” He leaves it unsaid. There will be no mention of Camille’s part in his salvation. He has no interest in bringing his wife into this. “I don’t know what triggers it, I’m sorry if..” He squints, eying her over. He doesn’t see any injuries, noting that she must have put up one hell of a fight against him in that form.
“I should have asked, first. Are you alright? I didn’t..?” He’s forgotten himself again, knowing his ‘momma’ would have him hung on the clothesline for being so thoughtless. “I’m sorry.” Clearly, the situation he’d found himself upon in that form are lost to his thoughts. He isn’t aware she’d been in the midst of ravaging a corpse. All he knows is that final heart wrenching plea before he’d lost consciousness.
|October 24, 2017 01:53|
|Theodora Hawthorne||It didn’t take a mind reader to quickly realize that Mr. Hammond didn’t recognize her in the slightest. She supposed it made sense; he hadn’t exactly been in his right mind. Even so, his ignorance allowed her to see the full scope of emotion that played out on his face as she hit him with her direct question. Instantly, he knew. Color drained from his cheeks, and the calm confidence he wore even in his mild confusion slipped away. She could practically see the night being replayed in his mind as he tried to place her role in his current predicament, and his eyes slid down to the satchel at her feet, recognition settling in his expression.
“How did you get that? You..”
His gaze had found her face again, and some kind of recollection formed. At least enough to place her in the puzzle of his missing night. Theo had come prepared, not knowing what kind of man she would find sitting in this hospital bed. The very same blade that had ravaged his flesh the night before was tucked carefully away on her person, within easy reach. Despite the nightmares he’d inspired in her, despite the fear, her curiosity was overwhelming.
At the very least, it seemed, he didn’t remember the sight of her disemboweling a corpse.
Theo hadn’t been entirely sure what to expect from him, but with his quiet admission that her question was indeed a fair one, she realized that she hadn’t been expecting the calm, well-mannered Southern boy that was taking shape before her.
He questioned her about his bag, concerned about its contents. “It’s all there.”
She nodded, although their situation didn’t inspire any guilt from her snooping. “Yeah. I just… after it happened, I needed some answers.”
To her surprise, he then did just what she hadn’t particularly expected. Gave her answers.
His words substantiated what she’d read in his journals and seen on his GoPro, and she got the feeling that he rather enjoyed talking about this sort of thing. He even tugged down the neck of his gown to show her the scars from his encounter.
“I don’t know what I am. At least, I don’t know what origin it is. As far as I know, there’s no case quite the same as me. I should be dead, but…”
But he wasn’t.
If Theo were anyone else, he may have gotten more of a reaction. Surprise, horror, disgust, disbelief. However, she was quite familiar with the underbelly of society, and she knew the sorts of things that went bump in the night. She was one of them. While his condition certainly inspired horror, her predominant reaction was curiosity.
She also felt, in a strange way, a morbid sense of kinship. She almost wished she could tell him that he wasn’t the only one with an uncontrollable urge to consume human flesh.
Before she had a chance to respond to his forthrightness, he surprised her again.
“I don’t know what triggers it, I’m sorry if.. I should have asked, first. Are you alright? I didn’t..?”
She was pretty sure she had an idea of the trigger, although she had a mind not to share her insights just now.
Theo scoffed quietly, an amused huff of air puffing from her nose. “Shouldn’t I be the one asking you that question?” More quietly, she added, “I almost killed you.”
She glanced at the open door to his room and smoothly rose from her seat to shut it. She didn’t particularly want anyone eavesdropping on them. Crossing her arms loosely across her chest, she turned back to him and quietly appraised his condition. She had no idea how many times she’d driven her knife into his back.
Theo took a few steps toward where he lay, stopping just out of his reach. “I’m not sorry for what I did.” The memory of his lifeless eyes and snarling, snapping jaw just inches from her throat flashed in her mind. “You didn’t get me, but… you were close. I thought you were going to kill me.”
Was she trying to apologize?
“I tried to get away from you, but I tripped and you were on me before I could get my legs again. You were… it was like you weren’t alive. You were cold. Mindless. You tried to rip my throat out… so I grabbed my knife and I didn’t stop stabbing you until you rolled off me. I almost finished you off right there, but it was like you’d snapped out of it. There was so much blood, and you grabbed my hand.”
His eyes had pierced right through her, silently pleading for his life.
“I called for an ambulance instead.”
