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Kieran
December 28th, 2013, 07:10 PM
Chapter One




April, 1981








It all started when a vampire and a werewolf walked into a diner—no, really.

Stan Krabowski was a dumpy-looking man in his fifties—and where exactly he was in them was a secret that many had tried and failed to uncover, over the years. There were rumours that perhaps he counted his age in decades or centuries rather than years, but few people could honestly imagine a Jewish vampire, except maybe Grandpa Munster—and when it came down to it, one was more than enough.

Still, that Stan was not a young man couldn’t be denied. What hair his balding head retained was mostly iron-grey, with only a hint of the dark brown hue that matched his eyes, and his skin had more wrinkles in it than he liked, but he was generally satisfied with the course of his life. He and his family had escaped the death camps when he was only a boy, and he’d managed to build himself a restaurant that was one of the most popular ones in town.

And if the food it served wasn’t kosher, who was he to complain? No one made him eat it, and in fact, they paid him to let them eat it instead. You couldn’t ask for a better deal than that, really. All in all, Stan was satisfied with his life, and still enjoyed his business enough that when one of the counter help called in sick for that, he didn’t much mind taking her shift. He’d never gotten tired of seeing families coming in and eating at his place, even after all these years.

Frankly, he’d have considered his life to be more or less perfect, except for one small detail: before and after he got to that dinner hour, he had to deal with teenagers.

Oh, sure, the pre-dinner crowd weren’t so bad—they were the kids just getting out of school for the day, looking for a snack or a drink on their way home, or just somewhere to be that let them blow off steam. Sometimes he had couples who couldn’t really afford to meet anywhere fancy, and so they came here.

Not that Stan allowed much in the way of hanky-panky, seeing as this was a family restaurant, but he figured they were better off doing things where someone responsible could keep an eye on them. And a lot of the pairs were young kids, who were too nervous to do much more than hold hands, anyway. He could live with that—they needed to be able to go somewhere where there weren’t relatives or classmates hovering around them, after all.

No, the problem was the after-dinner crowd, who were generally a pack of bored hooligans with nothing better to do with their nights. He was thinking of six, in particular—spoiled, condescending brats that he couldn’t legally ban from setting foot in the restaurant, and whose rich lawyer parents would take great pleasure in eating him alive for anything less.

And as if summoned, those six walked through the door. Working to keep the grimace off his face, and resisting the urge to reach for his ulcer medication, Stan asked the blonde queen bee, “And what can I get you tonight?”

Stan thought that night that someday, brats like these would get what was coming to them, if there was any justice in the world . . .

. . . And come the morning, the thought would occur to him that he should’ve been more careful about what he wished for.








Sarah stared at the group of teens as they walked past. On one side, there was Trevor, the captain of the football team, and his two hangers-on, Scott and Jake. On the other, there was head cheerleader Tina and her own two hangers-on, Heather and Jane. Pretty, popular, and wealthy, the six were the royalty of the school’s pecking order—and they made sure that everyone knew it.

Sarah was one of their favourite targets for reinforcing that knowledge, in fact. She was plain, plump, and her glasses were thick enough to stop bullets. She cared more about grades and issues than which designer label was the newest thing, or how to score tickets to the hottest band’s next concert. But that didn’t mean that she didn’t want revenge for all the things they’d done to her, to the other kids—and to all those animals they’d abused.

All the poor, innocent creatures who been tortured to test the cosmetics that made Heather look pretty, or who had died to provide fur for the lining of Tina’s favourite gloves, or for that leather jacket draped across Trevor’s shoulders . . . It was horrible for Sarah to even consider it, and cried out to be avenged . . .

And now, thanks to a lucky find at an old garage sale, she finally had a way to get it.

It wouldn’t be easy—it required Sarah to wait for the right alignment of the stars, and for them to be in just the right place. . . But the six were such creatures of habit, it was practically guaranteed they’d be there at the appointed time. All she had to do was a little bit of waiting, and justice would be delivered unto them.

And considering where they would pay for their crimes, it would be a very poetic justice, indeed.

Sarah waited in the dark night, watching the stars, measuring the time by their positions—and keeping a close eye on who came in and out of the burger joint. If given the choice, she’d prefer to spare the staff of the place; they just worked there, they didn’t raise the cattle in appalling conditions and then slaughter it, just so people could have hamburgers, or buy the hamburgers for the restaurant to serve, perpetuating the cycle of cruelty. And the guy who ran the place was a nice Jewish man—he didn’t eat the hamburgers, he just bought them because they were available; if he didn’t, they would’ve sold them to McDonald’s, or someone else . . .

Her train of thought was interrupted by the arrival of a car. It was dark enough that Sarah wasn’t sure about the make and model, and the car’s brief passage until the parking lights didn’t help, as they gave the impression of something so dirty and battered that it was astonishing that it was still running in the first place. Two men she didn’t know got out of the car and went into the restaurant—not regulars, and probably not townspeople, just two innocent bystanders, passing through.

For a moment, Sarah was flooded with panic. She didn’t want to hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it—just those six monsters! She’d been worried enough about the possibility of the staff and the old man getting hurt, and now there were two total strangers involved!

But this was the only chance she’d have to use this particular bit of magic, the schoolgirl reminded herself. The next time everything would be aligned properly was in almost three millennia! She had only one chance here—there was never going to be a better way, or a better time, than this . . .!

Glancing at the sky once more to make sure of the alignments, Sarah then rotated the telescope she was using to peer into the restaurant, tracking the two newcomers. . . One of them set a leather jacket around a chair before setting in it. A long, heavy-looking jacket—no doubt bought in part because it was so obviously expensive.

They were just like the others, then, Sarah reasoned. And they should be made to pay, just like the others would be. Satisfied as to the rightness of her course of action, the schoolgirl turned her telescope back to the stars. The proper time was just minutes away, and she would hate to miss it. . .

Still, in a tiny corner of her mind, where her now-silenced conscience resided, Sarah wondered just who the two strangers she was about to have killed were.








When the car pulled up outside the restaurant, Stan took notice. It was a junk heap on wheels, battered and rusted so badly that it was at least a minor miracle that it could still run at all. And when the two figures inside it came through the door, Stan’s innate sense of judgment regarding people, honed from decades of customer service, immediately pegged them as trouble, with a capital “T.”

