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Today’s Spooky Legends guest is Juliet Dark, which is the pen name for author Carol Goodman. THE DEMON LOVER is the first book in the Fairwick Chronicles. I first came across this book on Goodreads and the synopsis definitely has me intrigued. We have a great short story titled Our Lady of the Tunnels.
It was a dreary afternoon, towards dusk. The rain, which hadn’t let up for days, had misted the classroom windows and its relentless patter, combined with the dull thuds of the steam heat in the old pipes of Fraser Hall, was putting my students to sleep … and me, too. I’d been up late again, researching an important project, and even I was having trouble focusing on the scholarly essay about the creation of legends that I’d asked them to read.
“What about urban legends?” I asked, desperate to get their attention. Every teenager liked a good urban legend, right?”
“Oh, like the one about the man with the hook?” Nicky Ballard asked, perking up.
“Or Bloody Mary,” Flonia Rugova said. “Some girls told that to me last semester and I still can’t look in a mirror.”
“Or the one about the clown,” a guy named Mike, a new student, said.
“I haven’t heard that one,” I admitted.
Mike gleefully told the story. “There’s this babysitter,” he said. “And she’s trying to get this kid to sleep but she keeps saying that the clown statue on her shelf is scaring her. The babysitter is kind of creeped out by it too, so finally she calls the parents and asks if she can put the clown statue in another room and they say …” Mike paused for dramatic effect. “What clown statue?’”
A chorus of oohs went through the room, followed by nervous laughter. After that they all wanted to tell their favorite urban legend and debate which ones might be true because ‘they’d heard it from a friend of a friend’s cousin.’ They were awake and chattering now, all I had to do was think of something smart to say to bring it all together and tie it back into the article we’d read, but then the steam pipes clanged and one of the girls—a new girl whose name I couldn’t recall but who always brought a batman folder to class—said, “What about the legend of the campus tunnels? Is that one true?”
An uneasy silence fell upon the class, then the pipes clanked again and Flonia Rugova jumped and someone, in a deep bass voice, intoned, “I am the lady of the tunnels, come to exact revenge for my untimely demise!”
“What lady of the tunnels?” I asked, rubbing my arms to dispel the goosebumps that had risen there. “And what tunnels? Here at Fairwick? I’ve never heard of any tunnels.”
“That’s because the administration says there aren’t any,” Nicky Ballard said. Nicky was a local and knew more about the college than most of the other students. “If you go to the college website it says there aren’t any …”
“But that’s bull…” Mike began, but thought better of using the expletive in front of me. “… uh … bullhickey, Prof. The administration doesn’t want us to know about the tunnels because we might go looking for them.” There was a gleam in Mike’s eyes suggesting that’s exactly what he would do.
“And they don’t want that,” the new girl—Brittany? Savannah?—said in a hushed whisper, “because of the girl in the tunnels.”
I had a feeling that my students were using the story to delay getting back to the boring essay, but since the class was about folklore, urban legend was close enough to make it relevant to the curriculum.
“Okay,” I said, rolling my eyes to let them know I was in on the conspiracy, “I’ll bite. Who’s the girl in the tunnels?”
“No one knows for sure,” Flonia answered, “but the story goes that she was a student here in the fifties and she disappeared one night after going down in the tunnels. Some say she killed herself because she was failing all her classes …”
“My grandmother who went here for a semester said she got pregnant and died giving birth and that when you hear the pipes moaning that’s her screaming through labor pains,” Nicky said.
“I heard,” the new girl—Ashley, I decided, after a glance at the roster, where there were at least three Ashleys—“that she was having an affair with her Econ professor and he killed her when she got pregnant because she was going to tell his wife.”
“I heard the tunnels were used for nuclear testing in the fifties and Dolores found out so she was killed by the CIA …”
The class gleefully debated variations on the story for the rest of the period. Feeling a need to put a pedagogical stamp of approval on so much wasted time I did what all good teachers do. Made it an assignment.
