Day 13: The Strix Chronicle Anthology
Onyx Path’s Month of Nightmares features games, stories, and more to celebrate the spirit of Halloween. Count down the days with us by reading our excerpts, participating in the discussion, or by taking advantage of our special offers leading up to a haunted Halloween.
Dusk. I’m sobbing on a park bench. The alley mouths wail mournfully, and the stray dogs are their tongues. The cracked axe handle rests in some dumpster, with the Frankenstein mask, spray paint can, and the now empty container of Handi Wipes.
My memories are a gore-smear massacre. Wiping my eyes makes it worse. Every meat impact. Every bone crunch. I could feel it all through the wooden handle. I wipe my hands together, but can’t get rid of the writhing wet feeling of palming that woman’s face —she came at me with a knife — and, with a bellow, I flung her — Little Red’s gift makes me so horribly strong — and she bounced so high and so hard off the wall. She left a star-shaped stain.
There were five of them, patsies of some Kindred pushing into Peoria without permission. The butcher shop was a front. Don’t know what they were doing there. Wasn’t need-to-know. Don’t know which ones were ghouls, which ones would recover from what I did. Wasn’t need to know.
Should have said something witty and scary, like one of my movie thug characters. Something like, “Stay out of Peoria, or next time I won’t bother removing the axe blade.” Instead, all I could say was, “I’m sorry… I’m so sorry… sorry,” while I beat them down to blood and screams and silence. Then there was only the rhythm of the blows and the latex mask sealed to my face with tears and snot.
Then out came the can of spray paint, and I marked the wall with Little Red’s message:
A ROOM IS A PLACE WHERE YOU HIDE FROM WOLVES.
THAT’S ALL ANY ROOM IS.
I walked out of the butcher shop in my grim-stitch coat with my red right hand.
Now I’m blubbering like a baby and passers-by are inching away. I’m not my movie characters. Why’d I have to do it? “Because we’re sending a message,” Little Red had told me. “Want to scare a monster? Show her you can get to her during the day.”
Sundown. Suddenly, the place is lousy with squirrels.
“Is it done?” asks a sweet voice. She’s perched on the back of the bench, red hoodie and all. Sometimes she lets me tuck her in at the house, but mostly she sleeps in the earth, in the parks that dot Leer’s turf.
She concentrates, then she slides down into the seat, sitting like a kid. She touches my cheek with a cold hand. “Oh, my Cowardly Lion.”
I wipe my face with a sleeve. “Heya, Dorothy.”
The squirrels skulk around us, eager as cultists.
“Come on,” she says getting up, pulling my hand. “You can take me out for ice cream.”
I buy her ice cream. Eventually it drips down to the pavement.
The scene above is from “Lullay, Lullay,” by Joshua Alan Doetsch, in The Strix Chronicle Anthology. “Lullay” was an interesting process. Josh came to me and said he wanted to tell a story about a little girl vampire, and her ghoul foster father, pitted against a creature out of fairytale. I keyed in on that relationship; I love ghouls, and that was an angle we hadn’t done before. I’m less keen on child vampires, though. I feel like too often (and I’ve been guilty of this) they turn into Claudia. And fairytales… hm. So I related that concern to Josh and said “okay, but above all things, it better not be twee.”
I really needn’t have worried.
What Josh turned in was a story that’s at its most disturbing when it’s at its most touching. The narrator’s relationship with Little Red has all the ritual and emotion of a father-daughter one. That’s what drives the narrator when he makes a sacrifice for her, whether it’s his safety or his conscience. But Red’s definitively the one in charge, and it comes through that she’s got both childlike interests and an adult sense of purpose.
The power dynamic’s very… off, and not something we’ve done elsewhere. Like Wood Ingham’s roommate story in Shadows in the Dark, this is a relationship that’s impossible to chronicle without vampires, and one that’s painfully human.
He buys her ice cream.
Make of that what you will.