I watched as a guy in a dark suit dug up Beatrice Beaumont Virgil, April 5, 1965 – August 19, 1998. Funeral flowers still fresh, dirt still moist, Until we meet again her epitaph.
I stood in the shadows and dared to watch a moment longer before deciding I would just make note of his car license on my way out. If I had to say, I would guess his height as six feet and give him a generous build of medium. And I would only use this information if there were questions. Otherwise, I’d rather my secret after-hours visits stayed my secret.
As I turned to leave, the moody clouds drifted, allowing the full moon to tattle. I limped away as fast as I could, but my bad knee had started acting up again. I could only hope I was far enough to seem a ghost. Just as I began to breathe, I heard the man shout, “Hey you… stop!”
A gun fired; the bullet ricocheted off the tombstone next to me. I stopped.
“Now, get over here,” he said. “Slowly.”
As I approached the grave-site, I could see that he had dug about halfway down into the grave. He held a shovel in his right hand and a gun in his left. “You’re not going to run, are you?” he asked. His appearance seemed rather ordinary— until our eyes met. I’m not easily spooked, but his keen stare alarmed the hair on the back of my neck.
“No,” I said.
He tucked the gun into his pants and then threw me the shovel. “Start digging.”
I dropped the shovel down into the thigh-deep hole and grunted as I followed it inside.
“What are you doing out here this time of night?” he asked as he sat down and wiped his brow.
“I’m the groundskeeper.”
“That’s strange. I did my homework; there are no employees at night.”
“I’m not supposed to be here either.” The shovel sank into the dirt easily enough, but my muscles complained when I started shoveling it out of the hole.
“Hmm,” he said. “So, what are you doing here?”
“It’s peaceful at night.”
“So you work here … and come here to hang out? Kind of an eerie guy. But I suppose the right kind if one has to exhume a body.”
I kept digging, and the man kept watching until the shovel caused a clunking noise.
“All right,” he said. He sat with his legs dangling over the side of the hole. “Now start digging on the sides so we can open my treasure chest.”
When I had finished my task, the man jumped in beside me. It took quite a few hard pushes before we finally had the lid all the way open.
I generally have to be content with a mental image of my residents. I couldn’t help but comb my hair with my fingers to tidy up a bit before I met her.
Her long blonde hair flowed gracefully over her petite shoulders. Rosy cheeks and ruby lips highlighted powdered fair skin. “Beautiful.”
POW! I felt the deafening discharge from my fingers to my toes. Beatrice received a bullet hole in the middle of her forehead. I had stopped breathing.
“Hmm,” the graverobber said. “Grab her arms.”
It took him aiming his weapon at me before I comprehended the instructions.
“Grab her arms. I’ll get her feet.”
Heavier than she looked, the first attempts at getting her out of the grave were grotesque. I wanted to lay her back in her bed, fold her arms back across her body, smooth her hair.
Finally, we had her in a somewhat normal position lying in the grass next to her assumed final resting place.
My dilated eyes absorbed a sudden explosion of light. When I regained my vision, I realized the man was snapping pictures.
I couldn’t withhold my curiosity a moment longer. It had fused together with fear and sympathy for Beatrice and formed a knot in the pit of my stomach. “I do realize that this is none of my business, and I really shouldn’t be asking you anything, but—”
“I don’t off chicks,” he said. His chest heaved in and out, just like mine.
“That’s why I’m doing this. That was your question, right?”
He pulled a flask out of his jacket, put it to his mouth, and took a drink. Surprisingly, he handed it to me. As the unexpected bland taste of the pure water quenched my dry tongue, he spoke, “Some asshole hired me to kill a woman. This is just what I do when I’m put in that situation.”
I swallowed hard. The liquid felt like a tank going down my throat. The man standing beside me murdered people for money. And he’d said I was the creepy one. “So you’re going to pretend that Beatrice is the woman you were supposed to kill?”
“Beatrice,” he said and stared down at her. “They don’t want them at their doorstep. All I need is proof. I did a lot of obituary searching to find her. Same facial features, hair color, age.”
“What about the real girl?”
“She’s on a plane as we move our lips.”
We stood there for a moment: the atmosphere thick with the smell of death and the moonlight animating tree shadows across Beatrice’s face.
“Why did someone want her dead?” I asked.
“Don’t know. Didn’t ask. Let’s get her back down.”
The chore of replacing her didn’t take as long as excavating her, but I hated our method. We just dropped her in.
