Where To Listen To Vacancy

I’ve been using Anchor.fm to distribute Vacancy as a serialized audio drama, and that platform has been amazing. It makes publishing incredibly easy, keeps stats for me, and distributes my cast out to seven other platforms!

Anchor
Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Breaker
Castbox
Overcast
Pocket Casts
RadioPublic

 

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Just to be blear, this isn’t sponsored by Anchor or anything, it’s just that the process of creating the podcast, all by myself without spending any money and trying my best to stick to a schedule, can be a little overwhelming at times, but Anchor makes publishing it so flipping easy, so I just needed to put this out there. If you’re thinking of starting a podcast, either talk radio or an audio drama, using Anchor to publish it is an amazing way to go.

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Vacancy – 1.25 – Promise

Vacancy is an ongoing web serial. Find out more about it and start reading here.

v 1.25

“They’re dead, idiot.”

Conrad winced, and thunder cracked across the sky as the third floor landing lit up. “I know. But have you been to their graves?” He was still staring out the window though it was pitch dark beyond the torrents of rain.

Byron was silent, and Lorelei studied his face in the darkness that her eyes had become used to. His lips moved, but he said nothing, as if the words were trying to come but he wouldn’t let them. His eyes softened, and for a moment she saw a striking resemblance to Conrad and almost felt sorry for him until she remembered the wooden spike hovering inches from her throat.

“You think it’s there?” Byron finally broke the steady sound of the rain on the roof.

Conrad glanced at him, his eyes flicking over Lorelei and back, then nodded.

“Would make sense,” his brother snorted, “taking it with them.” Byron snapped his head to Lorelei, and she instantly straightened, “Ladies first.”

Following his gesture, she took to the stairs, the splintered wood toying with her as she had to move toward it with each step, but it managed to leave the smallest of gaps so as to not turn her into a vampire’s fantasy. She was annoyed, but equally impressed, especially as she listened to the nonchalance in Byron’s voice, “Maybe it’s better you never joined the Omphalos; they wouldn’t appreciate how easy you made this.”

“Omphalos,” Conrad’s voice repeated behind her, “You mean the order?”

“What else would I mean?”

Lorelei saw in her mind the hilt of the sword Conrad had shown her in his office and its engraving of “OoO.” Order of Omphalos? she questioned silently, though it meant nothing to her. She ran a hand over her pocket to feel that the brooch was still there. Ms. Pennycress had signed her name with the same acronym.

Off the kitchen there was a back door that emptied them out onto a porch. The air was heavy and cold and smelled of the ocean, and when Byron’s elbow nudged her off the edge, Lorelei’s breath caught in her throat at the freezing rain. They marched across the field, the storm raging over them, until they reached the tall hedge that encircled the garden.

Conrad entered first, and Lorelei followed, keeping her eyes on his back, the shadows of the foliage and statues eerie in the distorted darkness. Deep in the garden, a set of headstones stood at the base of a thick tree trunk. Overhanging branches staved off a bit of rain, and Lorelei pushed her hair away from her face before quickly recrossing her arms to hold her own body still. She could see both brothers were staring uneasily at the stones.

“What are you even going to do with the deed?” Conrad had to shout over the rain, “Arista’s not going to just hand anything over.”

Byron’s face changed, and he eyed his brother, “It won’t be up to her.”

Conrad sneered at him then pointed to one of the stones, “There, on the back, there’s a compartment.”

Byron took wide steps around the graves, not treading directly in front of them, and leaned down behind one of the stones.

“Wait!” the urgency in Conrad’s voice made Lorelei jump. He was staring intently at his brother, and thunder cracked across the sky. They locked eyes for a long moment until Conrad sputtered, “Can you just…just tell me what happened?”

Byron put a hand on the stone and bit his lip, then let out a long sigh, “Maybe when you’re older.” Then he dipped back behind the headstone, and Conrad made a quick move to Lorelei’s side, grabbing her arm. There was a spark and Byron yelped, then a squish as he fell back against the wet earth. The spike dropped from the air at Lorelei’s feet and she instinctively threw a hand up around her throat, taking a deep breath, but was immediately back on edge when Byron shot up to his feet.

But his eyes were different, wild, and his hands were out in front of him as if he were searching in the dark for a light switch, “What the hell was that?” he cried, spinning around and looking up into the branches of the trees, “Who’s there?”

Conrad took a long step back, pulling Lorelei with him, “It’s not safe,” he shouted over the sound of the rain.

Byron swore, looking left then right and left again, crouching low and gasping for air. He backed into the tree, then cried out, jumping forward. Lorelei covered her mouth to keep from laughing.

“We gotta get outta here,” Conrad insisted, but didn’t move, his eyes locked on his brother, “They’re coming!”

Cursing, Byron eyed him, grimaced, then turned and fled into the darkness. When his figure disappeared, Conrad did the same, pulling Lorelei back out in the full brunt of the storm and through the garden in the opposite direction.

“What just happened?” she shouted after him after they’d cleared the hedge, trying to keep up with his long strides in the mud.

“Paranoia.” Lorelei could see the house through the torrents of rain and her own hair. “Arista set it years ago. I’m just thankful it still worked.”

Conrad bypassed the manor entirely on his bike, riding up to the cottage and coming to a sharp stop across three rows of what were once dahlias. He dismounted, instructing Lorelei to follow him in a voice she dared not question, and before she knew it, they were inside the cottage’s front office entryway, and he was banging on the door the lead to the rest of the house, shouting for Arista.

Lorelei had not been inside the cottage since Arista had okayed her to work at Moonlit Shores, and on a temporary basis at that so she could get rid of her easily, as Ziah had said. She glanced down at the floor and what appeared to be a very expensive carpet she was dripping mud and rainwater onto just as the door opened.

“Conrad, what on earth?” Arista’s voice was nothing like she expected, concerned and even shaking, and when she caught sight of the woman hurrying in, bleary-eyed and pulling a robe tightly around her as she reached out for Conrad’s arm, she thought she even looked motherly.

Seamus was on her heels in bright green boxer shorts and nothing else, scratching his belly and blinking out at them. He ran a hand through his fiery beard and beamed at Lorelei, “Good evening, lass!”

It was then Arista noticed Lorelei was even there, and her mouth creased into a tight frown. She stood straight and lifted her chin, “Explain. Now.”

“Is there a deed?” Conrad never blinked as he tried to catch her eye.

“A…a what?” she faltered, her eyes pingponging from Conrad to Lorelei.

“A deed. Byron said he wants the deed, but I’ve never even seen the damn thing. Is there a deed to Moonlit Shores Manor, and do you have it somewhere safe?” He somehow looked taller than normal, his green eyes intense, his jaw tight. Lorelei had never seen him like this, and she suddenly felt like she needed to sit down.

