Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Chamber of Horrors

Welcome to the Chamber of Horrors!
As you know, we at the Soul Food Cafe have been using this building as a place to teach Horror Writers how to be...horrid? At any rate, this was a Victorian Era Medical School at one time and if you'd care...if you'd dare, stay right here in the shadows and listen to Dr Delphine Heller and a few other voices tell their stories...
And in case you're curious, the door to this room doesn't lock....

What remains today of the Asylum
( Back Right- The Infamous "Plague Church "


Isn't it just amazing that we have come here to learn to make up stories when all around us are the remains of one of the most notorious Medical Schools of it's time?
This particular book has already been written and is just sitting here, waiting to be read.

You know, I think it's time time for a story.



So please step this way and follow me.

Here we are in the vestibule; do you like the marble effigies? Stolen of course from religious places and cemeteries. When you're as rich as the owners of this school were, they didn't call it stealing, they didn't call it grave-robbing.

They called it the procurement of antiquities

The School itself was once run and owned by a husband and wife team; Dr Johnathan and Delphine Heller. I'm not kidding about the last name. Can you imagine trusting your body and life to a Dr Jack Heller?

And his wife!

Delphine Heller, she was a pioneer in the study of Psychiatry and she believed there wasn't a malady of the human brain that COULDN'T be cured by surgery. Delphine's belief in scalpels and other sharp medical instruments bordered on religious mania.

Her patients in the insane asylum behind the school use to say she was crazier then all 200 of them put together. They also use to call her " De fiend ".

They were right on both counts.

They may have been insane, but they weren't stupid.

If you follow me, I'll take you to the surgery theatre. Awful place, the floors in here are wood and if you drop anything on the floor...write it off. Even after all this time you couldn't credit what sort of nastiness has made it's way into the woodwork.

That's in general I suppose.

This school is not a good place.

Upstairs are the labs. To your right are Dr Johnathan's offices. His books, instruments, specimen jars, charts and journals are exactly as he left them.

Here, let me get the lights. Yes, those are real body parts. Pretty standard fare. Only...well, there seems to be an awful lot of them. More then you'd need for study. Don't you think?

I call this Dr Heller's trophy room.

It seems like that man couldn't perform the most simple of surgery without taking something more then was required. Eyes, hands, feet...and other things as you can see.

Follow me here to his wife's offices...which should be full of books, notes, maybe even pictures of the unfortunates she treated. But her rooms. Well, look for yourself.

These offices are twice the size of Johnathan's and they are full of these...curiosities. These things would be more at home in a circus sideshow or a medical museum then in offices for a psychiatrist.

On this wall, let me get those doors..they slide, there. Physical deformities of embryos..human, animal...some, well, we're not to this day what they are. You will also find if you care to look...are more, medical oddities.

Some of those heads and hands have been altered. Parts sewn on, sewn together, body parts created, in other words, by a surgeon.

She has shelves and shelves of medical instruments that appear to be one of a kind. Tools designed to reshape bones of all sizes, scalpels with specially designed blades and oddly shaped needles.

What the Morgue?

Oh my friend, I was hoping someone would ask me about that.

This elevator is old, but don't worry it works just fine.

The Morgue, was someone's pride and joy and I'm pretty sure it was Delphine's pride and joy. It screams her you'll see.

The morgue is twice the size then the entire school above it. As you can see this is the place where those things in the jars were created. This is the heart of this place.

Now, my astute authors look at the autopsy tables...notice anything strange? Look closer...go ahead you won't see it from way back there.

What, you don't see anything?

You wouldn't see what I'm looking at right now anywhere in any morgue in the world.

They're not necessary for the work down here.

You didn't notice the straps on the autopsy tables?

Hey, don't you all run up the stairs like that, someone is going to get hurt!


What, now you all want a tour of the Sixth Floor? After that baloney down in the Morgue when you all tried to trample each other to death? I had visions of it on the evening news: Students perish in freak accident in a Morgue.

Well, forget it.

Oh, stop begging. But I mean it, the first one of you to turn tail and run winds up in a jar. Got it? Okay, then lets go.

As you can see the Sixth Floor was where the chapel was...well, actually where it is because as you see, everything is still here.

The altar and all of this artwork and effigies are from a church in the Carpathian Mountains once known as the Plague Church. Yes, that’s what it was called and if you think that’s strange takes a closer look at the effigies and the carvings on the altar.

Very good, I'm glad you noticed...none of the human figures have eyes.

Do you wonder what Delphine said, when she took her place at the altar and preached the Sunday sermon? I mean, what on earth there was to say to over 100 deeply psychotic and criminally insane individuals?

Perhaps Delphine answered that question all those years ago in her own special way.

In her logbooks she blocked this time off not as " Sunday Services " or " Church ". Nope, she wrote in " Alternative Therapy Session "

To answer your question, I'm not sure it one is because this wasn't the sort of place you were released from...ever. Delphine’ s Asylum wasn't a place you came to in order to be cured. No, you came here because you couldn't be cured.

Anyway, this is the legend of the 6th Floor.

Years after the Asylum was closed people insisted that the "Alternative Therapy Sessions" were still happening every Sunday evening, and if you were unlucky enough to be here when they started you would go mad.

