The Ladies Supernatural Exterminators Association – New Orleans Local no. 13

This is a bit of short steampunk fiction I wrote a few years ago.  I recently re-read it and cleaned it up a bit.  I’ve always wanted to write more stories in this setting.  I even tried to turn TLSEA into a fan group of sorts…but that didn’t go so well.  Maybe I’ll give it a go again…although there are SO many steampunk groups out there already.

The image is one of my old steampunk costumes from 2010.

*****

Midnight was a terribly late hour for a woman to be out without an escort. Yet the woman walked slowly down the riverfront. She walked slowly, apparently lost in her thoughts. Her face shone out of the black cape covering her from head to toe in the damp night. She reached the end of the sidewalk, and watched the Mississippi river for a moment, before turning and heading back down the way she came.

As she walked back towards the French Market, a man’s voice called to her. “Madame, a lady should not be out this late at night. If you’re wandering alone at this time, you’re either a madwoman or a lady of the evening. You don’t look like a trollop, so are you mad?” The woman turned back and looked over the gentleman who appeared there. He was tall, slim, wearing a fitted dark suit and a top hat, with an angular pale face, shadowed eyes, and a smirk curving his thin lips. She frowned, and dipped her head just slightly in greeting. “Sir, I can assure you I am not mad – unless I am mad with grief. My husband passed two weeks ago.”

The smirk on his face changed to a frown.  “I apologize, madame.  I am sorry for your loss. Etiquette prevents you from leaving your home, dear lady.  Why are you out?”

Her voice thickened with emotion. “Our favorite thing to do was to stroll along the river. Since I cannot do it during the day without incurring the ire of our kin, I figured I would slip out and walk late at night.  I was hoping no one will notice.” Turning away from him, her shoulders shook and faint sobs came from the black cape. The man came over and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Lady, I meant no disrespect. Is your home far from here? Let me take you there. My carriage is merely a block down on Elysian Fields. I can bring you so no harm will come to you on your way.”

“Oh, but the servants will hear the clatter of the horses, and my family will know I’ve been out! No, that’s simply not possible.”

“I will drop you a block or two from your home, so you may slip in unnoticed and unheard. Please, madame, let me show you this one kindness.”

The lady eyed him for a few seconds, gauging his intent, and then nodded. “Very well. Thank you.”

He walked next to her, without touching. When they arrived to Elysian Fields, he gestured to an alleyway, and remarked, “It is down this block here.” The street was almost pitch dark, with only the moonlight and the four lamps on the coach to indicate its presence. The coachman stepped down from the seat, face hidden by a loose floppy hat, and opened the door for them both.

The lady climbed in first, and as soon as she turned to sit, the man lunged at her and pressed her to the seat. As she watched, his canines grew into thin points and his eyes glowed red. He licked her cheek and whispered, “Your widow’s sadness will make my dinner even sweeter. I do wonder how long your families will mourn both of your deaths.”

Opening his mouth wide, he pulled back and struck – and as soon as his lips met her neck they started burning. He howled in pain and jerked back to find her giving him a bored look. She pulled back the collar of her cape to show off the side of her choker, and asked, “Do you like it? It’s leather infused with silver. A bit much for going out, I suppose, but prevents damned vampires – like you – from chomping at my neck.”

Holding his blistered mouth, he mumbled and gaped at her, and she took advantage of the moment to push him off of her and kick him, forcing the vampire out of the carriage. She stuck her head out and said, “Oh, and would you mind not drooling on my face? Vampire spit makes my skin all blotchy.” As she disembarked, she planted one boot on his crotch, causing him to scream. Raising an eyebrow, she said with total nonchalance, “Oh! How interesting. Sam, please make a note that a vampire’s gonads are just as sensitive as standard living males.” Lifting her foot from his delicate parts, she planted it on his chest. The vampire hissed and struggled, and the woman leaned over, pulling a handheld crossbow from beneath her cape and pointing it at his left eye. “Don’t move, you filthy mosquito. I’ll put a bolt through your eye just as soon as look at you.”

A female voice came from the carriage’s side.  “Iphigenia, remind me to write that down when we get back to the house. You do know how I’m always forgetting things.”

The woman in black – Iphigenia – undid the cloak clasp and let it drop to the ground. She was still in all black, but they definitely weren’t widow’s weeds. A bandolier around her chest contained assorted glass tubes, silver crossbow bolts, and wooden stakes. A belt around her waist held a couple of pistols. The coachman leaned into his view, removing their hat and cloak, and it was another woman.  Sam was wearing similar accoutrements around her waist, and carrying a box with a brass door. She smiled pleasantly at him and waved hello. He snarled, attempting to rise, and Iphigenia fired, the bolt landing square in his left eye.

