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And Then Things Got Weird….

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Plague Season — from BATS on Amazon. A bat from the Front ^^ö^^ & Back ^^*^^

01 Plague Season for Web

Bats: Chapter 6:

Plague Season 

Two very old granite gargoyles greeted young guitar-slinger Jonathan Tepes as he approached the drawbridge of Poenari Castle, Prince Vlad’s home.

“Vait!” said Wichtoria, the gargoyle on the right.

Opri!” said Wichtor, the gargoyle on the left.

“You should always say ‘vait,’ Wichtor,” said Wichtoria as she strained her long granite neck over the battlement to get a better view of the pale young man in the rapid strobe of the lightning. Jonathan was standing beneath the drawbridge, shielding himself from the cold rain with his guitar case.

“You, down there!” shouted Wichtoria. “Are you here to entertain us? Young vippersnapper, are you…are you the singer James Taylor?”

“What?! Noooo!” said Jonathan.

Rain pummeled the blood-soaked soil and ran in red rivulets toward the moat.

“Maybe you are Jackson Browne then?” asked Wichtoria.

“Yes! You do look very familiar,” said Wichtor. “Are you a wisitor?”

“Wisitor? You mean, visitor? Yes, I am a wisitor!” said Jonathan, looking up at the gargoyles as the rain tapered off.

“I’ve dabbled in songwriting too!” said Wichtoria. “I could sing you some of my songs. Maybe, if you like them, I vill let you record them, Mr. Taylor.”

“Sorry! I only LOOK like James Taylor…before he lost his hair,” said Jonathan. “I’m also mellower!” he shouted while shooing away clouds of gnats, flies, and all manner of pestilence.

“I can’t play guitar with my talons and stony wings,” said Wichtoria. “But I can play a mean blues harp. Maybe we can jam later?”

Wichtor turned toward her sharply. “Enough, Wici!” Then he looked back down on the shivering human. “Young man! Did you park your wehicle in the wisitor parking?”

“Wehicle? Wisitor parking? Why, no!”

Wichtoria said, “If you’re only wisiting, you should never park in the wesidential parking. Parking is wimited. If you need to unload your band equipment, you can—”

“I am a wisitor, I have no wehicle, annnnnd I DO NOT have a band!”

“I am Wichtoria. You can call me Wici. This is Wichtor. He is a ‘sir.’”

“Maybe after your show we can have a drink,” said Wici. The gargoyle winked at young Jonathan. Wichtor shook his stony head in shame.

 “This is not funny,” he said. “It’s freezing and raining!”

“Did you hear that, my little angel? I’m shocked! Did you know that our veather stinks, Wici?”

Poison arrow frogs dropped from the sky onto Jonathan’s shoulders.

“The Prince had me brought here in the taxi. Please!” said Jonathan.

“Oh! So Mr. Big Shot sent for you! Vell then, velcome!” they both said.

“Is it safe here? Everyone down in the village at Poenari seems frightened,” shouted Jonathan. “A woman dressed in black warned me about vampires.”

“Ha! She must have been an oldt vife!” said Wichtor. “Cause that is an oldt vife’s tale! There are no such things as w-w-w-w-wampires!”

“Maybe we should tell our young wisitor about the wampires,” Wichtor whispered into Wici’s ear. “Hey, you! Young man! We do have wampires!”

“What?”

“Only a few,” said Wici trying to calm him.

“No. Don’t make him worry, Wici,” said Wichtor.

“What happened to your accents? The Vs and Ws?”

“Busted! The Vs and Ws were just a setup for the wampire joke,” Wici said. “Actually, we are from Paris, monsieur.”

Something black landed on Jonathan’s collar. “Ow! What the hell just bit me?” he asked, flinging his hands around.

“That was either Cherubino or Angioletto,” said Wici.

“Damn! That was a bat!” screamed Jonathan.

“Transylvanian Mosquitos,” said Wichtor, trying not to drive away his employer’s prospective dinner. “The woods are rotten with…creepies undt crawlies.”

“Can you please lower the bridge?” yelled Jonathan.

Wichtor looked over to Wici and gestured with his talon. “Look at that, Wichtoria! The boy didn’t bring a jacket. Kids these days, I tell ya.”

“Before we can open the bridge, we are required to ask you three questions,” said Wici. “National security. Do you understand?”

“Okay! Please!” Jonathan sneezed loudly.

“Did you hear that, Wichtor? Mr. Taylor, does your mother know that you’re dressed like that? You could catch your life of cold out here. Where’s your sweater?”

“Look! He’s catching pneumonia,” said Wichtor. “Ask him already!”

“Are you listening?” she yelled. “Question number one: Tell me which movie this quote came from: ‘Come…on! Move into the slow lane, you stupid bastard!’”

“The Day of the Driving Dead!”

“Not bad, kid,” said Wichtor, framed by a cloud of descending locusts. “Number two,” Wici continued. “‘Hisssssss…ski.’”

“The Polish Bride of Frankenstein. Too easy,” said Jonathan, teeth chattering.

Lightning struck behind him, pushing him toward the red water of the moat. A hundred pairs of green eyes lit up as the crocodiles waited for him to slip.

“The kid’s good!” Wichtor said to Wici. “For one hundred dolari! Are you listening, young man?”

“Yes, I’m listening! Brrrrrrrr……”

“Well, then you should have listened to your mother!” interrupted Wici. “If you had any brains, the Good Humerus Man would be selling them frozen on a stick. Not even a hat! What they teach you in college? Okay, smarty pants, Wichtor will ask you question number three! Hurry, Wichtor, I think he’s becoming a frozen entrée.”

“Okay! For one hundred dolari,” said Wichtor while the clock from the highest tower clicked. “Identify this famous quote: ‘The bwud is the wife, Mr. Wenfield!’”

“Elmer Fudd as Dwacuwa, 1964! So, where’s my money?”

The two gargoyles looked at each other and shrugged.

“Do you have any cash on you, Wichtor?” asked Wici.

“Do you see pockets here, Wichtoria? The sculptor carved us naked. I have nothing! Nothing! Not even a sock for my schmekel!”

From my novel BATS ^^ö^^: Jonathan’s Ride to Poenary Castle, Transylvania

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Poenari Castle’s broken silhouette passed hundreds of feet above Jonathan, framed by the rising moon and the black branches reaching out in “velcome.” The handsome laid back, mellow, and easygoing smasher-of-heads-against-breakwaters-and-pavement ex-lifeguard peered through the glass, breathless. The rain, thick as plasma, began to block his view from the taxi.

Despite the increasingly narrow passages, looming mountains and biblical weather, he texted Mina another time.

Bună ziua! (Good evening!) I am now in Romania near Poenari Castle. Up until now there has been no actual Wi-Fi. Earlier the driver, who wears a black  mask, told me about a free service called Si-Fi that has to do with antennas placed on, of all things, bats! I am well. In fact, I am even cooler than I was last month…and that’s pretty cool!

Cele mai bune urări (Best wishes),

Jonathan

The driver looked into the rear-view mirror and wondered, Is my passenger still…alive? He turned his head 360 degrees around, then another 180 degrees toward Jonathan and asked, “Are you there…sir? Let it be known, young sir, that breathing can attract a variety of…undesirables.” In the Prince’s hemorrhaging neck of the woods, breathing was regarded as overrated.

A long exhalation of foul human breath rushed from the backseat.

What the heaven has this human been eating? Plants? “Look, young sir!” said the driver. “Ve’re almost home! Ve’ll get you some real food.”

“I’m on a vegetarian diet, sir. I no longer eat anything with a face.”

Oy. Vun of those! The driver thought. “No problem young man! You can alvays rip the face off first.”

“Driver? Do you know where I can find a Mr. Karoly Tepesthe? He has some money put aside for me.”

The driver only belched.

“You didn’t eat him, did you?” Jonathan joked.

“No. I didn’t, sir. Haven’t you heard about Mr. Tepesthe’s terrible accident?”

“Oh, no. No, I haven’t.”

“Apparently Karoly was on his way home from the bank after he withdrew a million dolari in cash, tripped, and stumbled onto a very sharp twenty-foot pole—sorry, of course you couldn’t have heard. It doesn’t happen until tomorrow.”

Slaughter, Take Away the ‘S’ and It Can Only Mean One Thing…………Laughter

And excerpt from the upcoming Shark Fin Soup.

Cover Shark Fin

At dinner withe Interpol agent and demigod, Frankie, from Sumatra, and his date, Kali, the Hindu goddess of death, time and doomsday…

#

“ I could tell that it was your ‘multiple’ handiwork, baby. Very precise.”

“What’s with the ‘baby, Frankie?”

Frankie plopped a black ring box on the table. Inside was eight 270 Karat diamond rings. “Marry me?” 

“Oh, my! So soon? I’m just getting over my marriage to Shiva.”

“Couldn’t you just kill him? That worked before. And then we can be together.”

“Shiva and I are no longer an item. Now…” Kali wiped away a green tear. “The bastard found — sniff — himself someone else to dance on top of him throughout eternity. The Nordic goddess, Frigg. Nice name, eh? He calls her his Swedish Meatball Tenderizer. Frigg. Friggin’ biotch.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, baby. I didn’t mean to rush you or anything.”

“It’s okay. I’m over it. He told me that she was better (sniffles) than I was (tears) when it came to walking on his bad back. I tried to kill her, but she kept bouncing back like a…(sniff)…a…”

“A Wham-O Super Ball?”

“Yeah. You are so smart, Frankie.” Suddenly Kali began to seethe. She  started to twist the table’s edge. She was getting wound up.

“Don’t rip up the table, doll face. I’m pals with Paulie, the owner.”

“Dauna told me about to a party at Dahmer’s Humanitarian Cafe tonight. They’ll be serving up MacHeath’s crew for our entertainment.  Let’s say we go over there and you can watch me burn off some energy stomping on MacHeath’s loonies.”

“Sure, Sugar lips. We need to find you some sacrifices, baby. Let’s ditch this clambake.”

The Tragic Death and Death of Igorrina

cropped-dracula-bat.jpg

“I’m bored,” said young Mina, who sat with her face in her hands.

“Me too. Can we go now?” asked the whiny, childish Jonathan while plunking on his dreadfully-out-of-tune guitar.

“Oh, children. I thought that you were enjoying our picnic,” said the very adult and reprehensi… I mean, responsible Countess Elizabeth. 

“There’s hardly anything left of Nic to pick on,” moaned Mina.

“You kids these days,” Elizabeth continued. “Let me tell you a story about patience. There was once a lonely little girl named Igorrina who lived just down the road in the haunted forest.”

