Hello again. Or, you know, welcome if you've not been here before. The collection of prologues rambles on. As you probably remember, each one is presenting a character from the great lump of fiction I'm currently working on at the start of their journey. We've had The Monster, Wendy parts One and Two, and The Killer and The Witch. I've tried to build the plot a bit with each one, so I would recommend reading them chronologically. But if you're up to speed, here's Solveig. Hope you enjoy it
It was getting close to 2am when Solveig steered the car off the autobahn and into a spot far enough from the petrol station. Dorothy undid her seatbelt and arched her back. “Do you want anything?” she asked, turning to Solveig with a smile, tilting her head forward so her black hair framed her wicked grin. Solveig had seen her do it before and was no longer impressed.
“I’m not hungry,” said Solveig, and Dorothy grinned.
“Liar. Be back in a minute.”
She slipped out of the car and closed the door softly behind her. When Dorothy was out of sight Solveig sighed and pulled her phone out of her pocket. She could never get used to these disposable ones. She'd been told not to attach names to any of the numbers. To be fair, she wasn’t getting a lot of messages. It would either be Otto or the head office. None of her friends had this number. But it was boring work, driving around on these night shifts. She would have had trouble staying awake if she hadn’t been so nervous around Dorothy. No, not nervous. Cautious. And caution was sensible, she knew that.
It wasn’t as if she had a choice, not really. This collaboration, this partnership was her obligation. There were to be fifty teams across Europe, one wolf partnered with one vampire, and she had been asked. It had happened about six months ago. She’d been called, along with her husband and a lot of men and women she didn’t know, to the local head office. They had been told what the situation was. If you wanted to keep living in the community, if you wanted your kids to keep getting taken care of, there were new conditions. Solveig hadn’t resented it, not really. She'd been told that, because of her standing in the community and her age (nearly forty, a couple of months to go), she could be relied upon to be sensible and a good ambassador. She took the car keys and she took the gun and she shook hands with the dark-haired, pale-skinned woman with the big grin and off she went.
Dorothy wasn’t too bad. She was vindictive and she was vicious, but that was par for the course. Solveig knew that. As long as she kept what she did out of Solveig’s face then there wouldn’t be a problem. She knew that the creature couldn’t change how she was any more than she herself could. She didn’t have to like the fact that she would sneak off for a snack every now and again, but she could ignore it. She could even ignore the fact that Dorothy called her Wolfmother. What she couldn't ignore, and what she'd made very clear to Dorothy, was that any further reference to her children would result in serious reprisals. So Dorothy pretended that she was teasing Solveig about her music choices and didn't drop the nickname.
She muttered as she pulled her thick woollen jumper free from her underarms. Freezing weather or not, she hated driving in warm clothes. But it was force of habit, partly for the time of year and partly for her passenger. She liked the idea of several layers between her skin and Dorothy. Her phone buzzed. A text from Otto. He was doing the exact same thing with his partner. “Yawn,” it said. Solveig smiled. Neither of them had had much to do since they had started. They’d never been expressly forbidden from talking about what they were up to while on duty, so of course they talked about freely when they saw each other. They both agreed that the training had been easy enough. Solveig had needed to shift a bit of the baby weight but it had mostly come off, and stayed off. She wasn't going to be running any marathons any time soon but it wasn't as if she could outrun Dorothy anyway. They had been told to introduce themselves as detectives if they ever needed to, because that was what they were. Unofficially, of course. It wasn’t like they had any authority over people. But over the vampires, werewolves, and all the other monsters that were dotted around this area, they had the authority to do whatever they wanted.
She occasionally wondered what would have happened if she’d said no. She knew she would have to, of course, but she had thought about what would have happened if she’d said no. Solveig and Otto had given the offer some cursory discussion. But it had only been cursory. They’d both lived in the community all their lives. They had two small children. There really was nothing to do but take the job. The community had asked for them and it would have been wrong to turn them down. They had not thought that it would last for so long.
Wolves and vampires didn’t get on. They were different. If they left each other alone, that was one thing. But this forced collaboration felt like a measure that was doomed before it began. But it was an apology measure.
Solveig had thought that it hadn’t been apology enough. She had known the Schmidt family. She wouldn’t have called them as friends, exactly, but she had known them. And she had seen the photographs of their bodies. All of the bodies, from the grandparents in their bed to the baby that had been found in the cooking pot. The vampire responsible had had his arms and legs removed before being left outside for the sun in front of a select group of friends and relations. Solveig thought he got off easy. There were worse things than burning.
