Monday, October 28, 2013

Vampires: Day 2 -- "Locked In"

Beyond "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, second person perspective isn't used much in fiction. There's good reason for this. If it goes on for any length, it bogs itself down and becomes repetitive. When the only personal pronoun you really have access to is "you," it gets more than a bit tiresome. There have been only a few novels of any note written in second person -- like Bright Lights, Big City, which was also adapted as a film -- but I do think the format can work well in certain short story settings. A couple of years ago, I had my creative writing class play around with the format (you can find their 2nd person stories in Charter Shorts), but, although I got some good results from it, I decided I'd leave that alone for the foreseeable future and just get them proficient with third person. Some of them are quite proficient with first and third but enough are not that it's better not to muddy the waters by trying to have them write in second.

Anyway... I did my own story along with them (because I often do that), so I'm going to share that with you today. I have, actually, shared it before, but it's been a couple of years, and my blog readership has changed quite a bit since then, so most of you probably haven't seen  this before. I hope you like it.

Locked In

You wake up slowly. But not gradually. Not smoothly. You wake up in fits and starts realizing that hunger gnaws at you. It is with annoyance that you realize that you’ve slept longer than you had intended. A lot longer if the hunger pangs are any indication. Your previous exertions must have taken more out of you than you had thought.

You climb out of what passes for your bed, grimacing at the stiffness in your limbs. Yes, you have, indeed, slept longer than you had intended, and your body cries out for sustenance. Idly, you wonder what the date is. Not that it really matters. Dates don’t mean anything to you.

You climb the stairs leading up from the cellar into the darkened interior of the house you make your dwelling place. How lucky you were to have found it flits into your head, but you correct yourself. Fortunate, not lucky. You don’t believe in luck. And you did pay the agent handsomely to find a house that suited your needs. Yes, you were fortunate to have found such a perfect house. The sheet-draped furniture looks ghostly in the darkness, vaguely reflecting the dim light sifting in from outside. The twinge of a smile hints about your lips, but it is not related to the d├ęcor. Tonight, you have no time for ambiance. Tonight, you feel the need only for the hunt.

You feel the setting of the sun, and you step outside, pulling the door closed behind you. You don’t bother to lock it. Few are foolhardy enough that they would try to enter your sanctum, and you would welcome them if they did. Welcome them in the way that a spider welcomes a fly that enters its web. There are children still at play outside. They freeze at the sight of you, sensing your presence in the same way a hare senses the hawk above as its shadow passes overhead. Although they are wise to fear you, they have no reason for that fear. You know better than to hunt where you live. Not that they aren’t… tempting.

As you move slowly down the steps of the house that everyone tries to avoid looking at, the children relocate to the front porch of a house at the other end of the street. You move in that direction for no other reason than that it brings you pleasure to see them squirm. Squirm like vermin in the dirt when a stone is moved or like termites when a rotting log is suddenly split open. This time, the smile is not fleeting.

It’s been too long since you’ve had a young one, but the desire is alive in you, tonight, thanks to those children. If the humans didn’t get so worked up over their missing young, you’d partake more often, but you have to be more than careful to not be discovered when you go after the young. Still, every so often, you can get away with it, and tonight will be one of those nights.

You move through the city, all of your senses alert in a way that no human’s ever can be. You are as much a part of the night as the darkness and the wind. And, like the wind, you flow from place to place being felt but not seen, leaving a quiet shudder in those you pass by, the angel of death, and they never know of their good fortune on this night. How magnanimous you feel, allowing them to go their way, keep their petty, fleeting lives.

Finally, you find what you are looking for, a gathering of young ones. And in a church, which makes it so much better. They will probably think that their faith, that the church itself, will protect them, and, once, long ago, it would have, but so very, very few people have faith anymore. It’s the ones that think they do that you enjoy the most. It makes it so much more… fun.

There are a couple of dozen people inside the little church. A matronly woman and a few of the teenagers in a small kitchen. A young man hardly older than a child himself in an office with another of them. The rest are in the chapel watching a movie. Two of them, thinking themselves clever, have sequestered themselves back in the pews to make out. Young lovers in a church locked up tighter than a drum. You wonder if it could possibly get any better. Of course, you will kill them all.

The locked building is of no hindrance to you, and, reveling in your power, you decide to play the part of the cat and toy with your food, first, before you feast. After all, you have no idea how long it will be before another opportunity like this one will present itself, so you should make the absolute most of it.

You creep along the ceiling allowing a hint of your presence to wash over the pitiful humans below. You smile as they grow restless and uneasy for no reason that they can understand. When their fear reaches ripeness, you drop down amongst them bestowing panic upon them like a benediction. You exalt in the chaos and screams and reach for one of them, the one with long, flowing blond hair.

