Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.
Werner Cemetery Above the Manitou Passage
Will drove to the top of the hill overlooking Lake Michigan, the Manitou Passage and the Manitou Islands and parked next to the church. Evidently he was early, because no other cars were present. While he waited, he visited the cemetery again. Had a pack of wolves actually killed all these people? What would have driven wolves into such a frenzy? Will finally crossed over to the church building. He was getting a little impatient waiting for Valentin and his friends to show up.
He entered the building through the same back door he had used previously and made his way to the sanctuary. This time he noticed more about the room. At the back, opposite the stage and lectern, was a small balcony with more pews. On both sides of the room, drapes covered the high windows leaving the room in constant darkness.
“Welcome, my friend, Will Richards.” Will spun around and saw Valentin standing at the lectern, just as he had been at their first meeting. “We are very happy you were able to join us today.”
Will looked around to find the meaning of Valentin’s use of we rather than I. As far as he could tell, no one else was present. “I didn’t notice any other cars outside, so I assumed no one was here yet.”
“No worries, Mr. Richards. We are patient. Tell us what you have learned about the cemetery and the people buried there.”
Will gave a brief account of what he had found out about the farming community, the wolves and the people who had died. He also shared some of the points which baffled him.
“Why would wolves attack humans with no provocation that we know of? Rifles had undergone tremendous technological advances. Why didn’t the people shoot the wolves? And regarding the massacre in this building. How did the wolves break in? Unless the building was in poor repair, I don’t see how that could have been possible. One more thing has me scratching my head. If nearly all the settlers were killed, how many family members of the deceased would there be for the development company to consult with about the cemetery?”
“Your research in such a short period of time is impressive, Will. We will be able to answer your questions and give you a much more extensive understanding about what happened.”
“I would certainly appreciate any help you could offer as well as access to the historical documents you used to get your answers.”
“This brings us to the next stage of our relationship with you, Will. We need your assistance in keeping the cemetery intact. As a journalist, you may be able to create a groundswell of popular support for that purpose. The history you have discovered will inspire people to want the cemetery left as it is. But your questions cause you to have some doubts about what you have discovered in your reading. We will now dispel those doubts by giving you the full truth. To do that, you need to meet my two associates. You also need to understand who we are, what we are and how we know what we know.”
Valentin had joined Will beneath the balcony at the back of the sanctuary. They heard footsteps on the floor above their heads.
“I would like you to meet Bernard and Delia.” The overhead flooring gave one last sigh as weight lifted from it. The feet and legs of a man and the feet and ankle length dress of a woman appeared first. The two floated away from the balcony and turned in mid air to face Will and Valentin, suspended ten feet above the pews.
“Wow, what an entrance,” said Will, laughing and clapping his hands. “I have no idea why you went to all this trouble just for me, but, wow, this is awesome. I’ve been punked, right? Who put you up to it? The gang at work, I’m sure. Where are they? Seriously, this was really a great stunt. You had me going all along.”
“Will. This is no joke.” Valentin shot into the air with such speed it was as if he had disappeared and reappeared alongside his two friends who continued to levitate. “We will add one more example of our abilities which should persuade you that we are not human, Mr. Richards, not for a very long time.”
The two men and the woman circled the perimeter of the sanctuary, slowly at first, but then with increasing speed so that Will was only aware of a ring around the ceiling. Then she was standing in front of him, a woman so beautiful his breathing stopped for fear of disturbing the vision. Her arms reached toward him. Her hands grasped his shoulders with such strength that Will feared for his life. She smiled, and the smile sent Will to the floor in an emotionally overwhelmed heap.
When he woke up, Will was lying on one of the pews. Three faces peered down at him. The woman smiled again, but the fangs were gone. Will sat up and scooted away toward the end of the pew.
“Okay, I get it. You aren’t human. What, then? Vampires? What do you want with me?
The woman sat next to him and stroked the side of his face, his neck. She licked her lips.”
“Delia, that’s enough,” said Valentin.
“But Val, he would serve our purpose just as well if I turned him,” said the sweet voice that matched her beauty. “But we already agreed, didn’t we? Will Richards is to remain human, at least for now.”
“What….What’s she talking about?” said Will.
Bernard came to Will’s rescue, gently grasping Delia’s arm and encouraging her to stand. “Will, it is essential that you understand and believe who and what we are,” he said in a British accent. We need your assistance, but it must be a willing assistance. We are not here to harm you in any way. Not now, not ever.” He gave Delia a long, stern gaze with his final words.
“Let’s go for a walk outside,” said Val. “I still have much to say to you, Will, although I am fearful of overdoing it on your first visit.”
“First visit?” said Will. “What makes you think I’ll ever come back once I get in my car and drive off this cursed hill?”
“That is why we must convince you now about our purpose, so you will come back.”
Val and Will exited the church by the front door. A half mile wide swath of ground was mostly clear of trees. Weeds and low grass grew everywhere. Lake Michigan, the Manitou Passage and the two islands, North and South Manitou, could be viewed in panoramic style from anywhere in the clearing. In the middle of it all was the cemetery surrounded by a dilapidated wood fence.
Will walked directly to his car. He fished the keys from his pocket and pressed the button. He opened the door and turned to look at the stranger. Clearly, he and his companions were not human, and they possessed powers by which they could have prevented him from leaving. But Val stood and watched, giving him every opportunity to do just that. He looked right and saw the church, then left at the cemetery.
“There is much you would like to know, Will, and we offer you that knowledge in a way you will never forget. Even after I show you the history of this place, we will not stand in your way. You will be free to go. But once you understand the horrible nightmare that is about to be awakened, I think your mind will be changed by the facts of history and the threat to the present.”
Will looked toward the islands and closed his eyes as if in prayer. The door locks clicked again and he pocketed the keys. “I’ll hear what you have to say, then I’ll decide. But I don’t want to hear only about the history of this place. I want to know more about you. Where are you from. How did you become as you are now.”
The vampire approached Will and together they walked to the peak of the hill. Val began the discourse.
“I will be brief about our history, more can be added later. I was born in eastern Europe in the late sixteenth century. What is now known as Moldova. Delia is from Hellenistic Greece and Bernard is the youth of our little group from seventeenth century London.”
“Delia and I were turned by consent. Immortality has always been tantalizing to humans. Bernard was turned by a random act of feeding. Most of us today do not feed on humans unless it is by consent.”
“Are you the only vampires in this part of Michigan?”.
“Oh, no, not at all. Within fifty miles of where we stand, more than one hundred of us live among mortals, appearing to be mortals ourselves.”
“Where do the three of you live?”
“We have lived on this hilltop for the last century and a half as guardians.”
“Guardians of what?”
“Of the cemetery. And that brings us to the matter of primary importance today.” Val spread his arms out wide. “The battle which took place on this hilltop one hundred fifty years ago prevented what might have been the devastation of the human race and the race of vampires.”