Beat the Drum
by Kimberly Steinberg
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
The next day was Liam’s follow-up appointment. Dr. Spence tested Liam’s iron again. I was becoming certain Liam needed something more than medical help.
Lucas was next. “Mom, I had a dream last night just like Liam’s, that a beautiful woman knocked on my window and asked if she could come in. I said no, and she went away.”
“What else do you remember about your dream?” I asked.
“She had long dark hair, she was floating and her eyes were rimmed with red. I knew if I let her in she would hurt me. But, at the same time, I couldn’t stop staring at her. I almost opened the window. It was scary.”
How could they be having the same dream? I decided to research vampires. I didn’t say anything to Oliver; he would just make fun of me. Certain characteristics are shared by most fictional vampires. They are usually charismatic, stronger than humans with heightened senses. They crave human blood and, when they drink all of a human’s blood, that person dies. Sometimes a victim will come back to life as another vampire.
If the monster drinks small quantities of blood from a human and keeps the person alive, they develop a deep and magical bond that can then morph into a telepathic slave relationship. Slaves do not become vampires. Many vampires look human until they are ready to feed, and then they begin to look like a monster. They may also lose human appearance if they become angry.
I reviewed the ways to fight a vampire. They had an aversion to garlic and to holy water. I didn’t have any holy water lying around the house, but I did have garlic. I looked where I thought I put the garlic but couldn’t find it. I was sure I had bought some on my last grocery trip. When I cleaned up later, I found garlic on the windowsills of each kid’s room. Someone had beat me to it.
A stake through the heart is the most certain method of killing a vampire, but they can also die from exposure to sunlight. There are tales of some vampires who survived sunlight, but it still weakened them.
I wasn’t sure what good all this knowledge would do, but I felt better. Next, I would try to find some holy water and sprinkle it on the kids bedding. We weren’t churchgoers but, having watched The Exorcist, I knew that Catholic churches were likely to have holy water on hand.
* * *
Plain water is made holy when a priest blesses it. What could it hurt? I headed over to the closest church in my neighborhood, St. Paul’s.
Fall in Boise was my favorite time of year. It was brisk outside and the neighborhood was quiet. Most people were at work and kids were at school. I worked part-time at home so my schedule was flexible. As I walked, red and gold maple and elm trees shed their leaves preparing for winter.
It was afternoon on a Tuesday, and the chapel was deserted. I looked around. Where would the holy water be? There was a small room behind the altar. As I was opening cupboards, I heard footsteps. Oh no, how would I explain my presence? When the priest walked in, I tried to look confused, which wasn’t hard.
“Oh, Father, hi. I’m lost, can you tell me where the bathroom is?”
He was young, late twenties or early thirties, and nice-looking. He had brown hair and a closely trimmed beard. The traditional white clerical collar was around his neck. “You thought the bathroom was in the cupboards?”
He wasn’t buying my excuse. Maybe I should come clean.
“Let’s start over,” said the priest. He walked me over to the front of the church. “I’m Father Joel. When you enter a Catholic church, you dip your fingers in the font of holy water right here and make the sign of the cross,” he said.
Holy water! I found it, now I just had to collect it.
“Um,” I said. “Is there any chance I could have some of this holy water?”
He stared at me, then sighed with resignation. “Sure, why not,” he said. “We keep bottles of it for sale as a fundraiser.” I laughed, but he wasn’t laughing. “Stay here, I’ll be right back.”
Oh no, was he reporting me to the police? I waited a few minutes and then, just as I was getting ready to make my escape, he appeared with a small bottle filled with water. He said a formal blessing over the water and then handed it to me. “Now it’s holy,” he said. He looked at me curiously but didn’t say anything else.
I thanked him and left quickly, clutching my bottle of holy water.
* * *
When Lucas got home from school, I asked him about the garlic. He looked down, his face a little red.
“Sorry, Mom, after that dream I had, well, I know it’s stupid, but I put the garlic there.”
“It’s okay, I said. “I had been looking for the garlic to do the same thing. I don’t think its stupid to protect your family. But let’s keep it between us, okay?”
Lucas helped me sprinkle holy water on everyone’s bed. Oliver would not respond well if he found out.
Lucas was thirteen and took after his father. His blonde hair and long eyelashes made him a favorite with the girls at school. Both he and Jack had their father’s lean build. Lucas was a kind-hearted protector and loyal to a fault.
Both my boys had accepted Liam with their whole hearts. They regarded him as their brother, and Liam was excited to have other kids to play with.
Lucas’s brother, Jack, was cautious and mischievous. He had the same blonde hair and hazel eyes as his brother, and outsiders sometimes got the two mixed up. Jack looked more like my side of the family. He had a sweet temperament, decent friends at school and he was a bit of a nerd.
A wave of protectiveness swept over me. I was convinced that something supernatural was happening, and this mysterious woman was trying to hurt my family. Oliver was a chemical engineer. As a scientist, he had a hard time accepting an unscientific explanation. After we put the garlic and holy water in the kids’ rooms, it was quiet for a week. No bad dreams and no nightly excursions.
* * *
Then the news reported a death in a nearby suburb. A boy who attended Jack’s school had collapsed and died on the way to the hospital. I had a pit in my stomach as I watched the report. It didn’t give any details except to say that the investigation was ongoing. After Oliver got home, I told him about the death, and we speculated about whether there was any connection to Liam’s condition.
The day before the funeral, the boy’s body disappeared. When I heard, my knees were weak, and I had to sit down. Everyone was talking about it. I didn’t know what to do except stay the course and wait for Liam’s third round of test results.
After we got the labs back, Dr. Spence suggested that Liam get a psychiatric evaluation and referred us to Dr. George.
Dr. George diagnosed Liam with Delusional Disorder and prescribed an anti-psychotic. The drug made him act even more like a zombie. At our follow-up appointment a month later, Dr. George couldn’t explain why others in our family were having similar dreams. She suggested we could be developing a condition called folie à deux, a psychiatric syndrome in which delusional beliefs are transmitted from one individual to another.
“That’s ridiculous, we aren’t hallucinating.” I was so angry I got up to leave.
“I’m sorry,” Oliver said. “I’ll talk to her.” But I refused to discuss it.
Liam stopped talking to us about anything but the most basic things. He became reclusive and closed off. He stopped showering and brushing his teeth. When he wasn’t in school, he slept. The marks on his neck continued, and he frequently got up in the middle of the night, sleepwalking. The doctors couldn’t fully account for his behavior. Dr. Spence prescribed a blood transfusion, but Liam was still anemic a week later.
“Oliver, I think we need to consult a paranormal specialist,” I said. “Quietly, of course.”
“The doctors think this is a medical and psychiatric problem,” Oliver said.
“I know what they say, but the vitamins and medication haven’t worked. He’s getting worse.”
“You want us to talk to some quack you found online? That’s your answer?”
“It’s better than doing nothing, isn’t it?”
We argued for hours and Oliver finally agreed. I researched extensively, and finally, a woman in an online discussion forum gave me a name in Portland.
* * *
Copyright © 2017 by Kimberly Steinberg