Cold Hilarious Fate
By B.J. Mendelson and Bram Stoker
I turned down the road. There was not the slightest visible reason for Johan’s objection, and dare I say; I frolicked for a while without thinking of time or distance.
After more frolicking than I care to admit, I sat down on a tree stump to rest and began to look around. It struck me that it was colder than it had been when I left Johan behind.
Looking upwards, I noticed thick clouds that hadn’t been there before. Sometimes people think they can see in the clouds shapes of things they know, but I’m not one of them.
What I did see, however, were signs of a coming storm, something Johan had forecasted that I paid little attention to. I was already a little chilly. I was dressed for a nice spring day, dare I say, early Summer. Not whatever this looming wintery bullshit was.
Realizing that staying in one place was a poor idea, and not one that would keep me warm, I resumed my journey down the road.
I had no idea what the time was. I realized that in my haste to see the circus bear, my phone had flopped out of my pocket and into the back seat of Johan’s Yugo.
Without any way of telling time, I took little heed of it, and it was only when the deepening twilight came that I began to think of how I should find my way home. The circus had been located next to the town, but was that town still there?
I was a couple of hours drive from the hotel. I don’t suppose I could double back and borrow one of those frightened horses I saw earlier … That would be a sight. Not only am I not much of an outdoorsman, but my only experience riding horseback involved a crazed pony that had the look of Satan in its eyes. Needless to say, I’ve been traumatized for life by the thought of riding another horse, let alone anything that can be described as having “intense horsepower.”
So … That was not an option.
The air was colder now. Windy. The only sound that could be heard beyond the wind was a periodic grunt or growl of the alleged circus bear that would come from nowhere and fade just as quick as it came.
For a while, I hesitated. Perhaps this was common sense returning and warning me about a dangerous wild animal that I decided to gawk at. Perhaps not. I had said I would see the deserted circus, and I had come so far already that it would be a waste of time just to turn back.
It’s worth also pointing out that, in the back of my head, I still had some sort of urging that I couldn’t explain. An urge that demanded I continue on. This, despite not being appropriately dressed, lacking a phone, and if we’re honest with each other, also a complete and total lack of knowledge about the great outdoors.
I only knew what these dumb clouds meant because I had almost been struck by lightning when I was eight. This was just after my misadventure with the pony, which had been dubbed by my family as “the incident.”
Ever since the near miss with the lightning, I took an unusual interest in trying to figure out when and how God may try to strike me down again, and that involved telling the difference between cumulus clouds and cumulonimbus clouds. The latter being the clouds that brought the potential for a terrifying death from above along with them.
Not far in the distance, I saw what appeared to be a circus tent. Just in time, as the snow began to fall. I thought of the miles of country I had passed and then hurried on to seek shelter beneath it.
The road around the tent was crude. There were potholes the size of Buicks, and as I drew closer, the tent itself looked like it had been on the receiving end of mother nature’s baseball bat.
If I thought this tent was going to provide me with any semblance of shelter, I thought wrong.
Do I turn back now? Was this old tent all there was to see of the abandoned circus? No, a voice in my head said. And then I got that odd sense again that I should continue down the road.
The air became ice cold then, and I began to suffer. The snow was now falling so heavily that I struggled to keep my eyes open. Fortunately, there was a glimmer of light up ahead just beyond a thick line of trees.
As the snow relented, I walked out from under the trees and began to investigate my surroundings. In my rush, I hadn’t noticed that I blew right by the remains of the old circus.
There were empty trailers, animal cages, and ticket booths. I must have passed under what was the big top and am now seeing what remains of the attractions around it. In truth, there wasn’t much to see. It’s not often the things we build up in our minds are as entertaining, or frightening, as we think they are.
Disappointed, I turned back toward the light, and it was then that I saw it. Sanctuary! A gas station. I can call for help here, get some food, and maybe even hang out for a while; Especially if the attendants don’t mind the sight of a strange American loitering around while waiting for their ride.
Rumpus room my ass!