After a moment, she reached down for his satchel and placed it next to him in bed. “So.. is there nothing that can be done for you? Are you stuck like this?”
|November 10, 2017 11:32|
||November 10, 2017 16:54|
|Theodora Hawthorne||Sick curiosity?
“Pot and kettle.” She mumbled, crossing her arms over her chest. Theo had witnessed the result of his sick curiosity only the night before, and she was sure her own would land her in similarly hot waters if she weren’t careful. Nevertheless, here she was.
“My goal isn’t to find a cure.”
Dark brows descended over amber eyes, not understanding. His following explanation made sense, sure, but the odds of such a thing seemed incredibly far-fetched. He’d already had a dangerously close brush with death at her hands. What made him think he would survive long enough to study his condition when he had no control over it?
Abruptly, he lifted his hand in greeting and offered her his name. Still considering the educated monologue, she was slow to raise her own and grasp it with a single shake.
“Theodora Hawthorne.” She shrugged a shoulder. “Theo. I run a bar on the other side of town.”
She was silent for a moment, considering what she’d learned about him from his journals and what he had told her himself.
“I’ll take a leap and guess that this isn’t just some hobby of yours, collecting information on… necromancers and rituals and cults. Is this what you do?”
Abruptly, they were interrupted by a knock on the door. She paused, turning just as the door opened. It was Ben.
“Hey, sorry to interrupt, but the doctor needs to speak with him in a minute.”
She nodded her assent, and he retreated, closing the door behind him.
Theo regarded Atticus for a moment, clearly coming to a decision, and turned away to search for something on the table against the wall.
“I know this is strange - really strange, but once you’re back on your feet again, I think you should drop by.”
She’d found a pen and torn a blank scrap of paper from the small stack upon the narrow table. In a hurried hand, she wrote the name and address of her bar and offered it to him.
Adder’s Fork Tavern.
“We might have a thing or two to talk about.”
It was stupid. Incredibly stupid to give her address to a man as horrifyingly reckless as him, and yet... if he were as knowledgeable about the supernatural as he seemed to be, then she had a few questions for him.
Theo offered a thin, fleeting smile before turning and moving toward the door, though she paused as she touched the handle, glancing back at him over her shoulder.
“Oh, and… if I never see you again, I hope you figure out how to flip the switch on that thing before you run into someone with a little less sympathy than me.”
Almost as soon as she was gone, Ben had returned, doctor in tow.
|November 11, 2017 21:57|
||December 08, 2017 16:20|
|Theodora Hawthorne||It was that time of year when dusk fell early and temperatures dropped along with the sun. It wasn’t frigid by any means, but for native Southerners, a fifty-degree day may as well have been minus twenty given how they bundled up. It was half past five on a Thursday; not quite a busy time for Theo’s tavern. Through the windows, she could see the approaching twilight. The sky was alight with brilliant pinks and purples, signalling the last light of the day.
There were scattered patrons throughout the narrow, rustic space; not enough to warrant her presence front of house. She had hired a bar-back some months ago to lift some stress from her shoulders on busy nights; Remy was his name. She’d trained him up well and trusted him to hold up the front end when it wasn’t balls to the wall crazy. She might even train him up to be a full bartender soon. It would mean a few nights off for her once in awhile; an attractive prospect to be sure.
The tavern was quite traditional looking, although it wasn’t the prettiest space in the world. She liked to think it was just rustic enough to be charming, but shoddy enough to scare off pretentious sh*tbags. The walls were bared brick, patched up in some of the more eroded spots with brick that didn’t quite match the rest, and the floors were well-trod wood that creaked in various spots. The narrow space was quite a bit longer than it was wide, with a reclaimed wood bar top that spanned almost the entire length of the right wall. On the wall behind the bar was the most impressive feature of the unimpressive space; a counter-to-ceiling display of liquor in various stages of use. There was a sliding ladder pushed to one end of the bar, clearly to aid the employees in reaching the top shelf items.
On the opposite side of the room were round wooden tables somewhat lined up near the wall. The chairs were almost entirely mismatched and consisted mostly of worn out leather armchairs and various low stools. There was a kitchen through a narrow opening near the far end of the bar, and although it was quite small (as was the menu) all the food was well made and fresh.
Despite the obvious age of the establishment, it was clear that it was clean and well cared for. It made sense, as Theo also happened to live in the second story above the bar.
She was in the kitchen with her cook, a tough b*tch by the name of Tess, helping prep for the dinner crowd, when she heard Remy greeting a customer at the bar. She immediately paused in her ministrations to wash her hands and start toward the front end to lend a hand. Remy didn’t have his bartending license yet, and couldn’t technically serve alcohol.
