Obe was tending the fire on the shore by the bay. The sun had set to his right hours ago and most of the clan slept. Their tiny settlement was young and night predators hunted nearby so he kept watch, though the fire and the scent of the men should keep them away.
The moon shone blue through the clouds illuminating the water before him and the island beyond. Other clans of their tribe occupied the land across the bay to the south and east, but Nakuma’s people hoped to make the northlands their home.
Like most young men, waiting alone bored him and with the passing minutes, he became drowsy. He wrapped his blanket, woven by his sisters, tighter around him and with the fire, he felt warm. If his father found him sleeping, he would be struck and shamed in front of the other hunters, so he forced his eyes open. He heard her before he actually could see her.
He stood up, suddenly awake then looked around. Could his mother have brought out some warm broth to keep the chill from his bones? No, there was no one was in sight. Besides, the voice hadn’t come from the camp.
“I’m calling, Obe.”
He could hear the water rippling now, as if an oar were being pushed through it. There was something coming out of the mist. A small boat was drawing nearer.
“Who are you? Are you from Kinto’s people?” He thought the clan from across the water to the south had sent someone.
The boat was close enough for him to see clearly now. A figure stood up, a foolish thing to do if they hoped to avoid falling into the water.
“Can you hear me, Obe?”
A lone woman was on the water dressed in blue or was it just the light?
“Answer me. Whose clan are you from? Why are you here?” He thought about rousing the warriors. One woman was no threat, but maybe she was meant as a distraction. Was the ownership of this land in contention?
“I’m from yon island, Obe.”
He looked behind her. The Spanish had called it “Isla de los Ángeles” when they built what they said was their “Mission” upon it. Even the old men of the clan remembered hunting and fishing on the island, but the Spanish Priests came with soldiers and banished his people from it. That’s what his grandfather Khatow told him long ago when he and the other young children sat and listened to his tales by the fire so they could be thrilled and frightened.
But the Priests, the Soldiers, the Nuns had all perished thirty seasons ago and their Mission fell to ruins. It was rumored their spirits cursed the island and even the bravest of the men refused to go there except when the sun was high.
Her boat was nearly to the shore, less than a stone’s throw from him. He looked around to make sure he was not being approached from another direction. He started to turn so he could rouse the warriors.
Wait, Obe. Do not go. Come to me instead.”
Strangely, his fear began to flow away like the water around him. She was speaking his language but she was close enough now for him to tell she was not a woman of the Miwok.
“Who are you?”
“I was once Sister Angelina Ine’s de la Guerra.”
“What? But how? No one of the Spanish has been here since before my birth?”
“Come to me, Obe. The water isn’t deep. Come to me in my boat.”
“My grandfather said the Priests and Nuns died a long time ago. You can’t be one of them.”
The young Miwok hunter felt water on his feet. He hadn’t realized he had started walking into the bay and toward the Blue Nun. He was almost at her boat. She sat down and seemed to be waiting for him.
Obe found her beautiful, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He had desired some of the girls in other clans but was too young to take a wife. The water was almost up to his knees when he reached the small craft. There would be just room enough for both of them inside.
Get in, Obe. I want you with me.”
“How do you know my name?” He found he was already climbing in while he asked.
“My Master told it to me, Obe.”
“Your Master? Who is he? How would he know?”
“El Diablo de la Infierno.”
“I thought the Spanish worshiped the one my grandfather heard called Jesucristo. Isn’t he your Master.”
She winced when he said that name.
“Hush, handsome boy.” She combed through his dark thick hair with chilled fingers. “Our misdeeds have chosen our Master for us.”
“Let us not speak of them, Obe. I want you. Take the oar, Obe. Use the oar to take me home.”
He looked at his hands and they were already working. The boat had turned and he was heading away from his people.
“I don’t want to leave my family. Where are we going?”
“Isla de los Ángeles.”
“No one lives there anymore. Only the spirits of the dead.”
“Yes, Obe. Only the dead walk Isla de los Angeles now.”
He wanted to scream as she opened her mouth and revealed her long, hideous fangs. His language had no word for what she was, what the Nuns, Priests, and Soldiers of the failed Catholic Mission on Isla de los Angeles had become. In the dead Sister’s language they were called vampiro…vampire.
The dark nun drank her fill but left Obe alive for the others. Tomorrow night, they would call more of his clan to their island. It had been a long time since they had tasted fresh blood.
I wrote this for the Thursday photo prompt – Blue #writephoto challenge hosted at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. The idea is to use one of Sue’s photos as the inspiration for writing a short story or other creative work.
Last week, my response to the prompt was The Thaw which was the tale of a vampire trapped in a remote town in Washington state in 1910, first by a blizzard and then an avalanche.
I hadn’t planned on continuing the vampire theme this week, but the blue water image drew me in. I had the basic idea of a woman in blue or woman in blue water and after some Googling, discovered the legend of the mysterious Lady in Blue.
According to the Texas Almanac website:
The mysterious “Lady in Blue” has been associated in Texas religious history with María de Ágreda since 1629 when Jumano Indians went to the Friary of San Antonio in Isleta (New Mexico, south of present-day Albuquerque) to seek out Christian missionaries.
The Jumanos said a woman dressed in blue had appeared in their midst and, speaking in their own language, had taught them about the Christian faith and told them to ask for further instruction and baptism from the Franciscan missionaries.
This was fascinating to me, but since the water in the photo reminded me of bays such as Puget Sound and the San Francisco Bay, I relocated my tale to what is the modern-day location of the city of Tiburon just north of San Francisco.
A Spanish mission was first established near there in the early 19th century but I decided to create a fictional one much earlier and placed it on Angel Island which sits in the bay about 1.6 miles from Tiburon. The Coast Miwok tribes inhabited the general area of Marin and Sonoma counties, so I used them in this story.
Since early Catholic missions and Spanish incursions into the lands of indigenous peoples are historically fraught with many abuses, I decided that my “earlier mission” should have failed due to the severe “moral impediments” of the Priests and Nuns involved, so much so that they were cursed by “El Diablo” to become “Vampiro,” feeding on local native peoples by luring them to their island.
Click on the #writephoto link above to read other stories inspired by the prompt.