Yet the restaurant owner had to admit, as they slowly approached the counter, that he was hard-pressed to say why. At first glance, they seemed like a couple of college guys out cruising, even if it was odd to see the type outside of a bar, these days.

The driver of the car drew his attention first. Partly, it was because he just went to a table instead of coming to the counter, and it was also because of the way he was dressed: wearing dark glasses, at night, was a sure-fire way to make people give you a second look. Still, aside from the glasses and his behaviour, there was little else about him that seemed out of place; he wore a powder-blue dress shirt and grey pants, lacking only a jacket and tie to complete the suit. He was an inch or two under six feet, with a stocky build—the sort that had just enough extra pounds to look more out of shape than he actually was—and curly blond hair. Like his white skin, the hair looked bleached, as though he hadn’t seen the sun in a while. It was a funny look, Stan thought, for a guy that basically looked like a cross between a Manhattan yuppie and a California surfer dude.

Mostly, though, the blond guy seemed perfectly normal. He had no visible tattoos or piercings, no hair gel or dyes; and from Stan’s quick glance, there were no bulges in his pockets that would indicate hidden weapons. He didn’t twitch like somebody who was high, either, or stagger like a drunk. And aside from the pallor, there was nothing to indicate that he was strung out between fixes, or suffering a hangover. Maybe he was just sick? But if so, why was Stan so on edge?

The one approaching the counter also looked like a sketchy type, a lot grungier than his friend. He was about six feet tall, rangy in terms of build, and chestnut-haired from the top of his head to a mustache and beard that were about three days overgrown, if Stan was any judge. He wore a biker jacket and faded jeans, though the jeans weren’t ripped like the style called for these days, and the blue plaid shirt underneath spoiled the punk look. So did the tennis shoes he was wearing. Everything he wore was clean but ragged, like it had been picked up at a second-hand shop, or maybe just slept in for the last month.

Still, his blue eyes were clear, as was his voice—if a bit quiet—as he ordered, “Could I get two Massive Burgers with everything, along with two large orders of fries and two large strawberry milkshakes, please?”

Stan silently awarded the kid a few points for politeness. He still looked like he’d spent the night in a Dumpster, but manners were a hard thing to find in today’s youngsters. “Sure—that’ll be ten bucks, kid.”

The bill the kid paid with was wrinkled, but good, and he carried the tray over to his friend without complaining about how full it was. He stopped to get some napkins, a couple of straws, and a packet each of ketchup and salt from the serving station. A perfectly normal transaction, the same kind Stan had handled dozens of times a week for years. . . So what was it about these two, specifically, that made him feel so uneasy?








Rick stared at the tray as Lenny set it down, his eyes locked onto the milkshake as though he expected it to suddenly burst into flames, or leap up and attack, or something equally unusual and violent. After a full two minutes of tense silence, he said flatly, “It’s pink.”

“Just try it,” Lenny advised, after swallowing the first mouthful of burger.

“It’s pink,” Rick repeated, a hint of disgust entering his tone.

Another bite had to be swallowed before Lenny could answer. “He didn’t have fruit punch, and this was as close as I could get,” Tiredly, he concluded, “Maybe it’ll do the trick—just try it, would you?”

With a sigh, the blond placed the straw in his mouth and tentatively drew the shake upwards—followed by an immediate and violent expulsion of the fluid back into the cup, accompanied by coughs of disgust.

“. . . No,” Rick rasped firmly. “No, it won’t ‘do the trick.’”

“Then there’s always these,” Lenny retorted, waving at the ketchup packet with the half-eaten hamburger in his hand.

The blond gave disbelieving stares to first his friend, and then the ketchup packet, and then to his friend again. Scowling, he tore it open, and squeezed the blob of condiment into his mouth.

After a moment, Lenny prompted him, “Well?”

“That was disgusting, degrading, and tasted thoroughly vile,” Rick responded sourly.

Lenny, not hearing anything directly against the idea, asked, “So, should I go grab some more?”

“. . . Yes, please,” the other man grumbled resentfully.

Lenny did so, stuffing the last bite of hamburger in his mouth before rising and surreptitiously grabbing a handful of ketchup packets. He brought them back to the table, muttering, “I gotta hit the washroom—be right back.” Snagging both milkshakes, he began walking towards the men’s room, enthusiastically draining one cup dry before starting on the other.








Sarah double-checked her preparations. The circle was finished, the glyphs were painstakingly copied into the appropriate spots, and the sacrificial altar she’d erected was burning properly. According to her watch, and a glance at the telescope, she’d have just enough time to deliver her message before the stars were in alignment in seven, six, five . . .

The girl picked up the bullhorn she’d borrowed from the gym equipment storage room. It was time to make her statement.








Stan was watching out of the corners of his eyes as he restocked and cleaned the condiment station. The punk kids were spread out across two tables, though it was mostly the girls at the moment, gabbing away. The boys were clustered around his arcade machines, exhorting each other towards higher and higher scores—though if that one kid kept smacking the side of the cabinet he was liable to end up tipping the whole machine over. Of the two strangers, the grungy one had gone to the bathroom, and the pale one leaned back in his seat with his eyes closed.

He really must be sick, Stan decided, because he hadn’t touched his food beyond one abortive sip of milkshake, and a ketchup packet. The other guy, meanwhile, had already devoured his burger and wolfed down a good third of his fries—

“ATTENTION, ASSHOLES!”

The shouted phrase came with the usual squeal of someone who was standing much too close to a microphone, and was loud enough to rattle the plate windows; he could hear them shaking even from his position behind the counter. Still, it got everyone’s attention, and the kids all plastered themselves against the glass to see where—and who—it was coming from.

Stan had seen her around before: a glasses-wearing girl who was just a few pounds too heavy. He’d never learned her name, but she was a quiet thing; polite, too. Given the choice between serving her and the six punks currently in his place, he’d rather lose the money. And that fact made what was currently coming out of her mouth all the more surprising—even more because it was making no sense.

“FOR THE CRIMES YOU HAVE COMMITTED AGAINST MOTHER EARTH AND HER CHILDREN, I HEREBY CONDEMN YOU TO FACE JUDGEMENT! MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR GOD, FOR YOUR EXECUTIONER COMES!”