You would become just as crazy as the ghosts that still haunt the Chapel.

They're supposed to be here still, sitting in the pews, waiting for their treatment.

Some are in straight jackets, or other types of restraints that were popular in those days. A few of the patients wear cages that fit over their heads and rest on their shoulders, some are brought in coffin like contraptions called ' Lunatic Boxes ' and others, the truly insane walked in and eagerly waited for " Church " to begin.

It's widely believed that Delphine’ s Congregation has actually grown over the years because sure as the Sun comes up each day one fool after another feels the need to bust into the school and come to the Plague Church and attend services with Delphine’ s Congregation of the Mad.

Once a group of girls dared their friend to come up here at sunset and sit in that front pew and wait for the Session to begin.

She was sitting right there when she heard the opening and closing of doors and feet shuffling along the corridor. At first she was positive it was her friends playing a joke on her. So she sat facing the altar and refused to turn around, she didn't want her friends to see how much they had frightened her.

Suddenly those heavy doors swung open with a hiss and a horrible stifling hot breeze rushed up the aisle. With it, as if it were woven into the heat, she could hear whispering and every once and awhile she caught a phrase or two and heard laughter and giggling.

Within minutes the entire Chapel was full.

So she wasn't surprised when someone sat next to her...because she was sure that the empty space to her right was the last empty space left in the entire chapel. To her credit she wasn't terribly startled when felt something encased in canvas and metal scrape then rest against her upper arm and shoulder.

She did however bite her lips so hard to keep from screaming they bled.

Suddenly the Chapel was quiet and the girl caught the heavy scent of lavender and heard the rustle of a skirt and heard the sound of light footsteps come up the aisle from behind her. From the corner of her eye she saw light gray fabric and a woman's hand adorned with small thin gold bands on all the fingers of her right hand.

The girl snapped her eyes shut... or really maybe that's when her mind snapped.

Alternative Therapy began.

So what happens when the doors suddenly swing open and the new convert emerges?

Go on, have a seat...I'd be glad to share what I learned that evening all those years ago with each and every one of you.

Okay, I meant what I in the sweater, come back here. I told you what I'd do to the first person that made a run for it.

I warned you all, didn’t?


What on Earth are you people doing in here?

What tour?

We most certainly do not give tours of the Asylum...let alone the Chapel. Now all of you come out of there at once! Here now, what's this? Let go of me and quit that babbling and for heaven's sake quit that crying. You are all far to old for that.

You, young man, what's going on here?

A woman? With a scalpel?

Ah, I see you've had the misfortune of running into our Mrs Everett. Well, don't expect me to feel sorry for any of you. We were very clear when we opened this school which part of the properties were for your use and which areas were off limits.

If you got chased around by a psychotic ghost that's your problem.

Now follow me, we have to get out of here before the Midnight Shift comes on.

Okay, here we are, safe and sound and back in the school and safely tucked away in the library. I'm going to have Miss Bayloche the Librarian explain somethings to you.

May I suggest that this time you listen.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, I'm Miss Bayloche and I'm the school's librarian. Which is probably why I've never laid eyes on any of you. Hmmm, not in the mood for chit chat are we?

That's just as well. Let me get straight to the point.

This school is not a safe place, but you'll do just fine if you understand a few things.

One is the original staff is still here.

Mrs Everett, the Hellers, the teachers and lab workers. They are all still here and they are all still very busy doing the same things they did over 100 years ago, I'm very sorry to say.

One of the worst members of this staff is a very unstable woman who is the head nurse...her name is Elizabeth Telrico and she is perhaps the most worrying to the present day staff because she's in charge of the Midnight Shift.

Simply put, the Midnight Shift is the heart of this school.

At exactly the stroke of Midnight all of the lights in the Asylum blazed on and you could see the Midnight Shift come up the path from the north side of the Asylum.

They walked across a footbridge and came in through the back entrance.

Then the doors and windows would slam shut just as the last member of the night staff entered the building. You could hear the echoes for miles around, I've been told.

Now most of the day staff were locals, they never really met the night staff and tried very hard to keep it that way.

No it's not a mystery why.

Go ahead and take a look out the window, it faces north.

You can see the trail the Midnight Shift used, the bridge they crossed. That piece of property doesn't connect to the road. It's fenced off.

It's the cemetery.



I will not allow ghost hunters into this building. That's out of the question. Have you people finally lost your hold on sanity?

Do you think for a minute that the ghosts would be the hunted in this situation? I don't know who these people are you've invited but get rid of them...all of them!

What do you mean, it's too late. Go down there and tell them...oh this is just wonderful.

Is running around kicking your mortality in the backside what you do to amuse yourselves? What do you do when you really want to have a good time... play a little Russian Roulette?

Fine, bring them up to the Library and do it quickly, things have been a little to noisy in the Isolation Ward lately.'ll find out the hard way if you don't do what I say at once!

So you are the ... how quaint the Gaslight Society Ghost Hunters. Yes, charmed I'm sure. My name is Miss Bayloche.

To make a very long story short these eight students are all that remains of 25. The others left a week ago after running into the Night Staffers.These remaining eight are suppose to be here to study writing, music and art. They've done none of that. But they've paid room and board till the end of next month so they're here for at least that long.