The vampire screamed and lunged up, shoving Iphigenia to the ground and running past Samantha into the darkness of the alley. Iphigenia sat up and yelled, “Sam! Lux Lucis Intus!” as she tossed the crossbow aside and grabbed a stake off of her bandolier. Samantha spun around, wrenched a pair of goggles over her eyes, and turned a knob on the side of the box. The assorted pipes on the side of the box hissed, and the brass iris in the front opened, bathing the alley and the fleeing vampire in light. The vampire shrieked in pain and stumbled, it’s skin beginning to steam.

Not taking any chances, Iphigenia ran over and shoved him down to the ground. Raising the stake, she said, “Exuro In Abyssus.” She plunged the stake into his heart and the vampire immediately disintegrated into ash around her. Sam closed the iris on the box, plunging the alley back into darkness. The box hissed and exhaled steam from a tube on the right side.

Iphigenia walked over to the carriage, grabbed the cloak off of the ground, and wiped the ash off of her face while Sam brushed the ash and dirt from her shoulders. “Iphi, Celia is going to be furious that you borrowed her nice cape.”

“Oh, pshaw. She’ll get over it. I needed a good heavy cape to hide everything, and I can’t just buy one since we have no money. Anyway, the last ‘nice cloak’ was the one she stitched the fur to.”

“Oh, that’s right. That thing smells like wet dog every time it gets a little damp out.” Sam crinkled her nose and made a moue of distaste.

“Well, what do you expect? I’m sure werewolves don’t smell much better.” Iphigenia picked the cape off of the ground and shook the dirt off of it. “I’ll have it cleaned. I might keep it to prevent her from stitching fur to this one as well. I actually need a nice cape.” She swung the cape around and fastened it at her throat, then leaned down to grab her crossbow. “So where’s the real coachman? I take it you worked the old Samantha charm on him.”

“Oh, he’s right behind the coach. That lip stuff that Abigail created worked perfectly. One kiss and he was out. Sweet boy, really.”

The women walked to the other side of the carriage, where the coachman lay on the ground, his hands and feet tied. Sam gently nudged him with the toe of her boot, and he moaned. Iphi and Sam looked at each other, and then propped him up on the side of the carriage. He groaned again and opened one eye. Sam opened the iris on the box just a tad, so a beam shone out and covered his face. He winced and mumbled, “What – what happened?” Iphi pulled out her crossbow, loaded a bolt, and pointed it at him. “Your master is gone – as in deceased and no longer on this world. Since you’re not catching fire in the light, I’m assuming you’re human. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t slaughter you as well for working with a vampire.”

As soon as she said the word ‘slaughter’, the boy began to speak rapidly. “Miss, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I only started working for the carriage company tonight. My boss told me to make sure this every gentleman’s needs were met. All he asked was that I park the carriage here and wait for him to come back with someone. The redheaded lady showed up, and I don’t remember anything after that. I swear on my grandmother’s life. Please.”

“Do you think he’s lying, Sam?”

“Well, it was rather easy to distract him, especially when he thought I was sweet on him. No revenant would have been so easily duped. You know that vampire blood makes them craftier. That, and when have you ever known a revenant snivel and blabber?”

“I’ve seen them cry, Sam. Take away the vampire blood they’re so used to and after a few days they look and act about the same as a morphine addict.” Iphi curled her lip at the thought. “What about this one?” Sam looked him over, and closed the iris. “I think he’s telling the truth, Iphi. Stand down.” The boy let out a sob and wiggled closer to Sam, whispering “Thank you,” over and over.

Iphi unloaded the crossbow and snapped it back on her belt.  She leaned down and untied the boy’s feet. Yanking him up by his collar, she pulled him around the side of the carriage and pointed to the pile of ash that used to be the vampire. She turned the boy around to face her and said, “See that? That was your client. Your boss caters to vampires. He causes innocents to be slaughtered every night. Do you understand?” He swallowed, and nodded. “I strongly suggest you find another job. Take the carriage back, turn it in as usual, and don’t go back. I won’t be so lenient next time I find you working with a bloodsucker.” He nodded again. She turned him around, roughly untied his hands, and pushed him towards the carriage.

Sam, standing by the carriage, handed him his cloak and hat, and tucked a card in his breast pocket. “Give this to your boss,” she said gently, “and let him know that if he continues such dealings – well – we’ll have to pay him a visit. I’m fairly sure you don’t want Miss Iphigenia coming around, right?” He looked back at Iphi and shook his head no. “Good boy,” Sam said, gently taking his head in her hands and kissing his hair. The boy took one last look at them, then climbed on top of the carriage and bid the metal horses to move.

