Happy Thursday everyone! Look, you can just see the weekend coming up over the horizon! Hold on for a few more hours and it’ll all be over.
Today I’m sharing with you an excerpt from one of the manuscripts I’ve been working on this year. This one is near and dear to me and I have a lot of high hopes for it. The other day I called on my FB followers to call out random page numbers for me to pick an excerpt from and I was more than impressed with the enthusiasm and how so many of the choices landed on, what I think are some awesome scenes.
So here goes. The winning page number was 225 provided by Patricia Davis! No intro, I’m just gonna throw you into the deep end and hope you enjoy!
2300(ish) word excerpt from: Wytchcraft (working title) – Copyright Shauna Granger 2013
It looked like any other dive bar in any other neighborhood in the world. Dimly lit so you didn’t see just how grimy the floors and tables were. Tiny candles flickered on the round tables around the room. A couple of worn pool tables stood in one corner and dartboards hung in another. Booths lined one wall while a long bar took up another. Two bartenders worked the bar and the crowded stools in front of them with waitresses coming and going with tiny round trays like mini shields full of glasses.
The only thing that set this bar apart from any other was the number of vampires lurking around every corner. They were in the booths along the wall, cloistered with their prey, they were leaning on the bar, flashing cheesy fanged smiles at the humans milling around them. They were everywhere and if you took a deep enough breath you could taste the tang of iron in the air. I shivered, trying to shake off the creeping crawling sensation this place gave me.
“Kinda creepy, right?” Ronnie whispered to me, but despite her lowered voice a few glinting pairs of eyes turned our way. I averted my eyes, not wanting to invite any of them over to us.
“Yeah, kinda creepy,” I agreed, keeping my voice low as well. The vamps could glare all they wanted, we were whispering so the humans couldn’t hear us, we weren’t fang blocking them or anything.
“So, do you want to get a drink or something?” Ronnie asked.
“Not even a little bit,” I said. “I want to get out of here as soon as possible.”
“Right,” Ronnie nodded, but when I looked at her face I realized she wasn’t looking at me, she was watching some of the more open couples in the booths. There were couples and groups huddled together, a mixture of vampires and humans. One such couple, a female vampire and a male human, were twisted around each other on a bench seat, the woman had the man’s wrist clamped to her mouth, not even the tiniest of trickles escaping her hungry lips. His head was thrown back, his eyes fluttering closed and his lips parted in a moan.
“Ron, you okay?” I leaned into Ronnie, tugging on her arm.
“Yes,” she said slowly, pronouncing the word carefully. “Yes, we should move on.” She turned us away from the sights and sounds of the room around us. Ronnie had never been with a vampire, never felt the sweet sting of their bite, it was normal to be curious and I was definitely not one to judge in this instance.
There was a huge arch in the back wall leading to a sunken room that, at this distance, looked like it was completely pitch black. That was the room I was looking for: the opium den.
“Ready? Ronnie asked.
“No,” I said, but I lead the way forward anyway. There were no guards at the entrance, no one checking anyone for weapons or ID, but I guess if you made it into the bar, you were allowed to come and go through the rooms as you pleased.
When we passed under the arch I felt a ripple of power pass over us, it was cool and soothing, like walking through a gentle waterfall. Ronnie turned surprised eyes to me, but I only shrugged. I figured it was some sort of charm to keep the vapors and smoke inside this room and out of the rest of the bar because once inside here I realized how difficult it was to see.
“Claro,” I whispered and suddenly it was easier to see. Ronnie repeated the charm under her breath so she could see just as well.
There were huge cushions strewn about the floor and fainting couches set all along the walls. There were bodies lying everywhere, it almost looked like a mass suicide. I closed my eyes and shook my head, trying to get that thought out of my mind. When I opened my eyes again I could focus on the moving parts of the room. People were lounging next to their pipes, smoking and passing them along to the next person.
Soft music filled the room and went a long way towards calming my nerves. Only Ronnie’s clutching fingers in my arm kept me on edge.
“Be careful not to touch anyone,” I reminded Ronnie in a whisper. Psychics could control their visions for the most part, but when surrounded by too many people or were touched, the visions took over. After too many years of seeing too many people’s fates, murders, pain and suffering, they either checked out of society and became hermits or their minds would snap. Many a middle-aged psychic lived in assisted-living complexes.
“May I help you?” a woman asked, appearing in front of us through the vapors and smoke. She was dressed in traditional Kabuki robes and makeup. Her pitch black hair was rolled and pinned artfully on top of her head with a jeweled hair comb. Her face was paper white, making the red lipstick stand out on her face even in the poor lighting.
“I, uh,” I stumbled, not really sure how to answer her.
“Can I show you to a seat?” she half turned, holding out one hand to guide us. Ronnie started to take a step, but I stopped her. I wasn’t interested in smoking and I had no idea how much something like that would cost anyway.
“No,” I said, “we were looking for someone.”
“Whom are you looking for?” the hostess asked, making me stumble again. Who were we looking for? Anyone who would help us I guess. We’d come to a place where psychics went to get away from their visions and here we were hoping one of them would be willing to help us find Roane. Roane, who was being held captive, possibly tortured. Yeah, I’m sure anyone of these people would jump at the chance to help us.
“We needed the help of a psychic,” Ronnie said, stepping forward to answer the question. I cringed at the look on the woman’s face. She looked ready to pull her hair comb out and stab us in the eye.
