Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bloggers Pseudonymous: Iron Galleon Beach

 Hi, everyone! Hope you had a good weekend. Below is a little deviation from the norm, a multi-blog serial called "Iron Galleon Beach." Matt Anderson, Corissa Glasheen, Philip McCall I, Rebecca Curtis and Kathryn Phillips are going to . As Matt has described this project to the five of us:
"This is a group of talented, young writers - and bloggers - and the goal is simple. Together, we will write a story, with each participating individual writing one chapter of approx. 3,000 words.
 I agreed to write the first part of the story, and then another blogger will take up the challenge. Without further ado, let me introduce "Iron Galleon Beach."

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Iron Galleon Beach, Part One

Summer vacation should not involve mermen. At least, that was Raffi's opinion as he stared at the secluded sandbar in front of them, fangs seething under their protective gums. Nor should it involve bleeding mermen and men with sharp weapons standing over them.
When he and his friends had chosen to visit Iron Galleon Beach for Memorial Day, several things had stood out to Raffi: they did not need visas to arrive to the island, a good thing since Raffi as a vampire could not appear on film. Their beach house had cheap rent despite having three rooms and two bathrooms; and there was no civil wars or coup d'etats going on nearby.  Most importantly, they needed the seclusion in case one of them had an episode, like if Nadia needed to do her werebear transformation, or if Fiona had to whip up some plant magic. The butcher in town didn't ask questions about the large steaks that Raffi had to buy for his health, or that his eyes flickered when facing the blood. It was the perfect vacation spot for four motley monsters.
They had not expected to find poachers here any more than they had expected to find merfolk. That was because Iron Galleon Beach relied on tourism with white people, and thus needed a good public image. A nearby island, Barbados, had received flak for letting the Pirates of the Caribbean people kill dozens of sea turtles while filming. Iron Galleon Beach couldn't afford similar bad press. If Nadia hadn't suggested a morning stroll to explore the island then the four might never have encountered this hidden beach, or the poacher. That was because the beach was hidden by thick mangroves and sawgrass, so that only a keen-eyed girl like Nadia would spot the path. It didn’t have a nice view either, like the other, more popular beaches on the island.
It made Raffi want to swoop down and smack that man silly with his guitar, then chomp down on his neck. Only he had left his guitar at their house. Turning to look at the three people next to him he saw that his friend Nadia wanted to do the same. The hair on her arms had already started to thicken. Alex was turning a shade of dark grey that indicated cold, icy fury. Fiona’s eyes had gone dark green, the color of cool jade.
The man in question had tanned skin, an ugly orange and pink swimsuit that tightened around his crotch too much, and a tight tank top with the same horrid colors. He wore cheap blue sunglasses, but his weapons spoke of expense; he had the merman trapped in a barbed metal net, with a hook wedged into its neck. A large brown satchel was strapped to his back, rattling with other weapons. The merman was struggling to breathe on the beach sand, not able to speak due to its gills not having water. Judging by the coloring and clothes - sheets of red and green kelp knotted around its waist - Raffi had deemed it female. At least until Alex spoke up.
"He's dying," Alex said. "No creature can survive with that amount of blood loss."
Raffi grimaced. It wasn't that he minded the sight of blood; he was a vampire, and on a normal day, he'd be guzzling a pint down with each raw meal to satiate his hunger. He minded the fact that someone was inflicting pain on a magical person like himself and his four friends, and that the person seemed to be enjoying running a large hook through a helpless merman.
The man looked up from his handiwork. He noticed four college graduates staring at him, one that was translucent white, another with dark sunglasses and covered in clothing from head to toe, a girl with plant tattoos swirling over her arms and legs, and another girl slowly growing fur and fangs. He didn't seem phased.
"Seems I have company," he said in a clear American accent. Not a native then, and not one of the locals who catered to the tourists.
"Let the fish go," Alex said, swooping forward. Raffi reached out an arm to stop him, but then realized that Alex was probably the best person to charge. Nothing could harm a ghost, after all, that could harm a living being. Unfortunately, ghosts were not able to harm living beings either, except to possess them and compel them to do strange behavior.
This poacher seemed to know that last bit of knowledge about ghosts because he dropped the net and the hook and sidestepped Alex. Then he whipped a small jar out from his satchel, opened the lid, and held it out. Within a few minutes, all of Alex’s essence ended up inside the jar, trapped. The poacher closed the lid and tucked the jar into his satchel.
Nadia gave a frustrated grunt. Fiona the nymph slapped a delicate palm to her forehead. It sounded like a wooden stick hitting a beech tree. Then she and Nadia moved to get between the poacher and the trapped merman, cutting him off. Her bare feet touched the water and made small ripples.
Raffi ignored Alex's gaffe, leveled eyes with the hunter, revealing his fangs. The sunglasses made him look intimidating, but he wished he were wearing a trench coat instead of a bright green Seminole shirt. Trench coats were too hot for the summer, however, and Raffi try as he might would never appear as an intimidating Edward Cullen or Angel. He also lacked their physical strength and combat skills. Contrary to public myth, vampires did not always possess the power to punch a demon in the face or even crush a human skill. They sometimes had to bluff.
"We don't want to hurt you." Raffi gave a wide grin, showing his fangs. "But it seems you know too much about us. And about . . . them."
He indicated the flopping merman and Alex’s protests from the satchel. The man didn't seem surprised that Raffi was a vampire. He eyed Nadia and Fiona with more appreciate astonishment.
"A vampire. And an idiot ghost. With lady friends."
"Hey!" Alex called from the jar, voice still muffled. "I'm a National Merit Scholar!"
"Alex, let us handle this," Raffi said. He cleared his throat, fangs extended to their full length. "But the 'idiot ghost' is right; let the merman and him go, or we'll tear you to pieces."
"You and what army?" The poacher asked. "It's not like you can call the police."
There was a beat of silence, as the four of them registered this insolence. The poacher's response showed a remarkable level of intelligence for someone who didn't realize he was in trouble.
"You have a point," Raffi admitted. "Given the police are more likely to send us in for dissection and permanent confinement than getting you in the clinker. But that means we're outside the law, which means we can do anything we like to you. And we’re all an army."
"Unless your girlfriends can do more than toss cellphones, then you're really screwed," the poacher snarked. He reached for the satchel strapped to his back; Raffi braced himself.
He almost didn't see the wooden stake coming, the poacher seemed to keep small ones strapped to his Speedo. Raffi dodged the stake but more weapons kept coming. The poacher took the opportunity to land on top of him, straddled his fallen form, and hold a stake to his heart. The wooden tip pricked Raffi’s green shirt.
“Make one move, and I turn your boyfriend into ash,” he told the girls.
The girls had managed to get the hook out of the merman’s neck and had lowered him into the water so that he could breathe. Fiona was busy trying to implement the first aid she had learned in preparation for medical school. Nadia had her hands curled, however. From where he was pinned on the sand, Raffi could see her claws erupting.
“Get your legs off me,” Raffi grunted. “I’m not your type.”
"Everyone's my type," the poacher responded, leaning on him. "And you'll be the type for my latest bidders. They were hoping for seafood, but a live vampire is rare these days. Most of you sunspots burn up the minute wood touches your heart-"
He stopped as the stake pushed away from Raffi's chest. The stake started to wriggle like a serpent and sprout leaves. Then it turned on the poacher, to had to toss it aside.
Fiona's tattoos were writhing like the vines sprouting from the stakes, which had now turned on the poacher; her eyes had turned dark green. Green meant danger, for a nymph's wrath was worse than any fatal stab wound or hook to the neck. The poacher seemed to recognize this bit as well because he tried to back away.
"Let's see here, ladies," he said, reaching into his bag for some other repulsive weapon, "we can surely settle this dispute-"
Raffi took the opportunity to punch the poacher in the groin. It wasn't that much different from punching a piece of rotten fruit, and it had a similar, satisfying squish. The poacher hadn't thought to wear a cup and he yelped as Raffi pushed him off and managed another punch to the larger man's chest. Both scrambled away, and surveyed each other.
Fiona returned her attention to the merman when it gasped and flapped; Nadia then made her move. Her claws were like tiny daggers as she pounced on the poacher and managed to tear off part of his tank top. She had abandoned speech in favor of growling. If the guy hadn't used a satchel to block her, he would've had his chest torn out. He managed to flip away and reach into his duffel, but not before she had morphed into a small brown bear, large enough to tackle him to the ground.
"A foursome?" he cried in surprise and admiration, pulling out a large rifle. "I happened to stumble upon FOUR magical beings now? Is this my lucky or unlucky day?"
"Unlucky," Raffi and Fiona responded. Alex managed to answer as his transparent legs wriggled in the sand. Raffi had balled his hands into fists, but he was unable to charge in and throw a punch while Nadia-bear was trying to tear the guy apart. She was having trouble; If Nadia didn't get a good strike in, the poacher would be lodging a bullet through one of her furry arms.
"Fiona, I need ammo," Raffi said. He dug into his pockets and came out with a tiny bottle of sunscreen, the keys to their beach house, and his wallet. He had learned from a self-defense seminar that women could use keys to defend themselves from violent men, but he wasn't sure if they would be useful when attacking a violent poacher that apparently armed himself with stakes and guns. Sunscreen also wouldn't be useful because it was the stick variant, that you rubbed all over yourself; he should’ve sprung for the spray version, which burned the eyes.
Fortunately, the nymph listened while working their limited knowledge of first aid to try and save the beached mermaid. Small blooms of kelp had sprouted in the shallow water and Fiona used them to clot the blood spurting from the unfortunate fish-boy's neck. She spoke to him calmly, but he was thrashing and not used to this treatment from any human. As she talked and reverted to the language of plants, the vines and roots crept from the nearby dunes. The poacher and Nadia-bear didn't notice while attempting to grapple with each other. Raffi took care to not touch any of the vines, though he saw seed pods on one and slashed his house key against it. Large yellow spores shot at the man, hitting his legs. The poacher swore, giving Nadia an opportunity to push him down. The problem was that she didn't take it because he was still holding that stupid rifle. She merely swiped at him, hesitating for that primal fear.