You bare your fangs at her, preparing to sink them into her smooth, warm flesh that pulses with life, but she passes out in your hands. With a growl, you fling her aside. There is no pleasure without the struggle; you’ll come back for her when you have finished with the others. You reach for another, but you are suddenly and unexpectedly pierced with pain.

You can’t figure out what is happening. The pain is incomprehensible, piercing through your back into your heart. Slowly, and with full awareness, you fall to the floor, sprawled out on your face. You hear one of them, “Is it dead?” And another, “Why doesn’t it turn to dust?” And, “This isn’t Buffy, stupid.”

“Go get my copy of Dracula from my office, Tom.”

You feel confident that is the young man. You can now feel his faith, true faith, washing over you in revolting waves, sickening you. But you can’t move. You lie frozen on the floor, helpless, and you find yourself wishing that you had some deity to pray to. You begin to hope fervently that they believe the stake has finished you off. You have a chance if they just toss you out like this.

It grows quiet. The silence is a torment. The silence of the true grave. Faintly, you hear the turning of pages. There is mumbled talk of beheading and burning, and you wish you could scream. How pitiful… taken by your own prey. They lift your body and begin to drag you to the small graveyard behind the church, and you know that you go to your final resting place.

Note One: "Shadow Spinner: Collection 2: The Man with No Eyes (parts 6 - 12) is just released and many of the parts (about 10) from 13 - 34 are still FREE! today. Pick up the collection and grab the freebies. You can see the list on yesterday's post.
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  1. I guess those kids weren't so helpless after all.
    You're right - the constant 'you' would grow old after a while. Second person is so disconnected.

  2. 2nd person can be annoying. "You do this"...I am not; I'm reading this story!

  3. I actually remember this story. I remember reading Nick Sagan's (Carl's son) Idlewind several years ago, it had alternating POV's, one of them was YOU!

    I was about to pull my hair out in frustration. That and he wasn't that big on punctuation marks.

  4. Alex: It's funny that you say that, because it's supposed to be more connected.

    GP: Yeah, you really have to be willing to become the character, but the format isn't very good at sucking people in.

    Rusty: yeah, You were one of the commenters the first time I posted it.

  5. I think it can be fun on occasion. Wouldn't want every book like that. I think you did it well in this piece.

  6. Hey! I love second person for Dungeons & Dragons modules and other roleplaying games. In that field, second person is all the rage!

  7. Pk: Thank you :) I like it in this piece myself.

    Michael: Well, yeah, but they are also kind of choose your own adventures. Not a linear story, at any rate.

  8. WOW.

    That was great.

    My favorite line: "When their fear reaches ripeness, you drop down amongst them bestowing panic upon them like a benediction."

    That line works SO WELL given that this is happening in a church and a benediction is a request for intercession or help. A vampire's benediction would be panic. That's incredible.

    What I liked best about this, too, aside from the fact that your use of second person made it feel more visceral, forcing me to feel the vampire's emotions even if I didn't want to, was that it managed to work the classic vampire vibe so perfectly. Vampires, done well, are excellent. This had a real Bram Stoker feel to it, but the touches that you gave it made it your own. Nicely done.

    Have you read "Vampires In The Lemon Grove?" It's a book of short stories, and the first one has vampires in it, but not quite your typical vampires. This sort of reminded me of that, too. In a good way.

  9. I just read some of the other comments on use of second person, and that brought to mind another point, or two. First, telling a horror story this way can work really well (as it does here) because it calls to mind a classic campfire setting, as if we're all sitting together and the storyteller is working us into the story.

    Second, Joshua Ferris wrote a book, "Then We Came To The End" that's written in the first person plural, I believe. He's sort of an experimental writer, I've gathered, but I've never read anything by him because I'm too nervous that the gimmicks would overtake the book.

    Speaking of which, have you heard about JJ Abrams' new book? I'm kind of fascinated by the idea. I might have to break down and buy a real book.

  10. I enjoyed the story, really liked the character's voice and loved the twist ending. But I got quite annoyed with the constant "you" repetition by the third para. LOL! No wonder we all write in first or third. ;)

  11. Briane: I have not read that, but I'll look it up.
    And I'm glad you like that line; I do, too.
    Also, I was definitely shooting for more Stoker and less... everything else.

    I've heard of Abrams new book; I don't know how I feel about it.

    Lexa: yeah... And it's much easier reading it than writing it and trying to figure out ways to work around writing "you" one more time.
    I'm glad you liked it.

  12. I liked it! I was surprised, not being a vampire fan and all, but I like how you taught us about vampires without really using exposition. Of course, I like the part of about true faith being so powerful. Nicely done.
    I agree with the commenters: 2nd person would become tiresome in anything but a short story. I think it's cool though that you challenge yourself to whatever your students are doing.
    Tina @ Life is Good

  13. Tina: I'm glad you did. For the kind of piece this is, I like it probably more than I should.