“I want you all to research this story and write a short paper on it. Find out what really happened. Is there any basis in fact for the legend? Why did it become a legend?”
There were the usual questions. How long did it have to be? What percentage of their grade would it represent? But for the most part the class seemed to be happily engaged in the project. I left class feeling gratified that I’d hit on something that engaged my students. I decided to do a little research myself.
I went downstairs to Soheila Lilly’s office. Soheila was a Middle Eastern Studies professor who specialized in folklore. She possessed a wealth of knowledge about myths and folklore and she’d been at the college for … well, practically forever. I paused outside her office, looking at the poster on the door. It depicted a winged woman standing astride two crouching lions and flanked by two enormous owls. The woman appeared human except for her legs, which ended in curved talons. Soheila had explained to me that the figure represented an ancient Babylonian wind spirit who had been shaped into flesh by man’s desire—and then had been forced forever to feed on that desire to sustain herself. A succubus. Soheila should know. She was one.
Before I could knock a rich musical voice came from behind the door. “Come in, Callie.” I’d forgotten what good hearing succubi had.
I opened the door, breathing in the scent of cardomom and cloves. Soheila, dressed as usual in warm earth tones that complimented her olive skin and gleaming black hair, sat behind her desk.
“Ah, Callie, I’m so glad to see you. You’ve been spending way too much time working on your research. I’ve just brewed a pot of tea. May I offer you a cup?”
“I’d love one,” I said, sinking into the plush embroidered loveseat besides Soheila’s desk. “This weather is so chilly.”
“Yes,” Soheila agreed, wrapping her burgundy and orange shawl around her shoulders as she got up to pour the tea. “So damp! I’ve never adjusted to so much humidity after the desert.”
She poured steaming amber liquid into a squat glass then held it up to the window to assess its color, added a bit of hot water from a silver samovar, then handed me the glass. Sipping the hot, spicy tea, I felt as though I had imbibed a bit of the warmth of Soheila’s native land. The clanking of steam pipes reminded me of why I had come.
“My students were telling me about a campus legend today. I suppose all colleges have something like it … something about a girl who died in the fifties whose spirit haunts the tunnels …”
“Oh, that’s completely true. Dolores Maynard, class of 1959. Here, I’ll show you her picture.” Soheila got up again, opened her closet door, and disappeared inside. I’d noticed on previous visits that her closet was much larger than most faculty’s. She came back with a yearbook opened to a group photo of the French club. She pointed to a mousy looking girl with dark hair held back by a headband. She was in the back row and she was frowning.
“Poor Dolores. Our Lady of Sorrows. She was in my Introduction to World Mythology Class, but to tell you the truth I don’t remember her. I know from my gradebooks that she got good grades, but she didn’t take part in class discussions or ever come see me in my office hours. She went missing during the senior year … around this time of year, now that I come to think of it …” Soheila looked out her rain fogged windows and sighed. “Such a dreary time of year … although there is the Costume Ball coming up. Do you know what you’re going as?”
The Costume Ball was Fairwick’s biggest party of the year, but I wasn’t in the mood for parties. “I don’t think I’m going? What happened to Dolores?” I asked.
“Oh, didn’t I say? She went missing in the tunnels.”
“But do we know what happened to her in the tunnels?”
Soheila shook her head and shivered. “Nothing good, that’s for sure. Those tunnels are full of evil. Liz—she had just become dean—had them closed after Dolores went missing and had them erased from the campus maps and expunged from the memories of all mortal students and faculty.”
“Expunged? You mean Liz brain-washed everybody to forget the tunnels?” I asked, appalled.
“Yes,” Soheila said, her brow furrowing at my outrage, “she thought it was the best way of keeping anyone from going down there and getting hurt. Of course there were the predictable side effects. No spell can entirely erase a memory. Erasing a memory from the conscious mind simply drives it deeper into the subconscious where it becomes lore. That’s how most urban legends get their start, you know. They’re often a direct result of a magical expunging.”
“Really? So you the story of the man with the hook …?”
