Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Episode 10: Claws

Lia awoke in the largest, softest bed that she had ever seen before in her life. Instead of the rough ceiling of the apartment, the bed had a little roof of sky blue cloth above it.

She sat up and looked around. The room looked like it was from a movie. The walls were covered with pale blue and gold wallpaper, and there were big bright paintings hanging on them.

There room was huge. There were two large windows along the wall to her left, and the sun was streaming through the pulled drapes. To her right was a sitting area with two chairs and a couch. There was a table with a mirror, and a mirror on a stand next to that. In front of her, across the room, was a desk.

She had to go to the bathroom, and she could see one through an open door to the left of the desk. She used the facilities, came back into the room, and flopped on the bed. Where was Lex?

There was a creak at the far end of the room, and a woman entered the room. She was wearing a blue powder suit that went perfectly with the wallpaper and carrying a notebook in her hands. She looked up at Lia, and she smiled.

“Hello,” she said pleasantly. “You’re finally awake. Are you hungry? You’ve been asleep for a long time. Five whole days, actually.”

Lia nodded.

“Tell you what then, why don’t you get dressed and we’ll go down and get something to eat for breakfast.”

Lia looked down at herself. She was wearing long white shirt made of flannel or something similar. “I don’t have anything else.” The white shirt wasn’t hers either, but she wasn’t sure if the woman knew that. She still thought that all of her surroundings could be a dream.

The woman went to one of the doors in the wall, and opened it. It was a walk-in closet, and it was filled with clothes that appeared to be her size.

“Why don’t I pick out something for you,” the woman suggested. “What is your favorite color?”


The woman ran her hand along the shelves for a moment, and she pulled a beautiful blue dress out. It was fancier than anything Lia had ever owned before.

“Wow,” Lia said breathlessly. “Wow,” she said again when she couldn’t think of anything else.

“I’m Annabelle,” said the woman. “What’s your name?”


“It’s nice to meet you, Lia. Is that short for something?”


“What is your last name, Lia?”

“Rodriguez,” she said. Annabelle seemed nice enough, and while she helped Lia into the brilliant azure dress, Lia asked, “How did I get here?”

“You don’t remember?”

Lia shook her head, and Annabelle brushed it out of her face.

“I’ll let Mr. Mohan explain that to you.” Lia frowned. It was like a fairy tale, and she was old enough to know that fairy tales were just stories. Annabelle continued on before Lia could ask another question. “You have lovely hair, Lia. I’ve got a ribbon that would look lovely on you.” She ducked back into the closet for a moment and came back with a ribbon that perfectly matched the dress.

As she tied up Lia’s hair, Annabelle asked about Lia’s parents.

“They’re dead,” Lia said sadly, thinking of her mother.

“Who takes care of you, then?”



“Alex. He’s been taking care of me since my father died.”

“Does he live here in Las Vegas?” asked Annabelle pleasantly.

Lia nodded.

“He must be very worried about you. Do you know his phone number? I could call him and let him know that you’re okay.”

“We didn’t have a phone.”

“An address then?”

Lia gave her the address and number of the apartment. Annabelle paused momentarily to write in her notebook for a notebook. She looked up and smiled. “I’ll make sure that one of Mr. Mohan’s assistants stops by and makes sure that Alex knows that you’re safe.”

“Is this where Mr. Mohan lives?” Lia asked, wondering again how she had woken up in this fairytale.

“In another section, but yes, Mr. Mohan lives here. There you go.” She gestured to a mirror. Lia went over to it and looked in. The face staring back at her seemed subtly alien peering out over the blue dress. She hadn’t worn a dress in years, not since her mother died, and even then it hadn’t been a dress like this.

There was a tap on the door, and another woman peeked through. “Anna?” came the voice.

“Come in.”

The door opened, and a frowning older Asian woman entered. She was dressed in a black suit. The only color was from her brilliant red lipstick.

“This is Miss Chi-Wong, Lia. She’s another of Mr. Mohan’s assistants.”

Miss Chi-Wong nodded stiffly and then said, “Mr. Mohan is waiting.”

“Perfect timing then. Come on, Lia. Would you like to meet Mr. Mohan?”

Lia nodded. Annabelle took her hand and led her out of the room.

