Night-of-the-Fireflies-Mini-Cover

Grandma Lucy sat in her favorite chair on the back porch, enjoying the cool fall night. The sounds of the swamp were a sweet symphony to her ears, one of the small joys in her life.

Then, between one moment and the next, the ambiance of the night changed. Even the insects had stopped their nocturnal song. She grabbed the onyx pendant that hung around her neck and mouthed a few words, and the sounds of the swamp slowly started to come back. She gathered up her cup and book and went back into the house, touching the ward carved into the doorframe.

The next morning, Lucy was in the kitchen placing the last plate of food on the table when she heard Tim and Billy Tibedaux let themselves in the front door.

“Granny Lucy, we’re here,” Tim called out.

“In the kitchen boys. Breakfast is ready.”

The twins walked to the kitchen and gave Lucy a hug before sitting at the table. Plates filled with crisp bacon, andouille sausage, grits, scrambled eggs, and fresh-baked biscuits lay on the table. Lucy poured each of them a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and sat down.

Lucy smiled at the boys. “Dig in. I know young boys have a strong appetite and Grandma Lucy’s breakfast is always the best.”

The boys piled their plates with food. They ate with all the vigor of twelve-year-olds, as though this could be their last meal.

“Did you hear that Katie Miller went missing?” Billy asked between mouthfuls.

“How do you know that?” Lucy asked.

“We heard mom talking to Mrs. Miller on the phone this morning before we came over,” Tim said. “She told her that Dad would help look when he got back from the hardware store.”

Lucy leaned back in her chair and sipped her coffee, her eyes focused on a black and white picture hanging near the back door. The photo was of her mother, grandmother and herself. The day it was taken was one of the last happy memories she had of her parents. The boys finished up, cleared the table, placed their dishes in the sink and headed outside, eager to get to work. She smiled at the enthusiasm of the two. Though sometimes they could be real troublemakers, the boys knew how to put in a good day’s work.

The boys had the fence fixed by lunch time, and she treated them to some cold fried chicken, fresh baked biscuits dripping with cream butter, fresh vegetables from her garden, and large glasses of iced sweet tea. Lucy held the onyx pendant hanging around her neck, watching the boys eat, her mind thinking about the missing girl. The odd moment last night when the night went quiet troubled her, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that they were connected.

“I’ve got something for you boys before you leave.” She stood up and walked into the living room. She opened a box on the mantle and removed two necklaces with a silver pendant formed in the shape of a winged creature brandishing a flaming sword. Returning to the kitchen, she handed one to each of the boys.

“I want y’all to have these and wear them,” she told them. “My granny would always tell me, ‘Limyè a Pwoteje‘ which means ‘the Light Protects.’ They will protect you from anything that would try to hurt you. Promise me you won’t take them off.”

“Are they magic, Granny Lucy?” the boys asked in unison.

“Serious magic, boys,” Lucy said with a smile. “You promise me you won’t take them off.”

“We promise,” the boys said at the same time.

Grandma Lucy knew that if she told the boys to do something, they did it.

“Now run off home and don’t be playing in the woods at night,” she told them. Lucy gave each boy a hug and stood on the porch and watched them while they raced away down the dirt road on their bikes.

She walked into her bedroom, changed into her hiking shoes, grabbed her knapsack and walking stick, and exited through the back door. She donned a boonie hat to keep the sun out of her eyes and walked into the woods. Something had to have scared everything into silence last night and she was going to find out what it was. Everything left a trace, a scent, a mark on the earth when it passed—it was just a matter of recognizing it.

About a half mile into the woods, she noticed that the insect sounds had almost ceased. She gripped her walking stick a bit tighter and moved deeper into the trees. She walked into a small clearing, with a small pond on one side, and almost dropped her stick. A child’s body was sprawled face down on the water’s edge. Tears rolled down Lucy’s face when she walked closer to the body, which she discovered to be a young girl, maybe nine or ten years old.

