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(Harold and Vlad are a pair of aging monsters. Harold is a werewolf who no longer fully transforms during a full moon. Vlad is a vampire with dental problems.)

The night was beautiful in the cemetery, especially one as old as this one. The full moon on the rise a little above the horizon shown at an angle on the headstones, the ones with tall figures of angels or someone or something else on top, on the mausoleums with carved pillars or wrought iron gates at their entrances. The shadows cast in the night by the moonlight were admirably grotesque. Rows of unevenly tilted low stones seemed to float on the ground mist that drifted over the damp ground. The silence was almost absolute.

Old werewolves don't morph much under the full moon, no fur anymore, a little bending, a bit of bone stretching. Only Harold’s awkward clawsteps along the ground made a slight shuffling sound. But he knew the way among all the memorials after all this time. The structure he went to was dark stone with an ornate steel door that opened easily enough when he pulled on the ring. No light shone out into the darkness. Harold fumbled his way into the gloom until he bumped against the coffin. He felt along the edge, lifted the cover and reached in. His fingers felt the fine fabric of the cape.

Vlad was still in it, but wasn’t moving. He was always up by this time of night.

"Vlad, it’s me, Harold. What are you doing still in there?"

"Oh, go away, Harold. Leave me alone. I can’t face another night."

It’s late, Vlad. You should have been up hours ago. It’s way after sundown."

Vlad stirred as if he wanted to turn away from Harold, but the casket was too narrow. He grumbled at the inconvenience of caskets. "Damn it. I don’t want to get up, let me alone."

"But, Vlad…."

"Harold, I mean it. Let me die in peace."

"Vampires don’t die in peace, Vlad. They don't die at all."

"I don’t care. I’ve had it. I want to die."

"Oh, you’re just saying that. Nobody wants to die."

"I do, Harold. They call it suicide. Ever since that mad dentist over on Fleet Street filled one of my biting teeth and pulled out the bottom one, I can't stand to do victims. I have do two, now, for one load and the bite position is so damned awkward. My whole career is ruined."

"But kill yourself? You’re undead now, how are you going to kill yourself?"

"I don’t know, but I’ve been trying."

 

Harold reached in, grasped Vlad’s arm and sat him up. "Come on, get out of there. It’s going on nine o’clock. Let’s go downtown and get something to eat."

"I need blood."

"Yeah, I know. You vampires are all alike. Blood, blood, blood. I’ll get you something to tide you over until we find you a victim. You know, like a band-aid."

Harold got Vlad on his feet and out onto the street. They walked in silence until Vlad finally said something.

"I tried, but it didn’t work."

"What didn’t work?"

"Killing myself. I went up to Alpine, that's on the edge of the Palisades and has a great view of Manhattan. The drop is about three or four hundred feet down to the water. I thought it would be a nice way to go."

"What are you doing clambering around those cliffs? They’re high, you could fall off and hurt yourself."

"That’s what I was trying to do, Harold. Kill myself."

"But you’re still here. What...?"

"It didn’t work. I jumped and just as I was picking up speed there was a whoosh and I changed into a bat and started gliding out over the river. A bat’s instinct is to fly, so I flew. New York is a spectacular sight at night from the air.."

"Well, I’m glad you’re here." They stopped outside a restaurant and Harold was looking at the menu. "You know, Vlad, I think all of us monsters have unusual problems. Sometimes we can fix them." He took Vlad’s arm. "Let’s eat here."

"I don’t feel like eating."

"Come on, in you go. I’ll tell you how I’m solving one of my problems."

The room was a warm feeling place with booths around the edge and an open wooden floor in the center. Soft lights and candles on the table. Soft music playing from somewhere. Harold was underdressed to disguise his crooked old werewolf shapes and Vlad was a bit too much in his spiffy black tuxedo and cape and shiny cane. The waiter or whomever he was looked them over skeptically, but gave them a booth anyway in the back corner.

He wasn’t all that welcoming, didn’t even give them menus. "Do you know what you want?" The guy acted almost annoyed. Harold sounded like he was clearing his throat which was the only growl he could get out anymore, even if the moon was full tonight. He’d really prefer to take a chunk out of this guy.

"My friend will have a steak, filet mignon, and I’ll do your salad bar."

"That’s it?"

"Yes, that’s it."

"How do you want the steak?"

"As is."

"What?"

Harold was annoyed at the waiter’s tone and answered just as sharply, "As is. Uncooked, raw. On a plate"

"Uncooked?"

"Uncooked. No fire. Get it? And the bloodier, the better,"

The waiter left and Harold smiled at his friend. "Sometimes people like that are the problem. Now, the problem I wanted to tell you about was my full moon transformation. You know it only works a little anymore. I'm a pretty poor excuse for a werewolf. No fur or long teeth or howl, and one of the changes is the size of my claws."

"What do you need claws for? You’re not loping anymore."

"But they come out a little, vestiges of how they used to be. At first, they bothered me, but I worked around it. So, I made the best of my vestigial claws. They still come out a little, but it doesn’t bother me anymore."

"Vestigial?"

"Vestigial. Is four syllables too much? That means a little bit, Vlad. They come out like hard little nubs. Nubs, one syllable."

"That’s it? So, what did you do? And what does that have to do with me killing myself?"

