Gods and Monsters Installment 1: Wherein we meet the three Fates

Reading Time: 7 minutes

This is the first installment of the Gods and Monsters novel serialization. All Gods and Monsters installments are here.

(Image created by E.E. King with Adobe Firefly.)

The destiny of man is in his own soul. -Herodotus

Anatomy is destiny. -Sigmund Freud

Note:  This is not a vampire novel. It’s about mythology, genetic determinism, fate, and what it means to be alive. It just happens to be peopled by a few vampires. — E.E. King

Prologue

October 1961: San Francisco, The Castro District

Fate

They don’t seem like sisters. They appear generations, possibly even species apart.

Morta, the eldest, is gaunt and grim, her bones prominent beneath thin, pale, and taut skin. Her dress, black, long, and tight as flesh, falls water straight to the ground. A large pair of scissors dangles around her waist on a heavy chain. It’s worn and used, but the blades gleam, sharp as endings.

Decima, the middle sister, is brown as soil, solid as earth. She sits behind a wooden table, twisting a tape measure round and round her hands.

Nona, the youngest, is beautiful. She sits before a large wooden loom. Her hands, smooth and pale as milk, flutter like doves, continually drawing woof through warp, creating intricate designs.

The sisters sit in a dim backroom of a small shop on a dark alleyway.

“I’ve never woven anything like this,” says Nona. “I don’t have a pattern. I don’t know what thread to use.”   

Decima frowns. She prefers plain, simple fashions.

“It is odd,” Morta says, staring at the lopsided fabric. “I’ve never seen one like it.”

San Francisco – 1986

Jasmine’s Tale

I’m unequivocally a night person. I think sunrise looks better in reverse.

He was a morning man. You might think our love was doomed, but no, just the opposite. We meet at twilight and so never tire of each other.

My Love is strong and healthy, with almost white-blond hair and eyes as clear as a cloudless sky. He smells of sunlight. His skin is warm.

Not I. I am pale, hair black, hands cold as coffin nails.

We meet in the gray hours of transformation when the world has lost its light but not discovered darkness. My teeth have not yet lengthened, although they are always a tad pointy: Audrey Hepburn with razor incisors, Claudette Colbert with fangs. A sharper Kim Kardashian.

I am not yet thirsty, and my hot sun lover can bare his throat to me with no fear.

He has the strong, white, flat teeth of an exceptionally well-groomed horse. As he tosses his head in the glooming, I feel the heat and see the light of a small sun. He is as close as I will ever get to daylight. I am as close as he will ever get to death. In his arms, I can imagine a sunrise without pain.

We don’t talk, there is too little time. Besides, what could he tell me that I have not already learned from his being? I know that he sweats under a bare clear sky, that tiny flying insects are attracted to his moisture and his scent. I know he doesn’t enjoy this, but I’m fascinated. Insects fear me. They drop from the night and lie unmoving at my feet. Only the bats enjoy my company; bats, owls, and the occasional nightjar.

My body tightens with longing even as my incisors lengthen. My Love yawns. Luckily for him, our time together is almost over.

If only the night would not come, making me thirsty. Making me lust for other pleasures. If only the sun would not rise, denying me my Love… I imagine I could be happy. I think he could be content. But that is fantasy. I know that the sun will rise, that night will come.

I never mention it, but I can’t help noticing that he’s never invited me into his home. I cannot enter without permission. Though once inside, I can forever come and go at will, through keyholes or under doors.

We don’t dine together.

He likes pasta with garlic. I like blood.

He never gives me silver. Even if it didn’t burn my flesh, I couldn’t admire myself. I have no reflection. He cannot marry me… at least not in a church.

We clasp each other in these few hours between dusk and dawn. Wishing that vampires really do sparkle in the sun, that flesh rots not and that love lasts. Wishing that this time will be different.

One night, my Love comes too early, or maybe he stays too long.… I don’t remember, although I can still recall the intoxicating sun scent and taste of the rich warmth of his blood.

My love affairs ever end thus. I always long for them to turn out differently. It’s so disheartening. If only I didn’t fall in love so often with these warm-blooded vessels of nutrition. I constantly swear I’ll convert, become a celibate bloodsucker, a monastic mosquito, a vamp nun. But then I see some sun-glazed man smelling of day, and it begins again.

Chemistry.  Alchemy. Love Potion Number 9. . . Blood. . . Locked in the body, like a coffin, like a grave, changes color in the air, binding oxygen, absorbing different wavelengths, and blue blood turns to red desire.

My men end up as pale as I, but much more finite and more still. I’d weep if I had tears, but we have no water in us and no salt. We are dry ice, we creatures of the night. You probably think I could make my Love immortal with a bite. But it’s not that easy.