“Is there any other kind of forest?” asked Mina.

“No. Now listen, my children of the night. Igorinna, who couldn’t even find a friend to play Toe Tag with, was convinced that there was nothing in her future. So, not giving a damn,  she always took her futen time doing things. She was never in a big hurry to go…anywhere. 

One day, Igorinna decided that she’d had enough of this world. She tied the end of a rope around the neck that connected her useless head to her body and the other end of the rope to a young spruce tree, determined to stay there until either death took her away or her dream-boy Prince Charmin’ arrived on his white steed to rescue her from her misery. Even the local wolves, lynx, and bears found Igorinna uninteresting and unappetizing. Poor Igorrina spent most of her life tied to that spruce tree in Hoia-Baciu Forest, watching the bats and ghosts fly by in the evening, while protected only by vicious badgers who lived in the dens that circled her. 

Why did they protect her? The badgers didn’t care for Igorrina, but were curious to see what might happen to her in the end. They kept her minimally fed with worms, grubs, and insects. Over time, Igorrina had begun to grow old and ugly while tied to the same branch of that same tree for forty-five years until …”

“Until what, Countess?” asked Jonathan. “A handsome woodsman came along?”

“Fah!” said Uncle Vlad.

“A knight in shining armor?” asked Mina.

“Fat futin’ chance!” said Elizabeth. “You children can be so gruesome.”

“Of course! The handsome prince!” said Granny Lupta Axe.

“No vay,” said Vlad. “Prince Charmin’, the ass vipe, never showed up.”

Elizabeth continued. “So, sad Igorrina sat, leaning against the tree trunk until, you know, one lovely grey day the spruce finally grew tall enough…tall enough to slowly pull Igorrina up by her neck and hang her.”

“No guano! That is so cool,” said Jonathan.

“Talk about patience!” said Mina.

“You kids should see her,” said Vlad. “Igorrina can vear a choker, a string of pearls, a locket, and ten necklaces…at vonce!”

Vlad’s eyes seemed to catch fire. His mustache bristled. “Fute patience!” He pounded the table. “I vant all of the Wisitors and tourists out of my castle! Now!”

The Collected Letters of Lord Huthbert Grieves and Lady Penelope Weeps from the novel BATS ^^o^^

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From the celebrated Novel, Bats, by Lord Frederick Barnett of Kailuashire 

I.

The Collected Letters of 

Lord Huthbert Grieves and Lady Penelope Weeps

(1779-1790)

A Letter from Lord Huthbert Grieves to Lady Penelope Weeps, Ghoolkamish 

April 30, 1779

Dearest Penelope,

The artillery has stopped momentarily. As I lie awake in my muddy foxhole beneath the night sky of Ghoolkhamish — Alas, my angel, I can only think of you. 

When I come home, my dearest, though it may be five years from this day, I promise we shall marry. Your father hates me, I know, as does your dog — a part of whose shattered jaw is still attached to my buttock. 

Despite what your husband thinks, I know that we can make this marriage work. Though I lost half my face, one-third of my manhood and a nipple in the bloody trenches of Dyfthphedif, I promise that the cottage that I have purchased will be a happy one, surrounded by the warm laughter of children, or — at the very least — very immature adults. 

How is your cough, my Angel? I was distressed to find that your last correspondence had a small bloody piece of your lung stuck to it, Sweetheart. Please hang on to God’s precious gift of life until I can limp to your side.

Your precious letters warm my heart, Darling. I smell your perfume and, with a shield between my mouth and the envelope, kiss the lipstick on the seal before I dream my happy dreams every night.

With my good arm, I long to hug you and keep you warm, even when you cough (Though, alas, I regret, there will be no deep intertwining of tongues).

All my love,

Yours forever — Huthbert Grieves

 April 30, 1779

_____________________

II

The further love letters of Lord Huthbert Grieves and Penelope M. Weeps 

England 1769 -1784

(Sent from Port Apotty, Africa, May 31, 1784)

My Dearest Darling Angel Penelope,

Alas! This will be my last correspondence, my sweet, as I make my way home across the sea to your warm bosom after so many years in the muddy battlefields of Hominahomina. Please have a coffin and a plot prepared for me if I do not make it home alive. Our cavalry surgeon, Doctor Osândă, has informed me that the insect known as Arden’s creeper or the acid roach, has taken up residence in my ear, while I was stationed in the steaming tropical jungle of Haffarredrash. The creature has traveled to the part of my brain called the dorsal hypothalamic, which controls the heartbreaking spread of psoriasis especially in the remaining two-thirds of what the natives call my huk-huk.

Oh, blessed heavens above! Before we left port, I had received a correspondence from my servant, Mr. Upton. He says that you are now a free woman. Joy of joys! Could that be true, my angel of angels?

Upton had written that your childhood sweetheart and spouse of twenty years had passed on after receiving a dreadful blow to the skull. My tears are flowing for you, my love, like the mighty Incontinence Falls of the great Amazon.

Mournfulness overtook me when I had found out your tiny cherubs had been called to heaven on that calamitous evening as well. Your poor spouse and children—all dead—all on the same day! Oh, Providence! Forsooth! I had no idea that you ‘were with children.’ Eight? Well, fuck meself.

I had instructed Upton, my man Friday, to insure the safety of your children, but alas, it was too late. Upton reported that the fire had spread too quickly through the mansion. By the time the frightening oaf had arose from his drunkenness in the barn, the mansion had become a mound of ashes. Thank the Lord that Upton was able to rescue and deliver you to the safety of the barn before the fire spread.

About the pregnancy. For my part, I do pardon you your irresistible charm. Upton can be unruly and some days I question my hiring the brute from the Calcutta Circus. Be assured that he is my “responsibility.” Upton comes from fine stock and I will personally claim the cherub, Uptonette, as a Ward of Court. When he approaches his fourth year, the child will be assured a fine position in a reputable shop.

I am a gentleman, my love. I will support you both until I can find the guttersnipe bastard a suitable place of employment where the sun and lice shall not harm his fair skin.

 The hour of my arrival draweth fast on. Lastly, I vow that mine remaining eye desireth thou above most.

All my love,

Yours forever and ever,

Huthbert Grieves

___________________________

III

(Sent from Bristol, England, May 14, 1784)

My Dearest Darling Huthbert, 

Every day I look for your letters. Today, I feel that cupid is in the air.

A terrible thing happened at the Hollis’ grand mansion next door to my home this week. A terrible man attempted to kill neighbor’s entire family, except for the young wife, Hippolia, a woman who might be mistaken as my twin.

After clubbing the husband, Rhynos Hollis, to death, and presuming that the children were all asleep in bed, the villain set the house on fire. Thank the Lord above that all eight Hollis children were spending the week in London’s Marshalsea Children’s Prison because of a misunderstanding over the property rights of a beaten elder, or they all would have perished in that fire.

 During the blaze, the wife, Hippolia, was dragged outside only to be violated repeatedly until the rapist dragged her blindfolded down to Cornwall, where she was spotted, by drunkards no less, laughing at the Duck n’ Fishes pub. The rough beast continued his assault upon Mrs. Hollis the entire weekend, attracting numerous noise complaints at the inn. Mrs. Hollis had managed to escape from the brute and seems to be handling her weekend of terror quite well. She did tell me that the impetuous monster has threatened to return again, here to Bristol! The cheeky devil warned Hippolia that he will hunt her down like a fox, and imprison her royal suite at the notorious Saint Germaine Hotel in Paris and prod her day and night until her wicked spell upon him is broken. The poor woman. How dreadful!

There is some good news—for you, my hero.

My husband, Owen, has left me, knowing that my heart belongs only to you—and his own heart belongs to his ballet coach, Fabricio. My two children are both fourteen-years-old and have moved away with their own large families. I sit, all alone, waiting ONLY for you, my love. I pray that I may be worthy of such a pure soul.

More good news! My consumption has disappeared entirely since I refashioned my diet to only simple sweets. You will find that there is much more of your dear Penelope to love when you return.

I hope you are well. Please tell me when your ship, The Obbrobrio (The Disgrace), comes into my port, my heart of hearts.

If the recipient of this letter is not my beloved Huthbert, please disregard, I prefer chocolates.

My love, you are forever in my thoughts and dreams.

Penelope

_________________

IV

(Sent from London, June 1, 1784)

Penelope,

Oops!

Yours,

Huthbert

One last abysmal Letter from Lady Penelope Weeps 

Sent from: Kent on Birminghanfordkingshire

To: Lord Thaddeus Huthbert Grieves— by way of Lord Ward Toady, Wraithamwichshire, February 21, 1790

_______________

V

 My poor dear Lord Huthbert!  I am in distress!

Since you wrote Oops! as the only and last word in your final letter, I’ve had troubling cogitations, my dearest. For aught I know that you may soon be with the angels, and after losing half of your face, one-third of your manhood, one nipple, and discovering that an acid roach that had entered your brain at Hominahomina, has affected the remaining two-thirds of your huk-huk. 

Three days ago, I found out that you were alive, my darling. Joy of Joys! While I was relaxing at the Drivel Pub in East Piffle I overheard the sailors, talking about how their frigate, the Countess of Cachtice, rescued a man who called himself “Huthbert” within the hold of an abandoned Chinese junk (?). One of the sailors at the Pub, who’d been given the epithet Jack-the-Gaff by his shipmates (Curiously, it was neither of Jack’s rough hands that were shaped like a hook), said that you were found nearly dead aboard a ghost ship adrift among the treacherous whirlpools of Vodu, West Africa. 

Oh dear, what were you doing in China? 

The Daily Advertiser directed me to Charity Hospital in Piffle. Alas, I was barred from visiting your room by the Empiric Doctor Phineus Osândă who instructed me to come back later in the week, as your medical situation was “extremely distasteful.” What could that mean? I thought.

 While resting at the Piffle Inn, I came across this story on the front page of the Journal. A similar story regarding your recent condition also appeared in Lloyd’s Post. 

“One unfortunate passenger, identified as London’s Lord Thaddeus ‘Huthbert’ Grieves was found below decks, soaked in his own blood. Specialists from Shire Bedlam Hospital reported the Lord Huthbert’s colon was “severely damaged by an Asian swamp eel” (Monopterus albus). The grotesque fish had chewed through the poor fellow’s colon!”

Huthbert my love, how on Earth did that abhorrent creature end up inside your lower intestine? What were you doing in China, my heart of hearts? Who were these “opium men” who were “playing a trick” on you, as per the article?

I fear that this may be the last chance to tell you that you have always been the Love of my Life, my greatest thrill, equal to my recent swim in a vat of chocolate, with the two equally pale Cadbury Brothers at their new desert parlor in London. The brothers playfully nicknamed me “Bonbon.”

I ended up marrying the elder of the brothers, Sir Richard Cadbury. I never saw his very wealthy brother, Sir Simon, alive after our dip. The police had come over one afternoon asking questions about a public argument that the two brothers had had in the Lamb’s Lair Pub. It is as though the thick London fog had swallowed Simon. He was a nice lad.

My new husband, Sir Richard, it seems, has had a number of wives but only keeps a picture of his first, Hermia, upon the piano. The sorrowful man had lost Hermia along with his only two children when the three sailed into a maelstrom, though, this time, near the island of Bermuda. Richard often talks of her beauty and her long red hair and warned me that his deceased and beloved Hermia, managed to ruin his following six marriages and mysteriously drove all the ensuing wives away! Richard fears that I will also disappear because of an apparition. You, of all people realize that I am made of sterner stuff.

Oh goodness! As I look from the front window into the moonlight, I can see a woman with long red hair, with two barely clothed moppets in tow. Poor things, so pale and hungry. I will not wake our butler, Grieves, who has already turned in for the night. 

I’ll try to write again, soon. The children are crying just outside my door. They seem to be asking for pudding, of all things. Poor dears. Their cries are weak.  I’ll offer them a warm fireplace and something to eat. 

My heart-root, I have addressed this letter to your very close friend, Ward Toady, at Wraitham, as I cannot seem to locate you, my love, my life. 

Yours in Eternity,

Lady Penelope Cadbury

P.S. Richard said that he would post this for me on the morrow. It is time to greet the poor family outside. More crying. I must go and answer the door.

________________________________

VI

This last express post was sent on August 6, 1790

From: Lord Ward Toady / Wraitham Hospital, Southeast Londonshireham

To: Lady Penelope Cadbury, London

This letter was never read by the recipient, Lady Penelope Cadbury *Lady P. never had a chance to read her last mortal link to her beloved Lord Huthbert. The letter was found unopened at the Cadbury home a week after her disappearance.

_______________

My Lady Penelope Weeps Cadbury,

My god woman, did you not hear? It is with great sadness that I must inform you that your love, my oldest and dearest friend, Lord Huthbert Grieves, had been brutally murdered in the early hours of February 18. I pray that you will not take umbrage. I was certain that you, yourself, had been murdered back in February. The Lord’s assailant was a maniacal woman with long red tresses followed by two young children. 

The trio were seen by my own hospital staff, hovering near the stone path leading into to the hospital grounds at two in the morning.

No one knows how the fiends had gained access to Lord Huthbert’s private room, as several members of my hospital staff were awake and on duty! 

My primary nurse, Mrs. Walinkova, was first alerted when she heard the voice of a woman screaming your name from the garden. “Penelope! Penelope’s gray matter will be my …pudding!” The woman’s screeching was followed by the wailing of children (“Pudding! Pudding!”) which was heard by the entire hospital staff. 

 The cacophony outside was followed by the agonizing scream of our dear  Lord Huthbert. His private room was on the second story. The staff and I ran to Lord Huthbert’s door. It took four people, ten minutes to force the door open as it was being held shut by a ghostly gale of wind. When my four servants were able to gain access the wind came to a sudden halt. They found Lord Huthbert in the closet, hanging by the neck. My scullery maid, Fifi LaDerrier, reported that the poor man’s skull had been gnawed through as if by a giant rodent. 

After the staff and I had taken Lord Huthbert’s body from the closet and lay him on the bed, Fifi, whispered in my ear — with hot breath — in French, that poor tortured Lord Huthbert was finally at peace. As we drew a sheet over Lord Huthbert’s face, we both caught a glimpse of the Arden’s Creeper (the acid roach from the jungles of Hominahomina) crawling behind the headboard. I could no longer blame Lord Huthbert’s insanity on my souple pâtisserie Fifi! Indeed, It was the roach, boring into the afflicted man’s brain that drove him mad enough to harbor eels in his bottom!  

As the Lord’s body lie covered, a quartet of my servants, who were embracing and adjusting one another’s bed clothes at the chamber window, were frozen by a spine-chilling scene in the garden below. They had become transfixed by three pale figures beneath the cold moon, screeching like Irish banshees and dressed in thin white shrouds — It was the red haired demon and what must have been her two children. As if gliding on wheels, the phantoms left a trail of fresh sea algae along the cobblestones before vanishing into the woods. Wraitham is a two day’s journey to the nearest coast.

Dearest Penelope, I am so sorry to be the one to impart this terrible news.

May our Huthbert rest in peace,

In friendship, 

Lord Ward Toady

P.S. Mrs. Walinkova says that she was familiar with you from the circus days at the Drury Lane theatre. She asked me to relay this message: 

“Cheers, Penny! I am well, and though I no longer soar above the crowds at Drury, Toady says that I still defy gravity. The silly man! Please stop by for draught someday.”

_____________________

Prey-Lewd (Introduction of ^^ö^^ Bats)

BATS-FINAL LG>Prey-Lewd
(Enemy Territory)
Čachtice, Slovakia (Formerly Hungary)

 

Inside his melon-sized head, the bus driver heard the menacing voice of Boris Karloff: “Even your bus is dead, Kimo.”

