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Can’t Get Blood From A Corpse – Prologue & Chapter 1

so here’s a new thing that I’m just having some fun with. kind of a light-hearted, college-aged, world-savior thing. small town girl inheriting powers she didn’t know she had when she turns 20.

thought I’d post to friends and get some feedback if y’all are available.

(don’t worry, I’ve got the cut-tag figure out for this one ;o))

The first twenty years of Ellie Braithwaite’s life were pretty boring by all standards. She grew up in the same neighborhood, went to school with the same kids, graduated at the middle of her class with those same kids, and applied to a community college with her mediocre grades. At five foot five inches, Ellie Braithwaite was neither tall nor short and while slender with lovely chestnut hair, she was neither a beauty nor plain. She was, in point of fact, ordinary in every single way.

Right up until her twentieth birthday…

CHAPTER ONE

Ellie woke with a smile, just as she did most days. Yawning and stretching, she gazed up at her ceiling and told it, “Just you wait. Today’s going to be an exciting day.”

No one had ever claimed that Ellie had even a hint of prescience in her, but there was something churning in her stomach that had nothing to do with her twentieth birthday. She didn’t know what it was exactly, having never felt this sensation, but it held a bit of anticipation mixed with a bit of fluttery butterflies mixed with a bit of something that made her think of roller coasters right at the tippy-top of the hill, just about to zoom down the track.

Tossing back the airy covers on her, Ellie hopped out of bed as awake as just before she went to sleep. Turning her brain on and off had never been a problem for her as it seemed to be for most others. Ellie picked through her dresser drawers and pulled out a pair of jeans, clean underwear (because you really never knew when you’d get into an accident, just like mom always said), and an almost obsessively cheerful pink shirt with flowers on it.

Out in the hall, she spotted her brother Sam leaving his bedroom and made a mad dash for the bathroom. He spotted her at the exact same moment and almost beat her to the door, but she hip-checked him with enough force to do a professional hockey player proud and sent him spinning to the wall.

Just as she slammed the door shut, he bawled with the volume only a seventeen year old boy could manage, “Maaa! Ellie shoved me!”

Ellie giggled when she heard her mother retort just outside, “If you’re dumb enough to take her on for the bathroom, then you got what you deserved, my boy. Go eat while you’re waiting. And Ellie! No violence in this house before noon!”

“Yes, ma’am!” Ellie called back cheerfully.

She went about her shower routine humming tunelessly and moving without any sense of rhythm to the beat in her head. If anyone had been watching at that moment in time they might have assumed her afflicted with seizures or practicing some sort of martial arts. Finishing off in about fifteen minutes and running a brush ruthlessly through thick, tangled hair, Ellie ignored the small smarting pains and braided it to go through the ball cap she planned to wear; it had matching flowers to the shirt, which had been a happy accident.

“Gee, I hope your car starts when you leave this morning,” Sam said viciously when they passed in the hall.

Ellie smiled pleasantly and replied, sweetly vicious like most Southern women, “It better, because I know where your porn stash is.”

He blanched and changed direction, probably to go down the back stairs and make her car work again.

Grinning at the victory, Ellie continued on her way to the kitchen where she kissed her mother on the cheek and reminded, “I have work after class this afternoon.”

A tall woman with more curves than not, Mrs. Sandy Braithwaite had raised her three children on her own. This had given her both a spine of steel and a flexibility of spirit that many gymnasts would envy. The same rich, chestnut locks hung down her back as Ellie’s, though with small splashes of white. Not looking up from her laptop, she replied, “Right. So you’ll be home about ten?”

“Don’t send out the dogs if it happens to be closer to midnight,” Ellie teased, popping bread into the toaster. “Couple of girls were talking about a party and I might go.”

Her mother did look up at that, pinning her with a stern look and the sterner words, “I will send out the dogs if you’re out past twelve oh one, are we clear?”

Ellie saluted and caught the toast that jumped into the air without even looking, dropping them onto a small plate and reaching for the butter dish.
Sam walked in just then, wiping his hands on a rag and giving her a dirty look as he lied, “I fixed up that short in your car’s electrical system.”

“Aren’t you a sweet boy,” their mother commented, glancing between them suspiciously and then back to her laptop.

Ellie grinned and agreed, “A very sweet boy who’s gonna be late if he doesn’t hurry.”

Sam glowered at her, but jogged through the kitchen and thumped upstairs.
As she brought her toast to the table, Ellie’s mother smiled at her and asked, “You feel a year older yet?”

“Not yet!” Ellie replied through a mouthful.

“So this party isn’t a birthday party?”

“Nope.”

“What is wrong with your friends?”

Ellie smiled and pointed out, “Same thing that’s wrong with my family, apparently.”

Chuckling, her mother said, “There might be something waiting for you on your bed when you get home tonight.”

“You can’t just give me my present now?” Ellie wheedled.

“Got to make sure you come home for some reason, now, don’t I?”

Finishing off her toast, Ellie jumped up and said, “I don’t need bribery for that. I live here, remember?”

There was another chuckle and her mother stood up and replied, “I should, all the laundry I do for you.”

Ellie didn’t resist the tight hug her mother bestowed, returning it with love. “For which I should say thanks more often.”

“Yes you should,” her mother admonished. Pulling back, she kissed Ellie on the cheek and continued, “Happy Birthday, my girl. Oh, and try and take it easy on your brother now and again, all right, Ellie?”

Ellie blew a kiss at her mother and promised, “Now and again,” as she snared her ball cap and dashed out to her car.

The Blue Bomber, a 1983 Cutless Sierra inherited from her grandmother two years before, was in pristine condition. The fact of which had probably alerted her mother that something had been going on between her and Sam. Not that there generally wasn’t something going on between them, they were generally just better at hiding it from her.

Sliding behind the large steering wheel and pushing her key into the ignition, Ellie started the car and hooked up her mp3 player, one of the few mods that she’d made to the old car. After selecting an upbeat playlist, she headed down the long driveway onto the main road of their small town, Willoughby Lake, towards the highway, which would bring her to the college.

It was a forty minute drive from the tiny, picturesque township where she’d grown up to the city of Foyettesville, GA where she went to school. Most of the kids she had classes with probably wouldn’t be able to find Willoughby on a map, but then, most of them likely couldn’t read a map unless it was starred on mapquest.

Her cell phone rang and Ellie saw Reynold’s name flash on the ID. She opened the phone one-handed and demanded, “I thought you were going to call last night, dopey! Are we on or what?”

Reynold’s low voice told her with that casual, yummy drawl, “If you’d check your voicemail, you’d know we’re on. Talked to Shawna and Franklin and they’re gettin’ the party started.”

Passing an old woman in a Volvo, Ellie rolled her eyes and said, “I knew that much from talkin’ to them myself.”

“But you didn’t know it was at the library,” Reynold countered. “Franklin got the keys from the old bird who locks the place up every night.”

Ellie snorted at the description of ‘old bird’ as applied to Mara Walsh, the head librarian. She was positive that the woman was some kind of secret agent assigned to the end of nowhere as some kind of punishment. Somewhere north of thirty, the woman’s wardrobe screamed for a makeover with its plainness and her thin face might have been pretty, if she used any makeup. It was the sharp gray eyes that spoke of an even sharper intelligence, though, and experience beyond that of some backwater community college.

“I will see you there, then. I’ve got a test in econ and statistics today with last minute cramming,” Ellie sighed.

“I offered to help you study.”

“And right chivalrous you were, too. Guess I’ll just have to fall on my stubborn sword.”

“I think you’ve mixin’ metapors there.”

“Bye, Rey.”

“See ya, Ellie.”

Flipping her phone shut, she tossed it aside and bounced without rhythm to the beat of the song. Ellie turned up the music and sang along, something that might have harmed anyone else in the car, which was why she only did so when alone. Arriving in record time and a stunning good mood, even for her, Ellie parked in the nearer lot and then shouldered her bookbag.

The problem with being undeclared was the variety of classes she had to take. With no predisposition towards any one career, Ellie had no idea what she would do when it came time to pick something to make a living at. It wasn’t like she could claim her talents as being super color coordinated, a kickass fencer, or able to set an internal alarm clock for any time she chose. Just didn’t like that work in the real world.

There was just about a half-hour before her economics class, which had her settled in front of the door re-reading the chapter for the fourth time in hopes that something would stick. The heat of the day hadn’t started, thankfully, but the sun was bright, making her glad she’d thought to wear her hat. Its shade covered the too-bright-white pages of her used textbook just enough to make the cramming bearable.

“Last minute study session, Ms. Braithwaite?”

Startled, Ellie looked up at Mara Walsh and replied, “Yeah, um, yes, ma’am.”

“And such a dry subject, too,” the woman continued, those colorless eyes not missing even the trickle of sweat down the side of Ellie’s throat, she was sure. “I bet you do just fine. Please tell Mr. Franklin that I seem to have misplaced my key. I’ve arranged for security keep an eye on the library until a new key can be made.”