“Byron?” Arista appeared to crumple, “You spoke to Byron?”

He sighed, blinking slowly, then finally nodded.

“He’s…he’s alive?” She began to stagger backward and Seamus pushed the desk chair under her just before she fell blindly backward. “Byron’s alive.”

“And trying to take the manor from you,” Conrad lowered his voice, “So where’s the deed?”

Arista’s lip quivered then just as quickly she sat up, “We cannot discuss this in front of strangers.”

Conrad grunted, “Considering Byron just tried to kill her, I think she’s earned hearing whatever you have to say.”

“Tried to kill her? Bryon?” her mouth fell open, and then she frowned, “Well, what in the world did she do to make him try something like that?”

Lorelei sucked in a sharp breath, and Conrad stared at his aunt blankly, “I’m not my father, you know.”

Arista rolled her eyes, “Nothing like that exists.”

“He seemed pretty convinced. He tore up dad’s office looking for it.”

“He got into the house?” she squinted up to the ceiling, “The spells must have worn off. Or he’s not one of them–”

“That doesn’t matter,” Conrad slapped his hand on the desk, and they all jumped, “Is this place safe or not?”

“Yes!” she shouted, coming to her feet, “There is no paper deed, Conrad. Nothing he can get his hands on. You, on the other hand,” she crossed her arms, but softened slightly, “You know this place is yours. You just have to–”

“I know,” he relented then, turning away from her, “Listen, he’s out there, somewhere. I had him trigger the psychosis trap at the headstones so we could get away, but who knows how far he’ll run.”

“We’ll take care of it,” Seamus put a hand on Arista’s shoulder before she could say anything more. She looked like she wanted to reach out to him, but instead touched her hand to her own face.

Conrad’s eyes flickered over to Lorelei then. She had been trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, but under his gaze she felt completely exposed. He strode up to her and opened the door, nodding for her to walk out with him.

Outside, the rain was still coming down hard, but their walk to the manor was not hurried. They entered through the back, and Lorelei remembered the first time she walked into the manor, soaked to the core and afraid, but for wholly different reasons. She followed Conrad into the kitchen, the swinging door plunging them into an even deeper silence when it finally stopped. An orange light from the hood vent was all that illuminated the space, but it was enough.

Conrad’s voice cracked when he finally spoke, “I am so, so sorry, Lorelei, I–”

“It’s fine,” she stopped him with a raised hand then wiped at her face and flicked the water in the sink, “It’s not your fault. But are you okay?”

“Oh, uh, yeah,” he studied the floor.

“I’m serious,” she dipped her head to try and see his face better, “That was…a lot.”

He looked up at her then took an awkward step, closing the space between them. She stiffened as he put his arms around her, but when her chest filled up with warmth and the realization that any immediate danger was gone kicked in, she felt herself melt against him. It was nice, she thought. Very, very nice.

When he pulled back, she sighed, then caught herself. She’d stopped shivering, and lifted up her arms, completely dry, “Magic?”

He half smiled.

“How expensive was that?” she chuckled, “I could have just grabbed a towel, you didn’t really need to do that.”

“No, I definitely did.” She couldn’t be sure under the warm orange glow, but she thought she saw the color of his face change. “Anyway, I’m okay. You’re the one who almost got, well,” he ran a finger across his neck.

“I’m used to it,” she waved him away, “You can pay me back in answers.”

“Maybe tomorrow?”

“Or next week, next month,” she grinned, “We’re here, we’re safe, we have plenty of time.”

“Right,” he nodded as if he were assuring himself, “Right. Thank you.”

“Thank you.”

Lorelei watched him as he hesitated at the door then gave her a little nod before heading off for the basement. She felt dreamy as she headed for her own room, as if her feet took her there, but her mind was somewhere else. She’d almost died tonight, she thought, but that seemed like a distant memory in the wake of the brief moment in the kitchen, and her core was still warm.

The sound of the rain reached even her bedroom, in the heart of the manor, as Ziah had called it, and though she knew the man who had threatened her life was somewhere out there with plans to get into and take over Moonlit Shores Manor, she felt as safe as she did her first night there when she’d been lulled to sleep by low rolling thunder. But this time, she thought, slipping the brooch from her pocket and pressing it against her chest, this time she wanted to return the favor, and as both good sense and dumb luck would have it, she spoke this thought out loud, “I promise I’ll protect you too.”

 

Table of Contents | Season Two – Episode 1

Thank you so much for reading the first season of Vacancy! After a short month, the second season will be posted again on Mondays right here on my blog. For updates, you can follow the blog or my Twitter or Instagram for reminders of new posts.

If you enjoyed the first season, and if you want other people to know about it, consider reviewing it over at the Web Fiction Guide or at Muse’s Success, and while you’re there, look around for other serials you might like!

Vacancy – 1.05 – Alone Into The Woods

Vacancy is an ongoing web serial. Find out more about it and start reading here.

You can also listen to this episode here.

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The afternoon sun fell in wobbly blotches across the grass, cutting between the oaks that had sprung up all over the yard decades prior. Lorelei rushed across to the barn, this time empty-handed, but happily laden with direction. She found Ren, bent at the waist and staring at a large bird perched on a rail inside the structure. The bird’s sharp eyes were locked on the man’s. Neither moved.

Lorelei took a careful step toward them, her foot falls quiet on the hay. Then there was a screech, and the odd little hatchling that she had delivered to him that morning popped its head out of Ren’s pocket. The man gently guided it back down without looking away from the massive hawk that was staring him down. Finally, Lorelei cleared her throat. Ren still did not look away, “Yes?”

“Ziah sent me.”

The bird puffed itself up, its chest dotted with brown and gold feathers expanding.

Ren mimicked the creature, standing to his full height and taking in a deep breath. “Oh?” He sounded mostly disinterested.

“Yes, she told me to come to you and get the cart so I can get the luggage.”

“Did she?” He raised a nearly white eyebrow, and the bird appeared to mimic him.

“And she had a message for you. She said she needed your help with something tonight.”

“Hm?” Ren looked at her then, and in the moment he broke their gaze, the bird took flight, nipping the point of his long, extended ear. He grunted and pulled away, and Lorelei swore the bird laughed as it swooped out though the open doors at the back of the barn.

“That’s all she said?” he asked, a hand cupped over the side of his face.

“Yeah, super vague, I know.” Lorelei shrugged and offered a laugh which Ren did not return.

“Well,” he looked away again, his interest piqued and past, “I’m a bit surprised she’d ask you, but I suppose it’s simple enough.”