“An unfortunate occurrence in Topeka, Kansas, 1923.”
“That story about the clown statue and the babysitter?”
Soheila shuddered. “A remnant of the Great Clown Invasion of the sixties.”
“And so the stories about Dolores Maynard?”
“Traces of what really happened. Even I don’t remember what really …” A loud clanking interrupted her. The pipes rattled and banged, something gurgled, then spat like an angry cat and a spume of steam issued forth from the radiator.
“And if I wanted to find out what really happened to her?
Soheila canted her head and narrowed her honey gold eyes at me. “What’s this about, Callie? I know you’ve been going through a rough patch …”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said, cutting her off. I knew that Soheila meant well—and that she more than anyone understood what I was going through—but I couldn’t bear the well-meaning sympathy of my colleagues. “I just want to find out what happened to Dolores Maynard.”
Soheila sighed, a musical sound that brought to mind the warmth of the desert. “I think the only one who could tell you that is Dolores herself,” Soheila said, sliding her eyes over toward her closet and then quickly flicking them back to me. “But I wouldn’t recommend it. Steam ghosts are notoriously cranky.”
My students didn’t find out much more about Dolores Maynard than I did. I asked some other teachers who had been at Fairwick in the fifties (we have an unusually long-lived faculty here at Fairwick) and called a few alumni, but no one remembered her. All I could find out from the registrar records was that she’d been born in Schenectady, NY, only child to Howard (an accountant) and Ruth Maynard, she attended Fairwick on a scholarship, changed her major from French to Accounting in her sophomore year, maintained a solid B+ average, and joined only one club—the French club—which she quit her junior year, at the same time that she turned down a fellowship to study abroad.
“I bet she fell in love and didn’t want to leave her sweetheart, but then he ditched her and she killed herself,” Nicky proposed in class.
“I bet she switched majors because she was in love with a student in the business department. I mean why else would she major in something as boring as accounting,” Ashley—I’d gotten her name at last—said.
Several accounting majors object to Ashley’s characterization of her major.
“I think it was all a ruse to deflect attention from an affair she was having with her French professor,” Mike insisted. “And that they both ran off to Tahiti together.”
As my students debated competing scenarios for the disappearance of Dolores Maynard the steam pipes banged away. Was she angry that no one was getting her story right? I wondered. Was that why she was trapped in the Fairwick tunnels? Would finding out her true fate release her?
I decided to give it a try. I’d noticed the sideways glance Soheila had given her closet and had a suspicion that there was an entrance to the tunnels there. On the night of the Costume Ball I stayed in my office late grading papers waiting for all my colleagues to go to the party, which was held across the campus in Briggs Hall. From my window I watched students traipsing across the quad, girls tricked out in slinky vampire and fairy outfits, boys in superhero tights and capes (of course there were some boys in fairy outfits and plenty of girls in superhero costumes). It reminded me of how young they all were. Only a few years ago they would have been trick or treating with their parents. Dolores Maynard had been young like them. I owed it to her to find out what had happened to her.
When I saw Soheila leave the building—in diaphanous firebird plumage—I stole downstairs to her office. Her door was locked and warded, but that wasn’t too big a problem. I’d discovered last year that I was descended from a doorkeeper—an ancient line of the fey who were able to open the door to Faerie—and a witch. I’d been studying opening spells in Wheelock’s Spellcraft. Soheila’s wards, as one might expect from a descendant of wind spirits, were made up of air and desire. I summoned a wind spell and blew them away. Then I pronounced the opening spell. Ianuam sprengja! The door clicked open. Feeling pretty proud of myself, I went into the office.
The shades were drawn, no doubt because Soheila had changed for the party here. Her clothes were neatly folded on a chair. Jars of make-up littered her normally neat desk. The room smelled like jasmine and patchouli. Soheila had gone to a lot of trouble to get ready for the party. I knew she had sworn off feeding off men, but I also knew she liked Frank Delmarco and that he’d be at the party. Knowing Frank he’d probably dressed as something silly …
I shook the thought of the party away and opened the closet. As I had long suspected it was huge, lined on both sides with deep wooden file cabinets and extending far back to a shadowy assortment of coats, sweaters, shawls and cloaks. I pushed them aside, releasing a mélange of vintage perfumes—L’heure Bleu and White Shoulders, a tangy whiff of Jean Nate How old was Soheila? I wondered, fingering a beaver coat with a button for Adlai Stevenson pinned to its lapel. Clearly she hadn’t used the door at he back of the closet since the fifties. A poodle skirt and a pink angora cardigan hung from a hook on the door. I repeated the door opening spell and the door creaked open. A gust of damp fetid air crept out.
Ew. Suddenly venturing into the bowls of the college’s plumbing didn’t seem like such a good idea, but an angry clanking reminded me of poor Dolores Maynard’s spirit, trapped for over fifty years down there, and I knew that I’d never be able to listen to those pipes again if I didn’t at least try to do something.
I took a flashlight out of my book bag and shone it through the doorway. It lit up stairs leading steeply down. I placed one hand on the banister and took each step slowly, feeling for rotting boards or—worse—crawling vermin. Cobwebs brushed against my face, but nothing sores, until I reached the concrete floor. At the bottom of the stairs was a light switch. I turned it on without much hope of success but a bare bulb housed in a wire cage sputtered to life above my head. More like it flickered on, lighting up a long concrete tunnel lined with heavy pipes. Each of the bulbs was housed in a wire cage. To keep it from being smashed, I imagined. But smashed by what?
I continued down the long passage, holding my lit flashlight in case the power failed. The lights flickered fitfully, lending the tunnel a garish Studio 54 atmosphere. In the flashes of light I caught scraps of graffiti on the walls—hearts with linked initials and protestations of undying love. The tunnels must have been a popular spot for romantic trysts. Perhaps that’s why Dolores had been down here. I searched for the initials D.M. Otherwise I didn’t know where I was supposed to find Dolores’s spirit …
… until I found the words, “Dolores Maynard was here” scrawled in bloody red paint across a brick wall at the end of the passage.
Well, that was certainly a clue.
“Dolores,” I called, my voice echoing in the long empty tunnel. “Are you here? I’ve come to hear your story.”
A furious clanking of pipes greeted my question, followed by an angry hiss of steam.
“Dolores?” I said, in a quieter, less certain voice. “Don’t you want people to know your true story?”
The pipes ratted so hard I thought they would burst. A long plume of steam shot out of a vent and uncoiled in the air before me. It glowed with a faint lime-green shimmer to it—the color of antifreeze—that called to mind mutant radiation. Hadn’t one of the legends about he tunnels been that they had been the test site for radiation experiments? Was I going to be eaten alive by mutant alligators?
I was about to turn around and run when the steam assumed the shape of a face. A face I recognized from the 1959 yearbook.
“Dolores?” I asked, trying to steady my voice. “Dolores Maynard, is that you?”
“Yesssss,” she hissed, her voice like steam issuing out of a rusty pipe. “It is I. Whoooooo are youuuu?” The spectral face hovered closer and I could feel the dampness of the steam on my skin.
“Callie McFay,” I answered. “I teach here. English and Folklore. My students told me about you.”
“They talk about me then?” The steam pulsed, changing colors from lime green to turquoise to indigo. Sort of like a mood ring. But I didn’t have the color code. She didn’t sound angry, though, just curious.
“Yes, they tell stories …”
“What kind of stories?” Flashes of yellow, limned with orange, pulsed through the steam. A smell like copper pennies wafted through the tunnel.
“Um, well, they don’t know what happened to you, so they speculate …”
“Tell me!” The light bulb above my head sizzled and popped. I smelled something burning.
