Telltale

two cups of tea

Found at bothellnaturalmedicine.com

“Come James, you call this tea?”

“I call this America John, but I didn’t call you in for criticism.”

When James heard his friend, part of a famous London detective team would be in LA, desperation compelled him to reach out. Now they were seated in the study of his 1920s mansion once owned by a silent movie star sipping a disappointing Darjeeling.

“My wife has been gone a month and the police are useless.”

“I see.” John noticed that James seemed distracted and kept glancing down. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“It’s the damned pounding. It won’t go away, John.”

“James, I know you and Mary hadn’t been getting along. Are you sure she just didn’t run off?”

“No, it was foul play. I’m sure of it. Only you can help me, John. Only you can discover…” He stopped talking, picked up his cup and set it down again. He kept staring down at the throw rug and tugging at his ear.

“I agree, James. I know where Mary went now. She never left. Why don’t you lift up the rug and show me how you buried her body under the floorboards.”

“Then you can hear her heartbeat too.”

I wrote this for the Weekend Writing Prompt #40 – Afternoon Tea challenge hosted by Sammi Cox. For prose work, the idea is to use the phrase “Afternoon Tea” to craft a mystery-themed story solved over afternoon tea that is no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

First of all, I cry foul, because it’s almost impossible to create a credible mystery including clues in a mere 200 words. But since that’s all I had to work with, I felt forced to “borrow” a pre-existing mystery, in this case Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. I remember having to study this story in Junior High and it totally freaked me out.

I also “borrowed” John Watson as played by actor Martin Freeman in the BBC television series Sherlock which I thoroughly enjoy.

Hopefully you got how my character James murdered his wife Mary and then deposited the corpse under the wooden floorboards of his study in his 1920s spanish mansion in Los Angeles (probably something that looks like this). However guilt makes him continually look back at that section of the floor and has him imagine he can still hear Mary’s heartbeat. John, being no slouch, quickly figures out that James wants John to solve the mystery (it had to be quickly since again…200 words).

This being America, we don’t tend to value our afternoon tea as they do in London.

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The Winter Feast of the Children

christmas prompt

© Sammi Cox

Christmas was the perfect time of year, especially in such high latitudes. There were less than four hours of daylight in Nome which meant Tarkik could move around with almost perfect impunity. To the sick inuit children, he came as a Shaman bringing the blessings of Quviasukvik, and to the white boys and girls in town, he appeared as Santa Claus. The doctors thought they merely suffered from tonsilitis but his keen senses told him it was worse. If any of them died by his ministrations, a growing epidemic would be the perfect cover.

Tapeesa and Amaruq trusted the Shaman to be alone with their little girl Yuka. Tarkik took only a little of her blood, she’d never remember it. He had been feeding well this winter and the blood of children was warm and invigorating. He slowly, lovingly licked the last crimson drops from her soft, supple neck before pulling her nightgown and blankets back up. He could afford to be a gracious hunter after all.

Rachel Van Helsing was never kind or forgiving but it would be over another month before she could arrive in Nome, and only then with the first dog sled teams bringing vital serum to stem the diphtheria outbreak. The vampire Bartholomew Crowe confessed his last victim’s name and location under torture when she captured him in Anchorage. Once the daughter of Abraham Van Helsing located the latest threat, Tarkik would come under the tender mercies of her blade and stake.

I wrote this for the Weekend Writing Prompt #34 – Christmas challenge hosted by Sammi Cox. There are separate rules for the prose vs. poetry challenge, but in my case, I could use the image, the word “Christmas,” or both as the inspiration for crafting a Happy Christmas or Horror Christmas flash fiction tale of no more than 250 words. My word count is 249.

Since I’ve been writing a lot of vampire-based fiction lately, I settled on that theme, but needed some sort of Christmas hook. At first I thought of a vampire disguising himself as Santa Claus and visiting sick children in hospitals, but he’d never be alone with the kids in order to “put the bite” on them.

I did a bit of Googling and the idea of making the setting in “Nome, Alaska” popped into my head. I looked up Nome and discovered the 1924-25 diphtheria epidemic among the inuit children and the famous 1925 serum dog sled run which was the only way to transport diphtheria antitoxin to that remote area.

In December 1924, diphtheria had not yet been diagnosed and local doctors thought the first several children were suffering from tonsilitis. I made my vampire an inuit so he could pass casually among the population and found that among the inuits, there is a winter feast called Quviasukvik that incorporates a number of Christmas-like elements. So my vampire could pass among the inuit families as a Shaman and the white Christian families as Santa Claus visiting the sick kids and, once alone with them, feeding on their blood.

I looked up sunrise and sunset times in Nome for December 23rd. The sun comes up at 12:03 p.m. and sets at 3:59 p.m. Tarkik can be active for about twenty full hours in complete darkness, maximizing his ability to feed on many children (and probably a few adults) so he doesn’t have to take too much from any one of them.

Oh, I looked up Inuit names for my several indigenous story characters.

Vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing first appeared in Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic horror novel “Dracula.” I figured the elder Van Helsing was a little too old to keep on pursuing vampires and the original canon did say he had a daughter (although her first name changes depending on which source you consult).

Of course, after torturing a confession out of another vampire to discover who and where the next undead predator could be found, Rachel would still have to brave a lengthy and dangerous journey by dog sled on the mission to get the antitoxin to Nome (in real life I seriously doubt she would have been allowed to make the trip), only arriving by early February. That would give my vampire over a month to continue enjoying the winter feast of the children.

To find out more about the challenge and read other stories and poems based on the prompt, click this link.

Time Traveler in Plain Sight

sundial

From Sammi Cox’s blog

“Time machine? Why would you leave a time machine in plain sight, Rodney?”

“What better place to hide it, Yvette? No one would suspect it’s more than a simple sundial.”

“So you showed up for my time traveler party last week because you saw the advert in the paper the day afterward.”

“Don’t be absurd. I’m not from the future.”

“But then how…?”

“Seems the esteemed scientist Stephen Hawking has the same idea fifty years from now. I heard about it up the timeline and decided to search the records to see if anyone else did it before him. Your name came up.”

“Who?”

“Never mind. You’ll be an old woman by the time he becomes famous.”

“So when are you from, Rodney?”

“Actually, the name’s not Rodney. You see, I discovered that I’ve become rather famous by now so I assumed this name.”

“And what may I call you?”

“Herbert will do, Yvette.”

“You mean you’re…?”

“Yes. Care for a spin? I believe I’m in the mood for ancient Egypt just now.”

I wrote this for the Weekend Writing Prompt #33 – Time. The idea is to write a piece of flash fiction no more than 175 words long for a prose story. The first word must be “time” and that word must be repeated in the story at least twice. The theme is “time travel,” a favorite of mine.

I’ve milked the idea of H.G. Wells having actually invented a time machine more than once and thought I’d recycle it here since I’ve never posted anything on Sammi Cox’s blog before.

I’ve heard of these parties for time travelers before but had no idea Stephen Hawking had actually held one. Of course no one came. If time travel is impossible, that explains everything, and if it is, no time traveler worth his or her salt would screw up the timeline by attending a party thrown by one of the most famous physicists in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Oh, the name “Rodney” is taken from actor Rod Taylor who starred in the 1960 film The Time Machine along with actress Yvette Mimieux.

As you may have guessed, my story is set in 1962.

Links to other stories based on the prompt can be found Here.