Their instructors leave them to their own now because all they want to do is talk ghosts and demons and about the living dead.

That's it in a nutshell.

Oh the mean of the School itself.

Well, it was founded by two serial killers one of which was a demon and the other a creation of the demon itself, the Asylum was run by a psychotic and it's Night Staff were residents of a little place called Leaning Birch...which I'm sure you've been informed is the town's cemetery.

Every evening at Midnight a Shift occurs between the world of the living and the world of the dead and the School, or parts of it return to it's former self. Our problem is that now after each shift has occurred parts of the old school are finding their way into the new school and staying.

Furnishings, cups of tea on desks, a room here and there...and things in the Morgue.

Yesterday the kitchen was in full use, food was being prepared, the tables were set...the days paper was even propped up against a bowl of steaming oatmeal.

Well, we don't use that as a kitchen, it was closed off over 100 years ago and the paper for your information was dated 1905.

Things you see from the past are shifting into the present and I don't know why, it's never happened before. It's your standard Chamber of Horrors fare. Boring to individuals of your expertise. So, I guess you'll be...


Why of course you are.

This place is one of a kind? You don't say. The racket? It's the door leading to the Isolation Ward. From the sounds of it, it's just been torn off of it's hinges.

Welcome members of the Gaslight Society to the Chamber of Horrors.


How many times do I have to tell you I came back as the School’s Librarian because I wanted a nice safe place to settle back in? I've been out of practice for a very long time and I had to brush up on my studies.

It was peaceful, quiet and with each day I felt...hmmm, more involved you might say.

The next thing you know I'm hunting around a morgue for lost students, I'm settling in staff and
trying to set up housekeeping under ridiculous circumstances then I find myself pulling out some old medical equipment (oh don't look like that, I'm referring to the straight jackets) for some Ghost Hunters who decided to try to dive out a window in my library and haven't been quite the same since.

From the looks of them right now, the kindest thing to do was let them fly.

I had to put them in the Isolation Ward; it's the safest place really. Nothing in there can hurt them. I just wish you wouldn't have done that damaged to the door because I've had to restrain all eight of them in there.

It was no easy task...look, one even bit me.

So it's you and me now, until the next shift anyway.

The rest? They're all tucked away safely, the students, the Ghost Hunters (sorry, no I'm okay I was trying not to laugh and I choked a bit there) the curious and the very, very stupid. Tucked away and waiting for... well, you know, help.

Ignore the yelling, I do. It's good practice; it's only going to get worse later.

Yes, it's a good thing the Midnight Shift kept the place up all these years.

They better have, the lazy brutes.

So now let me see here, the beds are ready, the treatment rooms and the equipment are in perfect working order.

Why even the Plague Church is ready.

Now there's a happy surprise.

Everything is ready and I think it's time to begin our rounds. Shall we start with the Isolation Ward? No, you first Jonathan. And do quit calling me by that silly name. How long exactly have you been in that room? It's me; it's your wife...

It's Delphine.

Come Darling, you first...

I insist.
© anita moscoso text 2005


The Amazing Benandanti performs at the Chamber of Horrors Sideshow at a Marina in a town called Duwamish Bay.

The Sideshow has been in the same building for over 50 years and its star attraction has performed there since the first day the doors opened.

Over the years other performers have aged and died, moved on or disappeared.

All except for the Amazing Benandanti.

It was SUPPOSED to be sideshow secret along the Marina; the original Amazing Benandanti had a look- a-like daughter who in time took over the act. Of course, she's billed as an Immortal who learned her magic secrets from the Egyptians or Druids, or sometimes she was supposed to have been a student who studied Magic under Merlin himself.

The Amazing Benandanti is a Death Defying Escape Artist...tie her in chains, put her in a tank of water and watch as she escapes from a watery grave; she also performs a routine she calls " Chasing the Rabbit” which involves an Electric Chair once used in the most infamous now abandoned Prison in the state of Washington: Maplewood.

The Chair is her favorite part of her entire act because as she will tell you, there's no such thing as going over the top when you're suppose to be getting electrocuted. It appeals to her sense of theatrics, which are after all in the true spirit of the Sideshow.

Her eyes roll, her body convulses, blood trickles from her eyes and ears, wisps of smoke make their way from her slightly parted lips and then her blood red eyes change back to dark brown, she turns her wrists, the straps snap off and she stands and then takes a deep bow.

Among her other acts are the Escape from the Gallows and the Revenge of the Condemned.

Some nights as a treat for her self as much as for her audience The Amazing Benandanti summons ghosts, demons and other strange creatures that are part animal, part human. They are vaporous images but solid enough to touch.

That part of the act is always somewhat unpredictable and because of that The Amazing Benandanti doesn't like to perform it very often because one night a creature that was part horse and part crocodile nearly took her head off.

She will tell the crowd, as she prepares to open the doorway to not talk to the apparitions. They will ask you a question and if you answer...she won't be able to guarantee what happens next nor will she be able to guarantee your safety.