“My patrons do not come here to be bothered by tourists,” she snapped, stepping toward us again, pushing into our personal space to herd us back through the archway.
“We’re not tourists,” I said, holding my ground. “We just need help.”
“I suggest you look elsewhere, now go,” she pointed a perfectly manicured finger over my shoulder.
“Look, I’m sorry,” I said quickly, “but two men’s lives are at stake and I’m desperate. I’m running out of time and I didn’t know where else to go.”
Before the Wave many psychics had shops where they read palms and cards for humans because few enough people believed in them that they could manage the number of customers they received., but once we were all out of the closet humans realized that psychics were just as real as the rest of us and suddenly their quaint little shops were overrun with humans looking for winning lottery numbers, begging to speak to their passed loved ones and any other life altering request you could think of. Within ten years of the Wave most shops had been shut down. Now it was very difficult to find a shop with a legitimate psychic running it and not some human, witch or warlock pretending to be a psychic to scam innocent customers out of their hard earned money.
Now psychics were just trying to assimilate into society as best they could. Many of them worked from home, hell most telemarketers that call and interrupt your dinner are psychics, just trying to earn a living while staying away from the populace. They were often erratic and difficult to talk to so I mostly stayed away from them and just depended on my own castings for answers to questions I had.
“Please,” I said again, reaching out a hand to touch the woman, but before my fingers touched her she roared, her face contorting from the porcelain perfection to a lined and aged face. Her mouth split open into a gaping maw full of needlelike teeth and she lunged at us.
“Get out,” she snarled, her back hunching over and her manicured nails turning into stained claws as she tried to swipe at us. I fell back into Ronnie, stumbling over the step and nearly sending us to the floor.
“Onibaba,” Ronnie hissed, scrambling back and pulling me with her. I could feel the edge of the curtain separating the bar and the den.
“Wait,” a lazy voice called out, catching all of our attention. I watched at the woman’s face melted back into the perfect mask of beauty before she turned to face the man who spoke.
He was lounging on the floor, a pipe held in one hand. His head was dropped back so that he was staring at the ceiling as he expelled a stream of white smoke. Ronnie pushed me forward to help me back to my feet and off of her. I straightened my jacket, tucking my hair behind my ears before taking a step forward. The Onibaba hissed at me as I walked by, but I kept my shoulders straight and refused to look at her.
“Excuse me?” I said when I stood close enough to the man that he could hear me whisper.
“Sit,” he said, waving a hand at the cushions scattered around him. There were two other people with him, a man and a woman. The woman’s head was resting on his thigh and he dropped his empty hand to toy with her curly brown hair. The second man was lying on the floor, not touching anyone or anything, not even using a pillow to cushion his head. His eyes were wide open and glazed over, a strange smile tugging at his lips, making his cheek twitch.
I glanced over my shoulder at Ronnie; she was staring at the man on the floor, watching his cheek jump. I wondered how much opium he’d had already – too much by the looks of it. I took a breath and crossed my ankles before lowering myself to sit on the floor. I had to reach up and tug on Ronnie’s hand to get her to sit next to me, finally blinking and tearing her eyes away from the man.
“You’re looking for help,” the man said, not making it a question, but if he’d heard me pleading with the demon then it wasn’t that impressive.
“Yes,” I said as I reached into my pocket to dig out Roane’s ring.
“There is a man missing,” he said. Wrapping his lips around the pipe and took three quick puffs, holding the vapors in for a moment before passing the pipe to the woman on his thigh. “His life is in danger,” he went on, expelling the smoke.
“Look, guy,” I said, cutting him off as my temper started to rise. “You heard me say all that right over there.” I jabbed a thumb over my shoulder. “You’re not fooling me alright? I’m not some two bit human fresh off the bus. If you’re just gonna waste my fucking time, we’ll be on our way.” I tapped Ronnie on the knee and started to get to my feet. The couple started to snicker, making me pause to glare at them. I shook my head at them and stood.
“Wait, wait,” he said, pushing up on his elbows to look up at me. “I’m sorry, please, sit.”
“I’m good, thanks,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest.
“Here,” he dug into his pants pocket until he came out with a black leather wallet. “Go see my friend,” he said as he dug through the many creased business cards until he found the one he was looking for. He held the white card out to me.
“Your friend huh?” I asked, arching a brow at him. “Is he as helpful as you are?”
“I said I was sorry,” he said, glaring at me, “do you want the help or not?”
“Then go see my friend, tell him Micha sent you.” He held the card out for me, waving it in his impatience. I glanced at Ronnie again, but she just shrugged at me, leaving it up to me to decide. With a sigh I reached out and took the card, my fingers grazing Micha’s as I did so.
Micha’s eyes went wide and his body shook before his back arched. His fingers grasped at mine as the vision took him. My body went cold as I watched him convulse on the floor and I had to wrench my hand free of his to stop it. Clutching my hand to my chest I stepped back to place my body against Ronnie’s.
The woman scrambled to Micha’s head, putting it in her lap and brushing her fingers over his sweaty forehead, making soft, soothing noises. She spared me an evil look and I knew, she wanted to hit me, throw me from this place to make up for what I’d just put her man through.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, shaking my head. I could still feel the shivers running over my body like millions of invisible ants racing over my skin.
“Just go,” she hissed at me.
“Be careful,” Micha rasped, stopping me a second time. I turned and looked at him; his eyes were open, but distant, like he was looking through me. “She is watching; she is waiting.” Then his eyes fell closed and he passed out in the girl’s lap, his body going limp.