NINE/ƎИIИ 4. Thyme Guide to Vampires


While the collection of journals and unpublished books provided extensive information on the occult, myths, and bits of history on the Itoril people, precious little mentioned vampires. What there was on the subject primarily focused on certain Itoril claiming to be, or considered to be, vampires. Only the most careful reader would notice the author, Augustus Thyme, had deliberately avoided the subject.

His final book, kept secret in a box, was devoted entirely to the topic of vampires. So much detail and insight, Nine began referring to the untitled tome as the Thyme Guide to Vampires.

NINE/ƎИIИ 3. Death Certificate

How far could a ninety-four year-old man get on a cane and with some pocket change?

That was the question Nine Thyme often asked herself when she sat down in the library to read one of her grandfather’s journals. There was a great deal on the occult, both myth and historical fact. Augustus Thyme had interviewed numerous experts and researched old books from different parts of the world. Besides recounting interviews, the journals contained notes separating fact from fiction. And on vampires. Some of the scribbled notes in the corners of the pages could be interpreted as the ravings of a madman with an unhealthy interest in vampires.

Nine had read all of her grandfather’s journals and his three unpublished books. She had read them for research. Now sitting in the leather chair in the light of an antique lamp, she searched for clues that might lead to where Augustus Thyme had disappeared to seven years ago with only a cane and the clothes on his back. It wasn’t her first time digging for clues, and likely not her last. She would search until she had an answer.

NINE/ƎИIИ 2. Crematorium Burn

Vampire Thyme FieryFog

Blazing heat poured into the hall. The two occupants didn’t mind, though, waiting quietly within their cramped boxes for their turn. The dead never argued.

Lamia complained, cursing as she cleared the retort. It wasn’t the heat that bothered her, though. According to her half-spoken words, her sensitive nose found the smell most disagreeable. Nine couldn’t help but laugh as she fetched the empty gurney pulling it into the hall. Glancing over shoulder, Lamia flashed a cruel look then burst out laughing.

Autumn was the busiest season at Thyme Funeral Home second only to May, for reasons Nine could never quite wrap her head around. Suicides were highest during the rainy winter months, but death came most often in Autumn and Spring. At least it did in Roseland. Nine often wondered if funeral services in other cities enjoyed busy seasonal periods. Whatever the reasons, the family funeral home required extra help during these periods, and that was when Lamia worked evenings and weekends.

NINE/ƎИIИ 1. Sepulcher Reflections

Welcome to Nine Thyme’s side in Venom. Reading the prelude, Old Thyme, is optional.

Thank you, and enjoy!

Death gazed out the window. Fog clouded the bottom half, the kiss of a ghost, where the glass bulged flowing over the bronze frame and onto the stone sill. Like melted clear wax, the window had nearly drained free of the top leaving a tiny gap within the frame. On quiet evenings, one could hear the dead whispering their secrets carried on the dusty breath escaping through slender opening in the glass.

As a child, Nine Thyme had spent many evenings peering through the old window at the dark shapes held within. Who would install a window on a sepulcher? Much like when she was very young, the window still captured her imagination. Her grandfather, Augustus, had often teased Nine telling her stories about the woman and child climbing out of their sarcophagi at night to gaze out the window. On several occasions she had waited for the sun to set over the cemetery to see if anyone actually came to the window. Only the ghostly kiss on the glass ever arrived at night.

The graveyard on the hillside was home to several of Nine’s childhood friends. Beatrix, an adolescent taken by influenza during the Great Depression, enjoyed talking about boys and playing chess. Beatrix had a simple stone marker, and Nine had on many occasions set the chessboard on the marker and learned about chess while discussing boys. Sometimes Douglass would sit nearby. He had been a hunter, accidentally shot by his brother. Douglas could explain everything about animals, and much about human behavior, too, but he never understood chess. He’d sometimes quietly watch Nine and Beatrix play until boredom carried him to sleep. Nine hadn’t spoken to Beatrix, Douglass, or any of her other childhood companions since her early teens. The ghosts had abandoned her years ago.

Looking into the window, through her reflection before the orange sky over the trees behind her, Nine searched the darkness within. She imagined a grieving man standing on the very same spot solemnly gazing in at his wife and young daughter. Instead of a door, the man had set a window into the tomb so he could watch his loved ones without disturbing their rest. Nine could make out the plaque on each sarcophagus, but she couldn’t read the inscriptions. The two women remained nameless, but not forgotten. According to Augustus Thyme, the girl inside was his father’s older sister, the graveyard’s very first resident.

In all her many visits, Nine’s ancestors had never spoken to her. She wished, just once, the ghosts within would come to the window and look out at her.

Nine pressed her finger against the clouded glass meeting her reflection’s cool touch. Slowly, she wrote her name backward so the sepulcher’s inhabitants could read it. Looking up, she met the gaze of her reflection appearing like a ghost looking back at her. As light faded in the sky, darkness consumed the tomb’s inhabitants leaving Nine looking at her shadowy reflection. Down at the bottom of the window, before her name written backward in the fog, she found a response echoing her message.


Old Thyme 15. Thyme for Samuel

Fog rolled through the parking lot. Within the murk, red splashed the airborne droplets. A flash, and another, slicing between trees, each pass of the strobe spraying a red mist, the dragon’s steaming blood rolling on the currents, disappearing into her frothy breath.

At the end of the walk, fog rolled into itself, swirling back against the breeze, and darkened into smoke. A moist boot-print stepped onto the walk. Another, a long stride carried the smoking fog closer. Stepping through the veil, a dark figure arrived, his step expending a dark cloud dissipating into the air.

Frozen, Augustus watched his visitor glide closer. With the streetlamp behind, shadow hid most of the cowboy’s features. And smoke. Writhing inky smoke seemed to rise from him. Squinting, Augustus searched for details. Not smoke, soot maybe. Each step shook soot free from the demon. The dark stuff even rose from the wide-brimmed cowboy hat. Recognizing the long strands of fine hair hanging over shoulders, Augustus realized this was the same creature that had been sitting in the chapel.

Cloaked in darkness, the patriarch of the family, Vampire Thyme, approached.

Trembling, Augustus raised the hefty Peacemaker.

"Vampire Thyme"

Stopping at the head of the corpse on the walk, the vampire gazed down at the mess.

Summoning his will, Augustus forced himself to look upon the vampire. Red-orange dust covered the hat and long coat, a rancher’s duster in tatters, and open revealing a big gun belt hanging low from the waist. The vampire appeared as if he had been wearing the same clothes for a century.