A Santa Maria story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria series
Bree rubbed her eyes and rolled over onto her side. She moaned.
Man, what did I do? I hurt. She sat up and looked around. I'm in the Bethel. The fight. Rod, Ant-
"What are you doing here?"
Bree snapped her head towards the voice. Standing above her was a woman with long dark hair and much of the right side of her face was missing. Bree started to scream. The woman with the part of her skull exposed jumped for Bree and clapped her hand over Bree's mouth.
"You must be quiet. The others will here you. Why are you here?" Bree, terror in her eyes, looked up at the woman. "Will you be quiet?"
Bree mumbled from under the ghastly woman's hand and did her best to nod her head in acquiescence. The woman slipped her hand from Bree's mouth.
"What's going on? Who are you?"
"You don't recognize me, Bree?" The mysterious woman turned her head so the intact side was showing.
Bree's eyes widened with recognition and she tried to push the woman away. "Oh God, you're the woman who was with the Wight!"
"Yes, Bree. Stop. It's fine. I'm not going to hurt you. I realized my mistake. Too late, but I did. Stop fighting me! If the others find you, they won't let you go."
"Why should I trust you?" Bree spoke harshly.
"You don't have much of a choice."
"Wait, wait. This doesn't make any sense. You died in the cave in that caused the earthquake. How can you be here?" The half of Patrona's face that still had muscle tissue slackened with sadness.
"Oh Bree, I don't have time to explain all this right at the moment. We have to get you out of here." She stood and pulled Bree up. "Come on, you need to leave. Now."
"Wait, no. I'm not going anywhere until you tell me what's going on."
"There isn't time!" Patrona dragged Bree towards the door of the Bethel. "You have to go. More vampires are arriving and they will destroy you for good. You've killed some of their ilk; they won't be forgiving. Please, stop fighting. Just go, to the south. You'll find people there who help you. Find Eleanor."
"But she's dead..."
"Bree we don't have time for this!" Patrona flung open the door. "Bree, go. Now! Run!" With that, the woman with half a face shoved Bree out the door and shut it behind her.
Bree staggered out of the Ghost Lord Bethel.
There is something off; something I'm not remembering. It looks so odd out here.
She looked at the horizon, taking in the queer landscape. The sky as dark, it was night but the stars and moon were obscured by strange charcoal and violet clouds, sparking with lightning. Fog shrouded the land; it was bone chilling cold. Bree reflexively crossed her arms and rubbed her arms across them.
What the fuck?
She stopped warming herself and extended her arms before her.
I'm covered in blood. Oh God. Who's blood is this? No, no, no. Too many people have died. She looked back at the Bethel and saw that the strange storm was emanating out of the top of the steeple roof of the Bethel. Fuck. She ran. She ran and ran and ran, never looking back. She fell a few times, but kept getting back up and again ran blindly through the thick fog.
She stopped, stooped over and out of breath.
"You there! You are you?"
Now what? "I'm Bree Montgomery," she said, trying to catch her breath. Two figures emerged from the fog. Both look as if they'd lost a fight. One was a heavyset black woman, dressed in the tatters of a Santa Maria police department uniform. She was covered in raking scars that were still slowly oozing blood. The other was large Latino man, wearing a dark blue suit. The white dress shirt was covered in blood and a piece of rebar jutted from his stomach. He walked with a limp.
"And how did you come to be here, Miss Montgomery?" he said with a thick Mexican accent.
"I ran. From the Bethel."
"Mmmmhhmmm," the cop said. "Ain't nobody gettin' away from that place. I say she's a Ghost Lord. Some sorta spy."
"Probably," the man agreed.
"No! You don't understand. I went there to fight. Diasuke told us we had to, before he died. That this storm has to be stopped and it could only be done from there. I'm not a Ghost Lord. I hate the fucking Ghost Lords." Tears started to stream down her cheeks. "They cost me everything, believe me. All I have left is my baby." She moved her hand to her belly. "Oh God, no! My baby! Oh no, no, no!" She fell to her knees and began wailing. The cop rushed to Bree.
"Parada! It could be a trap!"
"Fool!" the cop said as she cradled Bree. "Can't you see that she has no idea what's happened. She knows Diasuke, she's probably one of those who went to fight."
"No but, fool. She don't even know she's," she mouthed the last word, "dead"
Bree opened her eyes. She was lying in bed. She sat up and looked around. She was in a tent.
Am I still dreaming? That was a horrible dream. Where the hell am I? Why would I be in a tent? Oh, God. I am still dreaming. Fuck.