Sometimes because it's a simple pleasure and she enjoys it The Amazing Benandanti sits out front and performs little slight of hand tricks for people walking along the Boardwalk before her first show of the evening. She gives lessons and patiently explains how to make coins disappear and reappear again. There are magic scarves and dancing rope tricks that she can teach you to perform. She keeps all of these props in a well-worn, heavily stickered travel trunk.

Reach in, pull out a prop and the Amazing Benandanti will teach you magic too.

The Amazing Benandanti, like all good Sideshow performers does have her secrets. One is, she's never in over 50 years surrendered her billing to anyone. Her ego would never allow that. There has only ever been one Amazing Benandanti, which is more then enough as anyone who knows her will be glad to tell you.

The second is The Amazing Benandanti isn't really a Magician.

Kincross Benandanti is a Werewolf, but like a lot of us she has her talents too. And one of those talents involves seeing into the next world.

That's how she came to see the riders camped on the railroad tracks. Not by, but on the tracks themselves. They were phantoms of course but that didn't mean they couldn't cause damage. The grass and shrubs along the tracks were starting to die and the air started to smell a bit stale and old.

Not that anyone noticed, these tracks ran below street level and were not exactly the type of place you paid attention too even when you did look down. The tracks were littered with trash and pigeons and crows roost wherever they can land. It wasn't pleasant to look at and the smell coming up to the sidewalk above was foul.

For nearly a week Kincross had been watching the three of them as they appeared at each sunset. Earlier in the evening they were almost transparent and as people above walked by they reached to the back of their necks or pulled their jackets a little closer to their bodies. Some of the people even stopped suddenly and turned around, like they expected to see someone following them.

By the time the moon raised the Riders were as real and solid looking as nightmare creatures made flesh can get.

One evening, as she stood on the bridge that looked down onto the tracks she watched the three riders come to life with more speed then they had on previous days and she wondered, what exactly were they?

She was puzzled and wondered how to satisfy her curiosity about these things. In the end she took her years of predatory experience, considered several options she learned in thousands of years of war experience, reached down, picked up a bottle and threw it at the head of the tallest figure.

It made contact with a thud that made Kincross wince and she said with genuine feeling " that has got to hurt "

Then the tall one looked up at her, directly into her eyes and hissed, it opened its mouth wide and thick yellow green mucus oozed out from the corners of its thin-scarred lips.

It was drooling.

That's when she ran.

Kincross was so distracted by what she had seen that earlier that evening she managed to make herself look like an amateur at her 10:00 show.

When her executioner pulled the lever on the trap door of the gallows and the very real hangman's noose tightened and yanked up just behind her ear, the language she used as she was snapped back up was not good. “

Hey, " she said to loudly " you’re suppose to nod before you do that so I can make myself ready…”

Her friend Clara the Alligator woman said, from under her executioners hood, " mouth Danti! "

" Well, I'm sorry Clara " she croaked the rope is pulling my shirt up for Pete’s sake and something is tearing in my neck. "

" It's supposed to be breaking your neck stupid! " Clara said starting to loose her temper " for Pete's sake shut your mouth and start choking! "

So before the act fell apart The Amazing Benandanti kicked, choked and struggled for air...she was giving a very good impersonation of not only a dieing woman, but a dying woman in agony, much to the delight of her audience.

She went rigid, and then limp and the rope creaked and sounded as loud as gunshots as she swayed back and forth from the end of the noose.

Very slowly as if she were in slow motion on film, the dead woman twitched, kicked and seemed to slither up back up through the trap door. It looked like an invisible hand was pulling her; rope and all back up towards the scaffold's arm. Then while she seemed to be hanging in midair facing the audience her eyes snapped open.

And flamed red, red as coals in a fire. "

Ladies and Gentleman, " cried Jesse the Cyclops from the side of the stage " the death defying Amazing Benandanti! "

Kincross lowered back onto the scaffold and worked the rope away from her neck and took her bow and when the curtains snapped shut on the stage Jesse gave her a thumbs up. "

Good work ladies, I really liked the part when you vomited all those four letter words when you're suppose to be dieing at the end of the rope Danti. Are you going to make that a permanent part of your death scene?' "

" Hey it's that touch of reality that makes the act "

" Sure, sure. " Jesse the real life Cyclops said, " Like this place has anything to do with reality.

That's the way it was at the Chamber of Horrors, which was part of a permanent Sideshow act down the street from the Guzman Curio Shoppe.

Reality was only a theory here on the Marina.

Jesse really was a Cyclops, all 7 feet and one eye in the center of his forehead of him. He was a friend of Kincross' from the very, very old days. He had been living in Olympic Peninsula in Washington state for several years when Kincross found him...and offered him work.

He wasn't sure exactly who set up the Sideshow, but it was a good place to be if you wanted to hide in the open. Which was a relief from hiding in the shadows. Ask anyone who’s tried it. It’s enough to make you crazy.

So mixed among the fakes was Jesse, Wintra and Summer the Conjoined twins who's real talent was seeing into the past, but for the Sideshow they performed Victorian parlor music on violins and other stringed instruments, and Clara the Alligator Woman. There was nothing supernatural about Clara's skin condition, but at east she had a job and could walk around in the open.

