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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.”

The Tragic Death and Death of Igorrina

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“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!”

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.

 

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^^ö^^ The Working Dead ^^ö^^

The Working Dead

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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.

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