So now the vampires and wolves patrolled together. “Deal with any offences that you find,” they had been told. What Solveig found hard to understand was what sort of offence they were looking for. As repulsive as she found the vampire’s need to drink blood, it was what they did. It wasn’t as if she could grab a vampire by the hair, pull it away from the lonely teenager with a gaping neck wound, and tell it she was taking it down to the station. So far the entire extent of her police work had been having a word with any monster that had been seen hanging around, making sure that they weren’t wanted for anything, and then sending them on their way. Every now and then she wondered what Dorothy had been told. But that kind of thinking wasn’t helpful.
Solveig’s phone buzzed again. She fished it back out of her pocket and checked it. One message, number withheld, though she recognised it instantly.
“Put her to bed.”
Solveig had been prepared for this but found herself breathing a little quicker. There was no time to wonder why this message had been sent. She looked out of the passenger window and saw Dorothy returning to the car. She felt around her inside jacket pocket until she found what she was looking for. The door opened and Dorothy slid inside. She wiped her lower lip with her glove and Solveig saw it glisten slightly. She thought about what Dorothy must have left behind and felt a little better about what she was about to do.
“All better,” said Dorothy. “Ready to go?”
When Solveig didn’t reply, Dorothy turned to look at her. Her eyes widened and Solveig knew that she’d realised what was happening. No time.
Solveig’s arm whipped out of her jacket. Her hand flew across the space between them and onto Dorothy’s chest, planting the silver stake right through her black woollen jumper, past her ribs, and into her heart. Dorothy screamed and writhed. Solveig held tight. She had practiced this manoeuvre many times but never with a real vampire. She also knew that Dorothy had fed. This was not ideal.
All the blood that Dorothy had just consumed was pumping quickly out again over the stake, making it hard for Solveig to keep her grip. Her hand could not slip. It was vital to keep it in place, to not loosen her grip, until Dorothy was truly dead. She tried to ignore the increasingly desperate scratching of Dorothy’s hands and her mewing and her hissing. Dorothy grunted as the blood coursed over her and onto the seat, down onto the floor. She looked up at Solveig.
“Solveig...” she hissed, and opened her mouth. “Kiss me goodbye...” Her fangs were stained red. “Solveig,” she repeated, and Solveig caught her voice changing, growing hoarser. “I don’t want to go.”
The attempts at manipulation were weak, embarrassing. Her grip on the stake was getting weaker too. Dorothy's skin wrinkled and sagged. The flow of blood grew weaker as it become thicker, changed from bright red to dark brown, like the mud from the bottom of the river. A stench of sour, rotten meat filled the car. Solveig did not let go.
“It doesn’t seem fair to die twice,” Dorothy whispered as her clear blue eyes turned brown. The flow finally stopped, and her head fell down onto her chest.
Solveig reached over and lifted her upper lip. She realised that she had never asked how old Dorothy was. She didn't care. She pressed one gloved finger, carefully, to her left fang. It fell away as she touched it and crumpled like a tiny piece of crêpe paper. She flinched needlessly, then took out her phone and called the number.
“Is it dead?” he asked.
“It’s finished,” she answered.
“Good. Burn the car. Come home.”
“Can I ask why?” she asked. She wasn’t sure if she really wanted to hear the answer but there was barely any hesitation at all on the other end.
“They’ve made a move. Children are missing. We can’t tell whose, but it's bad. Something has happened. We need everyone back here. Burn the car, and run home. Now.”
The children. Solveig felt her stomach fold up against itself and hung up the phone. She frantically dialled Otto's number. He wasn’t answering. There was no time to think twice about her husband, not yet. She got the can of petrol out of the boot and emptied its contents all over the inside of the car. Once it was burning she threw her phone in with it. This was why they used disposables.
Now was the time. She thought of the children and she thought her husband. The rest was easy. Her bones cracked, her organs pulled and stretched, and her whole body was on fire. She howled.
So, hello. That was Solveig. Hope you enjoyed it. Not too much to say about her really. The influences for her are pretty obvious. That'll need some tweaking as she's definitely too much of a straight lift at the moment. But I'm enjoying writing her and hopefully I can do something interesting with her.
Life marches on at a frightening pace. Not enough time for everything, but things are progressing slowly but surely. I'm currently burying myself in books and essays and interpretations of Gothic monsters, which is great fun. But there's always the deadlines. Trying to find time to write horror fiction is a bit tough at the moment, but I'm managing, just about.
Anyway, next week is The Vampire, then after that there's The Fool, and then we conclude these prologues. I hope you like reading them, and thank you for doing so. Thank you, too, for those of you who leave comments or get in touch with me elsewhere (it's mostly Twitter. I'm on it.)
Sorry, not a lot to say this week. I'm tired and stressed but aren't we all?. The writing is going OK and I'm looking forward to getting the Christmas story written. Oh, and first one to guess where the names Solveig and Otto come from without using Google gets some sort of prize. I'll know if you use Google. Now, here's a song that I've had stuck in my head this week: