2015/10/12

Serialized Short Story: Izcacus Part 1

A friend and respected horror buff once told me that there are only two kinds of vampires: the "supernatural" kind that suffer vampirism due to a curse, demonic activity, etc.; and the "scientific" variety whose infection by some pathogen mimics traditional vampire qualities.

He went on to insist that writers of vampire fiction had to pick one of the two kinds of vampires and stick to that choice. His conviction that "supernatural" and "scientific" vampires can't mix was backed up with impressive scholarly support.

My inner theologian and horror writer both viewed the drawing of this hard line with skepticism. It smacked of that arbitrary Modernist invention: the War between Science and Faith. If disorders both viral and spiritual can afflict Man--a flesh/soul composite--why exempt his predator and dark reflection?

The idea gestated until I found the right transmission vector: a short story told in epistolary form (like the granddaddy of all vampire tales: the original Dracula). Like most good horror yarns, the setting had to be somewhere truly remote and isolated--a tall order in these connected days. A bit of historical research turned up the perfect time and place.

Shopping the finished story to all the usual suspects got me the customary "This is good, but it's not what we're looking for" replies. Another close friend and regular beta reader who liked the story advised me to get off the submissions carousel and serialize it here. Now seems like as good a time as any for a little experiment, so without further preamble, here's part 1 of a story about mountains, ambition, tragedy, and possibly vampires.


Izcacus


Izcacus
by Brian Niemeier


Veronica Fulbright <vkpfarrer@milehighexpeditions.co.nz>         April 14 (7 months ago)
to me

Dear Mr. Sharp,

I’m in the market for an expert climber and guide. My husband always spoke highly of your abilities.

I need a team leader for an expedition I’m planning. The climb will involve moderate to difficult rock, snow, and ice terrain at altitudes up to 5000 metres. Further details will have to wait. Suffice it to say that we’ll be among the first—if not the first—to bag this peak.

Planning is (obviously) still in process, but I’ve set a target departure date of 27 May. I apologise for the short notice, but I’m under various restrictions that can’t be helped. I would appreciate a reply at your earliest possible convenience.

Best,
Veronica


Eddie Sharp <mountainmaneddie@georaider.com>                 14 April (7 months ago)
to me

Veronica, great to hear from you. For what it’s worth, I was sorry to hear about Wil. We competed as much as we cooperated, but he was a damn fine climber and a good man.

Unless my hunch is way off, your coyness about the destination makes sense. Consider me interested (unless this is Lars or Eric using you to pull my chain, in which case fuck them).

Not that it’s much safer, but you can call me at the office if you want. I’m sure Wil had the number.

P.S. Full disclosure: I’ll be in New York next week meeting other potential clients. Depending on what you’ve got to offer, I may tell them to shove it.

Condolences,
Eddie


Dr. F. Teller Austen
716 ½ White Oak Ave.
Cross Plains, TX 76443

April 23, 2014

Mr. Edward Sharp
President & CEO
GeoRaider Consultants
873 Packer Ct.
Ste. 401
Denver, CO, 80239

Dear Mr. Sharp;

Regarding your letter of April 20, it is with no regret that I decline your offer of employment.

Contrary to certain vicious rumors, my circumstances aren’t nearly so dire as to risk committing myself to your dubious leadership. For the life of me, sir, I cannot imagine what possessed you to approach me in the first place. Either your many detractors understate your arrogance, or you hoped my mental faculties sound enough to abet your scheme, yet enfeebled enough not to see your folly.

As for your assumption that we’re “in the same boat,” you clearly need a lesson in the difference between disfavor and dishonor. To wit: I stepped down voluntarily when confronted with the risk of harming those in my care. You persistently place yourself and others in harm’s way due to a spiritual infirmity of which you seem ignorant.

I can only express dismay at Mrs. Pfarrer’s lapse in judgment. She may be blind to your rashness, but I am too old for it, however fat the purse. I extend her the credit of bereavement, though reassuming one’s maiden name, likely before one’s husband has completely frozen, suggests a degree of indifference toward his memory.

This will be my final correspondence on this matter, and I will tolerate none from you, Mrs. Pfarrer, or her principals. No monetary reward is worth involving myself in the commission of a crime—because that’s what you’re asking of me, if we cut the B.S.

If, from the time of this writing, I receive so much as a postcard from any of you, I will have my attorney contact the US State Department and the Russian and Georgian embassies to inform them of your criminal conspiracy. As it is, only my respect for Wilhelm Pfarrer dissuades me from seeing his widow jailed.

Courtesy demands that I wish you luck in finding another expert in both mountaineering and high altitude medicine, but if the lack will forestall this madness, then I pray you find no one so desperate or foolish.

Yours Truly,
Dr. F.T. Austen

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