He turned and went to the back of the barn, and Lorelei followed, though she was unsure if she should. From the shadows of the stalls, errant noises sounded, perhaps like horses, perhaps like something she couldn’t begin to imagine.

On the other side of the building, a wagon was parked, four-wheeled with a tented roof. It was charming, with old painted sides in red and purple flowers, faded from the elements. At its head was a makeshift bench that served as a seat, and a yoke to which Ren was fastening an animal.

Lorelei caught her breath at the sight. Not horses, but massive stags were strapped to the cart, their antlers crawling up to the sky. They were very still as Ren fastened the yoke, and she stepped toward them and reached out a hand to touch the velvety length of an antler, but then it turned a black eye on her, and she froze.

Ren barely noticed, “Here you are, then.” He motioned to the cart and took a step back.

She hesitated, “But I’ve never…driven deer before.”

He shook his head as one of the stags pawed at the dirt, “I assure you, no one else has either. They know the way.”

Lorelei hoisted herself onto the cart, and settled in, turning to Ren, “Thank you.”

He scrunched up his face as if he wanted to say something, but the creature in his pocket chirped at him, and seemed to break the thought he was having. “Don’t go wandering.”

She glanced ahead and could see a worn path leading down from the barn, through a field, and into a dense treeline. “I don’t intend to.”

The stags traveled at a quick rate, gracefully pulling the cart along the flattened path. Wind swept back the sprays of Lorelei’s hair that were uncontained in the bun atop her head as they went, the forest gently humming all around. She breathed in the piney scent and smiled up at the sun’s warmth breaking through the branches. Without human voices to speak with or tasks to complete, time lost meaning, and before she realized, the forest had become denser and darker, and the sounds changed. She spoke to the stags with a chuckle in her voice, “You do know where you’re going, right?”

They glanced back at her with a huff, but continued on. Lorelei stammered out an apology and sat back.

The darkness wasn’t wholly unnerving, the bounce of the cart lulling her into some kind of calm, but the question of what lay beyond in the shadows left her on edge. She wiggled her toes and drummed her fingers, sitting with her back pressed firmly to the seat. There weren’t birds singing out here, she noted, and the stags were slowing. Was she there, wherever there was? Ziah hadn’t told her, had she? No, she’d just sent her off, alone, into the woods.

Lorelei swallowed hard.

Then there was movement in the trees, a soft rustling that grew quickly as the something beyond the ferns came closer. Lorelei held the reins tight and, unblinking, stared at the dark foliage before them. The stags had come to a complete halt, but her heart was flying a mile a minute.

A glow, shimmering white light, parted the leaves, though how a light could become corporeal and affect the physical world, Lorelei had no idea, but that wasn’t the exact thought she was having. No, it was more of a What the hell? kind of thought. A creature emerged from behind the light with a soft, silvery glow and the very obvious shape and build of a horse, but atop its head from between its ears, a golden horn protruded.

The creature stood at the path’s edge, black eyes locked on the cart. The stags moved then, tipping their heads down, and the white animal returned the nod then continued ahead of them across the path before its glow was swallowed up completely by the dark leaves on the other side.

Lorelei sat, mouth agape, as the stags continued on. They were back to a normal pace almost immediately and she wondered if she’d hallucinated. Broken from her trance, she whipped around, but there was no trace left of the animal. “Did you two see that?” she rubbed her eyes, still searching the wood for any sign. They did not respond.

The rest of the trip was a blur for Lorelei, more dark forest, but the fear replaced by wonder, until finally the path ahead changed, leading to a cave. The mouth of it was quite wide and tall, but inside it fell into total darkness. Without hesitation, the stags led her within.

A gentle, yellow glow of something crystalline jutting out from the earthen walls lit the opening, but the way ahead betrayed nothing. With a glance back at the shrinking light of the entryway, Lorelei squeezed the yoke’s reins tight, and pulled her knees up closer to her chest. The darkness closed in around her and silence filled up the cave as even the sound of the stags’ hooves fell away. She tried to grip the reins tighter, but they seemed to just be floating in her hands. She couldn’t feel the seat beneath her, and the air had lost its chill, a breeze, everything. For a moment, Lorelei was unsure if she even existed at all.

Then there was light, dim and blue, but all around her. She glanced up to see a ceiling high above, curved walls coming down to a floor laid with large, mismatched tile. Lights hung on the walls projecting a sapphire cast over the place, and benches dotted the way. In the massive room’s center was a giant divot running across its length and through a tunnel at each end. Somehow, despite entering a cave, she’d ended up inside what she could only call a train station.

“Finally come for the luggage?”

Lorelei jumped at the creaking voice. An elderly man leaned against the wall just beside where she had entered. He wore dirtied coveralls and a deep frown, but his eyes twinkled when she met them.

“Yes.” She did her best to sound like she knew what she was doing, simple and to the point, she thought, would pull that off.

“Them dwarves is like a hurricane,” he remarked, pushing himself off the wall with great effort as the stags rounded the cart up to him, “Don’t recognize you though.”

“Oh, uh, Lorelei,” she gestured to herself, “Ziah sent me.”

“Well you don’t gotta brag,” he waved her off the cart, and she jumped down. “They brought lots, might take some time.”

Around a corner, the man pulled back a sliding door onto which “Moonlit Shores Manor: Luggage Depository” was carved. Inside, a mountain of bags, boxes, and suitcases was piled taller than Lorelei herself, the uppermost pieces teetering dangerously. There were many, but they were at least small.

Her eyes big, then determined, Lorelei reached for a bag at waist height that didn’t appear to be too load bearing, and slid it from the pile, knowing she had to start somewhere. It came out with ease, but the moment it did not have others supporting it, its full weight became realized, and Lorelei crashed to the ground under it with a yelp. What were these dwarves traveling with? Rocks?

The old man laughed deeply from his belly, “Nope, you’re not going to be able to move these, I reckon.”

She grimaced, but held back the desire to ask how he planned to move them if she couldn’t. Not responding also likely had something to do with the weight that was crushing her chest.

Her answer came then in the form of the walls shaking. An earthquake was coming upon them suddenly and without mercy, but only the wall closest to them seemed to be suffering any damage. Bricks broke away from the wall, crumbling into a fine dust onto the tile, but leaving behind two clearly defined forms. Man-shaped stone creatures stepped out onto the tile with slow, meticulous steps, leaving giant-shaped holes in the wall. The stags were unphased, but Lorelei squeaked up at the newly animated beings without words. One came to her and lifted the bag from atop her with bulky, brick fingers and gently placed it in the cart.