She knelt down next to her and gently turned her over. Katy Miller’s face was frozen in a rictus of fear, her mouth open as though she died screaming. Lucy cried over the body of the child for a moment while the anger built within her. She opened her knapsack and removed a small vial of blue powder, a cloudy yellow crystal carved to look like an owl, and a handful of dried herbs. She said a prayer over the body and sprinkled the herbs around the girl.

She stood back up, opened the vial, poured the blue powder into a hand and threw it into the air. She gripped the crystal in her left hand and closed her eyes.

“Brisé, montre sa ki te konsa yo sou domèn ou,” she said.

She opened her eyes, and the clearing took on a different aspect. She could see the violence of the girl’s death and the mark of the creature that did it.

She saw where they both entered the clearing, the fear of the girl and the hunger of the creature that chased her. She walked over to the spot where the first attack happened, where the creature first tasted the fear of the girl. Something caught her eye on the ground and she knelt down to get a closer look. Two dead fireflies lay there, but these fireflies were bigger than any she had ever seen.

She placed the fireflies in an empty Mason jar that she pulled from her bag, then put the jar back. She stood up and looked around the clearing again and then at the body of the girl. While she walked back to her house to call the sheriff, she thought that perhaps it might be time for her to get one of those cellphones that seemed to be so popular.

****

“Thanks for the breakfast, Lucy,” Sheriff James Walters said while she refilled his coffee cup.

“Jim, it is always a pleasure to visit with old friends,” she said. “You want to talk about Katy Miller, don’t you?”

“The coroner examined her body last night. They couldn’t find any marks on her besides a few bug bites.” He sat up straighter in the chair and looked Lucy in the eyes. “They are going to say that the cause of death was heart attack. She was ten years old, but they can’t find any other cause.”

“What do you want me say, Jim?” Lucy asked. “She didn’t die from natural causes.”

Lucy raised her hand, cutting off the question Jim was about to ask. “And no, I don’t know what killed her yet, but I do have an idea.”

“It’s been quiet for so long, why now?” he asked.

“I don’t know, but whatever it is, I will stop it.” She reached out and took his hand in hers. “I promise you that.”

“Be careful, damn it. Don’t go getting yourself killed.”

They stood up, and he hugged her before leaving.

She watched him as he drove away, her mind back on the fireflies she found. There was that familiar feeling at the back of her mind, like a word that you know that’s on the tip of your tongue but it eludes you. She made her way into her workroom.

Bookshelves covered three walls from floor to ceiling, full of books of every size and thickness. A table sat in the middle, covered with a red cloth, an open book and a pile of dried herbs lay on it. Various plants hung drying from racks, a work table on the only open wall was full of labeled containers of powders, liquids and in some cases, dried carcasses of insects and animals.

She removed a slim, leather bound book from the bookcase and laid it on top of the open book on the table. She grabbed the Mason jar with the fireflies off the work table behind her and placed it on the table next to the book. She let out a sigh when she found what she was looking for. The picture of a female with long hair, fingers like claws and an unearthly perfect face was drawn on one side of the page. The image of a group of fireflies was drawn next to the female.

That night, she sat on her back porch, waiting to see if the creature would make another appearance. After having fed, it was probably content to stay hidden in whatever lair it had made for itself, but still she waited until the ancient grandfather clock in her living room chimed midnight. She would have to go back to the clearing and see if she could pick up its trail, follow it to wherever it had hidden itself and deal with it.

The next morning she was up early as she always was, making coffee when Sheriff Walters arrived. He knocked on the back screen door before coming in. He removed his hat and stood there for a moment, almost at a loss for words.

“Another child went missing sometime last night.” He took the cup of coffee that she offered him. “The Boudreaux family down on Canal Street discovered that their son, Walter, wasn’t in bed this morning.”

“You think it’s connected to Katy Miller?” Lucy asked him.

“I don’t know Lucy, but considering that what killed Katy is something not human and another child goes missing . . . yeah, I think it may be related.”

“Well, I found out what it is that did it,” she told him. “It’s called the Adze.”

“What the hell is an Adze?” Jim asked.

“It’s a vampire-type creature that originated in Africa and it can shape shift into a swarm of fireflies to lure its prey.” She went into her workroom and returned with the Mason jar with the fireflies and set it on the table.