She followed it up with a whole string of words in a language that Stan didn’t recognise, if it was a language and not made-up nonsense. It wasn’t English, and it wasn’t Hebrew or German—that was all he was really sure of. Whatever they were, the lights started fading in and out, and the air got really cold, which left him wondering when and how she could’ve tampered with the restaurant’s climate control systems. Stan admitted it was a nice effect, but it really wasn’t something she should’ve been able to do.

The part that really threw him, though, was when the pale guy groaned, “Oh, damn it all to hell—not again.”








Why, Rick asked himself bitterly, do we keep walking into this kind of shit?

The first time it had happened, it was sort-of understandable—they hadn’t known what they were getting into, and they wouldn’t have believed it even if somebody had told them. And since then, not a night went by that he and Lenny didn’t curse themselves for going anywhere near that dig in Egypt, but in the end it had just been a case of ignorance, bad luck, and the world’s worst sense of timing. All the stuff that had happened to them after that, though . . .

Some of it, Rick admitted, they brought on themselves. Spending their time hunting down Croydon in hopes of getting a cure out of him, or trying to find one through some other method often brought them into contact with supernatural crap, either deliberately or just through proximity. But what about the times like this, when it just happened around them?

And it was definitely happening. There were flickering lights and weird hums as the electrical fields within the restaurant fluctuated in strength, accompanied by temperature spikes as the air got progressively colder. Moreover, to those listening closely, there was an odd reverb to that girl’s chant which couldn’t be explained by a microphone . . .

All of those things were signs, in Rick’s experience, of times when the “super” was overwhelming the “natural” in the world. He didn’t know what the end result would be, and he didn’t really care to find out, but he didn’t know how to stop it, either—but on the other hand, he knew who probably would.

Rising from his seat, he made his way to the men’s room, as quickly as he could without drawing attention to himself. Opening the door, he found the washroom to be larger than he expected, with three urinals and as many toilet stalls. A quick glance down toward the far end of the room told him which one he wanted.

“Hey, Len? We’ve got a problem,” Rick called.

“What?” his friend snarled back. “I’m a little busy here!”

“Some girl outside is chanting up a storm outside, and it’s setting off all kinds of freaky effects in the restaurant.”

“Oh damn it, not again,” Lenny swore. “Why didn’t you stop her?”

“Because I don’t know whether or not it’ll make everything worse,” Rick answered reasonably. “You’re the magic expert.”

A sigh issued from the stall. “Damn it, Cedric—”

“Can it, Galen,” he snapped back.

Neither of them was overly fond of their full names, particularly when there were numerous crimes and/or unexplained circumstances that could be attached to their identities. Using the aliases was generally better for them, in their experience—and when they did use their full names, it was usually either to get a rise out of the other, or because they were sincerely stressed out. In this particular case, it was both.

A flush was the only answer, followed by Lenny’s emergence from the stall. He quickly gave his hands a soap-and-water scrubbing, then grabbed a handful of paper towels from the dispenser and propped open the bathroom door while rubbing them over his skin.

“Well?” Rick prompted him.

“Shhh!” Lenny hissed sharply, his eyes closed in concentration. “Even with the megaphone, I can barely hear her from back here . . . I’m guessing that it’s a summoning invocation, but the dialect sounds as though it’s Greek, not Egyptian. Their sort of magic usually dealt with summoning spirits, so maybe a ghost . . .?” He paused. “Wait—did she just say ‘Asterion?’”

“How should I know?” Rick asked, irritably but reasonably. “I don’t speak the language. And what’s an ‘Asterion,’ anyway?”

“Get out there now,” was Lenny’s only response. “Stop her.”

Rick was already in motion before he said the second sentence, even as Lenny turned back into the washroom. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to either of them, Rick was already too late.








Sarah watched with a sense of awe as fiery orange luminescence ignited along the perimeter of the circle she’d drawn, and the symbols contained within. Not quite light, but not quite fire, either, the orange brilliance seemed more like cracks in between the air and the ground. Its spread sketched out a breakage that spread further and more fully within the confines of the circle until it seemed that the interior must be wholly consumed; and then it was.

With a roar of wind and something else, something which sounded animalistic, and angry, a rush of smoke billowed up from the blazing aperture. Thick, charcoal-gray and stinking of sulphur, the smoke spewed upwards like a geyser, before spilling over itself and condensing into a thicker, darker, and more horrifyingly solid form.

Cloven hooves the size of dinner plates supported a body that was easily five feet wide, and half as thick, bristling with the sort of musculature that wouldn’t look out of place on a champion weightlifter—or a gorilla. The resemblance to the latter was made more pronounced by the fact that its arms were longer than those of a human of similar build, and the fact that it possessed only four leathery, sausage-like digits on each hand, rather than five. Its hide was covered with fur as white as snow, and its eyes blazed red with malevolent fury. It stood eight feet tall—ten feet tall, if one counted the tapered ivory horns which sprouted from either side of its bovine head, each one sharpened to a razor point.

Raising his long head, the creature let out a bellow of challenge and fury, announcing to the world at large that after the passage of untold centuries, the world would once more learn to fear Asterion, son of Queen Pasiphae of Crete . . . Or, as he’d always been more popularly known, the Minotaur.

The schoolgirl managed not to squeal in delight at the sight (and size) of her summoned minion, but it was a close thing. Honestly, as an engine of unstoppable destruction and unholy vengeance, this was pretty much perfect. And now it only remained to send this beautiful and terrible creature against her enemies—

“HEY!”

Sarah turned, curious, and beheld one of the two strangers, running towards them. Backlit as he was by the restaurant, she couldn’t make out too many details, but she could tell just from the general shape of the figure that he was the kind-of-cute one, as opposed to the scruffy beanpole.

“You aren’t a part of this,” she said flatly. “You and your friend just get in your car and drive away, right now.” Her eyes narrowed. “Otherwise, he’ll take you along with the rest of them.”

“Kid, you have no idea what you’re getting into—” the man began, before he found himself cut off, and startled, when the Minotaur chose that moment to suddenly let out another window-rattling bellow.

And then it charged.

A hypothetical observer, on seeing the Minotaur, might assume that given the fact that its bipedal legs ended in hooves, it wasn’t very well-balanced, and was therefore unable to build up any significant speed and remain upright. When added to the fact that the Minotaur was enormously built—indeed, it was practically bloated with muscles—the overall impression given by its appearance was that the beast simply couldn’t move all that fast. Said hypothetical observer, then, would’ve been shocked speechless to see the Minotaur lunge forward like a rampaging lion, and at about the same speed.

For all that, however, the man did attempt to dive out of the way, and to Sarah’s surprise, he nearly succeeded. At the very least, the Minotaur’s horn missed impaling his chest by a good six inches—unfortunately, the Minotaur’s shoulder caught his chest squarely, with all of the force of its weight and momentum behind it.

There was a great crunch, like someone had crushed a handful of peanuts, and the stranger’s body, bent almost double, went flying across the parking lot. He impacted the side of his car, hitting it hard enough to deform the door, and lift the vehicle briefly off its driver’s-side tires. Both vehicle and driver hung in the air briefly, before rejoining the pavement with simultaneous, sickeningly final thumps.

Sarah stared in amazement at the speed and ease of the brutality that had taken place. The Minotaur had made its first kill with a strength that had warped the steel of a car door as though it was cardboard. And it had managed to do it with about as much time and effort as it would’ve taken her to swat a fly—and with about as much regard to the action. Even now, she saw, it had raised itself to its full height, turned dismissively away from the carnage it had wrought, and begun lumbering its way back towards her.

The schoolgirl couldn’t help it, this time; she did let out a giggle, awed and delighted by the power and the savagery she’d summoned—and more importantly, by what it could, and would, do to her tormentors. It was with a gleeful cry that she whipped her arm out, and pointed at the burger joint.

“Go!” she told the Minotaur, almost shrieking in her excitement. “Go forth, and destroy the enemy!”

The Minotaur snorted in response, staring at her balefully. Suddenly, its arm whipped out just as quickly as her own had, seizing her forearm in a vicelike grip before yanking her harshly off her feet.

Sarah had just enough time to register that something was wrong before the beast’s jaws closed sharply around her neck.








Stan felt his stomach roil sympathetically as two of the jocks chose that moment to puke their dinners onto his nice, clean floor. Normally, that kind of mess would’ve really cheesed him off—but in this case, he couldn’t really blame them. It had been bad enough seeing that overgrown hamburger kill that strange guy; he couldn’t bring himself to watch as that monster ate that poor, deluded girl.

The girls, for their part, were trembling, and one was screaming. The other boy, the one who wasn’t throwing up, was trying to quiet her, pointing out with some desperation that they didn’t want to attract the thing’s attention . . .

Huh, Stan thought, surprised. The jock has a brain—who knew?

“He’s right,” Stan found himself saying aloud. “Everybody stay quiet, kids, and we’ll sneak out the back. This way—”

“It won’t help,” said a flat voice behind them.

Stan nearly jumped out of his skin, whirling around to find the grungy kid—the dead guy’s friend—standing behind them. His expression was as dead as his tone, as grim and inevitable as death or taxes. Almost despite himself, Stan found himself paying attention to the kid.

“The Minotaur is one of the deadliest creatures of ancient Greek mythology—an abominable mixture of human, bull, and god,” the shaggy youth continued, still in that bleak voice. “It was a killing machine that needed an annual sacrifice of fourteen virgins before its appetites were even remotely sated.”

One of the jocks snorted. “Now we know why it ate the dweeb, then—but hey, I’m safe.”

“Oh, it might only eat virgins, but it’ll still kill anyone it encounters,” the stranger assured them.

Stan’s mind flashed on the sight of the other stranger, his limp body striking the car hard enough to lift it off its wheels. With that image in his head, he had no reason to doubt that what he was being told was nothing more or less than the absolute truth. Still . . .

“How do you know all this?” he asked.

“I majored in archaeology,” the hairy young fellow replied, with a touch of gallows humour. “You learn a lot about ancient cultures and their myths, that way.”

Fair enough, Stan decided, but that still left them with a problem.

“So what do we do about this, Mister Expert?” he demanded sharply, due more to panic than anything else. “Just stand here and get killed?”

“I say we put a bullet in its brain,” said one of the jocks, pulling a small pistol from his jacket pocket. Stan forced down his shock, and rising indignation, over the sight of a gun in his restaurant—now wasn’t the time.

The scruffy guy laughed bitterly. “If you want to try, be my guest—but there’s really only one thing to do.”
“What’s that?” one of the girls demanded.

The stranger lifted his arm suddenly. “There’s only one way out of this, for any of us . . .”

Stan was surprised to realise that that the young man’s hand was bloody and wrapped in paper towels, and saw that his fist clutched a jagged shard of glass almost as long as his own hand. Underneath the smears of blood, the glass was reflective, and the aged restaurateur realised that the stranger must’ve smashed one of the mirrors in the bathroom. He was mystified as to why, and opened his mouth to ask—

Only to be assaulted with further questions as the young man stabbed the shard fiercely into his neck.

Sherrinford
December 29th, 2013, 09:11 AM
Interesting~

Definitely curious about what happened to them in Egypt.

Kieran
December 29th, 2013, 09:42 AM
And obviously, it would be revealed as the book went on.

My hopes, should I ever get this finished and get it published, is that the series continue in a comedic horror vein, along a "road movie" theme: the pair drift from town to town, just as the supernatural stuff bubbling under the surface reaches its boiling point.

. . . Actually, the way it's being written at the moment, this story is basically the opening section of the book. Immediately afterwards, they get into a car crash; Rick wakes up in the morgue ("Aw damn it, not again . . ."), and Lenny wakes up in prison as the suspected culprit of a series of grave robberies . . .

But first, of course, I have to finish this.

Shaderic
December 30th, 2013, 12:23 AM
Is it wrong that I just want to shake Sarah upside down till her brains fall out?

In what world did she think summoning a Greek monster wouldn't go wrong?

Apart from that, whenever a character starts ranting about getting 'Justice' and 'Revenge' at the same time, without the intent of 'Revenge is not Justice', well...