“Might be a bit,” the old man laughed and settled down on a bench nearby. Lorelei nodded and picked herself up; she could see they moved the luggage with no effort, but they were incredibly slow. Without eyes, she didn’t know how they saw, and without ears, she didn’t know how they were called, and without organic material, she didn’t know how they were alive, but at this point she’d given up trying to reason anything. She’d see a unicorn for crying out loud, so she just turned away to admire the building.

The terminal was otherwise empty, and she walked its length. She could see from where she’d come there was an archway that appeared to lead into a black tunnel, but she knew, if anything would make any kind of sense, it would spit her back out into the forest. Above it hung a sign that read simply “Moonlit Shores.” Two other archways were in the station, one reading “Hagan’s Academy” and the other “Bexley.” She stood in front of the center archway and stared up at it. If she traveled down it, where would it lead? Presumably to Hagan’s Academy, as the sign read, but it appeared to go in the same direction as the Moonlit Shores archway. How did it work? Farther down the archway she thought she saw movement, a light perhaps, or a shadow, and she took a step toward it.

The terminal exploded into life. Bodies were suddenly coming out of the archway and knocking into her, pushing her toward the platform. A rush of sound hit her, many voices all at once, talking and shouting, and she felt herself be turned so that she was staring at the large opening in the middle of the space. Then a gust of wind flew by, pulling at every part of her. If she had been alone, she thought she would have been sucked right down along the path, but instead, the great tug finally released her and instead of the hole in the ground, a bullet-shaped train sat before her.

The doors opened and more bodies piled out of it, tall, short, wide, thin, and seamlessly traded places with those that had been standing on the platform. Lorelei was jostled about, the only real wrench in the otherwise smooth moving machine that was the platform’s transition, and she was eventually and unceremoniously shoved to the back with more than a few sneers. In an instant, the bodies loaded themselves up, and the train’s doors closed. There was another flash of wind and the train disappeared.

Lorelei spun around to see those that had disembarked filing through the three archways, barely stopping to admire the station. Just as quickly as they came, they were all gone, leaving her alone again with the stone creatures and the old man and the cart pulled by two stags of which no one had even stopped to take a picture.

Lorelei found herself staring up at the Hagan’s Academy archway again. Many had gone through, both in and out, but she was as alone now as she’d been moments prior. She took a step into the archway and the darkness. Her footsteps sounded hollow and echoed down the tunnel. She took another step in, Ren’s warning forgotten. The light from the station dimmed behind her and she took another step and then was met with a moving wall.

From her spot on the floor, Lorelei looked up to see two wide eyes peeking over an open book he’d obviously just been reading. While walking. The jerk.

“Maybe I should just stay down here. I think gravity wants me on the ground,” she mumbled to herself, sitting up.

“So sorry,” his voice was low but panicked as he dropped the book at her side. She cocked her head to read the title, Theoretical Necromantic Pharmacology, then took a steady breath, bracing herself to look up at whatever odd creature might be staring down at her.

Lorelei was somewhat startled to see there was nothing outwardly odd looking about the man. In fact, he was so normal looking, she cringed at herself for thinking otherwise.

He pulled back, biting a lip, brows furrowed over green eyes. A few days scruff covered his jaw and his hair was pulled back in a short, messy ponytail, and he wore a look that suggested he was genuinely sorry.

Lorelei grabbed the book and hopped up. He was significantly taller than her, but not so tall as Ren, not that anyone would be. “No harm done,” she handed off the book to him, “Heavy.”

Taking the tome, then locking eyes with her, he shortened the distance between them in an instant, and Lorelei felt herself frozen under his gaze. Her heartbeat thumped in her ears and she feared he could hear it too. Looking on him for longer, she studied his jaw, his eyes, the way his hair fell, and concluded, as most would, that he was particularly handsome, if in a sort of off-putting way, and simultaneously realized that without showering that morning, cleaning up goop all day, and running everywhere, she must look absolutely disgusting. Color rose in her cheeks, and the man took in a sharp breath, shaking his head, “I’m sorry, what?”

“Uh,” she stammered, finally letting go of the book, “The book. It’s heavy.” What a stupid thing to say, she thought, only the kind of thing people who don’t read say.

He raised a thick brow, “Oh, right, well turns out there’s lots to know about keeping the dead alive…theoretically.” He chuckled to himself and she did as well, hoping that had been a joke, but feeling in the pit of her gut it wasn’t, then he gestured over his shoulder, “Were you headed to class?”

“No,” she answered quickly, remembering Ren’s warning not to wander. This is what happens, she chastised herself silently, you run into a hot guy and he thinks you’re in high school. She scowled, “I’m twenty three.”

“Are you,” he paused and looked her up and down, “lost?”

Lorelei felt she should be offended, but admitted to herself she probably did look that way. Still, she couldn’t help but return the up and down he’d given her. The man carried a bag over one shoulder and wore a long, brown coat with many pockets. Plenty of places to keep that book. She huffed, “No.”

“Well, I’d offer you a tour of the place as apology for the, uh, knock down, but my ride’s here.” He gestured to the cart Lorelei had ridden in on.

“Your ride?”

He nodded, looking around the empty station, “Though I don’t see Grier anywhere–”

“That’s my ride.”

 

Table of Contents  |  Next Installment

 

Hey, are you enjoying Vacancy? If so, and if you want other people to know about it, consider reviewing it over at the Web Fiction Guide or at Muse’s Success, and while you’re there, look around for other serials you might like!

Reminder: Vacancy is coming back on January 1st!

This may only be exciting for me, but I’m very proud to announce that my serial fiction is coming back starting Monday, January 1, 2018!

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Vacancy is a supernatural, fantasy fiction serial I began posting to the blog way back in 2016, then used as my project for NaNoWriMo 2017 and am planning to begin posting again every Monday starting January 1st.

The story follows Lorelei Fischer as she happens upon a mysterious inn, Moonlit Shores Manor, while escaping a life she wishes to leave behind. Can she secure a job at the bizarre bed and breakfast amidst its cooky inhabitants and, if so, will she even want to stay?

If you’d like to catch up or begin reading, there are currently four posts:

Vacancy – 1.01
Vacancy – 1.02
Vacancy – 1.03
Vacancy – 1.04

And many more to come, weekly, on the blog!

It Didn’t Say Juicy On The Butt

Since it’s the spookiest season of all, I thought I might share a little true tale of horror with you because, Dear Reader, I feel I haven’t revealed how truly fucked up I am yet.

I would preface this by saying that yes, I believe in certain supernatural things, but I also believe that I cannot possible understand these things so the names I give to them and my perceptions of them are basically irrelevant. What I do know is some fucked up shit has happened to me that I haven’t been able to explain. Doesn’t mean someone else couldn’t explain it had they been there, and I’m totally open to other explanations, but from where I sit, the paranormal is real if not terribly prolific or photogenic.