The corridors fit the room that they’d exited. There was dark wood everywhere and there were paintings on all of the walls, although these were more about battles instead of flowers.

The hallways were wide, and Annabelle led her through them until they arrived at a set of double doors. Annabelle opened one of the doors and ushered Lia through.

There was a long stone table in this room, and there were a few people sitting around it eating and talking. Two of them were very familiar, and Lia’s eyes were drawn to the one at the head of the table. He had blue eyes and was listening to another man with black hair.

“. . . devaluation of the peso, of course. I don’t foresee any real problem, but I suggest divesting ourselves of what we can before there are any more issues.”

The man with black hair finished and the people at the table looked at Lia and Annabelle.

The man at the head of the table stood and approached her smiling. She had seen him before, both times in dreams.

“Our guest is awake!” said the man with blue eyes, beaming with happiness.

“Mr. Mohan, this is Celia Rodriguez. Lia, this is Mr. William Chander Mohan.”

“Just Will for you, Celia!” Mr. Mohan stuck out his hand, and Lia shook it. “Do you prefer Lia?”

She nodded, nervous again in front of so many new people.

Mr. Mohan looked around, and gestured to the others. “I think we’re done for now.” Most of the people at the table stood, gathered their things, and left, leaving only Mr. Mohan, the man with black hair, Annabelle, and Lia.

“There’s breakfast. What would you like, Lia”

“Do you have pancakes?”

“We certainly do. Miss Leigh?”

Annabelle nodded, and then knelt by Lia. “I’m going to go tell the chef. If you need anything I’ll be just around the corner, okay?”

Lia nodded again. She left, and Lia turned back to Mr. Mohan.

“Welcome to my home, Lia. I hope you were comfortable.” Mr. Mohan gestured for Lia to take a seat at the table, but he stood next to his own seat.

She nodded. “How did I get here?”

“Very direct. First things first then.” He blinked, and as he opened his eyes again, everything slowed.

His eyes were an unbelievably pure blue color. The same color that was in the walls and in the sky in the winter. As Lia looked into them she felt swept away, as though there was a rush of water pouring out of him and filling the room with torrents of bitterly cold water.

“Remember,” Mr. Mohan said, and Lia did.

“Oh,” she said.

Mr. Mohan had obviously expected something more. She looked at him, and found that his shoulders had tightened. The other man, the one with black hair, was also starring at her intently.

“I flew here,” Lia said. “I was a bird. A raven.” She could remember everything perfectly now. The air along her feathers, and the first time she’d seen him on the terrace.

“That’s right. You are a wereraven, a person that can change form, as are Michael and I. That makes you very special, Lia.”

Lia sat for a moment as the last bits of her memories solidified and came together. “Why couldn’t I remember before?”

“You were too wild. Eventually you will learn to master it yourself but at the moment I have mastered it for you.”

She could remember the cage now. They’d caged her when they brought her here. She’d even seen the cage on a table in the hallway outside of her room but hadn’t recognized it at the time. “Are you holding me prisoner?”

“You are an honored guest, Lia. We do request that you stay until you understand your gifts and abilities, but after that you are free to go if you wish. If you wish to stay, you could do that as well.”

“What about Lex?”

“Who is Lex?”

“He was the one taking care of me. He’s having trouble finding work. Could you help him find a job?”

Mr. Mohan nodded. “Did you tell Annabelle?”


“Annabelle will send someone to find him and invite him to come here. Once I have met him, I will see what I can do. Until then, you have much to learn. I tried to awaken your mind when you came to me on the full moon, but you fell asleep instead. If you are to be safe, you need others of your own kind around.”

“Are you also a . . . wereraven?”

“We are lycanthropes, but not wereravens. I am a weretiger and Michael is a werewolf.”


Mr. Mohan gestured to Michael. Michael stood, pushed his chair back in, and then came around the table. Lia twisted to look at him.

Michael shivered, and suddenly he dropped down. He shivered, and suddenly there was wolf, nearly as tall as Lia’s shoulder and covered with black fur. Its eyes were gold.

Lia looked at it wonderingly and then reached out slowly. Michael bared his teeth but Lia ignored him. He looked at Mr. Mohan and then back at her and allowed her to run her hand through his fur. It was very thick and coarse and he smelled funny, like ink from a printer almost.

