This short story actually finds its home in a much larger world of mine. Much of this particular world is in short story format – but this particular one is special.
The criteria were for a piece of vampire fiction between 1,000 and 5,000 words, rated PG-13 or under – no erotica, no sparkling. (One of these two criteria was much more difficult for me than the other. . .)
My story is precisely 2,500 words long. There are (very) occasional uses of non-English words. Mouse over anything you don’t recognise for a translation. There is also a list at the end.
Fog and Fear
Jenny pressed herself back against the alley wall, covering her mouth with one hand, the other scrabbling quietly on the damp, muddy bricks behind her as she moved blindly. Her vision was foggy from tears, and she couldn’t tear her gaze from the terrifying spectacle before her, besides.
It probably wasn’t what most would think terrifying, at first glance. Not really.
A young woman in a cascading scarlet gown, the skirt torn in places, on the arm of a tall, foreign-looking man wearing a black evening suit. That were only odd, though. Enough to be a puzzle – not to incite panic.
Jenny had to suppress a hysterical laugh, even as her fingers scraped brick and began to bleed a bit, remembering her first thoughts upon seeing the pair.
Despite the fact that they were far too close to the docks to be safe – much less dressed like that – they had been strolling down the street, apparently ignoring the mud and other filth on the cobbles, the woman tucked against her companion’s side, held there firmly by his arm – tense with muscle under the finely-cut sleeve – round her shoulder.
Jenny paused to wonder at the woman’s presence. Not many women strayed here unless they had to, and this one certainly wasn’t dressed like a merchant, nor a fisherman’s wife or inn-girl, and despite the deep, dark colour – so unusual on a young woman – she didn’t seem like no lady of the night, neither.
Then Jenny saw the dark scowl on the man’s face as he yanked her along, hurrying her shorter steps. Jenny was concerned, for a moment, thinking that perhaps the obviously fine lady was being forced down these streets by her companion.
Moments later, though, the woman stopped in her tracks, throwing back her head with a loud, eerie laugh – no proper, fine lady would laugh like that, an’ that was sure – and her companion stepped away, with a half-turn, still holding one of her hands, but now obviously cradling it delicately, not restraining her.
Jenny was confused and frightened – but she had always listened to that small voice in the back of her mind, just like her mother taught her, and that little voice was screaming at her to stay out of sight.
The woman took another step away, her hand slipping from the support of her companion’s own, and her light steps brought her almost to the mouth of the alley where Jenny was desperately trying to sink into the brickwork.
She’d just been taking a shortcut back to the inn, she hadn’t known the night would come to this!
Then, before the woman could come any further, a rowdy trio of ‘fine’ young gentlemen stumbled down the street towards the woman in scarlet, noisy on the muddy cobbles.
Jenny had seen them earlier – and gone to great pains to avoid them, as she always did when faced with the groups of higher class men that came down here for their nights of carousing and other such fun.
One of the men – he had given Jenny a very bad feeling, and the little voice had gone thin and reedy at his presence; Jenny shuddered now at the sight of him – approached the woman and grabbed roughly at her arm.
Surprisingly, she didn’t flinch, even as the gentleman dragged her practically off her feet towards himself.
Obviously he hadn’t noticed the man off to her side, who blended rather well into the soupy fog, with his black suit and white hair, but Jenny glanced to him and saw that his hands were rising and his jaw had tightened even as his lips drew back, showing sharply gleaming teeth.
Jenny continued to watch – couldn’t do much else – as the woman in scarlet stopped, then stepped backwards, pulling the gentleman along this time, with a smile on her carmine-coloured lips that sent a chill down Jenny’s spine.
It was vicious. The little voice went silent.
Again, the gentleman – and his friends, who had only now noticed his actions and, predictably, begun to jeer encouragement – was oblivious, and he simply changed directions, pushing the woman further across the small square.
He didn’t stop until her back hit the bricks at the end of Jenny’s alley, which were surely not only rough but cold and wet to boot, and Jenny winced in sympathy, knowing how uncomfortable they felt first hand – and that was through her layered clothing!
The woman’s back was practically bare, the line of her dress dipping to her shoulder blades, and she must be freezing out here in this weather.
She merely frowned in obvious distaste, though, nose wrinkling.
Then Jenny lost sight of things for a moment, the fog swirling even thicker – Jenny thought longingly of the fire at the inn she should be serving at right now, shivering and squinting through the mess, wondering what was happening.
She could still hear, though, and . . . there was an incoherent sound like some kind of wild beast, and Jenny smothered a quiet fearful noise as she made out the flailing limbs of the gentleman being obviously dragged away.