But, Dear Reader, I digress. This is probably the least fucked up thing, so it’s an easy one to start you with. This happening occurred on neither a dark nor stormy night. In fact, it was midday with very pleasant weather. It was as unspooky as it could be and in a lot of ways that made this whole thing spookier in the end. At the time, I lived in a very suburban neighborhood with an HOA and everything. Again, the spooky factor was super low. Like half a skeleton out of ten.

I was, what some folks like to call, “between jobs” at the time. I like to refer to it as my sabbatical where I transitioned out of the hell hole that is healthcare (but my time in healthcare is too spooky to talk about now, like eleven skeletons out of ten plus one Frankenstein’s monster). I used to take walks around the neighborhood by myself during the day and came to expect certain things–overgrown yards, broken up sidewalks, poor parking jobs (the HOA apparently focused all of its ire on me, so it didn’t have time for anyone else), and it was always quite quiet, so any movement got my attention.

I saw a car pull into a driveway. The most innocuous thing. I was walking toward the house it had parked in front of from the opposite side of the street but was still a few houses down from said driveway. I watched a woman get out of the driver’s side of the car. She wore a pink tracksuit and was blonde, reminiscent of Paris Hilton circa 2002, except she was very tall and broad shouldered.

The way most of the houses were built in the neighborhood had the front door recessed down a pathway, sheltered on either side by the garage and some other room. So, if I am walking toward the house from down the street, as I was, a person could disappear around the corner of the garage and into the walkway toward the entrance. This is what happened.

So no biggie, right? I’m still walking in the direction of the house, nothing strange, but I do hear some voices, high, excited voices, so it’s pretty obvious the woman walked down the way and knocked on the door and someone answered. At this point, I am parallel with the house, so if I glance to my left, I can see down that walkway to the people there and the front door. So I do. There’s a man and a woman in the doorway, facing out, welcoming the woman to their home.

But it’s not the same woman. (Spookiness intensifies!)

Ok, so we got like 3/10 skeletons here. I’m staring at the back of this woman’s head which is now brunette, she’s wearing something dark like jeans and a black shirt, and she’s much smaller–narrow shoulders and short. This is weird, I think, and I’m just confused, but I’m not thoroughly spooked yet. That happened when she turned around.

As the couple went inside, the Amazing Changing Lady glanced back at me, and I went cold. Admittedly, I have a problem with looking people in the eye, and that is exactly what she did, somehow from all the way across the road, two sidewalks, a lawn, and a walkway. It was kind of horrifying, but as I was still walking, a scurried away and out of her sight almost immediately.

I booked it home at a solid 5.87 skellies and thought hard about what could have happened. Was there a second person in the car? Was that just someone from inside the home? Were there shadows in the walkway playing tricks on me? None of these seemed plausible at the time, and they still don’t since it all happened so quickly. And what happened, if you put a name to it, would be some kind of shape-shifting, which is not a kind of supernatural thing that I actually believe in. Ghosts? Of course. Demons? Why not? Aliens? Not even supernatural, just plain real! But shapeshifters? Go back to Stephanie Meyer, please. You’re not even the cool kind that turns into an animal, you went from one generic lady to another! Boring.

So after writing it out, it doesn’t sound all that spooky, like a couple hand bones and a tibia at best. Maybe a tooth too. But in that moment it was very scary. I was sure she was going to come for me later, but so far no dice. Though, I guess if she’s a shapeshifter, she could be anyone, anywhere. Just waiting. But only if you believe in that sort of thing.

Vacancy – 1.04 – This Should Be A Breeze

Vacancy is an ongoing web serial. Find out more about it and start reading from the beginning here.

You can also listen to this episode here.

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 The guests were so packed with energy that Lorelei thought the whole room might break off and fly away from the manor. They were only six and on average stood level with her, well, hips, but their voices were deep and personalities huge.

Ziah gave a short welcoming speech and quickly directed them to the table so that in a matter of seconds they were seated and skewering hunks of meat and bread with whatever pointed utensil was closest. She explained over their rumble the origin of the cider, and they each took a stein to their lips. The room went silent as cups were drained then slammed onto the table, the group erupting in a raucous cheer, reaching past one another to pour themselves more.

“Lass!” the first who’d introduced himself to Lorelei turned from his seat and motioned to her, his accent even thicker than Seamus’s, and his smile wider. “You muss hava draught o this!” He offered her his stein, tiny eyes twinkling in a sea of bushy, chestnut hair.

She glanced at Ziah who was shaking her head, then back at the man, “No, thank you, but I can’t.”

“Aww,” he cocked his head, the two braids of his mustache swinging down into his great beard, tied off at the end with a green cord, “Come on, now!” He wore a suit with blue pinstripes, a yellow vest beneath, and one of his ears glittered with hoop piercings down its outer rim. He had small, round features enveloped in dark brown hair that was pulled into a ponytail at the nape of his neck.

“That’s very kind, but–” and then her stomach took that very inopportune moment to growl loud enough to be heard over the racket of the room.

The man shouted with glee, and a few of the others followed suit. He slipped down from his chair and waddled over to her, pushing her onto the bench beside his own seat. Lorelei shot a wild-eyed look at Ziah who was smirking, but just as she crossed her arms and leaned back, another of the men grabbed her elbow and dragged her to the table as well.

“Here, have that, lass,” the little man pressed a fork into Lorelei’s hand, a hunk of meat covered in a white, steaming sauce on its end. She looked to Ziah for permission, but the woman was busy trying to get another to stop pouring her a stein. Seamus sat at the head of the table and was already indulging himself. With a shrug, she popped it into her mouth, and the man cheered. “Now it’s a real party!”

Senses overwhelmed, Lorelei lost track of time. There had been singing, some even in languages she recognized, but mostly the sounds of foods being devoured and approving words. Eventually, Ziah stood, “Gentlemen, if you’ll please excuse us, we’re going to check on your rooms.”

The men let out a dramatic, collective groan, and Ziah hiccuped, then they cheered once again. Lorelei popped up from the table, or tried, the weight in her belly almost pulling her back down. As Seamus distracted them, the women slipped out the door at the room’s end, and Ziah fell against it with a sigh.

“Dwarves,” she moaned quietly, “they’re exhausting.”

“Dwarves?” Lorelei looked up and down the little hall they’d entered into, but it was empty, “I don’t think you’re supposed to call them that.”

“Hm?” the woman blinked as if seeing her for the first time, “Oh, no, probably not human ones.” She pushed herself off the door and began walking at a quick pace again.