“That must be how it got the kids to leave the house at night.” He picked up the jar and looked at them. “A big swarm of these flying around, begging to be caught.”

“Well, according to what I’ve read, you can’t kill it exactly, but I should be able to banish it.”

“Banish it? Banish it where? Should?” Sheriff Walters asked her.

“Hell . . . Africa . . . some alternate dimension,” Lucy said. “I don’t know, Jim. Yeah, should. I’m pretty sure it’s possible but you know how that goes.”

“Do you need my help with anything?” Sheriff Walters asked her. “You know I’m still a deadeye with my pistol.”

“Firearms won’t hurt it much, probably just piss it off and I don’t want to worry about your skinny white ass while I’m trying to banish it,” she told him with a smile.

The sheriff returned her smile. “You used to like this skinny white ass, Miss Deveraux.”

“That was long ago and we were both a lot younger,” she said. “Seriously though, Jim, I’ll be fine. I may be older but I’m still strong. I have what I need, and I know what needs to be done. Don’t worry about it.”

“Well, if you need anything, and you know I mean anything, you call me,” he told her as he stood up. He gave Lucy a hug and walked out the backdoor.

She watched him get in his car and waved to him as he drove away. She picked up the jar and took it back to her workroom.

****

The ringing phone woke Lucy from her troubled slumber. She glanced at the clock on her nightstand and wondered who would be calling her at this ungodly hour. She shuffled into the living room and picked up the phone.

“Hello?” she answered.

“Ms. Lucy? It’s Mary Tibedaux.”

“Mary, what’s wrong honey?”

“It’s the boys.” Mary’s words rushed out. “John checked on them when he went to the restroom and they weren’t in their beds and their window was open. I was hoping maybe they had come up to see you for some reason.”

“I haven’t seen them, sweetie.” Lucy’s heart started to race. “I want you to get off the phone with me and call the sheriff and tell him what happened.”

“It’s not like them to do something like this,” Mary said.

“Mary, listen to me. Calm down and call the sheriff,” Lucy told her. “I don’t want you and John to go charging off into those woods either. If the boys come home, mom and dad need to be there.”

“I’m scared Ms. Lucy,” Mary said, her voice breaking. “I don’t want them to end up like those other two kids.”

“Mary, you don’t worry about that. The boys will be fine, I promise you,” Lucy said. “Now hang up the phone, call the sheriff and try to stay calm.”

Lucy said her goodbyes and hung up the phone. She got dressed, grabbed her walking staff and a flashlight, then walked out the back door, headed toward the woods. If the boys had worn the pendants she gave them, the vampire could not touch them, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t hurt them.

The woods were oddly quiet and that put Lucy on edge. All the denizens of the night were silent, hiding from the unholy predator that stalked the woods beneath the light of the half moon.

Up ahead, she saw small lights flickering in between the trees, so she quickened her pace.

She broke through the trees into a clearing just as the fireflies came together into the human form of the vampire. Tim and Billy were sitting on the ground, hugging one another and crying, their eyes shut. Lucy raised her walking staff above her head in both hands and brought it down, striking the ground. A bright flash of light flared from its top.

The Adze screamed in pain and exploded into its firefly form. They flew around the boys and Lucy before dispersing into the trees.

Lucy walked over to the boys and knelt down next to them. They let go of each other long enough to grab onto her and clutch her tightly.

****

Lucy refilled the sheriff’s coffee cup and set the pot back on the stove. The Tibedaux boys had left five minutes earlier with their overjoyed parents. Lucy had brewed a special pot of tea for the boys to calm them down when they had returned to her house. When the boy’s parents finally showed up, it was a happy reunion and they weren’t angry; they were just happy to have their boys back.

“It was the vampire, wasn’t it?” the sheriff asked Lucy.

“Yeah,” she said with a sigh, “thankfully, the boys were wearing the pendants I gave them. It didn’t stop them from getting hypnotized but she couldn’t hurt them.”

“I hate feeling so incompetent and not being able to protect my citizens,” Sheriff Walters said.