Ellie gave her a weak smile and promised, “I will, ma’am.”

Ms. Walsh nodded with an unconvinced noise and then left her, thin heels clicking on the hallway tiles like a metronome. Ellie watched her go until she turned the corner and then let out a long, slow sigh. The classroom door opened, spewing out students who looked pale and shaken and silent, as if the test had been more than expected.

“Christ I need a drink,” one of the guys muttered as he walked by.

Ellie swallowed against a throat suddenly dry with the fear that only a test worth twenty-five percent of a yearly grade could inflict. She climbed reluctantly to her feet and hauled her bag into the cavernous lecture hall, taking her usual seat in the back. The pervasive smell of chalk dust, sweat, and fear assaulted her nose the moment she walked in and she sneezed twice.

“Bless you.”

Glancing to the side, she found a guy her own age already sitting a couple of seats down. He was broad-shouldered, with long arms that promised height and handsome on top of clearly muscled under his snug tee. Surprised, she replied automatically, “Thanks. Are you from the class that just ended?”

Bright blue eyes met hers and she could’ve sworn there was a glint of mockery there as he replied, “I’m just auditing.”

Ellie frowned a bit, but sat in her customary seat as others filtered in.
From the front of the class, the stick-figure thin Mr. Laughlin called out sharply, “Take your seats and put away all but a pen. Any talking from here on out means an instant failure.”

Like all despots, Mr. Laughlin ruled his class with arbitrary fear. You didn’t have to have done anything to be singled out and made fun of for stupidity or even kicked out for being ‘insubordinate,’ the catch-all term used for anyone who had the nerve to seem smarter than the older man.

The thick tests were passed back and as soon as Ellie took one and passed the others on, a sense of despair covered her at how thick it was. No way could she get through all of it in an hour, even if she’d read the material twenty times instead of just five.

“Time starts now, people!” Mr. Laughlin snapped.

Taking a breath, Ellie flipped over the first page and wrote her name before looking at the first problem. Blinking in surprise, Ellie was astounded when her hand filled in the answer without any real effort on her part. The rest of the test went exactly like that, the answers flashing in front of her eyes as if the page of the book itself was right there to be read. She knew the term was eidetic, but it had damn sure never been applied to her before. Her pen moved as if possessed and she was done a little more than twenty minutes later, even with the two essay questions that involved actual silence.

Ellie didn’t dare look up or around for fear of looking like she was done way, way too soon. Laughlin assumed cheating even when the student was done only ten minutes early and she had another forty minutes to fill. Returning to the beginning, Ellie slowly went over every single answer, but knew without a doubt that they were all correct and that was a problem. It would definitely look like cheating if she left the test as it was, so she erased a few and picked wrongly.

Finally, the test was over and she could pass in the test and beat a hasty exit. Once outside, she gasped for air as if she’d run a marathon. Feeling vaguely ill, Ellie walked slowly to the student union and bought a soda, gulping it down and sinking into an overly comfortable chair. She let the noise of the other students wash over her in a comforting wave, eyes closed and taking slow, even breaths.

“This seat taken?”

Ellie frowned, recognizing the voice of the guy who’d talked to her in Laughlin’s class. She opened her eyes and found him just as tall as expected, definitely well over six foot. The unforgiving fluorescent lighting glinted off white-blond hair that had seemed a lot darker in the lecture hall. Gathering herself upright, Ellie shrugged and answered, “Guess not.”

“I’m David,” he said, offering a hand.

Politeness dictated that she take his hand, though something made her not want to; his grip was overly tight as well as clammy and cold to the touch. She repressed a shudder and pulled her hand free with a vague smile. “I’m waiting for friends.”

David smiled with astonishingly perfect teeth as bright as the lighting. “Don’t worry, I’m not a ghoul out for your soul or anything. Just wanted to know if all Laughlin’s tests are like that?”

“They are, yeah. Oh look, I see my friends now. Nice to meet you.”

A blatant lie, but she couldn’t get away fast enough, leaving her soda on the floor by the chair without a second thought.

As a kind of self-test, she opened her statistics book during lunch and read the chapter quickly, just like she had economics. Nothing seemed different to her when she closed her eyes and tried to remember things, but then Shawna interrupted when sat down with a drawled, “Aren’t we studious today?”

“Test in about fifteen minutes,” Ellie told her. “And a word to the wise, Laughlin’s out for blood.”