The fog didn’t ebb again for a long time, and Jenny huddled in her alley, wishing she dared edge further down the alley and away, but terrified she’d be noticed, and listened to the strange sounds echoing eerily through the fog.
There were odd hisses, and more growls, even something that reminded her of the caged bear she’d seen at a travelling show when she was a girl – and a splashing sound that had nothing to do with the fog, or the rain that had been come and go all day.
When the fog finally ebbed, and Jenny could see again, her fingers and face were frozen, and she was beginning to fear that the streets would be icing up, making walking them even more dangerous.
The woman in scarlet was there, at the end of the alley, and she was smiling again – but it weren’t scary this time. It was almost familiar, in an odd way. . . All soft, or somethin’.
Distracting Jenny’s eye, there was a smear of something dark up the woman’s cheek, just outside one corner of her mouth – which looked even darker painted now, though Jenny knew it had to be a trick of the fog.
The man stepped closer, drawing Jenny’s attention back to him warily, and slid off his jacket to wrap it carefully around the woman, his hands stroking in an obviously gentle way over her shoulders.
Though the fog was still swirling almost waist-high, twists of it dropped further, eddying around the woman as she spun, giggling – her companion shook his head and caught her hand, pulling her back against his chest – and then just far enough down to reveal the three gentlemen.
They were sprawled on the muddy, possibly icing-up cobbles.
They weren’t movin’.
Jenny’s heart jumped into her throat and stayed there as her eyes darted almost unwillingly back to the strange, out-of-place pair. She noticed with a distant sort of horror that the gentleman who had pressed the woman in scarlet to the wall looked awfully . . . broken.
There was a pool of dark liquid – darker than the mud and cobbles – around him.
Jenny cringed, but thought it might be blood.
She had certainly seen her share and more – she’d grown up not three streets over from the inn where she now lived and worked, and it mostly catered to dockhands. This wasn’t a part of town where anyone was coddled, but it still shook Jenny to the core.
Then, thankfully, a loud scraping noise drew her attention away from the gentlemen again – their bodies – and she saw the foreign man nearly duplicating the position that the gentleman had tried, the woman pressed tightly between him and the wall.
The woman was clearly pleased this time, however – either with him or with herself – and she leaned back, bracing against the brickwork and sliding her arms around the man’s shoulders, reaching up to kiss him.
With rather more fervour than Jenny would have expected to see, too, and her eyes dropped away as she flushed.
She kept her eyes determinedly averted, her face actually beginning to warm from embarrassment, as she heard a deep, throaty, though quickly broken-off, moan, but looked up again, blood draining from her face, as she heard a soft footfall . . . in the alley itself.
The man was barely three metres away – and such a large man simply shouldn’t be able to move so quietly, it was unnatural and unnervin’ – his head tilted as he frowned, looking down at the huddled shape Jenny made in her crouch against the wall.
Jenny had to stifle a shriek as the woman in scarlet appeared from behind him, propping her chin on his arm comfortably and wrapping her own ‘round his waist. They held this pose comfortably as the woman joined her companion in his perusal of Jenny.
“Now, now, dragostea mea.” the woman in scarlet coaxed. “The girl is all too frightened already. Stop it.” She pouted, moving around to look him in the eye and turning her back to Jenny.
Jenny began to breathe again, in great heaving gulps, feeling light-headed.
“I lost my temper, lyubimaya, and I should have been more careful before I ripped that-” he broke off with a snarl, and Jenny heard a small whimpering sound come from her own throat.
The woman snorted, then pulled away from him and came closer to Jenny, steps slow and even, her face calm. She was making small soothing, hushing sounds. “There, there, young one. Are you unhurt?”
Jenny, completely befuddled, still terrified, and absolutely amazed now that she could see the pair of them up close, simply nodded blankly.
The woman smiled a bit wider, showing her teeth – Jenny’s eyes tracked to the impossibly sharp lines of two that were longer than they should be, settled against, and dimpling, her lower lip oddly, and promptly squeezed her eyes shut.
She told herself she hadn’t seen anything like as to fangs, and that even if she had it were none of her business.
Besides, all she wanted was to leave this alley and get to the inn – to the fire, to her mother, to anything that wasn’t cold and damp and fear and maybe even blood and these strange people, and-
“Just frightened, then?” the woman asked, her voice kind, and accented softly in a way Jenny couldn’t place, though she heard all sorts, living so close to the busiest port on this stretch of coast. Jenny cautiously opened her eyes again.
The man snorted again, then growled. “Vivienne. . .” he said warningly.
Jenny shivered at the tone, recognising it from overheard dealings, dangerous ones, and tucked herself into a tighter huddle.