“I know, Jim, but you know that just having you to lean on helps me do what I have to,” Lucy said.

“When are you going to be ready to deal with it?” he asked.

“I have everything I need. I just have to set a few things up and I’ll be ready,” she told him. “After last night, she is probably also going to be pretty pissed at me.”

“Well, you better be careful, damn it,” he said, “I don’t want you getting hurt.”

“Jim, when have I ever gotten hurt?” she asked him, smiling.

“You aren’t as young as you used to be.” He laid a hand over hers. “I don’t want to lose one of my dearest and oldest friends just yet.”

****

She laid out the ingredients and the necessary tools for the banishment on the table in the middle of her workroom. She stood in front of the table and ran over the process in her head, reading each step multiple times until she could recite it from memory. It was noon when she finished and the rumble of thunder in the distance confirmed why her leg was hurting. The hunt for the Adze would have to wait until the next day when her leg wasn’t aching so badly.

That night, she was once again sitting on her back porch enjoying the cool night air. While she was remembering another night like this when she was nineteen, the silence of the night intruded upon her thoughts. She focused on the tree line behind her house and noticed a twinkling of lights moving through the trees. She stood up when she noticed it was moving closer to her house.

A swarm of fireflies moved out of the trees and toward her home.

Lucy smiled when the fireflies stopped about twenty-five feet from her back porch, some falling to the ground dead.

In the blink of an eye, they coalesced into the nude form of a young ebony skinned woman. Her body was perfect, the ultimate image of sensuality. Long dark hair spilled down her back and framed a face of unearthly beauty.

“Old woman,” the creature hissed, “you tread upon dangerous ground. Leave me be and I will not drain you of your power.”

“Silence!” Lucy shouted. “Leave this place or I swear by the gods of the Light that I will send you back to whatever Hell you crawled out of.”

The creature laughed at Lucy and walked back and forth, testing the strength of the ward guarding the house.

Lucy gripped the onyx pendant around her neck and stood straighter while she raised her right hand. “You are not welcome here. In the name of Anyawu, leave this place.” Her hand started to glow, and grew even brighter when she repeated herself.

The creature emitted a cry and turned for the woods, transforming once again into the swarm of fireflies and disappeared.

Lucy stopped the chant and sat down heavily into her seat, breathing hard. “Now I have your scent. And I will find you in whatever hole you’ve hidden yourself.”

****

When the sheriff stopped in to check on her the next morning, she didn’t tell him about her encounter with the creature.

After he left, she changed into her hiking gear and walked to the spot in her back yard where the creature had stood the night before. She pulled a dark blue crystal from a pocket, closed her eyes and mumbled a few words in Creole. She opened her eyes and the aura of the creature stood out in stark relief against everything else. The pure, unadulterated evil of the creature was a dark red scar running through the yard and into the woods.

She walked it into the woods, following the trail for a couple of miles deeper into the swamp. Eventually, it led her to an area that seemed barren of all life—she didn’t see or hear insects, birds or animals in the area. She knew that this was where the creature slept during the day. Considering that there could be no cave for it to hide in, it had to be in its firefly form, spread out over the area.

Lucy set her bag down and stood there for a moment, taking in the surroundings and forming a plan in her mind. She opened the bag and removed a small dagger, the image of a sun carved into the polished bone hilt. She opened her left palm and sliced across it, wincing at the sting of the sharp blade. She cleaned her blood from it, placed it back in its sheath and dropped it into the bag. She pressed her hand against the tree, her blood smeared into the bark. She then pressed the fingers of her right hand into her left palm and drew the same sun image around the smear of blood.

“By the goddess Hepa, come and get me,” Lucy said with a cold smile. She took one more look around and started her trek back to her house to prepare.

****

Night arrived with the rumble of thunder and lightning tearing through the sky. Lucy sat on her back porch watching the show and waiting, a fresh cup of coffee on the table next to her. She took a sip of the coffee and tried to calm herself. It had been a while since she had faced off with anything this strong and while she was older, she wasn’t worried about dying. It was the idea of failure that frightened her—had always frightened her.

