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Jivaja: Chapter Two (cont) & Chapter Three, Parts One & Two

Welcome to Free Fiction Friday! Every week, I’ll be posting a scene or two (in order, of course!) from my book, Jivaja. If you want to read along, just come on back every Friday!

Some scenes will be shorter, several hundred words. Some will be a thousand or more. Read them in order though, otherwise none of this will make sense!

Follow along as Mecca, a young woman with a Gift for manipulating human life force, runs head-first into a shadowy vampire-like society that discovers her power and wants to use her.

If you missed any parts, head over to the Jivaja Table of Contents to get caught up!

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Chapter Two – Claude, Part Two

 

The death of this Hayden weighed heavy in Claude’s thoughts. There was something about it…something about how it happened. He knew there was something in his past — probably in the early part of his life, judging from the difficulty he had recalling it — that called to him.

It took longer than he expected to find the medical suite. James was just entering with a black back slung over his shoulder. Not the most graceful way to transport a body surely.

Claude followed the man into the medical suite and stood near the door as James dumped the bag onto a flat thin-mattressed gurney. Claude had expected it to be something like a body bag — though he had no idea why he would think a Visci traveled around with a body bag in his car — but it turned out to be a plain black garbage bag. James ripped the plastic, as if he were unpacking a pound of store-bought beef.

The body inside looked more like a mummy than a recently-dead man. The memory in Claude’s mind that hadn’t wanted to come forward before, slammed to the forefront now.

Claude’s uncle — a man named Politus — had been found just like this in a copse of olive trees a few leagues from where Claude had grown up. Claude couldn’t remember specifics. He’d only been a boy then. But he recalled his father organizing a party of Visci — they’d all been full blood then — to hunt down the…

Claude couldn’t remember the name of the person, or maybe it was a group name. He would have to think on it for longer.

Claude stepped up silently behind the young full blood. “James.” He got a bit of satisfaction at the startled jerk and turn when James faced him.

“Yeah…?” Even this close, James had no scent. He must have come from a strong bloodline.

“You said, in Emilia’s quarters, that this girl only touched him and he became…” Claude motioned to the corpse.

James narrowed his eyes, obviously suspicious. “Yeah.”

A man of many and varied words. “Only one small question, if you please. I see he wears a long-sleeved shirt. Do you recall whether she touched him over the shirt or on his skin?”

James glanced at the corpse and looked back to Claude. Claude imagined he was weighing the pros and cons of sharing something now that he hadn’t shared with Emilia. That’s what Claude would be doing. But all things considered, this was a seemingly innocuous piece of information.

“Does it mean something to you?”

Claude didn’t show his surprise, but he hadn’t expected the question. “Perhaps. But I can’t know without some research. And there’s no need to do the research without an answer to the question.”

“Did Emilia send you?”

Claude didn’t answer, but didn’t release the man’s gaze.

James licked his lips and pulled in a breath. Then he turned to the corpse and pointed to what would have been a strong arm. “There. At the wrist. She grabbed it when he’d leaned in to feed from her.”

“So the clothes weren’t in the way?”

“No.”

“Thank you, James.” Claude left the man to whatever he would be doing now that he had the body on the slab.

The skin to skin contact meant something. Now Claude just needed to remember what that was.


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Chapter Three – Mecca, Part One

 

Mecca clutched the steering wheel in two tight fists, her cell phone pinched between her head and shoulder. On the dashboard, the speed needle had slipped past eighty. She eased her foot off the gas. The buzzing ring in her ear stopped as the line clicked on the other end.

“Dad?” The fear in her words scared her even more.

His sleep-roughened voice came across the line. “Mecca? It’s almost 1 a.m. What’s wrong?”

She took a deep breath, releasing some of her panic. “Dad, something really bad’s happened. I think I killed someone.” She blurted it before she chickened out. I know I killed someone. Her words hung in the air like a heavy winter fog.

“Are you with the police?”

“No. I ran.”

Moments crawled by. A giant black Lincoln Navigator blew past her, windows open, bass thumping. Her seat vibrated with the beat.

Her father finally responded, his tone tight and clipped. “Come home.”