The customer had clearly ordered something, for she nearly ran straight into Remy as he started toward the kitchen to fetch her. She found herself face-to-chest with the lad, and she good-naturedly elbowed him to the side to exit the kitchen. Used to the abuse, he merely chuckled and wandered to the back to take up the prep work Theo had left. He was a good guy; tall and brawny with a mop of shockingly red, curly hair. Easy on the eyes, too. It might have been one of the reasons why she’d hired him.
Sue her. Pretty men made good tips, anyway.
Plainly in work mode, her long chestnut hair was pulled away from her face in a twisted, messy bun, and she wore denim jeans and a black t-shirt with the logo and name of her tavern emblazoned across the back. It was rare that she chose to wear makeup, and now was not one of those times. The only thing that stuck out in her plain appearance were her pair of tawny-feathered earrings.
Burned into her memory as it was, Theo instantly recognized the face of the dark haired man sitting at the end of her bar. Her brisk gait slowed with her surprised recognition, and an amused half-smile appeared on her face.
“Huh. You really are a glutton for punishment, aren’t you.”
She slowed to a stop across from him, casually leaning her elbows upon the edge of the bar. “What’re you drinkin’, zombie boy?”
|December 09, 2017 16:41|
||December 10, 2017 13:04|
|Theodora Hawthorne||With an accommodating nod, Theo reached for the ingredients to make him a hurricane; easily one of the most commonly ordered drinks in NOLA. As such, everything was already within easy reach. It was nothing for her to pay attention to him and whip up his drink simultaneously.
She filled a shaker with ice and poured the white rum, dark rum, grenadine, and the assorted fruit juices over the cubes, covered the shaker with another, and shook it all up until it was chilled, an attentive ear upon him throughout.
“Well, I suppose I’m just not your average victim.” She smirked mildly at him, pouring the alcoholic mixture into a tall glass with fresh ice. A quick garnish of an orange peel and cherry, and it was slid neatly across the bar to him. She picked up a clean rag hanging below the bar top and wiped her hands, leaning an elbow sideways upon the counter.
“Besides, I didn’t ask you here to speak to the monster.” Her Southern tones matched his - quiet. “I want to speak to the man that spends his life digging up the dirt on the supernatural.”
Atticus rocked slowly back in his seat, nearly losing his balance a moment later. The quick motion of him catching himself made her start, taking a half-step back and standing straight.
Alright, so she wasn’t entirely over nearly being mauled.
Quickly over the momentary startle, she let out a short huff of a laugh. “Sorry. Careful with those stools, some of them have an uneven leg or two.”
It was then that Theo took notice of how his shirt clung to his skin in places; the man was sweating, and she kept it at a comfortable temperature in her bar.. besides, there was a definite chill in the air outside. Upon a more thoughtful up-and-down of the man, she decided that he looked about ready to drop. His interested demeanor contrasted sharply with the tired circles beneath his eyes and the pallid sheen of sweat she now noticed upon his forehead.
She was pulled from her subtle scrutiny by his voice, and she raised a dark brow at his request. “Really. Well.. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected anything less.”
It wasn’t so much that she wasn’t willing to recount the evening to Atticus. It was just that confessing a murder to an almost total stranger wasn’t exactly how she’d seen her night going. However, that was the point of her requesting him here, wasn’t it? She’d hoped to find some answers from his scholar’s brain, but that required divulging some… intimate information about herself.
Well. She supposed if he flipped his lid, she could figure a few ways to keep him quiet. Ideally, it wouldn’t come to that.
“I don’t see why I can’t help you out.” She pursed her lips slightly, now distracted by his sickly appearance. “But I think we should head upstairs for that; it’s not really a discussion I want to have in front of my employees. They’re nosey little gossips.”
She crossed her arms. “You look like you’re about to drop, you know. You sure you’re gonna make it through this journal entry of yours?”
|December 10, 2017 21:11|
||December 10, 2017 23:37|
|Theodora Hawthorne||There’s a touch of concern upon her face as she watches him rise from his seat, certain that he would drop as soon as his feet hit the floor. Thankfully, he was able to steady himself after a moment and assured her that he would be just fine. It didn’t take a genius to realize that he was far worse off than he claimed, and given how he’d downed the hurricane - which she’d poured generously - he was in a fair amount of pain.