We climbed in after and put her back in the casket. Except for the bullet hole and the dirt in her hair, she looked like she did before we disturbed her. I said my goodbyes and shut the lid.
When I looked up at the assassin, his jaw was tense and his eyes and gun were focused on me. He said, “You know, I have to kill you now.”
I stopped to inhale the earthy air, to scratch my nose, and to think about my new home with Beatrice Virgil’s address. Until we meet again, my epitaph. “Yeah,” I said. “I know.”
John knew the old saying: Revenge is a dish best served cold. But he had to disagree. Because this time, his revenge would be cooked and served sizzling hot.
Being the cook for the Beaumont family had definitely been hell, and it seemed as if he had already worked for them an eternity. When he saw his murderer, standing there on the auction block, another saying seemed right on: What goes around comes around.
New arrivals went straight to the auction house. Both demon and H.S.L. (Human Soul Laborers) bought souls for a variety of reasons—the juicier the more they cost. John’s assassin was already up to a stellar price.
The red demon auctioneer had the whole house animated with energy. He was saying, “This soul here has no moral backbone. He killed over fifty men. He’s a thief, a cheater, and a murderer. Do I hear seventy-five?”
When John held up his auction paddle, his assassin looked him in the eyes. John remembered the last time their eyes met. The next thing he knew, he was in hell, standing exactly where this guy stood now. John had committed minor sins in comparison to murder, so buying him to eat would have been like buying a sickly, skinny cow. Not worth eating.
John had been purchased as an H.S.L. by one of the more prestigious demon families. Some souls were bought for pulling wagons, for building roads, for housewives, for… dinner. He understood how lucky he had been that he knew how to cook. His duties included buying groceries at the auction house.
He didn’t win the bid on his murderer just for pleasure; he would also make a fine meal. The Beaumonts planned to have a dinner party for twenty guests. John purchased two other plump souls as well.
When John arrived back at his kitchen, he put the three men into his tall, refrigerated cage. They needed to be fresh. Much longer out in the heat, and they would have been tough. He himself had developed skin close to the texture of leather. He hadn’t lived in Hell long enough to figure it all out, but he reckoned all the demons started out looking the way the human souls did, but in time they adapted to the atmosphere, causing their crimson, rutted skin.
Once John shut the cage, the hit man said, “Funny meeting you here.”
“So, you do remember me.”
“I never forget a face.”
“Of someone you killed or just in general?” John reached in a drawer and pulled out his knife sharpener. He wanted to give this guy the full treatment. At that moment, if he had ever wondered before, he recognized one of the major reasons for his descent. He kept deep hatred in his heart. Hmmm. He began to grind the knife across the sharpener.
His murderer said, “What are you doing here?”
“I’m about to make dinner.”
“I mean, in the hole. I never characterized you for a sinner.”
“We all have our sins. It’s the people who realize it too late that end up down here.”
At this, the hit man nodded his head. “So, what are you making?”
The two other men in the cage looked downright terrified.
John looked down at his knife. No matter what kind of show he put on for his murderer, this wouldn’t be any easier than any other meal.
He inhaled and then nodded his head over to the man standing to the right of the murderer. “Leg of Sam,” he said. He glanced at the next guy, “Barbecued ribs.” He looked directly into the hit man’s eyes. “And roasted pig.”
“You don’t have to be so nasty. Just making conversation.”
“Perhaps we should save the small talk for the guests.” Meals had always just stood in the cage awaiting their fate. Once in a while one would sing or one would cry, but never did he actually have to talk to one before he prepared it.
“For what it’s worth,” his murderer said. “I apologize. I was just doing my job.”
John thought about this for a moment. He wondered if he would have repented if given more time. If he had not been killed at that moment, would it have caused a different finale? He doubted it. Just doing my job. “All right,” he finally said. “I’ll accept your apology. I have an apology of my own.”
“I suppose you do,” the man said.
John said, “You know, I have to cook you now.”
“Yeah,” the hit man said, “I know.”
Hell’s Kitchen was originally published in the anthology, Split 2008.
by Dorlana Vann
Cinders on your face and hands, so you said.
Instead of supper you were sent to bed.
No one to play with—No huge castle walls.
Dined on the cold floor like one of the dogs.
Every day, I must hear your sad stories.
Really Mother, they are getting boring.
“Eleanor,” you start, “you are so very blessed.
Living the sweet life of a spoiled princess.”