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Chapter Three – Mecca, Part Two

 

She pulled into the driveway and cut the headlights. The foyer’s chandelier dropped a warm glow through the open front door. Her father’s silhouette appeared in the door frame. Relief welled up in her.

She closed the space between them. When he opened his arms, memories of her childhood overtook her. She fell into his hug and let her defenses down for the first time since she’d met Hayden at the Brew-haha.

He brushed a hand over her hair. Tall and strong, with broad shoulders and thick arms, her father made her feel safer than she had all night. When she looked up at him, she found more comfort in his electric blue eyes, which looked at her now with worry.

The little scar over his left eyebrow twitched, as it always did when he got stressed out or upset. Her Uncle Ken had nailed him with a baseball bat by accident when he was eight. As a kid, she’d thought that was one of the funniest stories of his childhood, because while he stood bleeding from the head, Uncle Ken ran around crying hysterically.

“Come on.” He kicked the door shut and turned her in the direction of the kitchen. “I made coffee. I figured we’d both need it.”

Mecca let him guide her through the contemporary living room and into the bright kitchen with its glass cabinetry and slate tile floor. Beneath the wall where the phone hung, a tiny black laptop lay closed on the countertop.

Visions of Saturday morning breakfasts superimposed themselves over the empty room. Dad settled her at the table and then went about putting together two cups of coffee. Another twinge of nostalgia tugged at her, seeing him in the blue terrycloth robe with its red piping. Mom had given him that robe the Christmas before she died. Guilt curled up in a little pit in her belly.

“So what happened?”

She didn’t answer right away. She couldn’t. Where would she start?

“Mec?”

“I’m still not really sure. ”

In the bright light of the kitchen, his gaze flicked down to the blood drops on her blouse, then back to her face. “You’re hurt?”

Mecca flushed and then berated herself for being embarrassed. She hadn’t invited Hayden to chomp on her neck. But the intimacy of the bite — was it a bite? It had seemed more like a sting when she’d felt it with her fingertips. But it was the location that made her uncomfortable sharing with her dad.

“Only a little,” she said. “I’m fine.”

He set a mug in front of her. On its side, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet tromped through a field. It had been her favorite mug in high school. Her coffee, creamed and sugared as it was, seemed very close in color to the skin of her hand. She shook her head to focus.

“Just start at the beginning,” her father said as he dropped into the seat beside her, his own mug palmed in his hand.

“This is going to sound nuts, but it’s true, I swear.” She didn’t continue until he nodded, but then everything came out in a ridiculous rush. “I didn’t want to go clubbing with the girls tonight, so I went to the Brew-haha to work on a paper. The coffee house I took you to in Little Five after the play last month, remember? Anyway, there was this guy there and — Well, he’d been asking me out for weeks. His energy was weird though and so I’ve been avoiding him. I guess tonight I just got curious.” Mecca shrugged. It was the truth.

He raised his eyebrows. “You used your Gift?”

“Yes.” Mecca looked down into her cup.

She hadn’t wanted to. She never wanted to use the Gift. When she looked up again, the surprise on his face hadn’t faded. Did she see accusation there too?

“I couldn’t avoid feeling his crazy energy, whether I used the Gift or not. And if he hadn’t attacked me, I never would have used it.” The whine in her voice made her cringe.

“It doesn’t matter.”

Mecca couldn’t read his expression. And she didn’t understand why he wasn’t more accusatory. She’d killed someone, for fuck’s sake.

“What was different about him?” he asked, raising his mug to his lips. It was almost as if the question were academic. As if she hadn’t killed a man.

She pushed on. “From a distance, he seemed like he wasn’t part of his energy. Like he was wearing a glove. I know it doesn’t make sense, but that’s the best way I can describe it.”

“Did you touch him?”

“Not until…” She shook her head to get rid of the sudden image of the withered husk on the ground. “I haven’t used the Gift in any real way in so long. I mean, I always feel how people are — like you might hear background music and be aware of it, but not actually paying attention.”

He nodded but didn’t push her.

“It was getting late and he offered to walk me out.” She saw the upcoming scolding in his eyes and pre-empted his protest with a raised hand. “Don’t yell at me and tell me it was stupid. I know it was stupid. But we’d been talking a long time, and I wanted to know why he felt different.”