“Lord, I know I don’t talk to you often these days,” Lucy prayed, ” but if it is my time, I’m ready. If not, let me kick this unclean beast back to wherever it crawled out of.”

It was close to midnight when Lucy noticed the first of the fireflies drifting through the trees. She set her cup down and slowly stood up, her left hand reaching up to touch the pendant around her neck. The fireflies grew in number and moved from the trees but stopped short before it ran into the barrier her wards created. The fireflies continued to gather until they were a swarm of blinking lights. They seemed to melt into one another and the creature stood there in her unearthly beauty once again.

“You summoned me, witch,” the creature said. “Do you wish to sacrifice your life to me?”

“Sacrifice my life?” Lucy asked. “I’m going to send you back to wherever you pulled yourself out of. So why don’t you come join me on my porch and we can get this over with?”

The creature reached out a hand to where the ward barrier should be but met no resistance. A very cold smile spread across her face while she slowly walked toward Lucy.

Lucy returned her smile, and when the creature crossed the boundary of her wards, she brought her hands together. A cascade of light rippled across the yard as the ward barrier came up behind the vampire.

The vampire screamed in rage and slammed a fist into the invisible boundary. It winced in pain and turned toward Lucy. “You will suffer for this insolence, witch. Your pain will feed me for a very long time.”

The monster surged forward, her form splitting apart into the hundreds of fireflies that comprised it. They swarmed toward Lucy, emitting a high-pitched whine. Lucy threw her hands up to cover her face as they hit her. She stood firm as they broke around and battered themselves against her, flinching when they cut into her skin.

They continued to fly around Lucy, pushing her to her knees. She reached into her pocket, removed a vial and threw it to the ground. It broke open, emitting a bright flash of light. The fireflies fled from her, a number of them falling onto the porch dead.

She wiped the blood from a cut on her cheek and stepped down into the grass. The fireflies were gathered together again and the creature stood before Lucy.

The creature was no longer the unearthly beauty as before; her face was something from a nightmare. Large eyes that gleamed red, a long mouth full of razor teeth, lean muscular arms ending in hands with claw like fingers. Her hair poured off her head in a tangled mess, hanging over her shriveled chest.

Lucy took a step back, full of revulsion for the fiend standing before her.

It hissed and lunged for her, a hand shooting out to try and rip into her.

This time Lucy was ready and raised her hands, a protective barrier surrounding her.

The creature’s hand impacted upon the barrier and ignited in flame. The beast cried out in pain and stumbled backward, clutching the smoking hand.

Lucy took a step forward, her hands dipping into her pockets, removing a few more of the vials. She tossed them in the direction of the creature, and when they broke upon the ground, they each emitted a burst of light as bright as the noon day sun.

The vampire cried out in pain with each burst of light and continued to back away.

Lucy continued to toss the vials, driving the creature backward.

The creature stumbled against the ward barrier and screamed in rage. Its form wavered, fireflies bursting into flame, falling to the ground.

Lucy brought her hands together again and the barrier surrounded the creature.

The vampire beat against it enraged.

Lucy flinched with each blow it landed.

The monster continued to beat against it and Lucy stumbled, going to a knee. The barrier wavered for a moment and the vampire cried out in joy but Lucy raised her head and pushed herself to her feet.

Lucy stood there silent for moment, watching it fight against the weakened barrier. Slowly, she went to her knees and drew symbols in the grass with her silver dagger.

The creature noticed the symbols and fought harder against the barrier, howling in rage.

Lucy grunted in pain, each blow from the hell spawn weakened the barrier further and sent a jolt of pain through her head. “In the name of Hepa, goddess of the Sun, and by Surya’s holy chariot, be gone from this world.” Lucy stabbed the dagger into the center of the sun image she had drawn into the ground.

The creature roared, and Lucy staggered under the strain of holding the barrier up against the attack. Then the barrier started to flicker and failed.

Lucy stumbled back.

The vampire surged forward, reaching for her. Its claws dug deep into her left arm, tearing her flesh.

Lucy screamed in pain, almost passing out.