Let me live it and make my own mistakes.
And you’ll see mirth is not an evil trait.
Dear Mom is from my short story collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales. It was inspired by Cinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper by Charles Perrault containing Stories or Tales from Times Past, with Morals, with the added title in the frontispiece, Tales of Mother Goose. France: 1697
There’s No Cure for Dead
by Dorlana Vann
She opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, loosening her jaw, before she spoke. “You can’t be serious. Marriage is no longer something we can consider.”
He stood far away, at the other end of the long, formal dining room table. He was handsome now: tall and regal. He used to look so hideous he’d hid from the world. But his compassion and heart were so big that she had fallen madly in love. So she wasn’t surprised by his proposal even if it was a bit insane.
“I love you,” he said. “I want you to be my wife.”
“I know you love me. I love you, too. But we have to face facts. You must accept this. You shouldn’t even be feeding me. Look at me. What kind of bride would I be?”
“A beautiful one. When I was beastly, you saw something inside me and loved me for me.
I love you for you. I know who you are on the inside.”
The rancid taste in her mouth distracted her for a second. Was it from the meal she’d just devoured or her own tongue? What had he said? Was he actually trying to compare her current situation to his past? “But I’m not like you. You were cursed by a witch. I’m–”
“Doesn’t matter!” He slammed his fist down on the table, making the china and silver jolt. “I’ll use every last cent I have to find a cure.”
“You’re not listening to me.” She tried to stand, but the chains around her waist stopped her. It took a second to remember why she was confined to a chair. Oh yeah, that’s right; dinner had taken a little too long last night. When hunger hit, nothing else fit in her head. If it hadn’t been for the butler with the Taser, they wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. “Sweetheart,” she said sweetly, trying to calm him, “There’s no cure for dead.”
“Maybe one of my tears, or a potion of some sort … or maybe a kiss.”
“Right.” She rolled her eyes. They stuck like that for a second until she shook her head to get them straight again. “You’re going to kiss me? Do I even have lips, anymore?” Just as she pushed out her tongue to feel for lips, a twinge in her head stopped her. What was she doing?
“There’s got to be something. But first, we will get married.” He walked beside the table toward her, stopping halfway, a hint of fear in his eyes.
The sudden spasm in her head caused her to let out a moan. The hunger didn’t feel the way it had when she’d been alive. This appetite was in her brain. It rumbled, it stirred, it wanted, it hurt. But she’d just eaten an entire plate of … Who? Where was the butler?
He was saying, “I mean, we can’t really have a honeymoon right now. We’ll postpone it until later. When you’re better. But please let me prove my love and devotion to you.”
She tried to remember her meal tonight, but then a series of intense, sharp pains ricocheted inside her head. With both hands, she pulled at what was left of her hair.
When she brought her hands down to look at them, brown hair clung to her fingers. Wait? Whose hair was this? She glanced around the room: extravagant, expensive, a stone fireplace, a cathedral ceiling. What was this house? Who lived here anyway? Who was this walking closer to her? Her brain pulsed and rumbled. He was so close – she sniffed the air – and luscious. Her mouth watered, and all she wanted was one little taste, one little nibble.
“Right after the ceremony, I will hire the best researchers on the planet …”
She tried to get up, but for some reason she couldn’t move. She tried again, and again, and again. The hunger pains moved down to behind her eyes, causing her to squint to see the delicious meal that was igniting her senses.
“So? What do you say? Will you marry me?”
The food was right there in front of her now. Maybe if she stretched out her arms as far as she could, she’d be able to reach it. All she needed was a one bite to make this unbearable torture end.
“Oh Belle, I don’t know. But you did just eat, so I guess one hug, to seal the deal with my fiancée would be okay.”
There’s no Cure for Dead was inspired by Beauty and the Beast (French: La Belle et la Bete) by Jeanne Marie Le Prince de Beaumont. France: 1756. It is one of the short stories from my collection, Supernatural Fairy Tales: paranormal short stories inspired by fairy tales
Three of my books are for readers who like a little quirkiness with their paranormal. Although they are not considered “horror stories” some are spooky, & some are quirky, some were inspired by classic fairy tales, but they are all supernatural fun!
Jaclyn’s Ghost: Ghosts, Mystery and Fashion. Can this diva solve her own murder? Or will she be stuck in limbo forever?
Silverweed: Granny, a werewolf, and three teenagers trapped in a spooky old house in the middle of the woods. In this Little Red Riding Hood inspired supernatural fairy tale, the roles of prey and predator are blurred.
