Maelstrom Extra: A Game of Scrabble

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 reviews (Comments): 10
Ricky knocked on the door and waited while the door opened of its own accord. Darkness. At the back of the room, a faint glow illuminated Kalila and Nevin at a table, hunched over something he couldn’t make out while Vic looked on.

“Ebazimt,” Kalila said. She selected the appropriate tiles and placed them on the board.

Vic wrote something on a piece of paper. “Two thousand and fifty-three points.”

“I object,” Nevin said. “Ebazim has two Zs.”

Ricky crossed the room while Kalila peered at the board in concern. “You’re right.” She waved a hand and a second Z appeared.

Vic gave a little nod of approval. “Three thousand and twelve points.”

“What the hell?” Ricky examined the board. It looked an ordinary Scrabble game, except that the words were ones he had never seen before. “Uptuu?”

“That was mine, Nevin said. “Quintuple word score.”

“There’s no such thing.”

“There is when we say there is. Placidly, he laid down his tiles, displacing three of Kalila’s in the process. “Bsaugxe.”

“You can’t move her tiles,” Ricky said. “That’s against the rules.”

Vic looked up from calculating Nevin’s score. “Rules are for mortals, although I realize it’s your human lack of imagination that makes you think otherwise.”

“Don’t patronize me,” Ricky said, as Kalila vanished one of Nevin’s tiles, changed the color of the board squares, and spelled the word, “Ghrtt.”

“Is that even a language?” Ricky asked, but she ignored him.

“What’s the score now?”

“You’re at two million, six hundred fifty-three thousand, eight hundred and fourteen,” Vic told her. “Nevin is at two million, nine hundred thousand and forty-one.”

“Damn.” She grabbed some new letters and pondered them while Nevin giggled and spelled “Szbeharr.” For good measure, he changed the numbers on Kalila’s tiles so that they all read zero.

Ricky opened his mouth to protest, but Kalila slapped him on the hand. “Will you just let us play our way? Everything doesn’t have to work by human rules, you know.”

He looked from her impassive face to the others and felt his sense of outrage weaken. What did it matter, really, if they spelled words like “eidhthrgt,” vanished each others’ tiles, and added 10,000-point bonus squares to the board? At least they weren’t up to any mayhem, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. He glanced at his watch. “Just remember you’ve got a gig tonight and you need to be on time.”

“Of course, Ricky.” Kalila dismissed him with a wave of her hand and bent back over her letters, frowning.

As he left the room, Vic called after him, “Next time, don’t be such a vundrandvl!” Ricky kept walking. He didn’t want to know what that meant, and he had a feeling it didn't mean anything at all.

Maelstrom Extra: Demon-Sitting

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 reviews (Comments): 4
Ricky sat at one of the lounge tables, his BlackBerry cradled in his hand as he fielded messages. He wouldn’t have bothered attending setup and rehearsal except that Vic was being surly, Bo was jonesing for an easy lay, and Kalila thought herself too good for this seedy venue perched atop an unfashionable hotel. Someone had to keep watch over them and remind them to do their job, or they’d wander off to do whatever demons did, and to hell with their contract.

He watched Lazaro adjust the angle of his snare and set the pedal for his hi-hat. So far, so good. Ricky huddled over his BlackBerry. Two new messages, and one was from a reporter friend he had contacted earlier in the day. Maybe things would get better, after all.

“Hey, primate!”

Ricky raised an eyebrow. “I have a name, Vic.”

“Yeah, I know. Don’t we all? We’re out of electrical tape.”

“Supplies aren’t my responsibility.” He got up and approached the stage. “Can’t you make do with duct tape or something? It doesn’t have to be perfect for rehearsal.”

“If I said we need it, we need it.”

Bo quit adjusting knobs on his amp and grinned. “Maybe the manager has some. Want me go ask?”

Before Ricky could veto this suggestion, Kalila shook her head. “Forget it, sleazy.”

“You’d only use it for bondage games,” Vic added. “And then I’d never get any.”

“You’ll never get any, anyway, if Ricky doesn’t do something.” Bo gave Ricky a pointed look.

“I don’t understand why the urgency.” Ricky found the offending cord. It was nicked, but not enough to warrant shutting down rehearsal until they got tape. “You’re overreacting.”

Kalila folded her arms. “Just get us some more. There’s a place down the block from here. Surely you have a dollar.”

“It’s not the money, it’s—” he looked from one impassive face to the other. “Fine. I’ll go get the stupid tape. But while I’m gone, you guys better quit making excuses and start rehearsing.”

Ricky stomped across the club and out the door, cursing demons and their diva behavior. He was standing impatiently at the elevator, waiting for a car, when he remembered he had forgotten his BlackBerry. He went back into the club, grumbling, but paused just inside the door.