"Well, it's another small reason for me to enjoy what's left of my life. The claws stick out a little and they click on the floor when I walk. A floor like this one, wooden. So, I'm making the best of it. I’m learning to tap dance, Vlad. Clickety-click."

"Harold, you’re old, but I didn’t think you were crazy."

"It’s fun." Harold slid out of the booth, cocked his ear to the quiet music. "Watch." He started doing a little soft shoe and his claws tapped on the wooden floor like a real dancer. Tee-dah, tee-dah, tee-dumity-dumity-dum...He twirled slowly around the room. Vlad started to enjoy the show. It was a nice tempo and Harold had some good moves. The waiter caught him in a dumity-dum and led him back to the booth by his arm.

"No dancing. That’s a whole different license. Just sit. I’ve got your order. Who gets the wild steak?"

"Raw. My friend gets it." The waiter left and Harold was still humming the tune under his breath. "Eat your bloody steak, Vlad. That will keep you until we find you a victim."

"I’ve got real troubles and you’re tap dancing. I want to die, Harold. Die!"

Finish your steak and we’ll catch a train to the city. No one will care if you’re alive or dead there.  And I’ll see what I can think of for you."

They felt better after eating and chatted walking to the train station.  They were playing a kind of can-you-top-this recounting the old horrors they caused, remembering the terrors, the blood and the screams.

The station was dim and deserted. The platform stretched away into the darkness and not a soul waiting for the train. A mild rushing sound began down the tracks rising to a roar as the Coastal Flyer sped toward the station. The Flyer didn't stop. It was a through train that hurtled past this little station at 100 miles-per-hour on its way to the City.

Harold leaned out to watch it come. "Look at this thing come, Vlad."

Vlad moved next to Harold and leaned out, too. Harold shoved him as the Flyer flashed into the station and roared on. He stood and stared at the spot where Vlad had been taken away by the train. The silence settled over the station, empty except for him. A few feathers drifted in the air and came to rest on the platform a short distance from Harold.

Harold was disconsolate and on the edge of tears, but monsters don't cry. Still he was kind of sad. "So long, Vlad. You wanted to die. Goodbye, old fiend. So long...., old friend."  He didn't move, just stood motionless, alone, now, in the dim platform light.

Whoosh! Suddenly Vlad was standing in front of Harold, his natty vampire tuxedo and cloak and cane intact. The old werewolf was startled and almost speechless hunting for words to say.

"What...what....what are you doing here? I just...I just..."

"Nice try, but it didn't work, Harold. It was that giant train. When it's speeding like that, it builds up a cushion of air that it pushes ahead of it. I didn't get hit by the train, Harold, I got hit by the cushion moving so fast and....whoosh....I was the bat again, flying."

"But I saw the feathers floating and flying all over the platform!"

"That was an unlucky real bird, not me. I turn into a bat. Harold, bats don't have feathers."

"Geez, I don't know what to think, to be happy or sad. You wanted to die, but I'm glad you're back"

"You could still drive a stake through my heart."

 "Oh, yuk. I couldn't do that. We'll have to find you victims until you think of something that works." They stood silent, facing each other in the dimness of the empty platform. Harold let out a little happy growl. "I've got it. I'll take you down to St. Jude's bingo."

"I don't want to play any bingo."

"No playing. Bingos have hundreds of players and they all have ten or twenty cards that they play. But the thing, Vlad, is that they concentrate on keeping track of them all when a number is called."

A man left the little office at the edge of the platform. "Oh, I see you've found a friend. Good for you. I'm closing up and there are no more trains tonight. So there's no point in waiting. Good night." He stood seeming to wait for Harold and Vlad to leave the platform.

"Well, then, goodnight. Come on, Vlad, I'll take you down to the bingo." They started down the platform toward town and St. Jude's. The station man listened as their chatter faded while they walked away into the darkness.

"The thing about the bingo, Vlad, is the concentration. They have so many cards and numbers and those are passionate players. Don't you get it?"

"No."

"They won't even notice you looking over their shoulders....and taking a little bite of their necks. And their are hundreds of players."

"What if someone catches us?"

"We'll tell them we're the entertainment. You look the part in your spiffy tuxedo and cape and shiny cane."

"I don't want to be the entertainment, I can't tap dance. I just want some blood."

"I'll do the tap dancing, Vlad. You just tap your shiny cane to the beat...and swing your cape."

"I'm too old for dancing around, Harold."

"Really? How old are you anyway?"

"I'll be four hundred fifty-nine....and a half...in December."

"So you're really only four hundred and fifty-eight."

"Still too old."

"We could be a two-act, Vlad. Songs, dances, snappy patter."

"Harold....."

"Tee-dah, tee-dah, tee-dumity-dumity-dum."

#

Bio: Who ever ran over a whale and what happened? I grew up in the endlessly fascinating New York/New Jersey Metro area. It was a big playground united by tunnels, trains, bridges and ferry boats. My adult territory grew until my zig-zag adventures took me half way around the world. What intrigued me were the revealing behaviors of people I met, the unexpected. Except for running over the whale, everything was people action, all kinds, with all kinds of results. I think that shows up in my stories and books. Life is not neat, everything doesn't turn out just so.

 

 

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