Kieran
December 30th, 2013, 07:46 AM
Is it wrong that I just want to shake Sarah upside down till her brains fall out?

Not at all. :)



In what world did she think summoning a Greek monster wouldn't go wrong?

In the same world where everyone thinks they can tamper with ancient mystical forces without consequences.



Apart from that, whenever a character starts ranting about getting 'Justice' and 'Revenge' at the same time, without the intent of 'Revenge is not Justice', well...

To be fair, she's been pretty badly victimised, and she means well (she did feel guilty over the possible collateral damage, after all) - but this is (or was) basically her "Carrie" moment.

Kieran
April 13th, 2014, 05:40 PM
Chapter One





Whenever the story was told afterwards, the opening line used was, “It all started on a dark and stormy night at Murder Manor . . .”

Of course, as with most such stories of that type — those that were told in the dead of night around a campfire, or in a bar, or at some other venue where the tales told were apt to be wild, blood-chilling and not quite believable — it was grossly exaggerated at several points. And at other points, as should be no surprise, it was downright inaccurate.

To begin with, the night in question wasn’t a stormy one. Nor did the story really start there and then — and finally, the house only attained the name of “Murder Manor” as a result of what happened then, not at any time prior to it. They were minor details, perhaps, but it was only a few of many such inconsistencies that rendered the yarn that was spun too “unrealistic” to be considered anything but the ramblings of someone who was suffering from an excess of imagination, alcohol, or both.

And maybe that was for the best, really. People, in general, had far too many troubles on their minds to really consider the existence of magic or monsters as anything more than pure fantasy. And people being what they were, typically speaking, it had to be said that magic and monsters, in general, really preferred things that way.

But that unspoken agreement to mutually ignore one another occasionally got broken — as it did one warm summer’s night in nineteen-eighty-two, when a pair of men rolled into a lonely little seaside town.

Well, maybe calling them “men” was an exaggeration, but that’s getting a bit ahead of things.

After all, we’re still at the beginning of the story, so we ought to continue from there. With that in mind, it could be said that it had all started in Egypt, a few months beforehand — or, in the aforementioned seaside town, several decades earlier than that, depending on what one thought of as the beginning of it all.

But since we’ve started where we’ve started, it may as well be continued more or less where it left off — in which case, the story should open where most of these stories do: on the road to nowhere . . .








The car was a battered, weather-beaten wreck whose original paint colour had long been lost to the exposure of rust and road dust. Its windows were almost too dirty to see through, and the visibility problem was compounded by the fact that one headlight had taken a rock at just the wrong angle and speed.
Nevertheless, despite these handicaps, the driver handled it with an easy precision and skill that would have made it seem, to an observer, as though he was taking a fresh-out-of-the-showroom vehicle out for a midday test drive.

Of course, such a feat would’ve been more impressive had he the slightest clue of where he was, or in which direction he was headed.

“I thought you said that you knew how to read maps,” Rick growled.

“I do,” Lenny snapped back from the passenger seat, “but it helps if the damned map isn’t twenty years out-of-date!” He made a sound of frustration that was half-sigh and half-snarl. “I told you that we needed to get a newer one when we made it to that last town.”

“And we would have, if we hadn’t had to get out ahead of that lynch mob,” Rick fired back.

“That wasn’t my fault, and you know it!” the other protested.

Silence reigned in the van for several minutes, because there really wasn’t much that could’ve been said to that — the arguments for and against that statement had been flying back and forth for some time now, and had more or less played themselves out. Neither one of them saw much point in rehashing things.

The two men were a study in contrasts. Both were tall, pale, and blue-eyed, but that was where any similarity between them ended. Rick was of a stocky build, just near the edge of where muscle ran to flab, but still hadn’t quite crossed it. His round face was adorned by flowing blond locks, and a winning smile that could charm most women — and quite a few men, too. His clothes were well-fitted and visibly expensive; not a full suit and tie, but dress pants and a shirt, at least.

If Rick looked like the very image of a stereotypical yuppie, however, then Lenny looked like a stereotypical hippie. Wiry of build and angular-featured, his nose and ears were a size too large for his head. His hair was a short but thick mop of chestnut brown, and matched by a thick mane of untamed beard. His rumpled t-shirt was clean, but obviously second-hand. His jeans were faded, and wearing out at the knees.

All in all, it was harder to imagine two more unlikely companions, at first glance — unless you were familiar with a genre of cinematic comedy known as the “buddy movie.” Then it seemed much more likely. While the two were hardly Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello, they did fit the “mismatched pair” theme that such duos perpetuated.

Finally, after the silence had stretched on for several minutes, Lenny muttered, “I’m hungry.”

Rick snorted. “When aren’t you?”

“Like you’ve got room to talk,” Lenny retorted.

Rick decided that a crack that was that lame didn’t deserve the dignity of an answer. For his own part, Lenny smirked, considering himself to have scored a point.

Silence returned for a good five minutes, until Lenny repeated, “I’m hungry.”

“. . . You’re just going to keep repeating that until we stop somewhere for something to eat, aren’t you?” Rick asked with a sigh.

“Yup,” the other man answered simply.

Rick was silent a moment, before he sighed again. “At least if we do, maybe we can get directions —” He paused as a sign flashed by. “Sign says there’s a burger joint coming up in about three miles. You think you can hold out until then?”

“Probably,” Lenny said, in a mock put-upon tone. “I may faint from hunger before then, though.”

“Melodramatic bastard,” Rick snorted, before sighing again. “I suppose there’s not much choice, though. I’m hungry, myself. And the heap’s running on fumes, and in desperate need of a wash, and we need a place to crash for a while.”

“So we definitely need to stop,” Lenny agreed.

“Yeah, but the problem is, we’re down to our last twenty bucks. That means that we’ve probably only got enough cash to do two of those things. Maybe three, if we’re lucky. So, which one or more of them do you figure we ought to give up on?”

“Well, as much as I hate to admit it, this won’t be the first time that we’ve had to siphon gas,” Lenny pointed out. “And it probably won’t be the last, either. And as to the wash, it’s kind of a luxury thing, isn’t it?”

“We’re kind of recognisable, this way,” Rick replied acidly, “and I’d rather not take chances after what happened in Seattle.”