“Good girl,” Mr. Mohan said proudly. He gestured, and Michael backed away and became human again. He returned to his chair without saying another word.

“Why weren’t you frightened?” Mr. Mohan asked Lia.

“He wouldn’t have hurt me.”

“Michael is many things, but safe is not one of them.”

Lia frowned. “He knew that you were watching.”

“That he did. You are a brave girl, none the less.”

“What happened to his clothes?”

“Michael is unusually skilled in that regard. His clothes become part of his wolf form, and then change back when he becomes human again. I cannot change with clothing, and neither can most shape shifters. All of us have different skills. For instance, I can do this.”

He held up his hand, and the fingers changed shape, becoming vicious looking pale claws with silver fur running along his hand. “Some of us are able to partly change or to gain certain attributes from our avatars when we are still human looking.”

“What can I do?”

“We don’t know yet. We’ll learn that as we go along. Tell me, Lia, were you ever attacked by a raven?”

Lia shook her head.

“Are you sure, not even when you were an infant?”

Lia shook her head again.

“There are some people that are born lycanthropes. I am one. They tend to be very powerful. Did you ever see one of your parents do anything unusual? Heal from a cut or burn very quickly, or change shape?”

“No. But . . . I don’t remember my mother very well.”

“What about your father?”

Lia bit the inside of her lip but said nothing.

Mr. Mohan paused, and then smiled. “Never mind that for now, then. I would like to instruct you. There is a month before the next full moon, and you will feel compelled to change then. Hopefully you will be prepared before that time.”

Annabelle re-entered the room, and held the door open for a Hispanic man carrying a tray of food. There were pancakes and fruit, as well as yogurt in a tall glass dish and a huge glass of orange juice.

“I’m sorry, but I must go. I have much business to attend too. We will talk later, Lia. Until then, if there is anything you need, Annabelle will be happy to provide it for you.”

“Thank you,” said Lia automatically.

Mr. Mohan and Michael both left. Michael nodded to her politely as he passed her, but he didn't look happy.

When they left, Lia began to eat, but she was still wondering where Lex was.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Episode 9: Out of the Frying Pan

Alex walked along the alley toward the coffee shop with his shoulders hunched and the hood of his jacket up.

Someone stepped out of the darkness in front of him, and Alex stopped dead.

“Hello freak,” said Cali.

Alex turned, but the other end of the alley was already filled with two guys as big as Cali, and they were coming toward him.

Cali wasn’t approaching him though. He was smiling and showing his teeth, which were normal enough, but something resolved out of the darkness behind him. It was a woman, thin and Asian, with short black hair. She was wearing something tight and black that gleamed when she moved. She was very beautiful.

“Is this him?”

Cali nodded.

“He doesn’t look so tough.”

“He nearly killed Martin.”

The woman laughed, but she did it without taking her eyes off of Alex.

“You are Martin’s type,” she said, looking him over. “Maybe a little on the old side though.” She smiled. Her teeth were not normal. She had fangs.

She moved, walking toward him, and Alex realized that she didn’t make any noise when she moved. She glided along the darkened alley way, but around Alex instead of toward him.

“Who are you?” she asked.

Alex didn’t say anything.

Cali told me that your name is Lex. Is that right?”

Alex nodded.

“My name is Sue. Do you belong to one of the other factions, Lex? The Ladies or the Wolves?”

He shook his head.

“You aren’t a Hunter,” said Sue. She smiled again, and Alex wanted to shiver. “You are very good at avoiding us though. Most people wouldn’t last a day with an entire clan of Vampires looking for them. How long has it been for you? Six days now? Amazing. You must be quite exceptional.”

Alex took the time while she was speaking to look around. The buildings were older, made from concrete. There were no doors, windows, or even ladders. There were a few dumpsters behind Sue and Cali, but none of them was tall enough to allow him to reach a roof.

When he didn’t respond, Sue continued. “Why don’t you come with me, Lex? We could always use someone like you.”

She was doing the same thing that Martin had done. Her voice was hypnotic, but as soon as he’d seen the fangs he’d expected something of the kind. She had been beautiful before but now she was stunning. She smiled and Alex wanted to smile back.