Supernatural Fairy Tales: Paranormal short stories inspired by Fairy Tales. A warlock’s indecent proposal, vengeful ghosts, pill-popping wolves, merfolk (Are they just misunderstood?), trees in love, a bratty princess, a vampire strolling about town doing lunch, fairy dust, and more!
I have used a lot of different methods to write my books over the years. The technique depends on the story and if I already have an idea or not. One tactic is to build inspiration upon inspiration, like a house, from the ground up. Creating a novel in phases not only gives you a jumpstart but also challenges your imagination. It’s an in-depth way to really get to know your story, plot, and characters. The process is slower and more laid-back than others. If NaNoWriMo is a sprint, then the Building Method is a marathon. However, I’ve written four novels this way, so I know it works.
Foundation: Find inspiration. Purposely seek out something that you can use as an initial starting point. This can be a picture, a song, a childhood memory, a dream or a combination of things. Write it down, pin it on a bulletin board, think about it, and do a little research until a story idea begins to form. For me, when I use this method, fairy tales plus a supernatural element are my inspiration.
Framing: Write a short story. To support your idea, expand your inspiration into a short story. The trick is, you must get it out your mind that this will be used for a novel. Just write the best short story you can. Under 3,000 words should be a good word count goal. Then edit and give it to readers to critique. Then sit on it for a week or so.
Exterior: Outline. Use your short story as inspiration to plot your novel. (The short story might only be used for the backstory, plot, setting, moral, etc.) Whatever your outlining style – detailed chapter by chapter, pre-rough draft, one sentence chapter summaries on index cards – by the time you’re finished, you will have a few or a lot of recognizable details from the short story, but it will have developed into its own unique design.
Interior: Write. Fill in your outline with a rough draft. This is your sit-your-butt-at-your-computer-time and write and rewrite. I think having either a word-count or an hours per day goal is essential. Write your first draft using whichever style you prefer: don’t look back or edit and research as you go. And then write your second draft, and your third … until you are sure your story is solid.
Final Walk Through: Editing. Time is one of the best editing tools. Distance will give you a better perspective. Work on something else for a month and then edit. After that, hand it out to your readers and then edit some more.
Closing: Submissions. Find the perfect buyer. And don’t forget, you also have a short story.
Love and Laughter,
by Dorlana Vann
It felt as if the castle walls were closing in on me. With each passing moment, my eyes grew heavier, as did my head, as I struggled to keep watch. But my thoughts must be enough to keep me awake till dawn, for the dragon had escaped its chains and until its capture, I am the princess’s night keeper.
The fair maiden, with her golden hair sprawled upon the pillow, was only beautiful while she slept. Otherwise a creature, one may dare say, more horrifying than the one I stand guard against. However, this minor detail makes no matter, I must protect all the same.
Her, under the deep velvet blankets, snug against the wintry wind which steals in through the cracks. And I, standing with my hands so frozen that they barely hold the weapon I am meant to defend with. However, I can’t let the bitter cold distract me either. I am to be strong and heat myself with my inner strength.
But my legs had forsaken me hours ago and had fallen asleep, and the relentless tickle of tiny thorns haunted my numb feet. But I mustn’t move an inch which may disrupt the princess’s sleep.
Suddenly, the clamor of a thousand drummers with the rumble of a thunderstorm arose in the darkness. I knew my time had come. Adrenalin swept through every inch of my body as I rushed the window and came face to face with the notorious dragon. With one mighty thrust, I lunged my heavy sword into the beast. The heat from his breath knocked me clear and only after I regained my wind, could I look up to see my enemy.
The princess was sitting up now, her screams muffled by the dragon’s wail. With only one eye visible through the window, the dragon searched until he spotted his prey.
In a frantic state, I ran toward the princess’s bedside. However, before I could reach her, the dragon’s sharp talons came through the window and seized the princess with a swift swoosh.
I watched in horror as the dragon brought her up to his mouth and swallowed with one significant gulp.
He then flew away, my sword still in his side like a pesky thorn, his appetite cured for the night.
I fell to the cold stone floor, pounding my fist, hard at first … and then more gently as I gazed up at the warm soft covers. I crawled on my belly, like a failure should, and slowly lifted my weary self upon the bed, near tears, and then sank into the sound sleep of a princess.
The Guard is one of the short stories from my collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales.