Stakes and Stones

Posted: 11/27/2011 in Books, Fiction, Horror, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I took the week off from writing.  Maybe that is not exactly true; the words and the stories didn’t seem to be there when I needed them, and so I stopped trying to find them.  Today I will try again.  I do know that the longer I go without writing, the harder it is to get the literary engine to turn over. 

This has been a rough week.  On Monday, one of my dearest friends and mentors, Phil Cramer, passed away.  I’ve known him for almost 30 years – and although that sounds like a long time, my heart protests that it wasn’t long enough.  Two days later, on Thanksgiving, Inky passed away.  She was a beautiful cat and a spirit filled with joy.  I found her on a Halloween night in Kansas a decade ago – she was the black cat that crossed my path and brought nothing but happiness and love.  The ten years Inky and I shared together went too quickly, and I miss her terribly. 

When Phil’s health suddenly failed earlier this month, I sat with him in the hospital many evenings.  I don’t know if he knew I was there, but I told him about my dream of being a writer someday, and about my first story which will be published later this month.  On the drive home from the hospital about two weeks ago, I started toying with the premise of a different kind of vampire story, one that evokes compassion rather than horror.  Stakes and Stones was the result. 

She couldn’t see well in the dark, and the other children taunted her for it until she fought to keep tears from spilling down her cheeks.  She blinked hard, but lost the battle.  Being unable to produce tears themselves, the children watched with curiosity as she sobbed quietly, her head lowered and eyes downcast, until the school bus arrived.

The girl was second in line to board the bus.  As she stepped forward, Pytr gave her a vicious shove.  She fell forward with a gasp, pinwheeling her thin arms for balance to no avail.  Her nose and upper lip smashed into the edge of the school bus’s doorframe.  Blood gouted from her now crooked nose, and she spat two of her front teeth into the gutter.  The teeth gleamed in the moonlight, slick with blood.  One was her upper left incisor, which had already been chipped from a previous encounter.  The other was the dog tooth that had neighbored it.  It was much smaller, more rounded, and less pronounced – unlike the wickedly sharp canines of the other children. 

The scent of her blood set off a cacophony of howls, catcalls, and laughter from the children on the bus.  Blood dripped from her chin and saturated her threadbare, hand-me-down paisley print blouse.  It had been one of her favorites.  The bus driver sent her home to change clothes; she’d have to walk to school.

When she arrived at home, her mother took one look at her ruined face and shirt, and berated her for getting into another fight, reprimanded her for not trying to get along.  The girl accepted the scolding wordlessly.  She slipped on a clean shirt.  It was more tattered than the one she’d been wearing. 

Her mother’s parting words chased her out of their tiny apartment.  In a sudden fit of anger, the girl slammed the front door.  It rattled in its flimsy frame.  All of the low income housing units were cheaply built and poorly constructed.  It was the only life she had ever known.  Despair engulfed her as she trudged to school in the late night darkness.  She’d already missed her favorite part of the school day.  First hour: reading.  If she took her time, she’d miss second hour as well.  Social studies.  Tonight they were supposed to be learning about minority populations.  She figured she already knew more than enough about that. 


  1. Wren Andre says:

    There is so much to absorb from that story – very awesome!
    I am so sorry to hear of your losses this past week – take care friend. 🙂

    • blackalchemy says:

      Thank you so very much – your words and your kindness are a great gift to me! I was thinking about you last week, knowing your work was probably hectic with the holiday and hoping you were able to find a little time for yourself and for writing in the midst of it all…

      • Wren Andre says:

        Now that you mention it – yeah – very hectic. I’m doing an epic blog post about it tonight, because in the midst of the madenss – I received the greatest news of my writer-life (so far). Life is an amazing rollercoaster!

      • blackalchemy says:

        Writing is such solitary work, so often it’s just us and the words, so I am very excited for you and can’t wait to find out your good news!!

  2. I am very sorry to hear about your loss. You are so correct in that writing is solitary. That makes it doubly hard sometimes, especially in times of sorrow.

  3. QXFace says:

    Is that “The End” or the opening of a longer story? I could see it going either way.

    Kind of reminds me of the roll reversal flip-flop at the end of I am Legend. Also the bitterness and rage of Let the Right One In.

    You’ve had a few stories about vampires lately. You’re not switching sides on me are you?

    • blackalchemy says:

      I’m busted – Stakes and Stones is part of a much larger story, but I haven’t completed enough of it yet to share. I got excited about the idea of role reversal and wanted to explore some implications of bullying and prejudice. It isn’t horror, really – more of shameless use of supernatural creatures as a context for social commentary. Great point about what I’ve always thought of as a brilliant role reversal in the closing of I Am Legend. I need to see Let the Right One In. Yeah, I’ve been on a vampire kick lately… I felt like the vampires have been losing some street cred; sparkling too much and not ripping out enough jugulars, so I wanted to give the boys in the crypt an infusion of evil. But we’ve got a full moon coming up, don’t we? Aaarrroooooo! 🙂

  4. Leila says:

    I’m sorry sorry for both your losses. Love the excerpt. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest.

    • blackalchemy says:

      Thank you, Leila, and I am glad you liked Stakes and Stones – it is a departure for me stylistically, but it is the story my heart wanted to tell.

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