He had to distract her.

The lid of one of the dumpsters behind Sue lifted up, and then dropped back down, banging loudly. Lex didn’t wait to find out if she was distracted. He ran for the two people blocking off the other end of the alley. Hopefully they were just human.

They didn’t smile or show their teeth as he approached him, but they raised their arms. Lex ran straight into the nearest one, kneeing him in the gut. He fell over. The second guy approached, and Lex snapped his hand forward and up. They guy raised his arm instinctively to protect his eyes, and Lex kicked him in the nuts.

Easy enough. He started forward but Sue was standing there, quite calmly, watching him and blocking his exit.

“Beautiful,” she said. “You’ve met one vampire and you’re already nearly immune to our call. You would make a powerful subordinate.”

“A what?” he said before he could help himself.

Cali, Francis, and Drake here are all . . . minions. They aren’t vampires, but they share in a bit of our power.”

“I don’t want that.”

“Perhaps then you would like to become immortal yourself then? A vampire?”

Lex shook his head.

“Too bad,” Sue said. Then she rushed him.

She was extraordinarily fast. Lex threw himself back and still barely managed to avoid her first punch. His body felt like it was trapped in glue, but that didn’t matter much. She jerked away from him like she’d been caught by a fishhook, and was thrown across the alley into the far wall.

Lex stepped forward. Cali was standing away from them with his hands in his pants. When he saw Lex starring at him, he took a step back, his eyes wide.

The other two humans were getting up though, so with a flick of his hand Lex sent Sue flying into them, sending them all sprawling.

The two humans went back down as the thin vampire collided with them, but Sue rolled, and came up standing.

She was smiling. “Better,” she said.

And then something hit him from behind. Lex started to twist, but whatever it was hit him again, harder, knocking him down.

It was a paint can, floating in the air. It came for him again, but he caught it with his own powers. From the other side of him, Sue had drawn a knife from somewhere in her clothing. She flicked it up and then threw it.

He managed to catch that too, but as he did so he let go of the paint can, which immediately attacked him again, and the knife struggled in his mental grip, trying to get through to him.

“Telekinesis does not particularly impress me,” Sue said.

Lex raised an arm to ward off the paint can, which was battering him, and tried to concentrate on multiple things at once. The knife shivered, but Sue wouldn’t let go of it. However, one of the men at her feet suddenly jerked up, as though he'd been yanked by a set of puppet strings, and lunged at her.

Sue threw the minion to the side, and he impacted with a sickening crunch on the alley wall. The second one had risen, but before he could be hurled at her, Sue was past the figure, leaping for Lex.

Lex dropped the man, and tried to catch her, but she was forcing herself forward with her own telekineses, toward him. Her mouth opened wide, wider than should have been possible, and she hissed at him. Reflexively Lex brought up the knife with his left hand and slammed it into her. Whatever concentration she needed to maintain her powers vanished and she dropped down out of the air.

Lex paused, breathing heavily. A human wouldn't have been able to survive that.

Sue rolled over and then slowly rose at an impossible angle like vampires in movies did until she was standing again. The knife had been driven to its hilt into her shoulder, just below her breastbone. She smiled at him, reached up, and then pulled it out. It wasn’t even bloody, and the wound healed as Lex watched. “The knife is silver,” she said. “Silver can’t hurt vampires.”

“I’ll remember that,” Lex promised, and then dropped the dumpster than he’d been silently maneuvering twenty feet above her. Sue barely had time to look up as the thing came down, and it crushed her into the pavement.

Down the alley Cali turned and ran away from Alex. Alex ran too, in the opposite direction.

He barely reached the end of the block when more shapes materialized out of the darkness. He looked down the cross streets, but there were figures on all of them. Standing, looking at him. If they were all vampires, or even if one in five was a vampire, Alex was in trouble.

He was straining for breath, like he’d picked up the dumpster and carried it forty feet on his back, he wouldn’t be able to run very far. He needed to find some place to hide, but with so many of them out there . . .

Suddenly there was a gray car. It avoided the dark shapes in the streets and pulled up about twenty feet in front of him. The vampire minions had paused as it appeared, and were now waiting to see what was going to happen.

