Last night I asked my Facebook friends to help me write a story. They were to give me: a place, a name, an object, an animal and a weapon. They did not disappoint and their suggestions helped push my creativity. I gave myself the deadline of finishing it in one night. And I barely made it. But I did finish it and here it is for you all.
The suggestions: A greenhouse, Victoria, Colonel Harland David Sanders, A holey sock, El Chupacabra and An atlatl.
She Called and It Came
By Bonnie Cox
Air sucked greedily in, gulping down the frigid night air until the lungs burned again.
The cold, smooth glass found almost by accident on the moonless night.
Something is on it. It slips and slides. Cannot grasp the slick, wet surface. Must get inside. Must hide.
Victoria Winterbourne put one hand into the white, cotton stocking. There was a hole in the toe. Her dainty finger poked through the hole; her perfectly manicured brow furrowed. Mrs. Wicket had missed this. How was Victoria supposed to recover if she was always having to catch out the mistakes of the servants? Could not one of them perform their duties properly without giving her vexations? She wadded the stocking up tightly in her hand and stamped out of her bedroom in search of the negligent housekeeper.
Mrs. Wicket was easily found as she nearly collided with her mistress in the hallway while carrying a rather large load of freshly laundered linens, linens that had to be rewashed, dried and ironed for the second time that week.
“Wicket!” Victoria shrilled, “What is this?” She threw the balled-up stocking at Mrs. Wicket’s face, who nearly dropped her precious cargo.
“I’m sorry, Mistress,” she answered, taking a step back and shrinking as much as her large frame would allow to see what had been thrown. “I cannot tell what it is while holding the linens.”
“It. Is. My. Stocking. A rather grotesque and foul stocking full of holes that found its way into my personal lingerie.” Victoria pointed to the stocking now lying on the hallway floor. “Pick it up.”
“Mistress, the linens,” Mrs. Wicket protested.
Victoria let out a muffled scream from behind closed lips, exhaling a sharp, dragon’s breath through her nose and stamping her foot like a toddler who wants a treat at four o’clock in the afternoon after having no nap at all.
“Must I do EVERYTHING!” she shrieked, seizing the garment and pushing past her poor housekeeper, all but knocking her to the floor. She stopped a few feet away and turned back to say, “When you are finished with the linens, I want my tea things laid out for this afternoon. The Colonel is coming for a visit.” Dropping the stocking to the floor, she added, “And take care of this.”
Rachel stood by the open kitchen door enjoying the cross breeze that had come into the house. She found the momentary coolness of the air helped to quell her unsettled inner workings.
“Rachel, set out the mistress’s tea things, we’re having a guest this afternoon,” chirped Wicket, moving with the graceful steps of a heavyweight champ in his prime, across the kitchen, opening a locked drawer with a key she drew from her apron pocket. She withdrew a piece of paper and handed it to the delicate kitchen maid. Rachel looked over the paper trying to make sense of the black markings that covered it.
“What is this?” she asked.
“It’s a list of ingredients we still need for tonight,” Wicket answered, pulling an apple pie from the pantry, “Before you set the tea, give that to Michael for me. He knows what to do.”
Rachel slipped the paper into her pocket and eyed the pie on the counter. She’d never really noticed how intoxicating the smell of pie was before. If they were careful, they could share a piece of it that evening. She fingered a particularly crumbly looking corner of crust. Wicket took notice and smacked Rachel’s hand away from the inviting pastry.
“Who’s coming for tea?” Rachel questioned, nursing her smarting finger. Wicket stopped what she was doing and looked Rachel sternly in the face.
“The Colonel?” Rachel’s eyes widened, “You don’t think he’s here to see…”
Wicket cut her off, “I do. And I better not hear you say it. If the mistress ever found out… Well, let’s just say she had better not find out.”
Rachel left the kitchen through the back door smiling and went searching for Michael by the horse stables. The Colonel was coming.
The late afternoon sun spilled through the Tiffany windows of the Rose Room, creating a shaft of light that perfectly illuminated Victoria’s corseted bosom, which she took every opportunity to draw attention to with her new, lace fan. She arched her back slightly, tilting back her head to expose her long, elegant neck, a move she’d perfected after having her stable hand, Michael, reposition her favorite chair again and again until she’d found the prime position in the room to display her assets.
“I’ll never get used to this Texas sun,” she said, fanning herself slowly and mostly for effect.
The Colonel turned away from the window where he’d been standing and admiring the view.
“Well, I’d say it’s done wonders for you,” he smiled, “I was saddened to hear you and your household had left New York so abruptly.” He sat in the chair opposite Victoria, stroking his honey colored mustache.
“Yes, well,” she sat upright again and absentmindedly stirred the cold tea in front of her, “I needed a change of atmosphere. Dr. Grey said New York was the reason my poor nerves were declining so and recommended the South and sun.”
She leaned back again, manipulating the fan, “I had no idea you would miss me so much, Harland, or I might have told you I was leaving.” She flitted her eyes downward and tried for a coquettish smile. He returned in kind and patted the hand she had resting on the table.
“You’re such a dear,” he remarked, “That’s why I hate to burden you so.”
“Burden? Why, my dear Colonel, what do you mean?”
He stood unexpectedly and began to pace about the stylish room. He stopped at the window once again and stared out at the horse stables in the distance.
“It’s just that I traveled down to see you in such a hurry that I have not yet secured suitable lodgings for myself,” he turned, a look of chagrin flashing across is tanned face, his blue eyes twinkling, “In fact, I wasn’t even able to bring along my valet.”
Victoria could only imagine how helpless she would be, were she forced to travel alone, without even one servant. If possible, in his hour of need, she felt even more tenderly toward the Colonel than she had before. Instantly, she knew she must help her cherished friend.
“Oh, Harland, do not say another word about it,” she stood, crossing the room to ring a small bell and summon Mrs. Wicket. The harried housekeeper arrived a moment later, smoothing her apron as she entered with a curtsy.
“Mrs. Wicket, the darling Colonel will be staying with us in the guest quarters until he has found suitable lodging here in Austin. Make sure he has whatever he needs. And send for Michael.”
Mrs. Wicket looked up for the first time since entering the room.
“You want me to send for Michael, Mistress?” she asked timorously.
“Are you losing your hearing, Mrs. Wicket?” Victoria scoffed, “Yes. He is to be valet to Colonel Sanders for the remainder of his stay with us.”
Mrs. Wicket tried to hide the relief that flooded her body. She curtsied her way out of the room and headed for the stables.
“Do we have everything that was on the list?”
“Do you think we should be doing this tonight? While he’s here?”
“We don’t have any other choice. Tonight is the new moon. It will only work tonight.”
“We could wait for the next new moon, couldn’t we?”
“Rachel does not have a month to wait.”
The Colonel descended the stairs, adjusting his bowtie and smoothing his oil-treated coiffure. Michael followed behind, brushing bits of lint from the Colonel’s jacket shoulders. The Colonel turned to him at the base of the staircase, placing a hand on Michael’s shoulder.
“Thank you, for all your assistance, Michael,” he effused, taking Michael’s hand in his own, “You really are quite wonderful.”
Victoria appeared in evening gown at the top of the stairs, radiating excitement upon seeing her guest in his evening attire.
“What’s this?” she beamed, “Thinking of stealing my stable boy away to be your new valet, I see.”
“Yes,” he said, “I was just telling Michael what a wonderful valet he makes. Perhaps, I will rob you of him permanently. I may be in need of a new valet soon.”
Victoria glided down the stairs towards the pair, signaling Michael to take his leave before linking arms with the Colonel.
“Don’t think it will be that easy,” she teased, “I may let him go, but it will cost you.”
They walked arm and arm into the luxurious, candlelit dining room where four other dinner guests were already seated. Victoria gestured to the seat at the foot of the table and the Colonel took his place, while she sat herself at the head of the table.
“I hope you don’t mind, Colonel, but I took the liberty of inviting a few close friends to dinner. If you’re going to be staying with me here in Austin, you really must get acquainted with all the best people,” she said.
“Yes,” he nodded, “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Colonel Harland Sanders, guest of this fine lady.”
Victoria threw back her head in laughter, playfully touching the Colonel’s arm.
“Oh, you have the most enthralling tales, my dear Colonel,” she gushed, “You’ve had us all enraptured this entire evening.”
Now seated in the parlor, Victoria’s other dinner guests sipped their after-dinner drinks, checked pocket watches or busied themselves with trinkets found around the room.
“Well, I have an excellent audience,” he said humbly, “But the evening is wearing away. I think I must say goodnight to you all.”
“No! You mustn’t leave us now!” Victoria grabbed hold of his arm as he stood to leave and tugged him back into his seat. “You owe me one more tale at least for being such a perfect hostess.”
An obliging, if tired smile spread over his face, “Alright. Which tale would you like to hear?”
“Hmm…” Victoria stroked his arm thoughtfully, “I know! Tell us all about your latest excursion into places unknown.”
“Well, as it is getting rather late,” he said, “I won’t keep you prisoner with a long tale of my adventures. But I did recently return from Central America and I happen to have the most amazing artifact here with me. Would you like to see it?”
Victoria answered for the room, “Nothing would bring us greater pleasure.”
A collective sigh went up from the other guests.
A smell woke it. The smell of the new moon. The air on the night of the new moon was different, invigorating. It opened its black eyes to the dark. The temperature of the air dropped.
No, it wasn’t the smell that had woken it. It was the voice.
It could hear her voice. She was calling to it.
The Colonel returned to the parlor moments later, a spear in one hand and a long, carved piece of wood with a kind of hook at one end in the other hand. Victoria gasped and clutched her at her chest.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed. “It’s incredible.”
“What is it?” asked Afton Enns, one of the now increasingly fatigued dinner guests.
“I’m glad you asked, Afton. In this hand I have just a regular spear. We’ve all seen one of these, now haven’t we,” the Colonel laughed.
“I suppose,” Afton feigned interest.
“And in this hand, I have what’s called an ‘atlatl’. I picked it up on my travels down in Central America recently. It’s an ancient tool used by primitive cultures to throw the spear with greater velocity.”
The Colonel held the atlatl in position and cradled the end of the spear in the hooked end, demonstrating what it should look like to an almost comatose room.
“It seems rather savage to me,” Afton’s wife, Beryl remarked while adjusting her broach yet again that evening.
“Yes, I say, why not just use a gun or a bow and arrow,” asked Everett Patterson, head resting in the palm of his hand.
“Well,” the Colonel explained, “the atlatl predates the gun and even the bow and arrow. Most tribes have moved on from it in favor of more modern weaponry.”
He leaned the spear and atlatl against the wall. Victoria could sense she was losing him again.
“How about a demonstration?” she asked, excitedly.
“I’m afraid it’s too late for that, my dear,” he politely refused. “I think we’ll just have to wait for morning.”
Victoria looked crestfallen. Her guests brightened.
“And, now, I really must say goodnight,” the Colonel said, giving a small bow.
The light bobbed through the garden, zig-zagging its way past rows of vegetables, stopping at the door to the small greenhouse. A hand reached out and pushed the door open.
“It’s Michael,” Rachel breathed.
“I can see it’s Michael,” Wicket said. “Do you have everything?”
Michael closed the greenhouse door behind him and set the lantern and basket he’d been carrying on the nearby workbench. The dim light of the single lantern on a moonless night did nothing to illuminate the faces of the three servants huddled together there. Wicket held the lantern close to the basket and pulled out the items Michael had brought one by one: a bit of hair, a used candle, herbs from the garden, a piece of chalk and a jar filled to the brim with a nectar, black as the moonless night.
Even in the dim light, Michael could see Rachel’s body jerk forward slightly every now and again. He tried to make out what she had in her hands. It was a rope. He followed the rope with his eyes and saw that a baby goat was tethered to the rope and seemed to be enjoying a nice salad of greens from the garden. The baby goat pulled hard on the rope and Rachel instinctively held a hand to her own belly.
Wicket reached into her apron pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. It was too dark for Michael to see what was written on it but he already knew. He reached out in the dark and clasped a gentle hand around her wrist.
“Cecile.” No one called her Cecile. “Is this really the right thing to do?”
Wicket laid the paper on the bench and took both of Michael’s hands in her own, and though she couldn’t make out his handsome features properly in the dark, she knew the look that would be on his face.
“Sweet boy,” she said in a motherly tone, “After tonight, all of our troubles will be over. We have the combination to the mistress’s safe. We will be long gone by morning and we will be free.”
A tear worked its way free from the corner of Michael’s eye, he pulled his hands away from Wicket and brushed it aside, steeling himself for what was to come.
“Will this take long?” he asked, steadying his nerves. “I’m acting as Harland’s valet while he’s here and I have to return before he goes to bed.”
Wicket smiled, or at least Michael thought it was a smile.
“You can go on back to the house now if you want to, Michael,” she said warmly, “Rachel and I can finish here.”
Michael left the greenhouse, leaving the lantern behind as well. He heard chanting and the bleat of the baby goat and ran, stumbling through the vegetable garden in the dark until he’d made it back to the house.
She called and it came.
Victoria couldn’t sleep. She put a silk robe on over her nightgown and slipped out into the hallway. Harland’s room was only a few doors down. Maybe he couldn’t sleep either. Maybe they could enjoy each other’s company a little longer.
She rapped on his door, whispering his name.
She knocked again, louder this time.
“Harland, it’s Victoria,” she sang out.
Still no answer.
She opened the door to his room, but the room was empty.
Perhaps, he’d gone to the kitchen for a late-night drink.
She padded down the stairs and went into the kitchen. Rachel was there, scrubbing something in the sink.
“Rachel, have you seen Colonel Sanders tonight?” she asked, becoming short tempered.
Rachel, unaware that the mistress had entered the kitchen, quickly shoved the apron she’d been cleaning down further into the sink and attempted to wash her hands without the mistress seeing.
“I saw the Colonel earlier, Mistress, at dinner,” she answered shakily.
“Yes, of course, you saw him at dinner,” Victoria said impatiently. “Have you seen him now?”
“No, Mistress,” Rachel shook her head emphatically.
Just then a small bobbing light walking through the garden caught Victoria’s notice from the window.
“There he is,” she smirked at Rachel. “He’s simply out for a stroll in the garden. That’s his lantern there.”
She wrapped her robe tighter around herself to accentuate her figure and went through the back door, heading toward the vegetable garden.
“What was that?”
“It was nothing,” the Colonel said. He stood in the darkened parlor with his beloved, took his face into his hands and pressed his lips against his mouth.
“The Mistress might be walking about,” Michael said when the kiss had finished.
“Michael, we’re leaving this place together tomorrow. Let us finally be free to love each other. Your mistress be damned.”
The Colonel pulled Michael in and held him close.
“You’re the reason I came to this godforsaken place. You know that, don’t you?” he said.
“Yes,” Michael blushed. “I couldn’t believe it when I’d heard you had come. I thought…”
“That you were just a dalliance?”
The Colonel pulled him close again and kissed him hard.
“You were never just a dalliance to me, Michael,” he said. “When I learned that Victoria had moved her household to Austin, I came at once. I won’t be separated from you again, my love.”
Michael pulled away, collapsing into a chair, breathing shakily and beginning to sob.
“You may want to be when you hear what I’ve done,” he cried.
Victoria weaved through the vegetable garden in the dark, heading for the bobbing lantern light. There was a tall figure holding the light, but she couldn’t make out its face.
“Oh Harland!” she waved. “It’s Victoria!”
The light seemed to extinguish itself suddenly. The tall figure disappeared into the darkness.
Victoria called out again, “Harland! Your light has gone out and I can’t see. Come and help me back to the house.”
She continued walking in the direction she thought she’d seen the figure. Something large ran past her in the dark.
“Harland?” She stopped and listened intently.
She heard the bleat of a goat nearby.
“Oh, Harland, I’m so ashamed,” Michael cried. The Colonel paced about the parlor thinking over what he’d just heard.
“And you say Rachel is pregnant?” he asked.
“Yes, by one of the horse groomers who didn’t come with us from New York,” he answered. “She’ll begin showing very soon.”
“And you felt you had no other choice but to summon this… thing, this creature?”
Michael put his head in his lap and sobbed.
“It was Wicket’s idea. We’re meant to rob her safe and leave before first light,” he got out between sobs. “My job was to procure certain items, but I didn’t do the spell to summon it. I swear.”
“And you say it’s coming here tonight?”
“What is it called again?”
Wicket unlocked the drawer in the kitchen. She pulled a carefully folded paper from the drawer, unfolded it and placed it on the kitchen block for Rachel and Michael to see. It was a drawing of a strange and wicked looking creature. Akin to something like a wild dog, with large fangs, claws and black eyes and a ridge running down its spine. Michael shuddered at the sight of it.
“It’s called ‘El Chupacabra’,” Wicket said.
“What is it?” Rachel grimaced.
“It’s our salvation.”
Something brushed past Victoria’s leg. It wasn’t the dark figure. It certainly wasn’t Harland. It came again, this time she could hear a sound like sniffing and almost make out the shape of an animal.
The animal began to growl in low, menacing tones.
Victoria screamed and ran.
The animal chased after her.
She was too far from the house now but there was a greenhouse nearby.
She wasn’t used to running. The night air was unseasonably cold. The black night made it difficult to see anything at all.
She kept running.
She could hear the beast behind her, closing in. Or was it closer than she thought? Was it toying with her? It didn’t matter. She just had to make it to the greenhouse where she could shut the animal out and wait for it to lose interest in her.
Her heart pounded in her chest.
She struggled for breath.
The Colonel finally stopped pacing. He’d made a decision.
“I’m going to help her, Michael.”
“Yes, I can’t let an innocent woman die, even if she is the most insufferable person I’ve ever had the misfortune of knowing.”
“What can you do? El Chupacabra has already been summoned by Wicket. It does her bidding now.”
“Well, it’s alive, isn’t it? It’s some sort of creature?”
“Yes, I believe so.”
“Then it can be killed.”
The Colonel looked about the room and spotted the spear and atlatl still leaning against the wall. He picked them up. Just then they heard Victoria scream from the garden.
Victoria’s lungs burned from the cold night air. She’d reached the greenhouse door but there was something sticky and wet all over the glass. She pulled her hand away to see what it was. Blood. A shattered jar lay on the ground by her feet. Blood covered the ground and door and now Victoria as well.
El Chupacabra was closing in. She could hear the pound of his feet and the low tones of his snarl.
The door wouldn’t open. She peered through the blood and glass to try see why it wouldn’t open. It had been wedged shut. It looked like there was another animal inside. She heard the bleat of the goat.
El Chupacabra was almost there.
Harland ran through the kitchen door into the garden with the spear and the atlatl. Michael carried a lantern in his hand, holding it high so his lover could take aim.
Harland readied the spear and atlatl and aimed toward the charging beast as it lunged for Victoria who was pinned against the greenhouse door. He threw with all his might, piercing the air with a warrior cry that shook the night.
The spear found its mark, lodged firmly between the shoulder blades of the lunging beast. El Chupacabra whimpered then vanished into black smoke.
The spear remained, however, piercing the heart of Victoria Winterbourne.