The tent flap opened and she looked to see who was entering. Diasuke entered, his face and body covered in deep gouges and cuts.
"Diasuke? How can it be?" A smile broke his bloody face.
"Oh Bree, I am so sorry."
"Sorry about what? This is just a dream, Diasuke. It has to be. You're here."
"I wish it was a dream. Bree. I wish that all of this had been a dream. Perhaps it is better if someone else explains this all."
"Who? Diasuke, seriously. What's going on?" She began to get out of the bed she was in.
"No, stay there, Bree. You've been through a lot. And you should be sitting for this anyway. You can come in."
"Diasuke! Tell me what's going on!" The tent flapped opened again. Standing there was a handsome African-American man.
"Duncan? Oh, God. This is a dream. And I don't want it to end."
He smiled. "Bree, it isn't a dream, but I am glad to see, even under these circumstances."
"I have not told her yet," Diasuke said. Duncan looked at him and nodded. Diasuke left the tent. Duncan crossed the room and took a seat on the edge of the cot Bree was resting on. He placed his hand on hers.
"Bree, look, this isn't easy."
"Duncan, just tell me."
"What? No, I can't be."
"Trust me. You're right. I'm dead. Diasuke is dead. This is the Otherside. You died and you're here with us now."
"Wait, no." Tears started welling up in her eyes. "This can't be. I can't be dead."
"Think, Bree. Concentrate on going to Bethel to fight." She squeezed his hand.
"I... no. No! Oh, God. The baby. And Mel! Fuck, Mel's a vampire. My sister killed our Mom. Oh, God, no!" She was overcome with sobbing.
"Bree, I'm so sorry." He held her. She continued to cry. After several minutes, she raised her head.
"Wait, why did the Diasuke and the cop, and that other guy, look all messed up and you don't? I don't know how I look, but I know I'm covered in blood." She raised her hand to her neck, but Duncan grabbed her hand before she touched her neck.
"You don't need to worry about how you look. You're beautiful to me. Always."
"Fine, but what about you? You would have been burned to death. You fell into the magma."
"Yes, but I'm a Ghost Lord. One of our gifts is to be able to manipulate our appearance once we are spirits."
"But Patrona, she was disfigured. She's missing half her face!"
"I would imagine that has more to do with the Wight's anger than anything else. Bitch deserves it."
"No, Duncan. She saved me. She got me out of the Bethel before the others, the other Ghost Lords, could find me. Oh, God. I'm remembering. Everything Diasuke told us. The battle. I can't believe my sister fucking killed me." He held her tight.
Bree sat around a campfire under the stormy sky in the countryside of the Otherside. Others, both people she had known and others who were complete strangers- most all of them bore the wounds of their death. Only the Ghost Lords looked as they did in life and those who died of less obvious causes, such as poison or heart trauma. Eleanor, a power Ghost Lord who Bree had met as the homeless woman Lynn; she'd been living that life during the time she had suppressed her memories to hide from the Ghost Lords. It was she who was speaking now.
"We cannot let things continue as they have. The Wight must be stopped. The Storm must be cleared and we have to find away to guide all these dead back. As you know, not all of the dead have joined with us or have then been bound by the Wight's people. It's a condition that we cannot linger. I don't expect most of you to understand these concerns, but at the very least I'm certain you'd like to move on and not linger here in limbo."
"But what can we do?" the female cop asked. "We've tried attacking before, but the thing is just too powerful."
"Well, we have Bree Montgomery with us now." Lynn gestured to Bree. "She's quite a powerful force in her own right and besides, she's brought us more information. In fact, Martha, she's confirmed that the Ghost Lords are referring to the ravenous spirits as vampires, which confirms your theory of the proto-vampire. I'm still not sure how they're doing it, but they've separated the spiritual aspects of vampires and are sending them to Santa Maria using the storm. Not only does this cause havoc for those left behind, but also this storm is preventing us from moving on. The time to act is now." Several of those around the campfire cheered. "Martha, how can we stop these proto-vampires, as you call them?"
"Well, it's all guess work. We normally deal with these when they are part of the living," spoke Martha Trujillo. She was missing an arm much of her flesh was hanging from her face. Bree could not look at her. "We know that some held forms that look more like men or women and others are more bestial. Either this is because some are older, or it is possible that the more bestial ones are true proto-vampires are not severed from humans who have turned. Either way, I believe sunlight would effective, but we're quite short on it. I don't have the ability to make weapons. I've been talking with Bree and we know she can destroy them too. Honestly our best bet will be to keep her standing while she takes the damn things down."
"Thank you, Martha. It isn't what I'd like to hear, but it was what I thought was most likely. The Ghost Lords can capture, torture, enslave, and even destroy souls; this battle would not be without risk. Bree, are you willing to make this sacrifice?" Eleanor asked.
Bree stood. "Yes, of course. These corrupt Ghost Lords have been hounding me and mine for far too long. They've killed many and cost me much. They killed my love, and if it's true they are connected with the vampires, then they cost me not only my life, but mother and sister, too. Yes, I will fight and I will send that damn Wight back to Hell."
Eleanor smiled. "Fine then, we will prepare for battle. The sooner we attack, the better. I'll see everyone back here in three hours." Those around the fire stood and walked away in pairs and triples. Duncan and Bree walked away, hand in hand.
"So, do you need to do anything to prepare?" he asked Bree.
"Just spend time with you." They kissed, and then walked off together under the clouds of the strange Ghost Lord storm.
The Bethel shook was battling magic. Mostly the clashing red energy of Ghost Lords- they were divided between Eleanor and Wight. However, Bree's unique power, the rippling clear energy cutting a swath through Martha's proto-vampires. The free souls of those who had died during the earthquake and after battled those souls who had been enslaved by the Ghost Lords. Diasuke fought with his spirit sword, cutting down spirits, vampires, and Ghost Lords alike, keeping all from Bree. Martha too was protecting Bree, shielding her from attacks using green orbs to absorb ranged attacks. Duncan also fought by Bree's side; his Ghost Lord power was not as strong, but he was also very determined.
The Wight shook with anger; its hideous maw snarled! "Eleanor your betrayal will not be forgotten! Even this girl with the power of the Shaman won't help you! I will consume you all!"
Eleanor's response was to fire more red energy at the foul creature.
"You forget my true power, woman!" it hissed. It raised its skeletal arms above its head and began to chant.
"Noooo!" screamed one of the turncoat Ghost Lords. "It's summoning the Eidolons!" Eleanor steeled herself against the coming monsters, red energy circling around her. Her expression changed from worry to surprise when a young Ghost Lord with half a face threw herself at the Wight, knocking it to the ground.
Duncan yelled "Look, Patrona's tackled the Wight!"
Bree turned and saw. Now or never! She closed her eyes tight, bringing her elbows to her side, fists clenched. With a primal scream, she thrust her arms forward and opened her palms. Streams of sparkling light burst forth from her hands, obliterating everything that it touched. It sped straight for the Wight and Patrona. The Wight grabbed Patrona by the throat and tossed her aside just before Bree's energy struck it. It howled in pain as its body snapped in half from the attack. The two halves were propelled across the Bethel as they started to disintegrate. It continued to howl, but was drowned out by the yelps of cheers issuing froth from its adversaries. The two parts quickly became many and soon the sparkling beams destroyed all of those.
The fight was renewed and it was not long before the members of the Wight's army were destroyed, freed, or had fled. Eleanor blasted open a door with her magic; she and several other Ghost Lords entered.
Duncan turned to Bree. "You did, baby! You did it!" He picked her up, spun her around, and then kissed her. She put her arms around him. Once they broke the kiss, she smiled.
"I guess I did. I think I was always meant to. I believe this was all laid out to happen this way. Losing you, carrying the Shaman's baby and then dying so I could come here and kill the Wight for good. And be with you." She kissed him again.
Eleanor cleared her throat. The two stopped their amorous activities and turned to her, hands linked together. "Well, it's done. The Anchorhead is no longer creating the storm. The Ghostlords are preparing to guide everyone else across."
"It can't be that simple." Bree said.
"Ah, but it is. The Wight simply enchanted the Anchorhead and with it gone, the spell was easy enough to brake. You did it Bree. You freed the dead by killing the Wight and no more of those vampire spirits will be able to get through to Santa Maria."
"What about the ones that had already crossed over?" Duncan asked.
"That's for the living to deal with. And the stray souls, the living Ghost Lords will have to deal with them."
"But there aren't any living Ghost Lords in Santa Maria," Bree said.
"Oh. Well, when the souls become Sombras and Revenants there will be," Eleanor replied.
"Wait, what?" Bree started to question.
"Nothing for you to worry about, Bree. You've done enough. Aren't you two ready for your happy ending yet?"
Bree looked at Duncan and nodded.
"Yes, Eleanor, I suspect we are." Bree said, still looking at a smiling Duncan.
"Then by all means, please let me have the honor of guiding you across the Great Sea. Follow me."
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2008
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2008