Please! Anywhere but here. Not in front of creepy Čachtice Castle, thought the Type A Tours driver with the name tag: ‘Aloha, My name is Big Kimo.’

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Kimo announced, “we may be here awhile, so you can get out of the bus, walk around a little and stretch if you like.”

Bats and huge fanged moths — the kind that would happily eat your shorts—with you in them — were attracted to the lights within the bus and began pounding themselves against the windows. Anyone who was about to ‘go outside and stretch’ quickly gave up on the foolish idea.

“Look, driver!” Someone stood and pointed out of the right side of the bus. Big Kimo couldn’t see anything, at first.

“It’s a lady!” said a British woman in back.

Oh, boy…and she has dogs!” said her son. Four shadows trotted from the parked Bats Mobile and took their places behind the Countess. They held baskets in their mouths.

Sure enough, a tall beautiful woman was approaching the bus from the car. She was bathed in moonlight. She wore a bouffant hairdo and a checkered blue homemakers dress straight out of the 1950s. The lovely redhead waved at Kimo through the closed door. She held up a pitcher of an ice-cold beverage and a stack of Dixie Cups. He relaxed.

“Oh goody, goody!” a child in the front seat squealed. “The nice lady brought us Kool-Aid!”

What the tourists thought was rain, started to hit the windows. The drops were plague tears. The sound of the wind was a sickening wheeze.

“Let her in, driver! The poor woman’s blouse is soaked,” a woman from Ireland called out. All of the men were suddenly interested. “It must be the lady of the house,” she said.

I hope it isn’t the lady of the house, thought Kimo. The Bloody Countess, Elizabeth Bathory once lived here. That was centuries ago. Still, it is Čachtice!

The canines stood guard in shadows behind their mistress. Kimo opened the glass door—Oh, what the hell—with a hiss. “The dogs will have to stay outside.” The tall beauty, a very well-put-together June Cleaverhe thought, stepped up into the bus taking a wide stance in front in of the passengers. The “nice lady,” wet, was a great deal “nicer” than most had expected. She captured everyone’s complete attention despite their age, sex, race, nationality, or even in the case of Mrs. Bernstein in the back, species.

“Hello, you nice people. I’m Mrs. June Cleaver!” Elizabeth Bathory, The Bloody Countess lied.

Kimo was taken back. Cleaver? Why don’t I like that name?

Her audience was riveted on the icy pitcher of swirling sky blue liquid that she displayed.

“I brought you some refreshments while you are waiting to be rescued,” said the beguiling housewife. “I’ve got dozens of our best local Batina’s cookies and something to quench your thirst. Here! Pass them back. Thank you. If it’s all right with Big Kimo, maybe I could teach you nice folks a little bit about our local cuisine.”

The tired driver nodded, stared out the bus window into the falling tears of regret and moaning thunder, and decided that he didn’t like the size of those dogs. They were very well behaved and they were all wearing white kerchiefs. No, those are bibs! Cleaver. Cleaver. The name still made him nervous.

“We’re proud of our Fritz Haarmann cutlery,” said the perky housewife. “Mr. Haarmann was originally a meat salesman from Germany, but now he makes and tests his fine cutlery products right here in Transylvania.” She smiled at the man sitting in front of her. “Are you from Germany? Then you would certainly appreciate the craftsmanship. I mean, just look at this beautiful cleeeeeeeeaver!” The big bald German didn’t understand one word. While he smiled up at the outline of her ‘chilled’ nipples above, she stared down at the reflection of the blade on his shiny head. She raised her cleaver, “Just feel this edge!”

Soon, Mrs. Cleaver/Elizabeth was doing the backstroke up and down the blood-filled center aisle of the bus as her good doggies dragged piles of tourist vittles into the Countess’ sob-flooded front yard.

The Countess Elizabeth’s housekeeper, Penelope, disposed of the bus with an explosion fueled by bat guano.

All of this took five minutes.

The flapping bats applauded.

Elizabeth, curtsied, leapt into her muscle car, and floored the gas pedal five-hundred miles to Poenari.

 

goreybat.jpg

^^ö^^ The Working Dead ^^ö^^

The Working Dead

anitas-working-dead

In 2018, after major science breakthrough, the US Supreme Court ruled that death, as it now stands, “does not terminate the deceased’s obligations to ignore paying one’s bills and taxes until the human body reaches such a state of decay that at least three out of four limbs will not stay attached.”

But dead Neal Orestein was determined to go to work. Work was his life, uh death. You know what I mean. We all know someone like this.

#

After scraping through the mound of loose dirt over his grave, Neal was able to see daylight and the exasperated face of his long-suffering wife, Stella.

“Just look at those fingernails,” she scolded. “The dirt! Just where the hell you think you’re going, Neil?” After 60 years of marriage, Stella, holding flowers, could read his mind, even if it was becoming worm chow.

“Oh, crap,” Neal said feeling all used up. He raised himself onto his elbows and spat out soil. “Stella, what are you doing here so soon? I thought that I was the one who was to supposed to haunt YOU! I’m off to work. I got to get a doctor’s note or that  that punk Cabebe, will fire me. He hates old people.”

“You mean, dead people,” she said. “You aren’t going to work. Now, lay down and relax. I’ll call your boss and tell him you’re not coming in, ‘CAUSE YOU’RE DEAD!”

“Dead I can handle,” Neal said, “but unemployed and dead? Pour some coffee down my empty gullet . Look at the time.”