“All right,” he said, his blue eyes clouded with a mix of emotions. Mecca couldn’t tell which, though. “So what was it that made him different?”

Mecca hesitated before answering. She thought about what happened. About what she saw. About what she experienced. She tried to break it down. Finally, she said, “It was stolen. The energy he was using.”

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Her father’s forehead crinkled and Mecca watched him try to process the information.

“I found it bound in his Cavern with these silver… ties. They looked like rope, but stretchy and gross-looking. Like membranes.”

Her dad wrinkled his nose to match his forehead.

“So this ball of energy was held to the walls of his Cavern with those things. It was like looking at an insect in a spider’s web.” She shuddered again, because that was exactly what it had been like, she realized. A sticky, gross spider’s web.

He shook his head and ran a thick palm over his buzz-cut. “That’s not how it works.”

“Before I explored the Cavern, he’d touched me on the arm and I felt emptiness. Cold. Nothing like a normal person. I know you’ve never experienced it, but he didn’t have the warm, soft feeling that a person’s Cavern has.”

“He can’t live and not have a life force. Even when you borrow energy–”

“I don’t borrow energy.” Mecca’s cheeks warmed and her pulse beat heavy in her ears. She hadn’t used her Gift since just after Mom died. She didn’t borrow energy. She didn’t.

“I know. I’m sorry. My point was that even if someone were to borrow energy, the life force diminishes in one and increases in the other. It just adds to what’s already there. Capturing, binding it is unnecessary. And, in theory, if you — if someone took all the energy from another, that other would die.”

“Yes.” Mecca’s hand hurt. She looked down to find herself gripping the coffee mug so hard her knuckles had paled.

“You think that’s what he did? He killed someone?”

“I don’t know. I just know that when I was able to touch him and send my energy into him, he didn’t have anything of his own. I found a ball of gold light, small. Diminished.”

He shook his head. “Let me make sure I understand,” he said, his words punctuated by an exasperated sigh. “You meet this guy at the coffee shop. He seems just like a normal person, except for the weird feeling. Aside from that, he’s like anyone else, right? But he doesn’t have any energy of his own. No life source. Only a small bit he stole from–from who?”

Mecca shrugged. “I don’t know. All I know is that the Cavern was cold and the color of the energy was fading. He must have been living off it, like food.”

Her father leaned back in the kitchen chair, confusion playing along his features. He didn’t look like he believed her. “Living off stolen energy. Okay, then what?”

“I took it. I pulled it right out of him. And he died.” Mecca swiped a tear from her cheek, her fingers warm from the cup. When had she started crying? “I killed him.”

He only watched her, his forehead creased in worry or in thought. Why didn’t he react? Mecca didn’t know. He sat rigid.

“The police didn’t come?”

“I don’t know. I ran.”

“Did anyone see you?”

Mecca looked down again. The face of the man near the Dumpster came up, unbidden. “Yes. One guy. He looked terrified.”

“Shit.”

“I should have called 911.”

Her dad didn’t say anything for a minute. Then, “Are you sure he’s dead?”

Mecca stared at him, unbelieving. Why wasn’t he appalled at her? Why didn’t he look surprised or scared? Or even freaked out, for that matter?

“Yes.” A vision of the emaciated head flashed through her mind’s eye. It reminded her of Mom, just before… She pulled in a breath. “He’s dead.”

The corners of his mouth tugged downward. He stood abruptly. “I’m going to go see if anyone found the body.”

Mecca reeled back in the chair, as if he’d hit her.

“What? Are you crazy?” The police would be there.

“We need to know, Mecca. Let me go put on clothes. I’ll only be a minute.”

“I’m going with you,” she said. The chair scraped against the tile floor as she stood. Her nerves ratcheted up, making her skin feel hot.

“Don’t be ridiculous. You don’t need to go.”

“I’m not just gonna sit here and pace the floor.” This whole thing was batshit crazy, but she wasn’t going to bounce around the house, making herself crazy. “I’m going.”

He stared at her and then gave her a curt nod. “All right.”


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