First, they need to be healthy and dead, which is difficult. Then they need to have ingested some vampire blood. And lastly, within twenty-four hours, they need to drink copious amounts of human blood. My lovers are decidedly unpeckish when they’re dead. I can’t even get them to swallow. Not that I try that hard. . . If I’m completely honest, once they lie before me, still, pale, and bloodless, I lose affection for them. I’m like an old man with a trophy wife—I’m not proud of it—but there it is.

Not that I have never changed anyone.

I did, once. Jeremy was his name. I can still see his face. He was pale for a human, hair sleek as a seal’s, emerald-eyed. I followed him one night. He smelled of smoke and tasted of sorrow.

Reviving him was even more unpleasant than I’d imagined. I cut my wrist, but he would not suck. I had to rub my wound against his, fusing blood to blood, marrying plasma.

From the first moment I’d been turned, I’d sucked eagerly. I hunted easily and with fervor. But not Jeremy. He lay limp, barely undead. I had to stun four late-night partiers and present them, unconscious and practically gift wrapped, before he’d drink.

Even then he was ill.

It was two weeks before he began to hunt on his own. We parted, or rather, I did, disappearing one night, drawn to new blood and more finite lovers.

San Francisco — 1986

Endings and Beginnings

One midnight I go to a discothèque… a new one. They have flashing crystals, but luckily no silver. They serve drinks and finger food, but happily no garlic. On the dance floor, Sumo wrestlers, huge men, over 300 pounds each, butt each other like hippos.

Between bouts, one lumbers outside.

Quicker than a dance step, I am upon him. Who would have thought that the fat man had so much blood in him? I am more than sated. While not as tender or tasty as my lovers, it’s nice to be so filled. Inside, I can enjoy the night without hunger pangs.

I dance with abandon, baring my white neck to the flashing disco ball.

A pale man, eyes cobalt as twilight, unfathomable as belief, joins me. He doesn’t smell of sun or day but of secrets.

He whispers his name, “Gabriel,” into my ear, tickling the fine hairs on my neck, making them rise.

I tell him mine, “Jasmine.”

Together, we walk into the night, down dark streets glowing with neon, to an apartment. His apartment. He invites me in. Love has never been like this. I know it must be love because my circadian rhythms, usually so finely tuned, are silent.

We rest in each other’s arms. I don’t sleep. I watch him slumber and still my breath to match his, pretending, just for a while, that this will last.

I look upon his face, memorizing his perfectly carved features, imprinting this time forever in my mind. Suddenly, I realize that he’s not asleep.

His indigo eyes are wide open.

The only things that can kill a vampire are the sun, being staked through the heart, and werewolves. Not really much to boast about for a creature with supernatural powers. Being staked through the heart or being attacked by a werewolf will put an end to pretty much anything.

Why two creatures governed by dark should be at such odds with each other is a mystery. But there it is.

Silver, garlic, and crosses, while definitely not pleasant, are rarely lethal. I’ve known more than a few of my kind who’ll gladly bear some pain to wear a pair of glittering earrings or carry a silver bullet. A silver bullet, after all, is the only foolproof way to kill a werewolf. And silver is no more painful than a pair of tight stiletto heels. It’s much less painful than foot binding, circumcision, or any of the myriad ways humans find to torture their own.

Gabriel is no werewolf; he’s a man like any other. I have the power. I know his name. He has invited me into his home.

He’s beautiful; finely chiseled features, eyes so deep an indigo you could forget time in his arms. And I do. Day and dark seem of no more urgency or import to me now than to the living.

A pliable light steals across him, delicate and tender. It’s much different than a sunset.

I thought I was immune to the pain love brings.

Being undead should make one infinite, but even we creatures of the night have our soft spots. The sun is one, a big, burning white-hot one.

Under his gaze, I cannot flee to that good, dark night. He holds me in this new day.

It burns.

It scorches.

It blazes onto my retina a last vision of his even, flat, white teeth. Who would have thought that the lust of an omnivore could be deadly?


Watch the author read this week’s installment in the video below:

 


NEXT WEEK: During the eighteen years that Gabriel lives with the sisters, he protests only once. It is on that first day, when he’s baptized, and holy water touches him. The droplet sizzles as it falls, burning a small white scar, like a fallen star onto his forehead. See all installments here.

Edited by Mitchelle Lumumba and Sophie Gorjance.

E.E. King is cohost of the MetaStellar YouTube channel's Long Lost Friends segment. She is also a painter, performer, writer, and naturalist. She’ll do anything that won’t pay the bills, especially if it involves animals. Ray Bradbury called her stories “marvelously inventive, wildly funny and deeply thought-provoking. I cannot recommend them highly enough.” She’s been published widely, including Clarkesworld and Flametree. She also co-hosts The Long Lost Friends Show on MetaStellar's YouTube channel. Check out paintings, writing, musings, and books at ElizabethEveKing.com and visit her author page on Amazon.