Welcome to A Howling Joy

CHAPTER 1

The Trinity has been broken, the Furies are no more.  I suspect you think I’m up here because ‘Mina was executed and ‘Sia went on a rampage after returning to the southern continent, but that’s not it.  Well, not all of it.

It’s nothing as mundane as ‘depression’ either, because then I wouldn’t be doing anything at all, let alone waiting on this lovely mountain ridge without shelter in sight and watching for a sun I’ve never seen .  You’d be correct assuming that all these factors have contributed to my decision to end my ‘life’ (if you think that—because we’re animate, thinking beings—vampires have ‘lives’) but in all honesty, I’m just tired and it’s far past time.

I think you’ll agree with me that 1,000 years is enough for any single entity to learn what’s available to them and that it’s time to move along.  And, no, I don’t buy that whole “fiery pit vs. green fields” mythology of what comes after because since I’ve already escaped the Darkness I can only hope that I move further into the light.  But since I haven’t found a way to do so in a thousand years of living as a vampire, I’ve decided not to be a vampire anymore.

The morning light is shifting the sky from black to ultramarine laced with violet and I shudder slightly, pulling the edges of my tattered trench coat around me while my vinyl mini-dress creaks in protest.  Contrary to popular belief, vampires DO feel, but it takes those who have been Turned a very long time to filter the signals properly (that’s why new vampires claim not to feel anything, because compared to human sensations what a vampire feels is minute).  The wind whips my straight, shoulder-length black hair away from my face as my fists clench at my side and the light shifts from ultramarine to cobalt.  Another few minutes and I’ll be on my way.

I’m trying to reconcile the fact that my body is screaming at me to take shelter when a giant, shaggy grey wolf comes trotting up the ridge.  Its fur is a mass of tangles and snarls but its calm demeanor can do nothing to cloak the rippling muscle that shivers with every whuffing breath the great beast takes.

“You might want to move away,” I say, pushing my hand toward him in the universal, stop, come no closer gesture but instead he just sits his fluffy butt down and smiles at me with pure doggy joy.  “I can’t guarantee your safety if you stay,” I add as my skin starts to smoke from more than just the temperature differential in the air.  I chose this spot because it’s carpeted in loose rocks with no vegetation for at least a hundred yards from my location, and it’s the best I can do without planning for more than six hours.  When the wolf just continues staring at me with great, yellow-green eyes I turn away from him, going up on tippy toe to see if I can’t get a look at the sun in the moment before it incinerates me.

I start falling forward before I realize that the animal has barreled into me, so intent am I on seeing the source of my destruction, and I start falling, jolting down the slope toward the tree line before I can even think to raise my arms up to protect my face.  A particularly gnarled tree rushes up toward me as the first tendrils of light graze the treetops over head and I don’t know if it’s the light shattering me or the tree shattering my bones as I slam into an impenetrable wall and all the world goes black.

1,000 Years Ago…Land of the Rising Sun

 Father said it’s my fault for being defiant, he said that well bred girls don’t let the sun touch their skin or their feet touch the ground and for the most part, he was right.  There was almost no opportunity for me to run freely or stroll through the gardens on my own.  The furthest I ever got was a few delicate steps through the house to sit, once again, and dance attendance on another man.  Serving tea, or playing music (oh, how I loathed the strings that would make my fingers bleed and I would smile through it) or laughing prettily whenever some man said something he thought was particularly clever.

So—defiant me—would drug my lady’s maid at night, bind my hair up tight and steal into the gardens dressed all in black.  I never would have gotten away with it as much as I did, if Father had trusted the guards inside the walls, but he never let them near the garden just in case they would dare to do something improper with one of the ladies of the house.  I fed the fish—koi as long as my forearm—and danced under the cherries in the spring.  In fall I would take one of my hairpins and stab the maple trees, licking sticky-sweet sap from their ends and driving the gardeners wild with fear of insect infestations.

But, as you might have guessed, I was caught and my father beat me so hard I couldn’t walk for a month.  Soon after I became a woman and my father started the tedious task of finding a reasonable alliance for our family.  Sometimes I hated the courtly poets; they had such pretty words for things that one’s heart truly desired but would never be able to obtain.  And I knew all the words.  In fact, it was upon my return from Court that my palanquin was overturned when a horse merchant lost control of his stock and my spine was crushed beneath the feet of one of his stallions.

A miracle—that’s what the doctors called it—a miracle that I survived with no damage except the inconvenience of not being able to walk, or move anything except my head, anymore.  It damaged my father’s prospects of finding a suitable match for me but he managed.  I was turned over to a brutal man who loved the fact that I couldn’t do anything to stop him and he used me to produce heir after heir.  I tried to kill myself once by not eating but he had his favorite man force my mouth open while he poured hot gruel down my throat.

I begged to die yet death would not come for me.

Until one night my husband had a guest—I could hear them talking in the other room—and while the man’s accent was strange it carried with it something…more.  My husband led him to me, eyes glazed over with drink or something else, and when I saw that man’s eyes I knew he was something more akin to oni or akuma than man.  He asked me a single question,

“Do you want to die?” and gods forgive me I said yes.  The man dismissed my husband and lay down beside me and even though I didn’t mean to, tears spilled from my eyes.  I had no problem with him killing me but to suffer further indignities under any man’s hands was more than my sanity could bear.  “Don’t worry child,” the man whispered, nuzzling my neck, “this will all be over soon, and sooner if you don’t struggle.”

So I didn’t.  His teeth buried their way much further into my neck than I would have thought possible and white lightening raced through my veins, chasing me into darkness that I knew—and was glad—meant death.

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OTHER LEGAL STUFF: The contents of A Howling Joy and other characters featured through this site, their locations and situations are products of the author's imagination and any similarity to persons either living or dead is unintentional. Copyright 2010 by Juliana Skye. Any unauthorized reproduction of the works contained on this website without written consent of the author are illegal (and morally objectional, as I can't continue to keep doing this just for my health and psychological well-being!) and violators will be subject to prosecution under US copyright law. Thank you for supporting me by not stealing my intellectual property.