"As you walk through these pebbled streets, just try to imagine the history in this old town," stated Nicole, the redheaded tour guide. "If you will notice the tall clock tower up ahead, we will go through there to reach Casa Vlad Dracula, the birthplace of Vlad III Dracula, now a fine restaurant well known for their tasty soups." Tall mountains and lush forests, much like Rutherford Zucks' West Virginia home, surrounded the quaint town preserving its appearance much like it had appeared 200 years ago.
Brent Field stared up at the tall building. "Wow, that looks like an old castle."
Nicole announced, "Keep an eye out; we'll pass the Torture Museum soon."
Zelda Zucks, Rutherford's mother, said, "I'm sure glad I wore good walking shoes. This is a long walk this morning."
The group soon reached a three-story yellow building and joined the long line of people who stood waiting to get in the doors. Nicole told the group, "This is a very popular place to visit and do lunch, as you can see."
Inside, Zelda, Rutherford, and Brent sat on benches around a rustic, wooden table. They studied menus and ordered meatball soup, impaled chicken skewers, and blood pudding. A fellow traveler ordered Steak Tartar and a Bloody Mary. Brent laughed and pointed to a sign on the wall: NO GARLIC ZONE.
"Well, of course, Brent, vampires hate garlic," Zelda told him as she looked around the room. "No mirrors, either. But the tapestries are beautiful."
Rutherford said, "I'm really hungry. Hope the food gets here soon."
A waiter approached and placed before them three bowls of meatball soup and a loaf of rye bread. Rutherford tore off a big chunk of bread and handed it to Brent, who was staring into his soup. The young boy said, "Look, there's eyeballs in my soup."
"What?" asked Rutherford. "Oh, look, they stuck pearl onions in the meatballs and they do look like eyeballs. Wow, this place sure goes the extra mile."
Zelda said, "I guess so. Oh, look at the chicken, looks like it's been tied to the stake with pimento slices." She pointed to her neighbor's chicken skewer standing upright in a bowl. Zelda blew on a spoonful of soup and declared after a first taste, "This is the best soup I've ever eaten, eyeballs or not."
Nicole the guide stood up and announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, management has arranged for music. Let's give a big hand to the Transylvanian quartet as they play fiddles and accordions."
Zelda told her son, "This is fabulous. I'm so glad we came anyway and didn't listen to that crazy woman telling us, 'Danger, danger, you must go home.' What could go wrong on a perfect day like this?"
"Absolutely nothing, Momma. It wouldn't dare," answered Rutherford. He smiled as an older man asked his mother to dance. She looked ten years younger, the best he'd seen her since her best friend died so suddenly and left her so lonely. This trip, though expensive, was worth every penny. Besides, who knew how much longer he would have Mother? If the doctors were right, maybe only two years or maybe less. Brent yawned, and Rutherford realized someday soon he might be sole caretaker for the boy, a solemn promise he made to his mother.
Waiters picked up dirty dishes and cleared all tables, signaling to the diners that they would be closing in 15 minutes. Rutherford looked in surprise at his watch. Where had the time gone? Brent yawned again, so Zelda suggested they find their hotel room right away. Her dogs were killing her anyway; and even though her dance partner had stepped on her feet, she hadn't laughed like that for so long. She felt like a young woman who had just fallen in love with Rutherford's father and the happy prospect of a full life together ahead of them. Their time together had been much too brief, but Rutherford was devoted to her, making sure she lacked for nothing.
Walking on the shadowy streets, Zelda shivered, remembering the old woman's warnings of danger. Shadows seem to crouch around every corner, waiting to jump out at them. Rutherford sensed an ominous feeling in the air and gripped Brent's hand tighter. A form appeared before them. Zelda looked around in surprise -- where had he come from? He was young and ruggedly handsome, a white hot vision of strength and vitality. He smiled and said, "What a handsome boy. He looks so healthy."
Rutherford stepped up, shielding the boy from the young man. He filled his chest with righteous anger and said, "Step away from the boy and nobody gets hurt."
The stranger laughed, showing razor-sharp fangs. "How amusing. I admire a man without fear. One sees so few worthy adversaries."
Zelda stepped close to Brent and took his hand. Her eyes were filled with concern for her son and the boy.
Rutherford said, "Be ready to run, mother."
Zelda's face was pale, but she nodded in understanding.
Rutherford stepped away from his mother and Brent. He looked at the menacing person before him and asked, "Do you want to throw down with me? Well, bring it on, bat." The young man ignored him and turned to approach Brent. Rutherford hit the vampire in the face, and Zelda ran towards the hotel with Brent.
The vampire fell down, caught by surprise. He stood up. "Fool! Do you know who I am? You, old man, are hardly worth a good bite." He grabbed Rutherford's arm and squeezed till the older man fell to the ground. Rutherford grimaced in pain as he heard the young man hiss in his ear, "Your blood smells old and tired, but I cannot bear insult lightly."
Alas, poor Rutherford proved no match for the immortal vampire. His last thought as he lost consciousness was hope for his mother and Brent's safety.
Rutherford awoke, his mind in a fog. He could not remember where he was or what day it was. He felt so weak but raised his head to see his mother and Brent staring down at him. His mother cupped his cadaverous face in her hands and kissed his sunken cheeks. She whispered to him, "I will always love you. Whether you be man or bat, you will always be my son." A tear escaped his eye as he realized he was now a member of the undead, a vampire. Where would come his good death of dignity and peace?
Oh, the humanity.
To purchase a copy of Beverly's book, Gothic Bedtime Stories, contact her at P. O. Box 803, Alderson, WV, 24910 or by email: hbpoe(at)excite.com. The cost of the book is $15.00 -- mention the Piker Press for free shipping.