Among the medical curiosities displayed in glass cases, the human oddities and artwork a woman with scaly skin was hardly noticeable. Which is why she worked so many acts. She in her 45 years went from living in a mental institution to being a stage performer. Clara had always wanted to be an actress and as far as she was concerned, her mission had been well accomplished.

Now we come to The Amazing Benandanti.

Kincross was a faker of sorts, nothing she did was magic...exactly.

In fact she couldn't tell you if she was human or monster, she couldn't tell you how old she is. She came from the Mountains, but she's not sure which ones. None that are standing now, that she's sure of.

Then in one evening in less then 10 minutes her life last.

Kincross was watching the Sunset yet again and the sight of it going through the same old routine almost cost her sanity when she was captured and forced into a place where all she could do was sleep and dream.

It was a relief really.

After she was rescued from the Catacombs by the Franciscan Monks who discovered her sleeping beneath their Abbey where she had been imprisoned by a rogue witch and her vampire companion she promised herself more then a new life. She promised herself to become something else altogether.

That's why she ran away and joined the circus, that's why she almost ignored the Riders at the Railroad Tracks.

But old habits die-hard and that's why she threw the bottle...

Only these Riders, as she was about to learn were about to create some changes of their own.

When the Moon was full three days later on Halloween Kincross was going to find that out exactly what it was they were about to change.

The last week of October is a very big thing on the Marina.

The Guzman's Curio Shoppe displays its newest finds at Halloween, it's a tradition.

Their stock, things like shrunken heads, exotic plants and mummified remains of all sorts are spiffed up and their cases draped in orange and black crepe paper streamers. Akela, Ignancia’ s Guzman's sister, could not only be counted on to bring back treasures and curiosities like the Mummy of the Egyptian Priestess that made the entire Marina famous, she could tell the best stories and could entertain people for hours in the Soda Fountain in the front of the Curio Shoppe.

That included the performers from the Chamber of Horrors.

Wintra and Summer, Zymo the Missing link, and sometimes Jesse would sit among the tourists and locals and listen to Akela tell stories about a city made up of immortals who's souls died leaving their corpses to wander their city in a dream state for all eternity, a town called Leaning Birches where Death itself lives, an Insane Asylum haunted by a demon doctor and her husband, who as Akela tells the story was still haunt the Sixth floor of the abandoned Hospital that still stands in the town of Resolution just outside of Lawton. Akela also tells stories about Headhunters and witch doctors, curses and hexes.

Only Akela’ s stories are much more then simple scary stories and they are always more fact then fiction and she leaves no doubt about that as she spins one tale after another.

She also tells stories about Werewolves when she's sure Kincross isn't around because she can't get halfway through them before she hears a gravelly sounding voice go into hysterical fits of laughter and say, " Kade, you are SO funny! Come one, tell us a good one. You’re holding out on us, you know you are. “

A few doors down the restaurants; souvenir shops and art galleries display pumpkins, offer free candy and some host costume parties. The Arima's Amusement park, famous for it's hand carved exotic carousel horses, mermaids and other fantasy animals are polished, the normal carousel music is replaced by recordings of funeral music and the electric lights are replaced by lanterns giving the friendly animals of the carousel a darker look.

Their eyes seem to follow you as you walk by and their wooden muscles seem to ripple under the half cast light.

The vendors selling treats along the Marina replace their usual fare with candy corn, orange cotton candy, as well black cat, bat and pumpkin shaped cookies and confections like black and orange popcorn balls. The soda pop is replaced by Devil's Blood, Nightmare Ambrosia and of course, Witch's Brew. There is an endless supply of caramel apples coated in not only in caramel but marshmallow, exotic chocolates and then all of this is rolled in nuts or candies in the shapes bats and ghosts.

But something was happening those few days up to Halloween; there was an unfriendly bite to the night air, the fog that rolled up from the Duwamish Bay wasn't a fine mist, it was heavy and smothering and seemed to extinguish anything unfortunate enough to end up in it’s grasp.

On these evenings as you walk down the boardwalk or along the brick and cobblestone sidewalks and streets your footsteps seemed to echo to loud and for too long. No matter how fast you walked it seemed to take forever to get from one short block to the next.

One night, after the Sideshow had closed for the evening Clara and Kincross decided to walk down the boardwalk to the Curio Shoppe to visit with their friend Ignancia. Her sister Akela was in town and both women were anxious to hear some of Akela’ s new stories...before she took to relaxing with her wine and thin cigars that had been soaked in rum and began to change the stories to more fiction then fact.

Which left the listeners with a pale imitation of what really happened.

Akela’ s stories were best told by candlelight and tea and before her mask of bravado hid whatever she may have been really feeling at the time her adventures were happening.

Halfway down the street it was Clara who asked Kincross, " Did you hear that? "

Of course Kincross had heard it.

Heavy footsteps in almost perfect timing with their own. "

No. " she lied.

Clara stopped and demanded, " you did too hear that! "

Kincross grabbed Clara's hand and started walking " of course I did and there’s more than one back keep walking and shut up. I'm trying to think."

" What abo..." Clara felt something press against her chest and shove and she was pushed over a rail and into the black night waters of the Duwamish Bay

When Clara broke the surface of the icy waters she could hear the sounds of a terrible storm.