“…like we’re children that have to be watched.”

“That’s humans for you. Always thinking they’re the superior species.”

“Well, at least we’ve got…what, twenty minutes?”

Ricky edged back to the door and slipped out. At the elevator, he punched the call button and waited. He’d get the tape of course. But maybe while he was out, he’d get a cup of coffee, too, and perhaps a newspaper. After all, it was a pretty day and there was really no big rush.

Maelstrom Extra: Rainy Afternoon

Thursday, July 16, 2009 reviews (Comments): 8
The hypnotic hum of the wheels and the patter of rain on the window echoed in the sound of tapping keys on Ricky’s laptop as the gray skies, empty landscape, and screen of soporific contracts lulled him into drowsiness.

From the lounge at the back of the bus, breaking the peaceful spell, came the moans and dirty sex talk of Bo’s latest video.

“You mind turning that down?” Ricky said.

“Why? Is it a problem?”

“I need to make a few calls and I don’t want it to sound like I’m at a bordello.”

Bo hit the mute button. “Nothing wrong with a bordello.” He folded his arms, leaned back against the sofa cushions and sulked.

Ricky edged against the window and put the BlackBerry to his ear.

The tires sizzled on wet pavement, the rain beat harder against the glass, and from a tiny leak in the window seal, an occasional drip splashed onto the sill. With any luck, Bo wouldn’t figure out he wasn’t calling anyone until they got to town.

He balled up someone’s discarded jacket for a pillow and, soothed by the peaceful sounds of a rainy afternoon on the road, settled in for a nap.

Maelstrom Extra: Late Night Errand

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 reviews (Comments): 7
Vic wrapped his leather coat tight against his body and kept to the shadows, not because he needed to but because he found the gloom satisfying. There weren’t many people out at this late hour and he eyed the few he encountered critically, getting a good sniff as he passed them on the pavement. No one appealed, though, and he wasn’t really hungry. For all Ricky’s complaints about his transparent motives, this nighttime mission was, for once, not about food.

He found the door, passed a hand over the lock and slipped inside, ignoring the alarm. It took only a moment to find the display, and he had to kneel to unlock the storage cabinet, but at last he had the item in his hands. He could’ve bought it, but human money was so worthless, what was the point? Besides, human stores weren’t open at convenient times for a vampire.

Vic tucked the box under his coat and slipped outside, with the alarms ringing a clarion as he went back into the night. He, of course, had no use for a pocket-sized DMB television with MP3, JPEG and video capability, but sometimes one had to make sacrifices. He ducked into the shadows as a cop car screamed past, then pulled the box closer and continued walking.

It crossed his mind that maybe he should stop for wrapping paper, but he dismissed the thought as frivolous. There were limits, after all. He chuckled to himself, thinking how surprised the human would be, and murmured to himself, “Happy Birthday, Ricky.”

Maelstrom Extra: Taken by Storm

Wednesday, July 1, 2009 reviews (Comments): 3
The wind howled and the rain beat in sheets against the window. Ricky tried to see outside. “What do you mean she’s on the scaffold?”

“She was hungry," Nevin said with a little shrug. "Djinns feed on the wind. You know that.”

“But that thing looked ready to collapse.” He headed for the door, no time to grab a jacket.

Nevin tagged after him. “It’s sweet of you to worry, but you need to trust her. She’s much older than you, you know.”

Ricky did know, but this was no time for logic. He made for the elevator, then remembered it was slow and sprinted for the stairwell instead. He took the stairs as fast as he could, stumbling and holding onto the handrail.

Nevin kept pace easily. “This really isn’t necessary. You’re going to get hurt.”

Ricky shoved open the heavy door and ran toward where he had seen the workers earlier in the day. The rain soaked his clothes and chilled his body but the only thing that mattered was the rickety structure ahead and Kalila’s faint silhouette, barely visible in the pounding rain. He stopped at the base of the trembling structure and shouted up at her. “Kalila!”

The scaffold swayed, whether from the wind or the shift in Kalila’s weight as she made to climb down, Ricky didn’t know. He waited, drenched and shivering, yearning that she were just a little more normal, just a bit more like a human girlfriend.

But then she was on the ground before him, her hair streaming and her eyes alight. He no longer noticed the needles of rain pelting his skin or the way his shirt and jeans hung cold and sopping off his limbs. Kalila was fire in the rain, heat in the cold, and even in a moment like this as the scaffold gave a shudder and broke up behind her, Ricky noticed nothing but the way her scraps of clothing clung to her wet skin.

“Did you want something?” she asked.

Ricky shivered and it wasn’t from the storm outside but the one within. “Dinner is over,” he said. “How about you come inside?”