Their trip to that city hadn’t been very pleasant for either of them. It had taken hours for Rick to dig his way out of that garbage mound, and to Lenny’s sensitive nose, the smell had been bad enough to necessitate torching everything Rick had touched — his clothes, their car, all of it. And even after several thorough scrubbings in multiple solvents, the man had smelled like soiled diapers for almost a week afterwards.

Lenny winced. “I take your point.”

“Thank you,” Rick said, still in a caustic tone.

After a moment, the other man shrugged. “Still, like you said — if we stop, we can at least ask for directions. If nothing else, we can figure out just how far off -track we are.” He grinned. “And get something to eat while we’re at it.”

Rick rolled his eyes, even as he began pulling off. “You’re always thinking with your stomach . . . If we didn’t need the damned directions, I’d go through the drive-thru, just to drive you crazy trying to decide what to order in a hurry.”

“Easy,” Lenny replied, his grin undiminished. “I’ll be taking the biggest hamburger they’ve got — more than one, if I can.”

“Our last twenty bucks, remember,” the other man reminded him. “It’s got to last a while.”

“Food first, money worries later,” Lenny said firmly.

Rick sighed. “It’s not like another job is just going to magically appear to us when we arrive in — well, wherever the hell it is that we end up.”

“It wouldn’t be the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to us if it did,” Lenny pointed out, before pulling open the restaurant door and slipping inside.

Rick paused, standing silently outside the door for a moment.

“. . . I hate it when you’re right.”








Stan Krabowski was a dumpy-looking man in his fifties — and where exactly he was in them was a secret that many had tried and failed to uncover, over the years. There were rumours that perhaps he counted his age in decades or centuries rather than years, but few people could honestly imagine a Jewish vampire, except maybe Grandpa Munster — and when it came down to it, one was more than enough.

Still, that Stan was not a young man couldn’t be denied. What hair his balding head retained was mostly iron-grey, with only a hint of the dark brown hue that matched his eyes, and his skin had more wrinkles in it than he liked, but he was generally satisfied with the course of his life. He and his family had escaped the death camps when he was only a boy, and he’d managed to build himself a restaurant that was one of the most popular ones in town.

And if the food it served wasn’t kosher, who was he to complain? No one made him eat it, and in fact, they paid him to let them eat it instead. You couldn’t ask for a better deal than that, really. All in all, Stan was satisfied with his life, and still enjoyed his business enough that when one of the counter help called in sick for that night, he didn’t much mind taking her shift. He’d never gotten tired of seeing families coming in and eating at his place, even after all these years.

Frankly, he’d have considered his life to be more or less perfect, except for one small detail: before and after he got to that dinner hour, he had to deal with teenagers.

Oh, sure, the pre-dinner crowd weren’t so bad — they were the kids just getting out of school for the day, looking for a snack or a drink on their way home, or just somewhere to be that let them blow off steam. Sometimes he had couples who couldn’t really afford to meet anywhere fancy, and so they came here.

Not that Stan allowed much in the way of hanky-panky, seeing as this was a family restaurant, but he figured they were better off doing things where someone responsible could keep an eye on them. And a lot of them were young kids, who were too nervous to do much more than hold hands, anyway. He could live with that — they needed to be able to go somewhere where there weren’t relatives or classmates hovering around them, after all.

No, the problem was the after-dinner crowd, who were generally a pack of bored hooligans with nothing better to do with their nights. He was thinking of six, in particular — spoiled, condescending brats that he couldn’t legally ban from setting foot in the restaurant, and whose rich lawyer parents would take great pleasure in eating him alive for anything less.

As if summoned by his thoughts, the six teenage banes of his existence walked through the door. Working to keep the grimace off his face, and resisting the urge to reach for his ulcer medication, Stan asked the blonde queen bee, “And what can I get you tonight?”

“Chef’s salad and a Diet Coke,” she replied, before adding in an undertone to her friends, “You’d think he’d remember my usual by now — talk about senile . . .”

Stan thought about pointing out the fact that he might be old, but he wasn’t deaf — before ultimately deciding that it wasn’t worth it. Provoking them would just lead to their deliberately making trouble and trying to get a rise out of him. And the only other staff he had at the moment was Sarah, who was covering the kitchen — and if they were giving him a hard time, he could only imagine they’d do to one of their classmates.

No, it was better that he just swallowed his thoughts, take the annoyances, and serve them quickly — mostly with the aim of getting them the hell out of here as fast as he could.

“Chef’s salad and a Diet Coke,” he repeated, “and how about the rest of you?”

“Same for me,” said the other blonde girl of the three, who was literally a pale imitation of her leader.

“And me!” added the dark-haired one.

The three guys traded looks, before the alpha male replied, “Three Gutbuster Burgers with everything, three large fries, and three large Cokes — and get us an order of chicken wings while we’re waiting.”

“OK,” the old restaurateur said, making the appropriate notes on his pad. “The Cokes will be just a minute, and the food will be out as fast as we can make it.”

“And don’t forget our tickets!” Queen Bee snapped.

Stan repressed a sigh. “No, miss. Six lottery tickets and six Cokes — both diet and regular — coming right up.”

The lottery was the biggest thing to hit Sandy Cove in decades, and something that the citizens had been talking about for weeks. According to the will of Herbert Christian Walker III, who had been the town’s wealthiest (and most eccentric) citizen, his wealth would be distributed via a treasure hunt — a hunt undertaken by seven men and seven women, only. The lottery was Walker’s way of selecting those fourteen people — every customer in Stan’s restaurant got a ticket with their meal, and had for the better part of the last two weeks.

According to Walker’s lawyer, it had been the old man’s way of trying to do Stan a favour by bringing in extra business for him, and to a degree, it had worked. He’d done more business in the last month, and he was almost sorry that the winning numbers would be drawn tomorrow. But on the other hand, Stan figured that was one of the main reasons the six had been coming around as often as they had, lately — and causing as much annoyance as they had, trying to drive away other customers.

That annoyed Stan — and not just for the lost business. It was poor sportsmanship, and it wasn’t like they really needed more money, given that their parents basically bought them everything anyway. Trying to cheat their way into Walker’s fortune just made his already-low opinion of the group sink to depths he hadn’t realised were possible. The old man lived in hope that someday, brats like these would get what was coming to them, if there was any justice in the world — and that he would be there to see it happen.