The winds howled, there was the sounds of thunder and lightning and the sounds of voices lost in the middle of the storm. Then she saw a terrible figure standing on the rail above her, it held out it's arms and it howled against the night sky. Then it turned it's misshapen head towards her and pushed away from the rail and then it was coming down towards her.

The force of the figure hitting the water pushed her back and then under the water. A heavy clawed hand grabbed her by the back of her jacket and lifted her dead weight straight out of the water and swung around like a rag doll.

After it had turned her around she was peering down into a pair of blood red eyes and jagged teeth so white they gleamed blue. The face was a shadowed by a heavy brow bone, and In the fog shrouded night down here in the water it was hard to tell if it was a human face or an animal’s face but you knew it didn't belong in this world.

" Danti! " Clara cried in relief " you're alright! "

When they got to the Curio Shoppe Akela handed Clara a towel and a flask of something. When she put it to her lips to take a drink the alcohol seemed to disappear as it hit the space between her mouth and the flask's opening.

The fumes wafted up and burned Clara's eyes.

" What is this? " Clara asked raising the flask a second time but careful not to have her eyes open this time as she drank...or inhaled. "

Who knows, but it'll get you drunk fast. "

" Amen to that " Clara said and tossed the flask to Kincross.

Ignancia plucked the flask from Kincross' fingers and threw it back to her sister, " We need them sober, and we need to know what it was they saw. "

" Grave Robbers " Kincross said yanking the flask back and taking a long hard swig " three of them...nasty brutes too. I tried to finish one off. He must've just eaten. " She took another long swallow and snapped " this isn't working. "

Ignancia went to her cabinet and pushed at the latticework along the top. After she pushed in and pulled a drawer came of the center of the scrollwork. Without looking in she reached in and pulled out a small blue bottle and that smelled faintly of curry powder. " Here, sniff it. "

Kincross shrugged and did as she was told.

Then she ran out the door and the sounds of her getting sick into the Bay were brutal. When she came back in she said through clenched teeth and narrowed watering eyes " gee thanks."

" You have to kill those germs, you don't know what those things have been getting into. " Ignancia told her.

" I do, I could smell it and taste it I'm afraid. And we have a problem, a big one."

Akela laughed. " It looks like Ghouls have infested our Cemetery and are probably robbing them for food. And it can’t be good news for you or Jess because technically you count as the.... not of this world too, so you're on the menu and anybody else who can I say it; were born of exotic the Twins and I don't know, what could be a bigger problem then that? "

" It's what they ate for their last meal. "

" Which was " Akela said through a line cloud of blue cigar smoke.

" Vampire "

So the night before Halloween Kincross, Akela, and Clara went out to Leaning Birch Cemetery to meet newest residents of Lawton Ridge.

Leaning Birch Cemetery is a well-known place on the entire West Coast; it's famous because of its size and somewhat notorious history. Leaning Birch had started out as a graveyard for suicides, the executed and the poor. Babies who only lived for a few hours or days are here as well as the deformed and defectives.

This is where the forgotten were laid to rest.

It's a maze of graves, marble and stone mausoleums and crypts dug directly into the hillside.

The Cemetery was built in the forest and in time it had become a city and more then once hikers and the curious had gone up there and been lost for days. Some where never found.

These three women were very familiar with this place and getting lost here wasn't something that concerned them.

" Why do we have to come out here at night, " Clara was whispering to herself, " why not during the day when there are people around and you can see where you're going if you have to run."

" Because last shows at our last show is at 10:00... you know that. " Kincross looked over at Akela and rolled her eyes heavenwards. Sometimes it was all too apparent to Kincross that Clara had been in an institution. At times when Clara started talking out of her head like this it was all to painfully clear that being locked up in that asylum had damaged her, poor thing.

They came to the first section of the Cemetery just as the Moon came up.

Akela waived the Lantern from one grave to the next, " what do you think? " she asked Kincross.

" This Graveyard is dead. " she shook her head and grabbed the lantern from Akela. She began to walk up and down the rows. She walked briskly past new headstones, old weather worn headstones, past mausoleums then up the brick path to the Oak Tree Columbarium. And you could tell from the tilt of her head she was trying to catch sounds and was finding nothing. "

What do you mean it's dead? " Clara asked, " it's a graveyard. "

Kincross was over the top of the hill and Akela was running to catch up with her " Akela, what did she mean? " Clara had a horrible feeling in her middle and her head was starting to pound because Danti was scared and that was something in twenty years Clara had never seen her friend affected by.


The graves near the Columbarium, where the cremains were housed was the oldest part of the Cemetery. Here in the center of the Cemetery were the oldest graves, the most ornate mausoleums and statues of angles, children, lambs, benches and hooded figures. All of them hand crafted and after all this time they had not cracked, or been worn away by the elements.

A barrier surrounded this part of the cemetery; you could feel it when you came here. This place was the heart of the cemetery.

" There's nothing here..." Kincross had dropped the lantern and it rolled down the brick path towards Akela. " There's nothing here...” her voice echoed like it would in a tomb.

Akela saw Kincross stop under a giant twisted tree. Only one side of it seemed to have grown and the other looked stunted. From a distance it looked as if it were reaching over to the ground beneath it. " Oh no." Kincross whispered.