“Happy Hills Cemetery doesn’t have a Starbucks. Go back to endless sleep, old man. There is no more job and there’s no more you! Don’t you feel like a fool. You should rest, Neal. I came here to grieve, so tell me what I’m doing here. I feel like a brainless idiot.”

“No, Stella, I love brains. I mean I your love your brains, brain, your mind,” Neal sputtered.

“Where’s my tie? What time is it?”

“It’s 8 a.m. They just opened the gate.”

“Give me your hand. Help me get up. I’m already late.” Stella reluctantly pulled her husband to his feet. She was shaking her head, accepting he’d never change. “I gotta catch the Long Island Express,” Neal told her, spitting out a beetle. “Is this burial suit okay?”

“Except for the slit down the back, it’ll have to do. So … You think that you can just climb out of your grave and leave me standing here, for a crappy job? I can’t change you, silly man. Just don’t come home until you get cleaned up.”

Neal stood and wobbled unsteadily, brushing himself off. “Stella, after my first heart attack, Cabebe, said that myocardial infarction is not a good enough excuse to skip work. I’m gonna need duct tape to patch this jacket. I’ll stop by Target.”

“I’ve got a nail appointment. Have a nice afterlife, Neil. You never needed me.”

“Oh, thanks. I’m barely cold and you start in with the guilt. So, you’re saying I no longer have a job?”

“That would seem logical, Neil.”

“Logical? Well, Mrs. Spock, then I’d better hit the pavement. By law, I’m supposed to have a job until my last limb.”

“Maybe the office staff never got the memo that you’d died,”She said. “It was so sudden. I never had a chance to call them. Hey, watch where you’re tossing that dirt! I just bought this dress. Look at your dirty nails. Talk to God, Mr. Big-shot. Get yourself a manicure.”

Neal promised to make it up to Stella the following weekend, but today, he had obligations. He arrived at  work a few minutes late, was given a warning by Cabebe, and was back at his old desk by 9:10 a.m.

The next day, after a restless night drinking coffee and shambling around town in pursuit of an ambiguous protein snack, Neal was able to make it to work —  right on time.

Young Cabebe, was happy, because he no longer had to pay ‘old, faithful’ Neal a living wage.  The slick, young exec sniffed the air and suspected that Neal had passed on. No one else knew that Neal was still working and rotting in his corner office making the CEO, Milton Armstrong, rich.

On Tuesday, when Neal realized that Cabebe was taking him for a —nearly free — ride he began to lose the feeling of pleasure he felt working. He left the office while the blinding sun was still high and the season was moving toward Daylight Savings. Neal stumbled toward the station thinking about how his grandkids needed college money. Tomorrow, he would hit the pavement, seeking the American dream like the other millions of recently deceased workers. Over 20 million of the dead  wandered the boulevards. The smug living were called them ‘suckers.’ You could see them, the worn out executives, in every city, shuffling and mumbling “Jobs. I neeeeeeed a job.”

My commuter train passed by Happy Hills Cemetery as it approached Neal’s old neighborhood. Graveyards are for slackers, he thought. A real man needs to work.

While waiting at the 5th Avenue crosswalk, he saw a hopeful sign. A literal sign — on a telephone pole, illuminated by the ghostly moonlight.

Highly Motivated Executive Services Wants You! YOU need $$$ and WE need BODIES to fill our Diamond Lane passenger jobs! 

We’re also seeking Parking Space Holders — Downtown, Full Time. 24 hours shifts available. 

Call 090-888-0000.

The Working Dead

ManEngravingTombstone copy

The Working Dead

In 2018, after major science breakthrough, the US Supreme Court ruled that death, as it now stands, “does not terminate the deceased’s obligations to paying one’s bills and taxes until the human body reaches such a state of decay that at least three out of four limbs will not stay attached.”

But dead Neal Orestein was determined to go to work. Work was his life, uh death. You know what I mean. We all know someone like Neal.

#

After scraping through the mound of loose dirt over his grave, Neal was able to see daylight and the exasperated face of his long suffering wife, Stella.

“Just look at those fingernails,” she scolded. “The dirt! Just where the hell you think you’re going, Neil?” After 60 years of marriage, Stella, holding flowers, could read his mind, even if it was becoming worm chow.

“Oh, crap,” Neal said feeling all used up. He sat up and spat out soil. “Stella, what are you doing here so soon? I thought that I was the one who was to supposed to haunt YOU! I’m off to work. I got to get a doctor’s note or that young manager, that punk Cabebe, will fire me. He hates old people.”

“You mean, dead people,” she said. “You aren’t going to work. Now, lay down and relax. I’ll call your boss and tell him you’re not coming in, ‘CAUSE YOU’RE DEAD!”

“Dead I can handle,” he said, “but unemployed and dead? Pour some coffee on me, Stella. Look at the time.”

“Happy Hills Cemetery doesn’t have a Starbucks. Go back to endless sleep, old man. There is no more job and there’s no more you! I feel like a fool. You deserve rest, Neal. I came here to grieve, so tell me what I’m doing here. I feel like a brainless idiot.”

“No, Stella, I love brains. I mean I your love your brains, brain, your mind,” Neal sputtered.

“Where’s my tie? What time is it?”

“It’s 8 a.m. They just opened the gate.”