The man that stepped out of the back door of the car was familiar. He was large, but older, and he was wearing thick black robes. He looked around at the shapes, and said quite clearly, “I think the vampires are interested in you, boy. Perhaps you should come with me.”

Sue was there. Part of her face was torn off, and her left hand hung limply at her side, but it was definitely her. “He’s mine.”

The large man looked at her. “I claim him.”

“For what faction?”

The man rolled his head back and laughed. “I do not belong to one of your silly little factions.”

Sue’s bloody lips peeled back from her fangs, and she hissed again. “No faction, no protection. You will hand him over to me if you do not want to face the wrath of the vampires.”

The man laughed again, and then he held up his hand.

There was nothing in his hand, but he held it cupped as though there was something. There was a momentary pause and Alex felt a huge rush of something. It seemed to come from everywhere, as though a wave was crashing around him.

And then, in the man’s upraised hand, a tiny little light flickered to life.

Sue’s eyes widened, and she screamed “One of the Five!” Then she took a step back. She was standing in the street, but the shadows seemed to surge up around her, and when they settled back she had vanished completely.

The little brilliant pinprick of light glistened for a moment and then suddenly it flared into a roaring sphere of light, illuminating everything as though it was day for a moment. Several of the other shapes had turned to run when Sue had shouted, and others had just vanished completely, but all of the ones remaining in the light started to shriek in pain. For a few moments there were twelve figures standing in the roads crying out, and then they were dust, leaving Alex and the large man alone in the street.

“What did you do?” asked Alex.

“It’s a nifty trick. I’ll show you how to do it, if you want.”

“Who are you?”

“I am Soraperion.”

“I’m Lex.”

“They may be gone at the moment, but perhaps we should leave.”

“Smile,” Lex said seriously and after a pause added, “please.”


“So I can see your teeth.”

“There are better ways to tell vampires, but that will do for now.” Soraperion smiled, showing off his teeth. They were normal. “Will you come with me now?”

Lex nodded, and he followed Soraperion into the car.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Episode 8: The Bus Stop

It was almost sundown and he was worried that he wouldn’t get back to the apartment in time.

The boys from the drag had been watching his window as soon as the sun had set for the last two days. They hadn’t tried to get into his apartment yet, but it had only been a matter of time before they caught him out after dark.

Alex sat in the hard plastic seat of the bus, holding the black feather gently in his fingers.

He was still worried that they had been the ones that taken Lia. What if Martin had taken her? He shuddered.

He didn’t think that they had. Martin didn’t seem like the little girl type, and it hadn’t been until the next night that one of the boys followed him back to the apartment and they had started the night vigil outside of his window. If they had, they would have used it against him. Offered her back if he would come out, but they hadn’t done that either.

He only had two more nights before he had to be out, and he still didn’t have the money.

Alex could survive on the street, as long as the guys from the drag didn’t get him. He had before.

Everything was supposed to have changed with Lia. Everything was supposed to have been better. Maybe if they’d used the money to buy bus tickets. Maybe he should have left Lia in the garage, to be found by the police. What had he thought he was doing?

He’d thought he was protecting her. Alex had convinced himself that he could, and he hadn’t been able to protect her.

He’d spent the last two days looking for her. His feet were sore from all of the walking, and he knew every shopkeeper within a block and every tenant of the building by sight. He’d searched every alley, and today he’d even ridden up to The Strip and walked all of the places that they’d visited looking for her. Except for the MGM amusement park. He didn’t have enough money for entry anymore.

There had been black feathers in her bed, and when he he’d searched through the drawers next to the bed he found a few more. If it was a message, it wasn’t one that he understood, and he couldn’t think of what else it could be. Why feathers? Why so many of them? There were eight, altogether, and he’d wrapped them into a bundle and kept them in his jacket pocket. When he found her, he would give them back to Lia.

It was going to be too late. The sun was sinking too fast. He wouldn’t have time to walk back from the bus stop. Damn it. What if Lia came back looking for him? He wouldn’t be there.

There was nothing he could do about that now. If he tried to get back to the apartment, Martin’s boys would find him.

When the bus stopped at the station that would lead back to his apartment, he stayed seated, but he twisted to look back toward the dark building where they’d lived.

I’m sorry Lia, he thought to himself. I’m sorry.