Then she called out, " come here, but not to close. You have to see this. "

Clara and Akela came up to the tree where Kincross was and on the ground was a dying Vampire. Its face was a twisted mass of cuts; its head was split open from the bridge of its nose to the back of its skull.

Kincross knew that unlike her self this creature could feel pain and she also knew that something intended for the Vampire to suffer.

" Here to finish me off Benandanti? " it asked through it’s ruined mouth " execution right? Will you break my neck and trap my putrid soul in my eyes forever? Or will you leave me here to suffer until the..."

" The expression is, until the cows come home. " Kincross shook her head " we didn't know you were here. We had no idea. "

" It would have stayed that way Benandanti, you may not believe that, but it's true. You can only stand Death for so long, understand?

" Kincross nodded, " I do. "

Akela shone the light into the vampires face. Under normal circumstances the Vampire is no oil painting. By nature their faces are ruddy and red and a little bloated. They're eyes are milky white and their hair dull and dry. It's their teeth that look good, they have sets of them, and like sharks and they're so sharp they can go through bone. Those teeth shine so white they glow.

The Vampires don't spread their sickness or curse like you hear in the stories. They're regular people who die and for some reason that no one knows...they come back as this.

When they do the Benandanti come.

Akela was surprised to learn, after seeing more then one fight that these creatures knew each other by name. They understood each other’s language...knew each other’s histories. There was a balance between them and if Akela had to live to be 500 she intended to understand it one day. "

Who did this, who destroyed this place? "

" I forgot, your family used to guard the Cemetery in Kincross...for centuries. I can see why you're fond of this place. It's quite beautiful. "

" Yes, yes, tell me who did this. "

" You saw the Ghouls, right? "

" Yes, by the tracks. "

" That's where the gate is, that's why you saw them there. But they're not Ghouls anymore. They're not robbing the graves for food, like before. They're not hunting the living dead for sport or trophies even. They've been changed, something has happened to them. "

" What? "

" They're turning human.

" Kincross motioned Akela and Clara back and leaned forward. " I can help you, maybe I can fix this...what's happened. I studied in the House Of The Dead. I know what to do.

" The Vampire shook its head. " Just do what you do Benandanti, execution. Do you swear? "

Kincross nodded. " I'll...put you to rest, when we're done. "

" Thank you Benandanti "

Kincross drew her fist back and slammed it between the vampire's eyes. Because it's face was so damaged already the skull almost split in two and from the center of the forehead where the soul lives a mist leak out, it crept from the corner of it's eyes and felt it's way to the ground and was gone.

" Shovel " Kincross choked " get me a shovel.

" The sun was just starting to rise when they got home to the Marina. Clara put her hand on Kincross’ s arm and Akela thumped her a few times on the back. " You did alright Kincross "

" What do you suppose he meant, they're becoming human? " Kincross demanded.

" I don't know but I bet it ain't for love. And the cemetery, are you sure it's dead? "

" All those ghosts, the things that live there...they've gone. Where could they go Akela? Do you know what happens to spirits that wander forever? They go nuts. No offense Clara. "

" None taken "

" Something scared the dead from their graves and drove them out of the only place on Earth they're safe. They're risking their sanity. They are willing to risk oblivion because of what? Ghouls who are turning human? What the hell happens when a ghoul becomes human? "

Akela was the one who noticed the trees that lined the hill above the Marina. The smile she always seemed to have on her face and the light from her deep brown eyes dimmed.

Every green thing up on the hill was dead or dieing. There wasn't a bird in the sky, and the air smelled stale and old even though there was a constant breeze coming off the Bay. It was like walking into a long closed room in an abandoned house.

The Sun was shining bright; it was going to be a beautiful autumn morning.

Only to the three women standing on the Pier, it felt like the darkest hours after Midnight.


Kincross and Clara The Alligator Woman were out on the Pier last Saturday before their 7:00pm show at the Chamber of Horrors performing slight of hand tricks.

Kincross was dressed in a simple black dress and over her shoulders she wore her black cape with the purple lining and on top of her head at a slight angle was her top hat and she was also wearing her favorite rainbow colored sunglasses.

Clara was wearing her favorite yellow dress and her Alligator markings seemed to shimmer and glow light green under the light gauze fabric.

" Did you hear about the Malloy Sisters? " Clara whispered, " Do you know what they're doing now? "

Kincross shrugged, " Eating their young? "

" I'm serious..."

" Well, so am I " Kincross said.

Kincross’ hand gracefully swept up into the air and from her fingertips a dove appeared and perched on two of her fingers." Those Malloys are one seriously ill family." Kincross held her hand open, palm up and the dove was gone.

She twirled her hand in a circle, opened it and the dove was back.

" If you can't get this thing to stop pecking my hand I'm turning this thing into a chicken nugget. " Kincross whispered so that the little girl watching them couldn't hear.

When the girl walked away Clara said quickly " they've been taking people up to the Bridge Islands. " Then she ducked her head and winced.