“Give me your hand. Help me get up. I’m already late.” Stella reluctantly pulled her husband to his feet. She was shaking her head, accepting he’d never change. “I gotta catch the Long Island Express,” Neal told her, spitting out a beetle. “Is this burial suit okay?”

“Except for the slit down the back, it’ll do. So … You think that you can just climb out of your grave and leave me standing here, for a crappy job? I can’t change you, silly man. Just don’t come home until you get cleaned up.”

Neal stood and wobbled unsteadily, brushing himself off. “Stella, after my first heart attack, Cabebe, said that myocardial infarction is not a good enough excuse to skip work. I’m gonna need duct tape to patch this jacket. I’ll stop by Target.”

“I’ve got a nail appointment. Have a nice afterlife, Neil. You never needed me.”

“Oh, thanks. I’m barely cold and you start in with the guilt. So, you’re saying I no longer have a job?”

“That would seem logical, Neil.”

“Logical? Well, Mrs. Spock, then I’d better hit the pavement. By law, I’m supposed to have a job until my last limb.”

“Maybe the office staff never got the memo that you’d died,”She said. “It was so sudden. I never had a chance to call them. Hey, watch where you’re tossing that dirt! I just bought this dress. Look at your dirty nails. Talk to God, Mr. Big-shot. Get yourself a manicure.”

Neal promised to make it up to Stella the following weekend, but today, he had obligations. He arrived at  work a few minutes late, was given a warning by Cabebe, and was back at his old desk by 9:10 a.m.

The next day, after a restless night drinking coffee and shambling around town in pursuit of an ambiguous protein snack, Neal was able to make it to work —  right on time.

Young Cabebe, was happy, because he no longer had to pay ‘old, faithful’ Neal a living wage.  The slick, young exec sniffed the air and suspected that Neal had passed on. No one else knew that Neal was still working and rotting in his corner office making the CEO, Milton Armstrong, rich.

On Tuesday, when Neal realized that Cabebe was taking him for a —nearly free — ride he began to lose the feeling of pleasure he felt working. He left the office while the blinding sun was still high and the season was moving toward Daylight Savings. Neal stumbled toward the station thinking about how his grandkids needed college money. Tomorrow, he would hit the pavement, seeking the American dream like the other millions of recently deceased workers. Over 20 million of the dead  wandered the boulevards. The smug living were called them ‘suckers.’ You could see them, the worn out executives, in every city, shuffling and mumbling “Jobs. I neeeeeeed a job.”

My commuter train passed by Happy Hills Cemetery as it approached Neal’s old neighborhood. Graveyards are for slackers, he thought. A real man needs to work.

While waiting at the 5th Avenue crosswalk, he saw a hopeful sign. A literal sign — on a telephone pole, illuminated by the ghostly moonlight.

Highly Motivated Executive Services Wants You! YOU need $$$ and WE need BODIES to fill our Diamond Lane passenger jobs! 

We’re also seeking Parking Space Holders — Downtown, Full Time. 24 hours shifts available. 

Call 090-888-0000.

The Tale of Igorrina (from BATS ^^Ö^^)

goreybat.jpg

“I’m bored,” said Mina, who sat with her face in her hands.

“Me too,” said Jonathan while plunking on his dreadfully-out-of-tune guitar.

“Oh, children,” said the Countess. “Let me tell you a story about patience. There was once a lonely little girl named Igorrina who lived just down the road in the haunted forest of Hoia-Baciu.”

“Is there any other kind of forest?” asked the young Mina.

“No. Now listen, my children of the night. Igorinna, who had no friends to play Toe Tag with, was convinced that there was nothing exciting in her future, so she always—always—took her goddamned futen time. She was never in a big hurry to go…anywhere. One day she decided that she’d had enough of this world. She tied the end of a rope around the neck that connected her useless head to her body and the other end of the rope to a young spruce tree, determined to stay there until either death took her away or her dream-boy Prince Charmin’ arrived on his white steed to rescue her from her misery. Local wolves, lynx, and bears also found Igorinna uninteresting and unappetizing. Poor Igorrina spent much of her life in Hoia-Baciu Forest watching the bats and ghosts fly by in the evening while protected only by vicious badgers who lived in the dens that circled the tree. The badgers didn’t care for Igorrina, but were curious to see what might happen to her in the end. They kept her minimally fed with worms, grubs, and insects. Over time, Igorrina had begun to grow old and ugly while tied to the same branch of that same tree for forty-five years until …”

“Until what, Countess?” asked Jonathan. “A handsome woodsman came along?”

“Fah!” said Vlad.

“A knight in shining armor?” asked Mina.

“Fat futin’ chance!” said Elizabeth. “You children can be so gruesome.”

“Of course! The handsome prince!” said Lupta.

“No vay,” said Vlad. “Prince Charmin’, the ass vipe, never showed up.”

Elizabeth continued. “So, sad Igorrina sat, leaning against the tree trunk until, you know…one day, the spruce finally grew tall enough…tall enough to slowly pull Igorrina up by her neck and hang her.”

“No guano! That is so cool,” said Jonathan.

“Talk about patience!” said Mina.

“You kids should see her,” said Vlad. “Igorrina can vear a choker, a string of pearls, a locket, and ten necklaces…at vonce!”

Suddenly Vlad’s eyes seemed to catch fire. His mustache bristled. “Fute patience!” He pounded the table. “I vant all of them out of my castle! Now!”

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