. . . And come the end of the week, the thought would occur to him that he should’ve been more careful about what he wished for.








From the relative safety and anonymity of the kitchen, Sarah stared at the group of teens as they walked past the counter and on their way to a booth. She knew them all, and disliked them. Seeing them here made her nervous, even if she was relatively safe from their barbs behind the divider.
The group was divided into two smaller clusters of three. On one side, there was Trevor, the captain of the football team, and his two hangers-on, Scott and Jake. On the other, there was head cheerleader Tina and her own two hangers-on, Heather and Jane. Pretty, popular, and wealthy, the six were the royalty of the school’s pecking order — and they made sure that everyone knew it.

Sarah was one of their favourite targets for reinforcing that knowledge, in fact. She was plain, plump, and her glasses were thick enough to stop bullets. She cared more about her grades and world issues than she did about which designer label was the newest thing, or how to score tickets to the hottest band’s next concert. She was much deeper than those spoiled-rotten popinjays, and it gave her a sense of self-satisfaction to know that, for all their advantages, she was a far better person than any of them would ever be.

But that didn’t mean that she didn’t want revenge for all the things they’d done to her, and to the other kids at school whose only crime was not being as shallow as they were. And she had a means of getting it, if she was lucky — Mister Walker’s lottery.

In addition to the ten tickets handed out at random to the customers, the old man had passed on one to his lawyer, and one for Mister Krabowski, and two more for his employees. She and Brad had managed to earn them — which meant that she had a shot at all those millions. And once she had them, they’d be sorry they ever looked down on her. She’d show them what you could do when you had both money and brains.

Just two days left, she thought wistfully, as she poured Cokes, resisting the urge to spit in them.

Two more days, and all her dreams had a real shot at coming true . . .








When the car pulled up outside the restaurant, Stan took notice. It was a junk heap on wheels, battered and rusted so badly that it was at least a minor miracle that it could still run at all. And when the two figures inside it came through the door, Stan’s innate sense of judgment regarding people, honed from decades of customer service, immediately pegged them both as being trouble, with a capital “T.” Yet the restaurant owner had to admit, as they slowly approached the counter, that he was hard-pressed to say why. At first glance, they seemed like a couple of college guys out cruising, even if it was odd to see the type outside of a bar, these days.

The driver of the van drew his attention first. Partly, it was because he just went to a table instead of coming to the counter, bur it was also because of the way he was dressed. Wearing dark glasses, at night, was a sure-fire way to make people give you a second look.

Still, aside from the glasses and his behaviour, there was little else about him that seemed out of place. In fact, Stan thought, the young man looked fairly respectable, all things considered. He wore a powder-blue dress shirt and grey pants, lacking only a jacket and tie to complete the suit. He was maybe an inch or two under six feet, with a stocky build — the sort that had just enough extra pounds to look more out of shape than he actually was — and curly blond hair. Like his white skin, the hair looked bleached, as though he hadn’t seen the sun in a while.

It struck Stan as being a funny look, overall, making the guy basically seem like a cross between a Manhattan yuppie and a California surfer dude.

That aside, though, the blond guy mostly seemed like he was perfectly normal. He had no visible tattoos or piercings, no hair gel or dyes; and from Stan’s quick glance, there were no bulges in his pockets that would indicate hidden weapons. He didn’t twitch like somebody who was high, either, or stagger like a drunk. And aside from the pallor, there was nothing to indicate that he was strung out between fixes, or suffering a hangover. Maybe he was just sick?

But if so, then why was Stan so on edge?

The one approaching the counter also looked like a sketchy type — more than the other one, really, Stan thought, because he looked a lot grungier than his friend.

He was about six feet tall, rangy in terms of build, and chestnut-haired from the top of his head to a mustache and beard that were about three days overgrown, if Stan was any judge. He wore a biker jacket and faded jeans, though the jeans weren’t ripped like the style called for these days, and the blue plaid shirt underneath spoiled the punk look. So did the tennis shoes he was wearing. Everything he wore was clean but ragged, like it had been picked up at a second-hand shop, or maybe just slept in for the last month.

Still, his blue eyes were clear, as was his voice — if a bit quiet — as he ordered, “Could I get two Gutbuster Burgers with everything, along with two large orders of fries and two large strawberry milkshakes, please?”

Stan silently awarded the kid a few points for politeness. He still looked like he’d spent the night in a Dumpster, but manners were a hard thing to find in today’s youngsters. “Sure — that’ll be six bucks, kid.”

The bill the kid paid with was wrinkled, but good, and he carried the tray over to his friend without complaining about how full it was. He stopped to get some napkins, a couple of straws, and a packet each of ketchup and salt from the serving station. A perfectly normal transaction, the same kind Stan had handled dozens of times a week for years. . .

So what was it about these two, specifically, that made him feel so uneasy?








Rick stared at the tray as Lenny set it down, his eyes locked onto the milkshake as though he expected it to suddenly burst into flames, leap up and attack, or do something equally unusual and violent. After a full two minutes of tense silence, he said flatly, “It’s pink.”

“Just try it,” Lenny advised, after swallowing the first mouthful of burger.

“It’s pink,” Rick repeated, a hint of disgust entering his tone.

Another bite had to be swallowed before Lenny could answer. “He didn’t have fruit punch, and this was as close as I could get,” In a tired voice, he added, “Maybe you’ll like it — just try it, would you?”

With a sigh, the blond placed the straw in his mouth and tentatively drew the shake upwards — followed by an immediate and violent expulsion of the fluid back into the cup, accompanied by coughs of disgust.

“. . . No,” Rick rasped firmly. “No, I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.”

“Then there’s always these,” Lenny retorted, waving at the ketchup packet with the half-eaten hamburger in his hand.

The blond gave disbelieving stares to first his friend, and then the ketchup packet, and then to his friend again.

Lenny shrugged. “You and your dietary restrictions . . .”

Scowling, Rick tore it open, and squeezed the blob of condiment into his mouth.

After a moment, Lenny prompted him, “Well?”

“That was disgusting, degrading, and tasted thoroughly vile,” Rick responded sourly.