He was stubborn, and would not be swayed from hearing the recounting of their memorable evening together.
Wary despite his assurances, Theo made sure to grab a handle of rum and a couple of glasses to take upstairs with them. He wasn’t the only one in need of a stiff drink, especially for this conversation.
“I guess the recorder would work best. At least for ease of conversation. I don’t mind if you make notes, though.” They both started toward the stairs at the back of the establishment, and Theo scoffed amusedly at a remark of his.
“Oh, this is absolutely scandalous, I assure you. My staff will be whispering behind my back for weeks, and my marriage prospects will flee!” She gave Atticus a sly side-eye, amused by his manners.
Really, her virtue was the last thing she was worried about. Her soul, if there were such a thing, was thrice-damned already.
She expressed an interest in the grimoires that weighed down his bag, pleasantly surprised by his eagerness to share information with her.
“Just promise you won’t chop me up and eat me.”
He was joking, and although her amusement darkened momentarily, her returning remark was jovial. “Only if you bore me.”
Nearly half of the upstairs space was taken by a storage room, but the other half was inhabited by Theo. Her apartment was small - a studio, with a nook of a kitchen, a small living space that bled into her dining space, and at the far end of the studio was her bed, sectioned off from the rest of the area by heavy curtains that were not currently closed. It was clean and tidy, although there was a fair amount of clutter. Books took up much of the available storage spaces, including a shelf unit under her bed and beneath the end tables that bookended her couch. She didn’t have quite enough wall space for a big enough bookshelf, so she’d stacked a fair few piles next to the smallish one she had.
Her floors were the same dark wood that laid across the floor downstairs, though markedly less worn out, and her walls were also bared brick. Across the floor in front of her couch was a large hand woven rug of Native American design, geometrically patterned in bright red, black, and earth tones. As the duo entered the small space, the subtle scent of sage would greet them.
Theo gestured toward her couch, “Go sit down before you fall down.”
She followed him to the living space, and set the handle of rum and the glasses upon the coffee table in front of the couch. Sitting down, she poured each of them a generous amount and settled back as he found and set up his recorder.
“Well… where to start.” Though her amber eyes were on him, they had grown distant as she returned to that concrete back lot where they had met.
Atticus was met with a sturdy wall of silence as she considered her words carefully.
Just how frank was she going to be?
This meeting with Atticus was a beautiful opportunity. She couldn’t squander it. The best thing she could do was to greet his forthrightness with honesty, and hope for the best.
Theo took a long sip of the dark liquid in her glass.
“I suppose it all started when I killed Justin.”
Sh*t, was his name Justin? Or was it Josh… no, Joey. Or..
|January 04, 2018 13:12|
||January 05, 2018 11:21|
|Theodora Hawthorne||To his credit as a scholar, there is only a momentary pause as he reconciles her claim with his image of her. There was no flash of fear in his eyes, no recoil. There was a moment of disbelief, but he quickly realized that she wasn’t pulling his leg. Then, his curiosity bubbled up from him in the form of a barrage of questions.
He really was a foolish man. His fearlessness was admirable, maybe even attractive, but she was certain it would kill him one day. But not today - he had nothing to fear from her. Except perhaps a massive hangover.
She clutched the glass tumbler in both hands as she tried to form the words in her mind to answer his questions, surprised by a wave of sudden reticence. She’d never spoken of this to anyone besides her grandmother, and she’d been dead for years. Theo had carefully crafted layers of armor to protect who she really was, and answering Atticus’ questions was proving to be a surprisingly difficult task.
Maybe she had deluded herself into thinking that he was just going to run for the hills as soon as she revealed her nature. This was not the case.
A mechanical click brought her out of her brain freeze. He had turned his recorder off, and his pencil lay in the crease of his journal, forgotten.
She didn’t know why, but it helped.
She brought the rim of her glass to her lips and took a steadying sip.
Why are you so nervous? Jesus, calm down. This is what you wanted.
“I killed him because I was-..” She paused, feeling as though her answers would only lead to more questions. Perhaps, she thought, prefacing her answers with an explanation would be better.
“Sorry. This is a little harder than I thought.” Her brows cinched together slightly, and she decided to answer his question with a question.
“...have you ever heard about the Navajo Skinwalker legend?”
She paused momentarily, but was met with silence. Shifting in her seat slightly, she continued. “It’s a Native American myth about a being with terrible power who can transform into creatures by wearing their pelts. The legend is that they do this purely to cause pain and suffering for others, and because of this it was taboo for anyone in the tribe to wear any animal skins apart from buckskin or sheepskin.”