I told her the stories. The one about her killing herself, the one where she got pregnant and died giving birth, the one about her married professor, even the one about the nuclear experiments. I kept waiting for an indication that one of them was right, but she only coiled around me, like a cat curling up in a warm lap, the pipes around us purring as she listened to each one. When I was done she uncoiled herself and flowed back. I could see all of her now, from her scuffed saddle shoes to plaid skirt to Peter Pan blouse to sloppy ponytail. She sighed, a cloud of steam trickling from her mouth like cigarette smoke. “Tell me the one where I have an affair with my Econ professor again. He was dreamy.”
“None of those things happened to you, did they.” I said flatly.
Her shape shimmered and lost substance. She fished in her ectoplasmic pocket and pulled out a pair of thick-rimmed glasses and put them on. “No,” she admitted. “Nothing ever happened to me. And nothing ever would. I would have been that girl at the reunion who no one remembered.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yes,” she said, so heavily that her molecules sagged under the sound. Her face sagged and a bit of her cheek dripped to the floor with a hollow plonk. She was beginning to melt. “I went to the Costume Ball in my own clothes because I was too busying studying to put together a costume. But they all thought I was wearing a costume—Nerdy Girl, they called me. No one knew my real name. I’d been here for almost four years and they’d already forgotten me. You must have asked about me. Did anyone remember me?”
“It’s been a long time,” I said, hating to admit that she was right. No one had.
“I see,” she said pulling a handkerchief out of the cuff of her cardigan and dabbing it to her face and wiping half her face away in the process. “That’s what I figured. I was so embarrassed that night I came down here to have a good cry. I cried and cried until I felt myself disappearing. When I had evaporated I found I could travel through the pipes into classrooms and dorm rooms. I heard everyone talking about me—me, Dolores Maynard! By disappearing I’d become famous. And they kept talking about me. All I had to do was rattle the pipes a bit and blow a little steam and they talked about me some more.”
“But if they knew the real story maybe you’d come to life …”
The steam uncoiled and snapped quick as a whip striking, her half-rotted face stopping centimeters in front of mine. Her green lips curled back in a snarl and her damp breath lapped hot against my face.
“If they knew the real story I would cease to exist altogether. If you tell them I’ll …”
“You’ll what?” I asked. “You’ll spread mildew in my office? A good dose of Chlorox will fix that.”
She reared back, a look of surprise on her bland, dissolving features.
“Maybe if you had looked up form your books once in a while you would have made a few friends. Maybe if you had worried about someone other than yourself for a change you’d have stuck in someone’s head.”
“M…m…maybe,” she warbled, melting into a large puddle of ectoplasmic goo, “but it’s too late now!” Her last wail dissolved her entirely.
Crap. I was simply no good at this tough love thing.
I turned around and traced my steps back through the tunnel, back up the stairs and into Soheila’s closet. I hung her coats and sweaters back on the door and then, dispirited, went upstairs to my office. The building was dead quiet. The steam heating silent. In my office I sat down at my desk and tried to pick up my research where I’d left off, but I couldn’t focus. I kept seeing Dolores’s face swimming before me, her sad eyes enlarged by her thick glasses, her rabbity nose pink as her cardigan.
I clomped downstairs and broke back into Soheila’s office. I borrowed her poodle skirt and pink cardigan and some of her green eyeshadow. When I was done I surveyed the results in the mirror and was satisfied with the grisly results. Then I hurried across the dark campus and into Briggs Hall which had been transformed into a ghostly fairy land. Diaphanous white cobwebs hung form the ceiling and the chandeliers. Orange and purple lights twinkled everywhere. I saw Mike Cavanaugh dressed as Batman dancing with Ashley Smolinkski, dressed as a clown dancing together. My students and colleagues had been transformed into fairies, vampires, ghosts and ghouls—or at least they actually looked like those things for a change. A man in a long black cloak suddenly sprung out from behind me and bared his fangs at me.
“Really, Frank, I’d have thought you’d go as one of your favorite sports heroes.”
“I did,” he said, sweeping the cloak aside to reveal a vintage White Sox uniform—and bare feet. “I’m Shoeless Joe Jackson back from the dead to play again. Who are you? You look like a zombie bobby soxer.”