The monster cackled with glee, then grabbed Lucy and threw her to the ground. “The old magic is not as powerful as it used to be, old woman.” The vampire brought her bloody hand to her face and licked the blood from her fingers. “You may not be young, but you are powerful. I haven’t tasted such richness in a very long time.”

Lucy pushed herself to her knees, her mind racing, grasping for some way to fight the creature. Blood soaked her left side and if she didn’t stop the bleeding soon, she would pass out.

Lightning ripped across the sky followed closely by thunder.

The vampire looked up into the sky as it started to rain, a cold laugh coming from her. She looked down at Lucy who clutched her bleeding arm. “Are you ready to meet your God, witch?”

Lucy pushed herself to her feet, while pain flooded her body. She stood there in the rain, a smile on her face as the creature advanced on her.

The Adze raised its hand preparing to strike her down when a shot rang out. It cried out in pain, flinching backward from Lucy.

Three more shots rang out and the creature’s form flickered.

Lucy turned and saw Sheriff Walters slowly walking toward her, a shotgun at his shoulder. He fired again.

The vampire screamed in pain and exploded into its firefly form, retreating into the woods.

The sheriff was barely able to catch Lucy when she collapsed.

****

Lucy woke in a hospital bed, her left arm immobilized, wrapped in gauze and bandages. She looked around the room and noticed Sheriff Walters asleep in a chair in the corner. She smiled at him and said a prayer of thanks that he arrived when he did.

She shifted in bed, trying to sit up.

Sheriff Walters woke up and rose to his feet. “Well, you are finally awake.” He walked over and took her right hand in his.

“Thank you, Jim,” Lucy said, her voice breaking. “How long have I been here?”

“Two days,” he told her. “You lost a lot of blood, Lucy. It was a near thing.”

She pushed the blanket covering her aside. “Now, are you going to help me get out of this bed?”

“Lucy, I don’t think that is a good idea.”

“Jim, either you can help me, or am I going to have to do it all myself.”

Jim sighed in resignation and helped Lucy get out of bed and get dressed. A nurse entered the room after Lucy removed the monitoring leads attached to her. A few stern words from Lucy and the nurse left to call her doctor.

“Well, let’s go,” Lucy said. “That monster isn’t going to kill itself.”

****

Lucy and Jim sat at the kitchen table while a pot of coffee percolated on the stove.

“So what’s the plan?” Jim asked her.

“The plan is I’m going to kill that creature before it can hurt any more children,” Lucy said. “Don’t try to talk me out of it either, Jim.”

Jim shut his mouth and looked at her. He stood up and poured them both a cup of coffee, setting hers on the table by her.

“How are you going to do it?” he asked. “Your magic didn’t stop it.”

“No, it didn’t stop it for long, but it was hurt by the magic,” Lucy replied. “It’s out there, recovering, weak, and I’m going to finish it before it gets too strong.”

“You aren’t doing it by yourself,” Jim told her. “I don’t care what you say, I’m going with you.”

“If you’re going with me, I need you to get something for me first.” Lucy pulled a pencil and pad of paper over. “A few things I’m going to need.”

She wrote for a moment, tore off the piece of paper and handed it to Jim.

He looked at it, started to smile, and then laughed. “Damn, Lucy, you always surprise me. Give me about two hours and I’ll be back.”

“Take your time, Jim,” she told him, “I have a few things to get ready myself.”

****

It was mid-afternoon when the sheriff returned to Lucy’s home. He grabbed a box from the bed of his pickup truck and brought it inside, setting it on the kitchen table.

“Lucy,” he called, “I’m back with what you wanted.”

“I’m in the workshop,” Lucy hollered. “Bring them back here, please.”

Jim picked up the box and walked into Lucy’s workroom, placing it on the only clear spot the massive oak table had on it. He noticed a black leather-bound book laying open on the table with writing on the pages that made his eyes hurt.

“What is this?” Jim asked, pointing at the book.

“That is a very powerful, very old grimnoir,” Lucy said. “One that I haven’t used in a very long time. Old magic. Powerful magic.”