I ran toward the gas station excited, and noticed on the door an odd sign that said: “Under new management.” That part of the sign wasn’t odd. The second part was. “The Countess Dolingen of Gratz invites you to share any and all customer complaints with her directly.” That was odd.
What kind of countess owns a gas station? Let alone one who deals with their customers directly? Most gas station managers don’t even bother to do that in America. Instead, you often find yourself paying four dollars for a bottle of water and arguing with the person behind the counter about the Mets.
But I guess this is Europe, and they do things differently over here.
If I had my wits about me, well … I wouldn’t have come down this way in the first place, but I also would have taken further note of the graffiti on the side of the building. Graffiti that said in Romanian, “The dead travel fast while driving in compact executive sedans.” Throughout my journey, this would not be the last time I heard this phrase.
And just like the other time I would hear it; I wouldn’t much enjoy what happened next.
My mind was on fire now as I opened the door to the gas station. One side of my mind was now relieved, the other had its spidey senses tingling.
The worried part of my mind began to wish that I had taken Johann’s advice. Here a thought struck me. One that came with a terrible shock. What if Walpurgis Night was a thing after all, and that thing was happening RIGHT NOW?!
Later, I would find what Walpurgis Night meant. I’d like to stop here to define it. Especially for those of you who may have trouble believing the rest of my story.
Walpurgis Night was when, according to Wikipedia, the night the devil was alleged to walk the Earth. And not the fancy, charming, Devil you’d like to fuck on Fox. No, we’re talking the real thing. And as he walks the Earth, all the graves open, and the dead come forth and walk with him.
It was a night, the page said, “When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel.”
I heard the sound of a bell chime.
Inside there was a woman behind the counter, asleep. She was beautiful. I mean, all people are beautiful, each in their own way, but there was something about this one that grabbed my attention, and for a moment, I thought I had died and met the person I was supposed to spend eternity with.
Her feet were up on the counter, and she was leaned back against the wall. In front of the woman was an old VHS / Television combination. Something I hadn’t seen in at least a decade. Maybe more. On this television played an old Don Rickles special called “Buy this tape, you hockey puck.” I know this because I saw the cover for the VHS on the floor not far from where I was standing.
She hadn’t noticed me, so I took the opportunity to look around. Meeting the girl of my dreams would have to wait until she woke up. For now, there was food and water to be sought!
But to my surprise, most of the shelves were empty. It looked almost as if the world had ended and the living ransacked the place before it did. Only leaving behind in their wake items even the dead wouldn’t want, like Funions.
As I made my way toward the back of the store and the expensive bottled water, I stepped on a piece of glass. It had apparently fallen from the freezer door just to the left of me, which had been smashed open.
As the glass crunched under my foot, I felt a set of eyes lock on me, and what my gut had then told me was the sound of someone licking their lips.
I turned and saw the woman of my dreams now looking right at me. She was mesmerizing. So much so that before I knew it, she was now standing right in front of me.
I knew right then that it was her that had been urging me down the road. She confirmed my theory. “It took you long enough,” she said in a thick Eastern European accent. One I would later learn was also Romanian. They all sound like they’re from Romania, even when they’re not.
She held in her hand a remote control and pressed pause on Mr. Rickles, just as she was about to say something racist about the cute Puerto Rican couple seated in front of him.
My dream woman then grinned at me, and it was then that I saw her teeth. Teeth that made her mouth look more like that of a smiling, great white shark than any person I’d ever want to marry.
“How long I’ve waited,” she said. “You know, they say after you are bitten, that you must feed to live, but this, is untrue.” I started to back away from her. My potential escape was thwarted by a pile of Archie Comics that had been left behind on the floor. It would seem that not even during the end times that readers wanted to join the Riverdale gang on one of their wacky adventures.
I slipped and tumbled to the floor. On my way down, I could see Jughead’s dumb face looking up at me, wondering if I too was a hamburger he could eat. As I twisted around to face the woman, she leaned down and looked me in the eyes. I began to feel as if I was under her spell as she finished speaking.
“You just wait, and you wait and you wait … until your next meal comes along.”
(To be concluded)