“What? You don’t recognize me?” I asked. Then, injecting a spooky timbre into my vice, I intoned, “I am Dolores Maynard, the lady of the tunnels, come back to exact revenge for my untimely demise.”
Frank laughed, as did a few of my students who had overheard me, and, from deep below us I heard the clank of pipes and the contented sigh of steam.
Carol Goodman grew up on Long Island, attended public school, and started writing at age nine, when her fourth grade teacher introduced the topic “Creative Writing.” She wrote a ninety-page, crayon-illustrated epic entitled “The Adventures of the Magical Herd” in which a girl named Carol lives with a herd of magical horses. She knew from that moment that she wanted to be a writer.
During her teens Goodman wrote poetry and was awarded Young Poet of Long Island by Long Island University at the age of 17. She took a break from writing to major in Latin at Vassar College, never realizing that her first published novel would be about a Latin teacher. After college, she worked in publishing and then a series of less demanding office jobs while writing short stories at night. Then she went back to school (to the University of Texas at Austin) to become a high school teacher, rediscovered Latin, and wrote a master’s report on young adult fantasy literature. She taught Latin for three years in the Austin Independent School District until her daughter Maggie was born.
A few years (and two unpublished novels) later, Goodman came back to Long Island. She started writing poetry and short stories again and completed her MFA at The New School. She published poems and short stories in literary journals, including The Greensboro Review, Literal Latte, Midwest Quarterly, New York Quarterly and Other Voices. A year after she finished her MFA, Goodman picked up a short story she had written about a Latin teacher at a boarding school in upstate New York (called “Girl, Declined”) and started to write her bestselling and critically acclaimed debut novel, The Lake of Dead Languages.
Since its publication, Goodman has been writing full time (The Seduction of Water, The Drowning Tree, The Ghost Orchid) and teaching at The New School. Her new novel THE SONNET LOVER will be published by Ballantine Books in June 2007. Goodman’s books have been nominated for the IMPAC award twice, the Simon & Schuster/Mary Higgins Clark award, and the Nero Wolfe Award; The Seduction of Water won the Hammett Prize in 2003. She still lives on Long Island, with her husband, poet/hedge fund manager Lee Slonimsky, her stepdaughter, Nora, her daughter, Maggie, a poodle, Zoë, and a lilac point Siamese cat named Sassy.
Want to read more from Juliet Dark?
This giveaway is provided by Random House
One winner will receive a copy of The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark
Available on December 27, 2011 from Random House
About the Book:
I gasped . . . or tried to. My mouth opened, but I couldn’t draw breath. . . . His lips, pearly wet, parted and he blew into my mouth. My lungs expanded beneath his weight. When I exhaled he sucked in my breath and his weight turned from cold marble into warm living flesh.
Since accepting a teaching position at remote Fairwick College in upstate New York, Callie McFay has experienced the same disturbingly erotic dream every night: A mist enters her bedroom, then takes the shape of a virile, seductive stranger who proceeds to ravish her in the most toe-curling, wholly satisfying ways possible. Perhaps these dreams are the result of writing her bestselling book, The Sex Lives of Demon Lovers. After all, Callie’s lifelong passion is the intersection of lurid fairy tales and Gothic literature—which is why she finds herself at Fairwick’s renowned folklore department, living in a once-stately Victorian house that, at first sight, seemed to call her name.
But Callie soon realizes that her dreams are alarmingly real. She has a demon lover—an incubus—and he will seduce her, pleasure her, and eventually suck the very life from her. Then Callie makes another startling discovery: He’s not the only mythical creature in Fairwick. As the tenured witches of the college and the resident fairies in the surrounding woods prepare to cast out the incubus, Callie must accomplish something infinitely more difficult—banishing this demon lover from her heart.
Click HERE to read an excerpt
**Don’t forget to visit All Things Urban Fantasy today for her Spooky Legends guest blog with Jennifer Armentrout **
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