“If it’s so powerful, why didn’t you use it before?” he asked her.

“I didn’t think I’d need it,” she said. “Besides, it’s dangerous.”

“Dangerous? . . . How dangerous?”

“Jim, you’re going to have to trust me.” She started to unload the box of bug spray.

“You didn’t answer my question, Lucy.” He placed a hand on hers, stopping her from unloading the box. “How dangerous is it?”

“It’s some of the darkest magic that’s ever been written down.” She placed a hand on the book. “In the hands of someone who didn’t know what they were doing, they could die or worse.”

“What could be worse than dying?”

“Having some hell beast ride around in your flesh,” Lucy said. “Now, are you going to help me or are you going to keep distracting me?”

****

Two hours later, they had the weapons ready and packed in a bag. Jim slung it across his back, his shotgun carried on a sling, hanging across his chest, ready to be used. Lucy carried another pack on her back and the silver dagger on her hip.

The sun was low on the horizon and thunder rumbled in the distance.

“Well, looks like we may get wet, but we should reach its lair before the sun goes down,” she said. “It won’t give us much time, but we can do this.”

“I know,” Jim said. “Lead the way.”

Lucy walked across her backyard and into the woods, with Jim behind her, his hands resting on the shotgun. It took them much less time to reach the creature’s hiding spot, since Lucy didn’t have to search for it.

When they neared the creature’s lair, the woods grew silent.

Lucy stopped and motioned for James to hand her the bag of bug bombs. She reached into the bag and withdrew one. “Well, let’s see if it is awake yet.” She tossed the bug bomb ahead of her.

The bug bomb exploded when it impacted the ground, the smoke traveling along the ground, up trees, into bushes as if it was alive.

Fireflies began to fall dead to the ground where the smoke traveled.

The rustling of hundreds of insects taking flight filled the woods.

Jim brought the shotgun up to his shoulder, stepping to one side of Lucy so she would be out of his line of fire.

The creature coalesced in front of them. It lacked any of the beauty it had from the night before, its glamour gone. What stood before them was the creature in all of its hideous appearance. It hissed and stretched its sinewy arms toward them.

“I told you that I would kill you, Adze,” Lucy said.

“You and the other will suffer for this, witch,” it said. “I can still taste your blood.”

Lucy reached into the bag and pulled out another bug bomb and tossed it at the creature.

James opened up with his shotgun, buckshot tearing into the upper torso of the vampire. It screamed in pain and lunged toward him.

The bug bomb impacted the ground, exploding, the smoke seeking it out, flowing across the ground and up the creature’s legs. When the smoke touched its skin, the areas turned black and dead fireflies fell from it.

James shot it again in the chest, and the vampire staggered back.

Lucy tossed two more bug bombs at its feet. They exploded, the smoke curled around its legs, moving up its body.

The vampire screamed in agony; its legs were being eaten away. It launched itself at James, knocking him to the ground.

Lucy screamed, kicking it in the face.

When the vampire reared back from the kick, James pushed the shotgun into its abdomen and pulled the trigger.

The creature doubled over, falling off of Jim.

Jim pushed himself to his feet and backed away while Lucy dropped more bug bombs around it. The smoke they emitted quickly moved to the creature, surrounding it in the magical smoke of the bug bombs. It shrieked out its last scream while its flesh fell away.

Lucy stepped back, threw the last bug bomb, and fell to her knees. She groaned as her injured arm began to shrink and turn to ash before her eyes.

Jim ran over to her grabbing her. “What’s wrong?”

“The price I must pay for using the magic,” Lucy whispered to him.

When the smoke cleared away, a pile of dead fireflies littered the ground. Lucy pulled herself to her feet with the help of Jim. She reached into her bag and removed a bottle of oil. She slowly walked over to the pile of fireflies and poured it over them in an intricate pattern. She stepped back, pulling a box of matches out, lighting one and tossing it onto the pile. Fire blossomed up, forming the sun image she had carved into the ground before.

“Time to go home, Sheriff,” she said, leaning against Jim. “Maybe we will beat the rain back.”

****