Not hearing anything directly against the idea, his friend asked, “So, should I go grab some more?”

“. . . Yes, please,” the blond man grumbled resentfully.

Lenny did so, stuffing the last bite of hamburger in his mouth before rising and surreptitiously grabbing a handful of ketchup packets. He brought them back to the table, muttering, “I gotta hit the washroom — be right back.”

Snagging both milkshakes, he began walking towards the men’s room, enthusiastically draining one cup dry before starting on the other.

With a sigh, Rick began systematically emptying the ketchup packets one at a time, placing the discards in a pile at the corner of their tray. It wasn’t what he wanted, but it was as close as he was going to get to real food, so he resigned himself to it. Still, maybe there was an alternative . . .

He turned to the booth across the aisle, speaking loudly as he asked, “Excuse me? Could you tell me if there’s an all-night grocer’s anywhere around here — or maybe a Seven-Eleven?”

“Yeah — in my ass,” piped up one of the obvious jocks, causing Rick to scowl. Obviously no help here — and then the counterman appeared next to the table.

“A gas station and a Seven-Eleven are about three blocks east,” the old man told him. “And here’re your tickets.”

“Tickets?” Rick repeated, confused.

“What tickets?” Lenny asked as he returned. “And have you figured out where we are, yet?”








Despite the fact that it was a night that had been dotted with rainclouds on the horizon, seventeen-year-old Ronnie Wilkins stormed out of his house — not that he gave a damn about the weather. Pissed off as he was, he’d have left even if there had been eight feet of snow on the ground outside.

Not that it ever snowed in Sandy Cove. That would’ve been news, and nothing exciting ever happened in Sandy Cove — which was why he was so pissed. What right did his mother have to even go through his stuff, never mind bitch about what she found? It wasn’t like he went through her underwear drawer, did he? God, no — even the thought of doing that made him feel sick!

Stupid, nosy cunt . . .

Ronnie sneered at the thought of her, even as he all but slammed the key into the ignition of his truck. The engine turned over on the first try — like it should’ve, he’d paid enough for the damn truck.

And how the hell does she think I got the money to pay for the damned truck? By flipping fucking burgers for hours at minimum wage? Yeah, right!

Why did she have to make such a big deal out of shit? So what if he sold a little blow now and then? It wasn’t like it hurt anybody, or like there was anything else to do around this fucking place. Besides, the whole fucking town ran on drugs now, didn’t it? That big company — PharmaCorp, whatever — was the only reason that this whole place hadn’t dried up once the mines had closed, so what the hell was her problem? He was just making money the same way everybody else did!

He gunned the engine as he peeled out of the driveway, and got the hell out of town. It was only a handful of miles to the point from his house. Come to that, it was only a handful of miles to anywhere in Sandy Cove from his house!

Fucking pathetic small town, he thought contemptuously.

When Ronnie got that football scholarship, he was moving right out to whichever big city it came from, and never looking back. Maybe he’d get lucky, and he end up playing for UCLA’s team — he could score all the big drugs then, instead of having to skim a little at a time out of the sources around here. It’d sure as hell be a lot easier — the cops around here were stupid, but you didn’t need to be a genius to figure out where the biggest source for his product was. They only needed to get lucky once, after all . . .

Maybe I’ll even get really lucky, and they’ll draft me right out of high school, skip college totally. It was a nice plan, Ronnie thought. School didn’t do much for him — he only did as well as he did to make sure the football scholarship would be offered in the first place.

He was on the bridge out of town, now, and felt free to open the throttle up. From the here it was only a couple of miles to the pit, so the speed wasn’t really necessary, but right now Ronnie wanted to rage, and the dragon-like snarl of the engine suited his mood just fine. He wrenched the wheel hard, and the truck fish-tailed its way around the curve of the road — and directly into the path of an oncoming car.

“SHIT!” Ronnie screamed, slamming the brakes several seconds too late, and yanking the wheel so hard he ought to have wrenched it out of the steering column – his body trembling, indeed almost spasmodic with terror.

Oh Jesus, OH FUCK — !

In a way, Ronnie was lucky. He managed to avoid striking the car head-on, the sudden turning sending his truck into a ninety-degree spin that drove the other car headfirst into its flatbed, forcing it to roll over the other vehicle. The damage to the truck was considerable, but it was a far better alternative than a head-on collision. Ronnie likely wouldn’t have survived that at the speed he was going. Of course, as the teenager had neglected to fasten his seatbelt before roaring off, he didn’t survive the impact his head had with the roof, either. His spine snapped like a twig.

The other vehicle was no better off. While it had started trying to swerve around Ronnie’s truck as soon as it had appeared — implying that its driver’s reflexes bordered on the utterly inhuman — the two vehicles were travelling at well over the speed limit. When that fact was combined with the narrowness of the back road they were traversing, it left too little room to manoeuvre, and it collided with the truck anyway.

The impact of several tons of Detroit steel rolling over the punier car was not unlike that of hitting a soup can with a twenty-pound sledgehammer — and just about as messy.

TheAbsolutistsCreed
April 14th, 2014, 12:23 AM
Love the tags, gotta love the fact that this is all original (as far as I know) and your wit is coming out as you write rather than having to be constrained by things like 'canon' or 'disparity between realities'.

Kieran
April 14th, 2014, 06:59 AM
Thank you, though the tags are pre-existing (we can thank Elf for the vampire one :D), and there is a little bit of "canon" I have to adhere to - the '80s. I just about had a heart attack when I realised that those two combos (going by a Big Mac Value Meal ad from around the same year) cost about the same as some milkshakes I've had, these days. :rolleyes:

Regardless, I'm glad you find it funny - I'm trying to channel the vibe of '80s horror-comedy films, like Ghostbusters, Evil Dead, etc. :)

Sherrinford
April 14th, 2014, 11:16 AM
What happens next~?

Kieran
April 14th, 2014, 04:19 PM
I am roughly 20% of the way to being able to show you. :D

Kieran
April 30th, 2014, 06:30 PM
The next chapter is about 1/3 done - and, looking back, I'm going to have to rewrite the first one a bit (again), because it really needs to be later at night when they arrive at Stan's. Or, more accurately, closer to dawn.