Lorelei followed and they came out into the main foyer again. Grier leaned against the counter, still human, but perked up when he saw them.

“Stay,” she said to him, pointing to the desk, “and not a word to anyone about–” she motioned to Lorelei, “or so help me…”

“You’ll what?” Grier raised the brow over his whitened eye.

She grimaced, “You won’t like it.”

“Try me!” he shouted after her, but the women were already halfway up the stairs.

Ziah pressed a small, gold button set into the wall at the head of the stairs. She leaned into the grate above it, “Bur, how’s it coming?”

There’s was a shuffling sound from the other end, a knock, a yelp, then a small, feminine voice squeaked back, “How do you think?”

Ziah made a face at Lorelei, “Come on now, your team’s the best there is. It can’t be that bad!”

The voice grunted, “Well, of course!” Ziah winked. “But we could use some help. The dragon suite. Can you get that one for us?”

“Anything for you, dear.” The woman shrugged, motioning to Lorelei that it would be easy.

“And you know the Blue Room is empty, right?”

Ziah paused, opening and closing her mouth, “Yes, um, leave that one as is for now.”

Down a hall and up another flight, they came to a wing a bit grander than the others. Double doors lined the corridor, and each had different etchings running along the frames. They came to stop before a room with flames carved into the wood.

“I can’t remember who stayed here,” Ziah fished in her pocket and pulled out a key, “but this should be a breeze.”

The smell hit them first–wet, hot, rotting–and Lorelei gagged, her overly full belly even more of a burden. She feared looking in, but couldn’t look away once she did. A thick, green pus coated the surfaces, flecks of something yellow and metallic suspended within. Steam rose up from the floors, and the constant drip of water came from somewhere deep inside the room.

Lorelei’s jaw dropped, “How?”

“You don’t want to know.” Ziah trudged in and assessed the mess further, “We’re going to need a very large bucket.”

The woman showed Lorelei the best way to scrub to remove the goo, and side-by-side they worked their way around the room, Ziah mumbling something about trickery, and how she should have suspected this. They stripped the bed and Ziah loaded Lorelei up with the linens and towels, the foul, hot smell enveloping her. She found her way down the hall to a laundry chute at its end, and with one free finger, pulled the little, metal door open.

A beam of light shot out from the darkness, and she jumped back, the door snapping shut, the linens tripping her. Planted on the ground, she pulled them off her face and looked up and down the hall, but the light was gone. On all fours, Lorelei crept back to the chute, carefully pulling it open at arm’s length. There was a dull glow inside, and then in the midst of the light, she could make out a tiny face connected to a tiny body, the whole being no taller than her hand. It scowled at her and spoke, “Rude.”

Lorelei squealed and jumped back again, but this time the door was caught open, and the being flitted out by way of a pair of iridescent wings. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“B…bedsheets?” Lorelei barely mustered, pointing to the green-stained linens all over the floor.

The tiny person’s face went red, and she sped past Lorelei so close she felt the wind off her wings. She turned to follow, then stopped, unable to leave the linens strewn about. After a long look to be sure it was empty, she shoved them down the chute and ran back to the room to find the tiny woman hovering just before Ziah’s face. They’d been trading angry whispers but stopped when she entered.

“You can’t say anything.”

“I’m not going to have to,” the winged woman spat out, “You can feel it pouring out of her!”

You can feel it,” Ziah dropped the last of the cleaning supplies into the bucket, “but not everyone’s as sensitive as your kind. And there’s a lot of energy in the manor, so I think for the time being–”

“You’re underestimating Arista,” she took a tiny finger and poked Ziah on the nose so that the woman gasped, “You know that, don’t you?”

Ziah glanced at Lorelei then took up the bucket, “You can finish in here?”

The flighted woman nodded, and Ziah walked out. She had so many questions, but her host seemed too overwhelmed for any of them, so Lorelei silently followed her down to the foyer again where Grier snapped to attention and started whining about hunger. Ziah dismissed him with a little muttered apology and stepped behind the counter herself. “Oh my gods,” she held up the lilac paper Lorelei had placed on the desk hours before, “Where did this come from?”

“An older lady gave me that for bringing her things down,” Lorelei motioned to where the boxes had been stacked, “She must have left.” When Ziah didn’t respond, Lorelei went on, explaining sheepishly how she helped the woman and how she’d ended up outside.

“Well, here,” Ziah offered it to her.

“What is it?”

“Your first tip, apparently,” then Ziah gasped, “Is it really noon? The rest should be here any second and their luggage! Damn it, Grier! Why can’t he remember anything? Why can’t I remember anything?” She slammed her hands down on the desk and bit her lip in that way again, distress creeping into her eyes, the sure air about her from before unraveling.

Lorelei felt a heaviness set in her own chest at the look the woman wore. “How can I help?”

“You’ve done enough,” she said quietly.

“Please,” Lorelei leaned into the counter, “I want to help.”

The door opened, a bright light pouring in on them. Short guests speaking over one another piled into the entryway, their voices filling up the space.

Ziah snapped her head to Lorelei, “Go out to Ren, take the cart, get the luggage, bring it back here.”

“Oh, uh, yes!” Lorelei stood a little straighter, “I can do that!”

“Good,” Ziah nodded, the circles under her eyes a little deeper, “Oh, and, if you could, please tell Ren I’ll, um, need his assistance tonight.”

“Sure,” she smiled and waited, but when the woman said no more, so stuttered, “So I’ll just say you need his help for…?”

“He’ll know,” she yawned then waved her away.

Lorelei turned on her heel and hurried back through the dining room and out onto the porch with the barn in her sights. She knew she couldn’t let Ziah down.

 

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Hey, are you enjoying Vacancy? If so, and if you want other people to know about it, consider reviewing it over at the Web Fiction Guide or at Muse’s Success, and while you’re there, look around for other serials you might like!

Vacancy – 1.03 – What It’s Thinking

Vacancy is an ongoing web serial. Find out more about it and start reading from the beginning here.

You can also listen to this episode here.

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Lorelei came to with Ziah’s hand pressed against her face. Her brow was furrowed with worry, and she bit a pouty lip. Straw slid under her hands as she tried to push herself up, and Ziah helped her lean against a pole in the barn.

Seamus’s voice echoed, sounding far off, “Oh, gods, have we broken her?”

“No,” Ziah spoke in a hushed tone and brushed Lorelei’s hair away from her face, “Not yet.”