Kincross snapped her head forward and the novelty glasses slid down her nose. " They are NOT. "

Clara nodded and with a snap of her wrist covered the dove with a red scarf and then Kincross threw it up into the air and the dove was gone. " I think we should tell Sarah. "

Kincross pocketed the scarf and hissed ‘ ouch’ between her teeth. " Sheriff was very clear to us, we have to take care of our own." It looked as if she were flicking dust from her left shoulder but when Clara saw that small gesture Kincross almost looked ashamed.


" But."

" No buts about it Clara, if Sarah has to bring the law we could all wind up in psycho wards or in jars somewhere in a medical lab. You want that? "

Clara shook her head, " Danti, the people the Sisters are taking aren't, you know from here. They're...they're people Danti. "

" I'll go talk to them. "

" Danti..."

Kincross crossed her heart and held her hand up, " talk, just talk I promise on my Mother's grave..."

" Very Funny, "

" Okay, I promise all I'll do is talk. You can come and keep me honest"

The Alligator Woman shook her head, " I won't go near those creatures, but I'll tell you where you'll find them..."

The Malloy Sisters were exactly where Clara said they would be. They were having Tea like respectable ladies at the Glass Gardens Tea House on Weller Street. They were sitting very dignified and refined towards the back of the room by a salt-water fish tank filled with Seahorses.

When Kincross saw them she grimaced. The Malloy Sisters didn't smell like the Sea, they smelled like the grave.

" Ah " said one with red hair, " the Amazing Benandanti, Magician Extraordinaire and Werewolf Less Ordinary. Tell us, dog to master do you ever have the urge to chase cars or buses? " She asked daintily.

" No, but I do still have, on occasion, the urge to roast Sea Witches over an open pit and feed their lying carcasses to the gulls. " Kincross replied in the same mocking tone.

" We don't lie, Benandanti. It's just like the sign at the Pier says we simply provide a service, Sunset Boat Rides to the Islands. We own boats now, we sail them; that’s what we do for a living…”

“ For a living. Now that’s funny.” Kincross chuckled.

“ We've...become modern.” the bald headed sister with tattoos ringing her head said through clenched teeth. “ We don't practice the old ways anymore.”

" Well, see to it that you don't become unmodern otherwise I'll have no choice but to bury you so deep the maggots will never find your bones.”

" Don't threaten us Benandanti, it's not good for your health to threaten us. " said the Red Headed Sister.

Kincross leaned across the table and opened her hand. In her outstretched palm was a book of matches with a dragon on the cover. " Don't mess with me ladies, I've cooked your kind faster then you can say, what's that smell...I'm warning you whether you like it or not. I don't like the idea YOU are going up to the Islands and I don't like the idea YOU aren't taking money for your ahem, good deeds. And I have every intention of finding out why you've become such civic minded ladies...all of the sudden. "

" Just reuniting loved ones and doing good works...” the Tattooed Sister laughed.

" Yes Benandanti, more then anyone you should believe in redemption. You know it's possible; you strive for it every minute of your pathetic wasted life.” The youngest sister with long white hair said just above a whisper.

Kincross sat back and spread a napkin across her lap, she poured herself some tea and then raised the cup to her lips and drank. Then she helped herself to an almond cookie and popped it into her mouth.

" You know, I don't like you being anywhere near the Bridges and I don't trust you being so close to the dearly departed. So if I find out you're going onto those Islands yourselves, if I hear about " accidents " involving tourists being lost at Sea if I see one Shade...just one down here in Duwamish with your names on their lips I will find you ladies and after mere second in my hands I will have you wishing you'd never made it out of Croatan. Got it? "

" We're never going back there, " hissed the Youngest Malloy Sister " nothing can make us go back there. "

" Oh ladies, I will personally take you back to Croatan know I can. "

" They're just sunset trips to the Bridges Benandanti, we sail at Dusk and bring you back by Moonlight. That's all we do" the Red Headed Sister said slowly and she stared hard into Kincross’ face as each word sunk in.

Kincross chose another cookie tossed it back into her mouth and then raised the teacup to her lips again and bit a chunk from the side of the small cup. Steaming hot tea ran down her arm and pooled at her elbow onto the tabletop.

She chewed and ground the heavy glass with her mouth open and the Malloy Sisters saw her teeth, her long sharp teeth pulverizing the cookie and glass to dust and then she spat it all out on the floor at the Sea Witches feet.

" You're liars ladies, that's what you do. I guess it can't be helped it's in your nature. As for me? I'll grind your bones to make my bread...hell I want to because that’s what is in my nature. That can't be helped either. Remember that next time you go on a Moonlight Cruise up to the Bridges and you start feeling nostalgia for the old days. Keep it clean ladies...I'm warning you. "

The Sisters flat dark eyes stayed flat and expressionless, which was good because that was the Malloy Sisters version of keeping their mouths shut.

They were listening to every single word.

Kincross wiped the corners of her mouth with her napkin and when she looked up her blood red eyes were glowing in the semi-darkness of the tea room." Ladies, I wish you smooth sailing. "

The Malloy Sisters watched Kincross leave the Tea Room; they also ignored the nasty gesture she made at them through the windows as she walked by.

One sister reached out and pulled her hands back across the heavy oak table as she stood up. When she lifted her hands there were deep gashes in the wood.

Then together they left the Tea Room and seemed to drift like shadows in the gathering fog to the Pier.

© anita moscoso