The woman in scarlet – Vivienne, Jenny supposed, what a lovely name . . . French, she thought – didn’t seem at all intimidated. She simply shook her head, throwing her hair over her shoulder. “Oh, hush, Nikolai.”
The tone was dismissive, and Jenny looked between Nikolai and Vivienne warily.
“Come on, petite.” Vivienne encouraged, smiling again, and her teeth were perfectly normal, straight and white, well-cared-for, and Jenny scolded herself for imaginings, even though the little voice was still shakingly silent.
“Let’s get you up.” Vivienne slipped one delicate, ungloved hand beneath Jenny’s elbow and pulled her gently upwards.
Jenny reacted automatically, getting her feet under her and putting out her hand for balance even as she shivered. The night’s chill registered properly again, at last, prickling painfully against parts of her that had been sheltered before.
Vivienne released her, then paused, one foot poised to take a step. Jenny watched her nervously, trying not to notice Nikolai looming nearby, as though he might not be there if she did not acknowledge him properly.
Vivienne turned and slipped Nikolai’s jacket off of her shoulders, onto Jenny’s own.
She looked up at the intimidating man, though side-on, so as not to invite too much attention, worried over his reaction, but he didn’t seem to be paying her any mind at all, thankfully, too busy watching his lady with fond exasperation.
That was an expression Jenny recognised – her mother used it embarrassingly often on Jenny and her sisters.
“Where do you belong, petite?” Vivienne inquired, wrapping her arm reassuringly about Jenny’s shoulders over the jacket and turning them towards the opposite end of the alley.
Jenny had no idea precisely what she had said, but it must have been something sensible, as Vivienne nodded and murmured something inaudible, then urged her out onto the street proper, turning towards the inn.
Jenny walked the path absently, grateful for Vivienne’s steadying touch, even as she puzzled at it, and trying to ignore the constant, almost looming presence of Nikolai at their backs.
She appreciated his intimidating bulk, though, a few streets down, when they passed a band of ruffians who had often tried to give her trouble.
Nikolai was apparently rather frightening to them, as well, no matter that they were used to dealing with far larger deckhands, and Jenny had to wonder if he had done anything more than simply walk behind herself and Vivienne.
Despite the feeling of safety he conferred, Nikolai still frightened Jenny, and, all together, she was simply glad to be back at the door of the inn that was home, work, and practically her entire world.
Much as she had regretted that, or strained at it, in the past, Jenny was now unaccountably grateful to return to such a small, normal place. Home.
Jenny did manage to start her tongue again, turning to thank Vivienne – she doubted she would have been able to speak at all, faced with Nikolai properly.
The pair were already back out in the centre of the street, wrapped up in each other and obviously not paying a bit of attention to her.
They were beautiful – a contrasting, otherworldly pair, surrounded by swirling fog that seemed to cling lovingly to their skin.
Jenny watched for a moment, seeing those glittering points in Vivienne’s mouth again as she laughed, then lowered her head to Nikolai’s neck briefly, making him twitch and wrap a hand around her waist, though he was chuckling.
Jenny tried not to think of broken-looking, bloody gentlemen on that foggy street that would undoubtedly haunt her nightmares. A chill gust struck the nape of her neck, beneath her hair, and raced down her spine with a shudder.
Jenny darted inside, with a last look over her shoulder, and got almost immediately to work, pausing only to pin her hair back.
She didn’t realise until hours later that Nikolai’s jacket was still settled heavy and warm around her.
Dragostea mea is Romanian, and means my love.
Lyubimaya is Russian, and means beloved.
Petite is French, and (in this usage) means little one.
The assortment of languages has an explanation in the backstory of the characters, which Jenny, of course, does not know. In short, Vivienne is French, but grew up in Romania; Nikolai is Russian; they meet in the middle with English, though they have been a couple long enough to have long ago begun to pick up bits of each others’ languages.
This story was, of course, originally written in 2011, and hasn’t been edited since October 2011.
This world was born from three things. A desire to write a vampire story, and vampires in love; my love of vampires like Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Spike, back when he first appeared (sometimes villains just clearly have so much more fun with life, you know?); and a tiny bit of frustration with all the vampire stories written about the ‘one vampire (or family of vampires) who go against their kind’ whether by not feeding from humans or by hunting their own kind. (Don’t get me wrong, I love a good number of those stories – but sometimes it feels as though there aren’t any actual evil vampires.
So came to be Vivienne and Nikolai – who are not so much evil as they are intensely self-centred and amoral. They truly and deeply adore each other, but everyone else in the world is either a source of food, irritation, or amusement.
They’re definitely a fun pair to play with, in the right mood. I hope you also find them entertaining to read about.