“I’ve seen that before.” Lorelei focused on the boy standing over Ziah’s shoulder. He wore a slightly annoyed look and save for his dark hair falling in shaggy curls about his face, the teen looked nothing like a dog. A long scar ran from his forehead down to his cheek, the eye in its center milky, distorting the pupil. He snarled, “That’s a human, isn’t it?”

The woman shook her head, “She’s not staying, don’t worry. I know people come here to get away from her kind.”

Lorelei felt nauseated, but not at a loss for offense, even if she had no idea what they meant. She tried focusing back on Ziah, the woman’s mass of black hair haloing around her like a great shadow, but she couldn’t muster any words.

“You like humans well enough,” Seamus said with a little laugh, and Lorelei could make out his pudgy form standing behind Ziah.

“Sure I do,” the woman fanned at Lorelei’s face, “but it’s a unique sentiment to have around here. She can’t hack it, I mean, she fainted at the sight of Grier.”

“Yeah, but that’s what happens to all the ladies,” the boy grinned, squatting down next to her and sticking his nose inches from Lorelei’s, “You wanna scratch behind my ears? It really gets my foot thumping.” She tried recoiling, but instead just banged her head on the pole behind her.

Ziah grabbed the front of his shirt and shoved him with a force that shocked Lorelei, throwing the boy so that he skidded backward in the hay. She acted as if she had exerted no energy at all, “If Seamus would have just let me memory blot her to begin with, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Now it’s going to be doubly hard.”

Lorelei’s vision finally stabilized, though now her head throbbed. She saw the tall man, Ren he’d been called, come to stand beside Seamus. Pushing silvery hair behind an ear with one hand revealing its length once more, he held the newly-hatched creature with too many limbs in his other, “I’m no apothecarian, Ziah, but memory blotting is said to be very dangerous, not to mention that’s not exactly your forte. What do you plan on doing with her after?”

Ziah glanced over her shoulder, “Well, send her on her way, of course.”

“To where?” His voice was flat, and he stood very still. “She may not remember where she was going or from where she came.”

“Well, that’s the idea.”

Before she came to us.” The creature he held made a little but piercing chirp.

Though Lorelei thought she might like to forget from where she’d come before the manor, she didn’t dare say that aloud. When Ziah looked back to her, her eyes were hollow, her skin a bit sallow, and the smile she had worn the night before was gone. She was still beautiful, but she looked as though she had weathered a great storm.

“There are side effects as well: sudden blackouts, long-term memory loss, personality changes,” he looked down his long nose at Lorelei, “It seems you would be possibly wrecking one of the…acceptable humans and sending her off into danger. Perhaps we should consult Conrad for an alternative.”

“No!” Ziah cut the air with her hand, “No one else can know about this,” she glared at the boy who was still picking himself up off the ground, “Enough already do.”

“The manor did open itself up to her,” Seamus ventured carefully, clasping his hands before him, “Maybe, well…she can’t be all human, can she?”

“I don’t know,” Ziah growled from the back of her throat, and Lorelei could have sworn she saw a flicker of red flash in her dark eyes, “It’s your manor, don’t you know?”

He laughed, “Oh, dear, no: I don’t pretend to know what it’s thinking.”

The woman rolled her eyes and mumbled something less than complementary as Seamus went on. Ren’s voice hummed another suggestion, and Grier leaned in to Ziah and began to complain that he could be trusted with secrets as he told her one he’d never shared before. Their voices stacked atop one another until Lorelei could understand none of it. With a groan, she sat up a little straighter, “Um, excuse me?” When they only got louder, she cleared her throat and tried again, “Is anyone interested in what I’m thinking?”

All four sets of eyes fell on her and as they went silent, she could feel her heart thumping against her chest just as the hatchling had done earlier. “Well, uh,” she swallowed, “I was thinking I could stay.”

“Splendid!” Seamus threw his hands up and clapped Ren on the back. The tall man’s face changed, nostrils flaring and lips in a snarl, but only for an instant.

“Lorelei,” Ziah spoke very carefully, putting a hand on her shoulder, “What do…what do you think is happening here?”

Lorelei looked from Ziah’s otherworldly beauty, to the seven plus foot man with pointed ears, to the man with a flame-colored goatee, to the scarred boy who had only very recently been a dog. She squinted, “Aliens?”

The boy immediately burst into hysterics and threw himself onto his back again. Seamus chuckled and Ren’s lips may have even twitched, but Ziah cocked her head, “Would you be okay with that?”

“Well,” Lorelei thought a moment. The place was obviously secluded and perhaps even unreachable by anyone else. It was almost ideal if not for the nagging feeling that its inhabitants might permanently damage her in trying to get rid of her. She swallowed, “You haven’t, like, vaporized me yet. So yeah, aliens are fine.” The woman’s face softened, and Lorelei saw her chance, “And you have that open position. You said you need someone, and I need a job.”

“Well, we’re not aliens,” Ziah laughed lightly through her nose, color coming into her cheeks, “And it’s not quite as easy as that.”

“Sure it is!” Seamus leaned forward, grabbing Ziah’s shoulders, “You’re hired!”

The woman shook him off, “Gods, Seamus! And what’s Arista going to say?”

Suddenly, the look on his face ran away, and he fell into a shadowy grimace, “Didn’t think a tha…”

Lorelei screwed up her courage, pushing herself up onto her knees and with Ziah’s help came to stand before them. “Look,” she narrowed her brow, making her best serious face, “I can’t go back to where I came from, and I…I don’t have anywhere else to go. I don’t even,” she felt a sudden wave of sadness as the words came, realizing the truth for the first time, “I don’t even have anyone to tell anything to, so your secrets–government experiments, mutants, whatever–are safe with me.”

They were left in a somber silence. The girl looked at their faces again, an odd mixture of guilt and unease across them. Any fear she might have felt before at their strangeness left her.

“Ziah!” A small voice sounded from the yard as the girl from the kitchen came jogging up to them. Her face was red and eyes watery, and she grabbed the side of the barn with a huff, “Some of the men from the convention are here.”

Ziah’s eyes widened, “The convention,” and she slapped her forehead.

“They’re kind of grumpy.” Hotaru bit her lip.

The woman rolled her eyes, “Of course they are. Grab some cider, the strongest stuff, and bring it to the white room.”

“How many bottles? There’s six of them.”

“Twelve.” Ziah changed suddenly, her voice less ragged as she focused on those around her, “Grier, help her, and on the way let Bur know we’re going to need those rooms a lot earlier than we thought, probably in about three hours. Seamus, you can keep them distracted for a few minutes, right? Don’t mention that they’re early, just be your charming self. Ren, can you grab a sample of the latest harvest, and get it to the white room? No greens; root veggies and stuff we can ferment only. Then, um, make yourself scarce. And if anyone hands any of you a rock, just take it: trust me.” The group looked at her with wide eyes for a moment then she huffed, “Well, get going!” With that, they scattered.

