Short Story Sunday: Misplaced Magick in Manhattan - Part 1
Eliza is a ghost living in a cozy cafe in Manhattan. Her centuries-long friend, Virgil, is a vampire. Virgil was turned during the Victorian era, when vampires were staked, and now enjoys the modern perks of living in a world full of paranormal beings. When magick creeps into their lives by way of a mysterious ogre, things get interesting.
SHORT STORY SUNDAY
Misplaced Magick in Manhattan
Being dead is a pain.
First, I woke up as a ghost, still wearing my favorite dress with the plunging neckline and flowing skirts, and standing in the middle of my brothel. Then I found out no one could see me. Well, unless they’re also dead. The people who eventually bought my brothel were alive, however.
These people took my beautiful brothel and turned it into a motel. Then someone turned it into a law office, and then a cafe. They couldn't even hear me complaining at them! They tore out the moulding and changed the windows, and I’m pretty sure the bright blue against the dark walnut would have driven away my clients in years past. But it’s no longer 1827, and the cafe tucked away within an alley in the middle of modern day New York City stays crowded with the bodies of the paranormal.
One of the good parts about being dead, though, is the mischief I can cause. It would have done the fae in my childhood stories proud. Like right now; a man was getting far too close to a young woman who was sitting by herself with a book.
She told him several times to leave her alone. She was even polite! It’s more patience than I ever would have given a man who tried to elicit my services in such a rude way. He at least should have bought her a drink first. He hadn’t even offered to pay her. Yet here he was, snuggling close as if they were lovers. His espresso was steaming atop the table, and I reached my hand forward to swipe it into his lap.
“Eliza,” a cheeky voice said. “You’re not going to scald that poor man’s spigot, are you?”
The man in question lifted a glare and stared right through me to the person behind me. “Excuse me?”
I spun around to see Virgil Taylor smirking down at me. He flicked a withering gaze at the rude man and said, “It would be in your best interest to leave the lady alone. The cafe has a poltergeist, you know.”
The man stood to challenge Virgil. Then Virgil grinned. His fangs shone brightly in his mouth, and the man paled before scampering off. Virgil scooted the espresso toward the woman with the book with a nod. She watched after him with a befuddled look while he glided over to a seat at the darkest corner of the cafe. It was then I noticed he had a new friend tailing him like a lost puppy.
Around the same time I immigrated from Ireland, Virgil travelled in from Britain. Everyone was coming to the U.S. back then. Virgil sprawled across the booth on one side of the table. The new boy’s gaze was bouncing between me and the chair opposite Virgil.
“Do you want a seat?” he asked with obvious apprehension. He was watching me as if I were the one acting the maggot.
“Who’s your friend?” I asked, looking the younger boy up and down.
“This is Carlisle--”
“Carl,” the boy interjected.
“--he’s my new roommate.”
“Virgil! I’m nearly proud of you. You hate roommates.”
Carl flopped into the chair and muttered, “He’s made that very clear.”
“Don’t take it personally,” I said. “He doesn’t get along with anyone.”
“I can be very charming when I want to be.”
I snorted. “Well, yes. But that’s only when you’re thirsty.”
Carl became paler, which was impressive.
“Careful Eliza! You’ll give him a heart attack. A very pretty thing did just pop in the door, though. Excuse me.”
The two of us watched as Virgil approached the woman with a charming smile. Carlisle swallowed hard, so I decided to distract the poor lad. “You must be a younger vampire then.”
“Uhm, yes.” He looked no less bothered when he turned to study me.
“Go ahead,” I encouraged. It was actually rather fun when someone asked me about being a ghost. Sure, it was impossible for me to enjoy alcohol, sex, or food, but there was some fun to be had as an ephemeral being. The fae folk would be proud if they were real.
“That guy who--when you were--no one can see you.”
“You can see me.”
“Why?” He sounded almost desperate.
Virgil slid back into the booth, cheeks flushed and eyes glittering. “Dead sees dead.”
“I’m not--I don’t like to think of myself as dead.”
“Right. You prefer the term undead.”
“I do not!” Carlisle rubbed his forehead with his palm. “Why do I put up with you?”
“Because you’re afraid if you don’t, you’ll drain somebody dry.” Virgil flashed another grin. Pink still stained his incisors.
I turned to Carlisle. “So you have an understanding with the blood bank, then.”
“Eliza,” Virgil groaned. “You’re ruining the fun.”
“I could have talked to someone at a blood bank?” Carlisle demanded.
“Listen, back in my time, if a vampire didn’t want to drink from a human, he spoke with the butcher. Werewolves do it too. It isn’t as if you’re an anomaly.”
“I’ve been drinking rancid pig and chicken blood for six months!”
The cafe grew quiet, all eyes turning to Carlisle. He shrunk in on himself, leaning over the table and glaring at Virgil who was lying back on the booth seat, enjoying the bloodrush. “You’re awful, you know that?”
“He’s always been a bit mental, dear,” I said. “You should consider yourself lucky, though. He offered to turn me once, and I said no. Now look at me.”
“Yeah. Great. Now everyone can see me freaking out about the fact that I’m dead, and I’m going to outlive everyone I’ve ever known.” The poor boy looked miserable. He was probably around sixteen, nearly a man. Well, not by today’s standards.
I thought about saying that a ghost also outlives everyone they ever knew, but this didn’t seem like the time. There was an awkward silence that followed, coated in melancholy. Then it sounded like the bloody sky cracked apart.
Light flashed so brightly that everyone in the room disappeared from my vision, becoming silhouettes against a brilliant background. When the light faded away, a lumpy form huddled in the center of the cafe. It lifted its cloaked head and I saw one eye in the center of its head, cradled above a snout-ish nose.
Virgil lifted his head and spoke through his sleepy stupor. “What the fuck is that?"
I had so much fun writing this story. I'm releasing it in a serial fashion over the next few weeks. This is a blog-exclusive short story, so check back for the rest of the story!
The way this story came about was because I wanted to release stories for you to read without having to buy an ISBN for every endeavor. I posed the question on my Instagram story, asking for setting, character, and plot prompts from you all. You fricking delivered!
The prompts were:
A Victorian vampire and their modern equivalent are roomies in NYC. - @momma_needs_a_coffee
An ogre who somehow ends up in the middle of a huge city in their future. - @flowerwineandbooks
A treehouse that can only be found if you believe in magick. - @azmira2323
Cozy cafe in the nook of an alleyway, with the main character as a ghost. - @authormeghancarlson
Ya'll, I wanted this to be a way to flex my creative writing muscles, and it's a spot-on exercise that did exactly that. I'll be posting another Insta story poll for the next short story soon, so please, please, please check it out and drop a prompt. I'm excited to go again!
A final huge shout-out to my husband, Lindsey, Michelle, my mom, Alex, Amber, and Nik for weighing in on the cover design. I am not visual at all, so these people are why this cover is what it is. Otherwise... Well, it wouldn't have been pretty, hahahaha.