Willowy tall and with supermodel looks, her skin a perfect tawny color and her tight black curls cut close to her head, Shawna was as dramatic with her gestures any actress as she retorted, “He always is.”

“No, the test is hideously long, like twelve pages, and none of them are multiple choice.”

“Christ on a crutch!”

Nodding, Ellie patted her friend’s shoulder and commiserated, “Not only that, but Ms. Walsh is having security keep an eye on the library until a new key gets made.”

“Well hell. There goes the party,” Shawna muttered, losing the dramatics.

Shrugging, Ellie asked, “Who decided on the library anyhow? That’s kind of stupid with all the liquids involved.”

Shawna asked, “Would you rather risk the pool and have someone drown? Or the gym and have someone trip over the equipment and break their head?”

Ellie gathered up the remains of her lunch and agreed, “Good point. Call me when you guys find a new place.”

“I will,” Shawna promised. “Good luck on the test, hon!”

They air-kissed and Ellie hurried to her next class where she was disappointed at her lack of recall. No flash of photographic memory. Or any kind of memory, for that matter. Sighing, Ellie walked forward to drop off her test.

“You look like you’re glad it didn’t count for a significant portion of your grade,” Mr. Ferris observed with a grin.

Ellie half-smiled in return and told him, “It’s not you, Mr. Ferris, honest. I just have no head for this.”

Hardly older than his students, Mr. Ferris was easily one of the most popular professors on campus. He had a mess of ginger hair and bright green eyes with a dusting of freckles over his nose. “Well look. Why don’t you swing by during office hours tomorrow and we can go over some of the work in this week’s chapter?”

Nodding, she said gratefully, “That’s perfect, thanks, Mr. Ferris.”

He waved as she headed off and turned to the next student.

The air was passed muggy and she grimaced at its stickiness on the walk across the main courtyard. There were four large buildings in the main campus, as well as three outer buildings, and paved walkways leading to each. It was a small school as colleges went with about three thousand students and all of them commuters. With no dorms, the college’s blunt approach to campus design made perfect sense.

Ellie’s next stop was the bookstore, where she worked three days a week to help pay tuition. She’d been lucky to get such a cushy job and knew it, so she didn’t abuse her good-natured boss’ patience with being late ever. She needed the money. Waving at Tammy behind the counter on her way to the break room, Ellie bumped into David again. Literally. Between Social Sciences and Ancient Civilizations, he stepped out and she ran into him.

David’s cold hands caught her before she could fall, but Ellie wished that he’d let her topple, skin crawling from the contact. Pulling away quickly, she put on a false smile and greeted with false cheer, “Why fancy meeting you here, are you stalking me? I have mace, you know.”

“Not stalking, promise,” he echoed from before. “Just enjoying the serendipity. How about I take you to have some coffee?”

Shaking her head, glad of the excuse, Ellie replied, “I’m working.”

“How about after work?” he pressed.

Ellie sighed and told him, “Look. You’re really creeping me out, so just leave me alone, okay?”

David’s hands went out in a surrender gesture. “Sorry. I’ll leave.”

And he did, thankfully.

Shaking off the incident, Ellie continued on her way and promptly forgot about him in the work of cataloguing new book arrivals and inventorying re-purchased textbooks into their system. Time flew by until it was time for her break and then again until it was time to leave for the night.

“You need an escort, Ellie?” her boss, Jason, asked.

Ellie smiled at the teddy-bear portioned man and replied, “I’m fine, thanks. Meeting some friends right now, actually.”

He waved and Ellie left the bookstore. Tired from a long day, she was tempted to beg off the party, but her phone rang as soon as she exited the building, Shawna’s ID displayed. Sighing, she answered, “Hey, hon, what’s up?”

“Meet me at the U,” Shawna answered, sounding giggly.

“Shawna, I am wiped. What about tomorrow night when I’m not working?”

“Gotta be tonight! You only turn twenty once!”

Rolling her eyes, Ellie countered, “The big birthday’s next year, remember? My own family’s not throwing a party.”

“No offense, hon, but you’re family’s weird.”

Ellie didn’t contest the point. She just sighed again and said, “All right, I’ll be right there.”

And she would have been, except for the vampire.

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About Nancy M. Griffis

Author and screenwriter who loves scifi/action/adventure/urban fantasy genres. I have two published novels, Mind Games and Eternal Investigations, as well as a short story published for charity called "Home Fires Burning." All are available through amazon.com and barnesandnobles.com.

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