“And you,” Ziah rounded on Lorelei and she stood very straight in response, “I need your help.”

Ziah’s long strides were difficult to keep pace with as they crossed the yard to the side porch of the manor. They entered into a short hall that lead to a storeroom filled with foods, but swept by too quickly for Lorelei to take note of anything but a spicy, earthy smell, like freshly cut grass sprinkled with paprika. The kitchen lay on the other side where the chef was leaning over a large, bubbling pot. “Ando, can you whip up something meaty in a hurry?”

“Oh, little girl is back,” the chef pointed his ladle at Lorelei, thick brown gravy flicking off its end, “but she’s not got my eggs, still!”

Ziah ignored him, rummaging around the shelves, “Maybe like a fondue situation?”

“You sure about that?”

The woman revealed three loaves of crusty bread, “If it’s hot they’re less likely to throw it.” Then, she slung the loaves at him.

Ando grabbed each out of the air in succession, holding all three up. That’s when Lorelei saw, he had three–no–four arms. But there was no time to react, as Ziah rushed her out of the kitchen and through a side door into another hall, and, really after seeing a dog turn into a boy, what was a couple more arms? From somewhere on the other side of the wall, a chorus of gruff voices sounded, but Ziah was undeterred from her course, taking them around a corner and into another room.

The white room was just that: white. Its walls were bare above dark wainscotting and save for some rather sad, folded furniture stacked in the corner, it was empty. “The tables, set them up in a long row just here.” Lorelei didn’t hesitate to oblige and went for the furniture, but the moment she touched them she was zapped.

She recoiled, stuck her finger in her mouth, then shook her head and went for them again. Again, she felt electricity, but this time it buzzed through her, almost pleasantly like the nighttime hum of a car’s backseat on a road trip. The two moved the pieces into the room’s center, circling the table with simple foldout chairs. It was not a very impressive sight.

“Good,” Ziah nodded, though Lorelei thought it was nothing in comparison to the colorful, eclectic dining room she’d been in earlier. “Now stand back.” Beside the door they had entered was a single light switch, though the room had no fixtures. “We’re looking for something rugged, sturdy, just very…masculine.” Then she flipped the switch.

The room came alive with a jolt through the air. Light flashed before them, and a sound like crumbling buildings emanated from behind the walls. Lorelei froze, and the room around her moved. The white plaster replaced itself with rough-cut stones, vines crawling in through their cracks. A massive, iron fixture formed on the ceiling and thick, yellowed candles on it sparked to life. The tables shook, growing sturdy, dark legs covered in knotted bark, and iron bars grew from the backs of the chairs into rough angled shapes.

Lorelei blinked. She wanted to again touch the table, to feel the wood and know it was real, to run her hands across the walls and pluck a leaf off the vines, to scratch at one of the bowls laid on the table and smell the clay, but Ziah’s voice broke her just as she was about to take a step. “Too rugged,” she said to, apparently, the room, “Maybe take it back a notch.” She flipped the switch again.

The air sizzled, the walls cracked, and there was another blinding light. The stone on the walls crumbled away into dust, leaving behind a pink floral patterned wallpaper. The plates replaced themselves with delicate, white pieces, fluted champagne glasses and gold utensils on either side. Lacy tulle shot out from the ceiling in swooping pastels and the faint sound of birds floated somewhere in the farthest corners of the room, but none were seen.

“Very funny,” Ziah smirked, glancing at Lorelei, and she returned it. “It knows what I mean. Once more, shall we?”

With a final flip of the switch, the room changed again. This time, a deep maroon color dripped down the walls, painting over the pinks, and landscape paintings and ancient weaponry expanded from nothingness to hang there. The tables twisted into a sturdy oak, and the chairs melted together into communal benches with intricate carvings of deer and evergreens. The champagne flutes shifted themselves in steins, and at the far end of the room there was a pop and a stone fireplace roared to life.

“That’s more like it.”

Of course there were no words, and even if she could find them, Lorelei knew she couldn’t muster the voice to say them. Instead, she blinked, felt her heart pound, and knew, at the very least, the people she’d met today were probably not government experiments. This was the kind of technology that should have already been monopolized upon.

The door behind them opened, and Hotaru and Grier entered with armfulls of thick bottles full of a buttery-colored liquid. “Bur’s a little pissy.” Grier told them as he placed the bottles along the table.

“Yeah, well,” Ziah shrugged, “what else is new? Go on out front and start taking their things upstairs. Hotaru, Ando should be cooking us up something.”

“Right,” the small girl, who Lorelei looked at closely but only noted two arms, nodded and slipped back through the door with Grier right behind her, both nearly knocking into Ren’s towering figure.

The man handed off the basket he carried to Lorelei, and she wobbled to stay on her feet under its weight. Inside, it held potatoes, apples, red and purple berries, and a handful of other unrecognizable chunks she assumed were edible. There was a little screech and from Ren’s shirt pocket the creature she had hatched popped its head out. Ren gently pushed it back down, but gave her a knowing look before disappearing again without a word.

Ziah directed her to place the basket on a side table and help her uncork the bottles. When she caught a wiff of the liquid, her knees went weak and she had to grab the table to sturdy herself. Ziah laughed, “Yeah, don’t drink this straight. One part to ten parts water, for you.”

Lorelei nodded, and Ziah stared back at her. She looked as if she might say something when Hotaru slipped back inside pushing a cart covered in trays of cut up meats, breads, and cheeses, and three steaming pots of heavenly smelling goo suspended on racks over stubby candles.

Just as the woman finished directing them to arrange the food on the table and Hotaru wheeled out the cart, the sudden rumble of voices came from behind the door on the far end of the room. An Irish lilt could be heard amongst them, coming closer by the second.

“Here we go.” Ziah grabbed Lorelei’s elbow and pulled her to the back of the room, far from the door.

“Don’t be too surprised, now.”

The door burst open, and there stood Seamus, smiling broadly, but he was alone save for the thunderous voices that surrounded him. Just as Lorelei was sure that the guests were invisible, she caught a glimpse of something scurry along the side of the table and then, in a flash, a man no taller than three feet was extending a hand up to her.

She started, then quickly took it, his grip firm and nearly pulling her downward as he shook, “It’s a pleasure, lass! Now, what’s to eat?”

 

Table of Contents  |  Next Installment

 

Hey, are you enjoying Vacancy? If so, and if you want other people to know about it, consider reviewing it over at the Web Fiction Guide or at Muse’s Success, and while you’re there, look around for other serials you might like!