Raffi decided to step in. He took a chance and grabbed a fistful of the seeds. It made the skin on his palm itch, but he didn't care. Nadia was doing a great deal, but she wasn't doing enough to stop this guy. A vampire sometimes had to pull his weight when fighting a common enemy.
The spores made a better, bigger impact when they hit the poacher's arms. It messed up his concentration and made him drop the rifle. Nadia-bear took the opportunity to kick away the rifle, making sure its firing end got buried deeply in the sand, and to scratch at his pack. Several items fell out, including the jar containing Alex.
"Nadia!" Raffi called. "Forget the firearms. He's trying to escape!"
Indeed, the poacher had realized that despite all possible weapons that he was perhaps out of his league and he was making a quiet getaway. Raffi remembered the time he had accompanied Nadia to that self-defense seminar, the one with the key slashing, and made to body-slam the guy, breaking the poacher's sense of gravity. That was the theory, at least; part of it worked when Raffi managed to knock the guy off-balance and grab his shirt to punch him some more. The problem was that the poacher was apparently used to having vampires body slam him because he stood tall and firm, like a wicked yew tree. Raffi bounced off him, feeling the tank top tear in his arms. His sunglasses cracked.
“It seems you have friends in high places,” the man said as he reached for small grey balls, including Nadia-bear who was rearing for another charge. “You win for now, but I’m not leaving this island empty-handed, and certainly not with an idiot ghost.”
Nadia-bear yelped when the poacher released the balls; they produced tiny explosions and blinding light. Raffi shielded his eyes. Alex couldn’t feel the explosions due to being a ghost and trapped in a jar, but the sand vibrated from the impact. Fiona wasn’t paying attention because she was attempting to apply CPR to the unfortunate merman. By the time everyone recovered, the poacher had vanished.
"You know," Raffi said to the sky, "we didn’t come here to fight. We came to relax."
His left hand was still clutching the poacher's shirt. It smelled like rotten fish, salt, and ash. Nadia-bear couldn’t change herself back into a human for a couple of hours, but she could regain her human thoughts. She crouched down and bit on a stake. Within a few minutes, Raffi was free. He sat up, stroked the scratch on his black lenses, and moved to help Fiona. So did the others.
“What did I miss?” Alex asked as he struggled out of jar and onto the sand. When they all gave him a funny look, even Nadia with her large black bear eyes, he said, “How was I supposed to know that the dude knew about ghosts? Most of them freak out when they see me going white!”
“You need to work on your scare tactics,” Raffi said grimly, rubbing his arms where the stakes had pinned him to the sand. “Now I think that dude wants us all in a cage, since we cost him his fish boy.”
"Don't speak ill of the dying," Fiona said sharply; she never snapped, so they all turned to look at her. Nadia-bear shuffled over and sniffed the bleeding merman; it shied away and started to panic. Fiona ordered Nadia-bear to stand at a distance, so as not to panic her patient.
They forgot about the poacher and the fact that he had gotten away; what mattered was saving one of their brethren. Fiona did what she could to staunch the blood, but it kept coming. The poacher’s hook seemed to have severed an artery, so that no bandages could stop the unwanted gush of red. Fiona’s hands and clothes became coated in blood but she kept trying to save him.
Raffi knew nothing about first aid, The others all did what they could to help. Nadia-bear was purring to the merman while supporting his head. Bears could purr like cats, and Raffi had learned that the sound was calming to most animals. This didn't seem to help the merman though, because he was still thrashing about. Perhaps he thought Nadia-bear wanted to eat him. Alex started to hum a low chant, probably one meant for easing pain. That seemed to go better, though the chant made everyone quiet and sober.
Raffi stared at where the poacher had vanished. His hands were still aching from where they had clutched Fiona’s seed pods and he was still clutching the poacher’s torn shirt.
"He got away," he said. "That jerk got away. He knows we have a vampire in the group and other unusual creatures."
Oddly enough, Raffi wasn’t that worried about being put on the market and sold as a living vampire. That fear was an abstraction, a cautionary tale used after Twilight had made vampires a popular commodity for wealthy women. He was more worried about his friends, and about being outed, since that had happened before.
The dude knows we’re on the island. It’s a small town, and he might find out where we live. He could plan to catch us off guard, so as not to leave “empty-handed”.
Raffi used a much worse word than "jerk," when the merman lay still and stopped breathing, head lying in the water. The smell of blood and salt made him feel queasy, even for vampire standards.
Fiona took a moment, still tightening the knots on the makeshift bandage for the merman. Nadia-bear growled, sniffing the air. Then she shuffled over and sniffed the torn cloth in Raffi’s hands. Before he could stop her, the were-bear gave a great snort and started trundling off, running off into the mangroves. Raffi groaned and Alex soared after Nadia-bear.
Why did our summer vacation have to involve mermen?

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