She lifted a hand to secure a wayward strand of hair behind her ear, though it seemed like more of a self-comforting gesture. “Well. The legend isn’t necessarily wrong about the Skinwalker’s purpose of causing suffering. It just doesn’t explain why. Skinwalkers are cannibals. They can’t survive without killing other people. I can’t survive without it.”
|January 05, 2018 12:39|
||January 05, 2018 13:40|
|Theodora Hawthorne||Theo had openly admitted to him that she had not only killed a man, but also that she was a cannibal… and a shapeshifter. She had never divulged this to anyone that she wasn’t about to kill before, and she was quite frankly flabbergasted that this meeting hadn’t taken a nasty turn. Of course, her audience wasn’t your average Joe. He had his own skeletons hidden away in his closet, and seemed to be practically humming with the excitement of discovering her and her wicked ways.
He was quite possibly the strangest man she’d ever met.
Theo was obviously thrown off-kilter by his undisguised interest, but was also encouraged by the response. She tried to answer his questions as openly as she could.
“I can go for a couple of weeks without having to kill… it all really just depends on the size of the… victim.” She’d never referred to her kills in conversation before, and had faltered upon finding a word to describe them. “If they’re bigger, they last me for a couple of weeks, but the bigger they are, the harder they are to kill. If I don’t do it right, I could be hurt instead. Normally, I’ll…” She let out a soft huff of disbelief at what she was divulging. “I’ll cut them up and store the pieces in a freezer. Use them as I require.”
She suddenly felt like she needed a cigarette.
“I was born this way, actually… the curse has been passed down from mother to daughter for… actually, I’m not even sure how many generations back, now. I’ve never met anyone outside of my family like us. Maybe…” She lightly shrugged a shoulder. “Maybe the legend stems from us.”
That would be extremely unfortunate, were that the case. The whole reason she was divulging this information to him was to find out if he could locate others like her. Others that could help her.
“The story goes - and I’m not sure how much of it has been embellished - that the beginning of this curse was with an ancestor of mine that sought power. She allegedly bargained the power from the devil by promising him the next born male in her line. So far… no males. All the children after the bargain have been girls.”
She took a long sip from her glass.
“I’ve noticed, from the stories I was told, that the women in my bloodline have gotten progressively more ravenous. Each generation has had to kill more to survive. I even heard that my great-great-great grandmother could eat actual food without getting sick. I think this…degradation is because the devil hasn’t gotten his due.”
Theo leaned over to set her glass upon the coffee table, fixing her amber eyes upon Atticus. “That’s really the main reason I wanted to stay in contact with you. When I realized what you do, I’d hoped that you would know of others like me. Or, at the least, possibly know of some way to help me without having to pop out babies until I have a boy… if that story is even true.”
Even if it was, Theo had no intention of having children. Her choices were to have a girl, and have that child grow up to be like her, or have a boy, and have that child quite possibly taken from her. She would rather just be the last one, given the choice.
He admitted that he knew little about Skinwalkers, to which she nodded solemnly, eyes casting downward as that tenuous hope dwindled.
“I would offer solace in saying that perhaps you and I are not so different… But I would hope not to assault or offend your sensibilities in suggesting such a thing.”
This pulled a soft chuckle from her. “I’m not offended. Actually, our similarities are what stopped me from killing you. At the end, when I’d gotten you off of me, you started to come back from it, and your eyes changed. It just... stopped me. Afterward, when I was trying to piece through what the fvck had happened, it occurred to me that we were really very similar. We’re both monsters. You just happen to look like one now and then.”
She muttered a word of thanks as he topped off her glass, eyes raising as he posed a difficult question to her.
“Would you change it, Ms. Hawthorne? Would you sacrifice the power it provides if it meant living a normal life?”
It was a tough question, and one that seemed important to him. She was silent as she considered it, something she had admittedly done before. Turning her glass slowly in her hands, she began, haltingly. “I think… if I didn’t feel as though it were beginning to control me, rather than the opposite, I wouldn’t dream of sacrificing what I have. The cost is having to kill, to take life. But the things I can do…” She smiled at him for a moment, but it faltered. “But as it is, I’ve started to lose my grip. When I get hungry, it’s hard to think. I’ve gotten reckless, and… I’m pretty positive it’s going to kill me. Soon.”
|March 31, 2018 14:11|
||March 31, 2018 15:01|