Sam and Iphi stood there, watching the carriage drive down the alley and turn on Elysian Fields. “Iphi, if we’re done, would you like to go down to Café du Monde? I would love some beignets.” Iphi grinned. “I am rather hungry.” As they walked towards Decatur, Iphi said, “Just make sure that box is sealed up. We don’t want to blind the staff like we did the last time we ate there.”

My eShakti addiction.

I have a confession to make – I have an eShakti addiction.

I’ve been ordering dresses from this website since last year, and HOLY CRAP IN A HAT if this isn’t the best damn site to order clothes from.  I’ve had to replace quite a few of my clothes since I lost weight (all due to a serious illness and a hospital stay back in November of last year), and this site has become my favorite.  I have spent hours window shopping, planning my next purchase.

Another way you know I take this company seriously?  I actually read every email I get from them.  Considering most of the emails I get go right into spam or the trash, that is high praise indeed.

These are the three eShakti dresses that I have sitting in my closet right now.  I actually would have had more, but I changed size, so I either gave them to someone, or sold them off in order to buy more dresses.

So some of you might be headed over there and looking at the site and saying “50 bucks or more for a dress…you must be nuts!”  I know – believe me, I know – but this company is different.

My reasons, let me show you them:

  • Full customization.  For the price of $7.50 per item, you can customize your dress.  Sizing wise, you have two choices – pick from a standard size chart OR provide all of your measurements and get your clothes custom sized.  For that same price, you can usually adjust the hem height, and sometimes even the sleeve length or the neckline.  So if that cute little cap-sleeved dress is calling to you, but you hate showing off your upper arms, change it to elbow length.  That top is cut for work but the neckline is too low?  Bring it a little higher.  Not keen about that skirt showing off your knees?  Lower the hem.  They even ask you for your height to make sure that the length is perfect!  My seamstress charges more than $6.50 to hem a pair of pants, so this is a STEAL FOR REALS.  Did I mention that the with your first order customization is free?
  • Fabric.  Most dresses I get in stores are heavy polyester blends that just trap heat and make me sweat in the Louisiana summer.  eShakti has a lot of all-cotton styles that I can wear year-round – with sandals in the summer and a sweater and boots in the winter.  I’m all for year-round dresses.
  • Styles.  You’ll notice a lot of retro-inspired shapes, lots of classic shapes like fit-and-flare and sheath dresses.  I love the retro look these days, and I find that a good fit-and-flare really flatters just about every body type.
  • Coupons and Sales.  I may be okay with paying for quality, but that doesn’t mean I won’t look for a good deal.  When you sign up on the site for the first time, you get a $30 coupon, and they almost always have good sales going.  You can frequently find a “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” sale, or a 30% off sale.
  • Last but most certainly NOT least – POCKETS.  Almost all of their dresses and skirts have good deep pockets.  I can fit keys, my phone, a lipstick, and a small wallet in the pockets and the dress doesn’t look bunchy or weighed down.  No purse needed!  You can remove the pockets if you like, but why would you?

The only drawback – shipping.  Since the clothing is essentially custom-made in India, getting next-day shipping isn’t an option.  I usually get my dresses in about two weeks, and all items are shipped via DHL.

For those concerned, I was pleased to find out that eShakti is NOT a sweatshop.  From their About page:

eShakti’s covenant with its customers is this: we will never allow anything that is opposed to human dignity or the laws of the land where we operate.

They don’t employ children, they pay their employees a decent wage to provide for their families, and they take care of their people both here and in the US.  I can order dresses and clothes without funding terrible working conditions.  I appreciate eShakti being up front with their customers’ concerns.

I honestly can’t recommend this company enough.  All of my eShakti dresses have landed me compliments from random strangers, and every time someone asks me where I got it, I find a piece of paper and write it down for them.

Oh, and my next purchase?  It’s a toss-up between these three:

That navy and orange floral spray dress is the current front-runner…your thoughts?

More. Creative.

I’ve been sitting here on the couch, working on what I want to say on this blog.  I’ve gone over the site design I don’t know how many times, trying to come up with something fresh.  I went from a self-hosted site back to WordPress, and I’m thinking about going back to self-hosted again.  I’ve thought about how I want to put myself out there online, my branding, and thought about whether or not I needed a “brand”.

Continue reading More. Creative.

Depeche Mode, live!

DM_Halo © Depeche Mode – depechemode.com

There’s something amazing about piling in the car with a few of your friends, and driving across state lines to see one of your favorite bands. Roadtrips make me feel younger than I should, like I’m still in my twenties and my best friend called me to take a last-minute weekend trip, and all I need to do is load up a bag with some clothes and undies and pick up a pack of cigs at the gas station on the way out. I wish I would have had the chance to do that when I was younger. I’m glad I can do that now, though…and I’m glad I have great friends to go with.

Continue reading Depeche Mode, live!