Cold Hilarious Fate

(Since my goal, over the next three years, is to write and publish a best selling fiction book, I thought it’d be fun to dig out some of my earlier attempts at fiction writing for you to enjoy. Some of you have seen these before, but most haven’t.

Below is Parts 1 and 2 to Cold Hilarious Fate. I didn’t finish it because I got sick in 2018 with the nervous system disorder, and doctors appointments consumed my life for the next year while I felt like crap.

I’m much better now, so I may go back to finish it if enough people tell me they like it though. You can email me at bj@bjmendelson.com to let me know what you think.)

Cold Hilarious Fate
By B. J. Mendelson and Bram Stoker

I’m on my way to Romania to see a client on behalf of Carlin, Prior, and Hicks. It’s my first trip abroad, and since I’m footing the bill for my travel, I decided to take a minor detour through Germany. I’ve always wanted to travel across Europe, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.

My detour took me to Munich and the Hotel Beckenbauer Palace, where they offer complimentary drives around the German countryside.

Noticing the hotel manager, I walked to my designated vehicle as fast as I could. I hoped he didn’t see me, but Mr. Jonathan P. Heidenreich saw everything. He stared at my ride with a look similar to what the Nazis must have given Poland moments before invading.

Heidenreich was an odd character. Each night, I heard him roam the halls of Beckenbauer Palace, knocking on every door under the guise of checking in on his guests. When the guests answered, Heidenreich would then say in pitch-perfect English, “May I read you my latest poem? It is about my cat, Ilsa.” He would then go on for some time about his aging cat’s matted fur, missing eye, and endless supply of spit.

When I saw him making his way toward my car, I rolled up the window and said to the driver, who had introduced himself simply as “Johan,” “I hope he’s not going to read us any more of his fucking poetry.” 

Johan did not respond in any discernible way. He had no sense of humor, and it seemed the very thought of laughing was repulsive to his inner nature. 

I tried to smile at him, which was greeted with a frown. I guess smiling is also prohibited within the confines of this vehicle. Although truthfully, if I drove a Yugo, I wouldn’t be smiling either.

Heidenreich curtly wished me a pleasant trip. Perhaps this was his way of saying he knew I warned some of the guests about his unsolicited acts of literary aggression. Heidenreich then said to Johan, “Show our amazing American Bavaria’s beauty, but be back before early evening. You know what nasty night it is.” 

Johan, not impressed at all with excessive alliteration, or life itself it would seem, answered Heidenreich with an emphatic, “Ja.” 

Johan Schulz: Man of many words. I liked him.

As the Yugo roared to life, I asked Johan about what Heidenreich was referring to. What was happening tonight? 

Johan simply crossed himself as he answered: “Walpurgis Nacht.” 

I replied in classic American fashion: I laughed out loud and then asked incredulously, “What?”

Johan snorted in response to my inquiry and looked at his watch. His eyebrows gathered together as he gave me an impatient shrug. I didn’t push any further, but I should have.

An hour into our trip, I got tired of seeing what were apparently the touristy areas. Then, almost as if the universe had read my mind, I saw a little-traveled road. It looked so inviting that I asked Johan to stop the car. He did so with a heavy sigh, and a cross look. 

“What if we just explored this road before we continued on our way?” 

He shook his head. 

“Okay, well,” I continued, “what if we explore this road, and then you can turn around and take us back to the hotel?” 

There was a pause. Then another. And another.

After some time, I told Johan I would like him to drive us down this seemingly unexplored road, which prompted an endless barrage of excuses delivered in broken English. Many of which were followed by Johan crossing himself at the conclusion of each statement. His reluctance to make a simple left turn piqued my curiosity. I am a lawyer after all, so I know the signs of when someone is trying to conceal the truth, and Johan was displaying all of them.

I started to ask various questions to see if I could get to the facts. But Johan answered fencingly and repeatedly looked at his watch in protest as he did. Frustrated, I then told Johan I wanted to get out of the car. But before I could even take off my seatbelt, he had opened his door and raced out in front of mine, blocking it with his sizable Aryan frame.

Johan towered over me by at least a foot and had 200 pounds of muscle to my 162 pounds of lank. He made an impressive roadblock. If I were in a more joking mood, I would have said something witty to break the tension here, but I wasn’t feeling very funny. I was pissed. What was the big deal about this stupid road? There weren’t any signs and no indication anywhere that there was something to be avoided down it.

There was an awkward moment that followed between Johan and me. I sat in the car looking up at Johan. He peered down at me with all the menace you’d expect from an angered German. It crossed my mind to inform him that my mother was Jewish just to see what would happen. In my mind, I pictured Johan flipping out at this revelation, putting his fist through the window, dragging me out of the car, and then shaking me like a doll to see if any Jew gold came loose from my pockets.

What can I say? I have my mother’s paranoia.

At an impasse, I rolled down the window and informed Johan that I wanted to exit the vehicle. He finally sighed and took a step back.

Once I got out of the Yugo, Johan implored me not to go down the road. He always seemed about to tell me something—the very idea of which must have frightened him, as each time he would trail off, cross himself, and say mysteriously, “Walpurgis-Nacht!”

And each time, I would reply to him by saying, “I still don’t know what the fuck that means!”

I tried to argue further with Johan, but it’s difficult to argue with a man whose native tongue is German. Even the sweetest things said in that language can sound like a chainsaw attempting to cut through vibranium.

A couple of horses from a nearby farm had apparently heard our argument and moved closer to eavesdrop. At one point standing a mere several inches away from my face. Man and beast only separated by the farm’s white fence. Soon after, the two horses started to sniff the air. At this, Johan grew pale and looked around in a frightened way.

The next thing I knew, Johan picked me up over his shoulder, which prompted me to inform him that I did not, in actuality, possess any Jew gold.

Johan opened the passenger door and threw me into the car as if I weighed less than a feather pillow. He then got in and drove a few yards down the road to get away from the horses. 

“Johan, I feel you’re overreacting!” 

He said nothing. 

When I asked again for an explanation, he again crossed himself and pointed to the spot we had left. 

“Body,” he mumbled in English.

Finally, we were getting somewhere. “A body? Like a human body?”

As Johan was about to respond, we heard an odd sound. One that was not made by the horses. 

Johan, for the second time, went pale, and said, “Circus bear.” 

I laughed, which caused Johan to glare at me until I stopped.

“Abandoned,” Johan added. 

I got out of the car, informing Johan, “I have got to see this.”

Johan emitted a deep sigh as he again followed me out of the vehicle, but this time, nowhere near as fast as before. Perhaps he decided it would be best if a hungry circus bear devoured me. At the very least, he’d return home with a good story to share. Perhaps Mr. Jonathan P. Heidenreich could even write a poem about it.

I noticed dark clouds starting to swirl across the sky. A a breath of cold drifted past us, sort of like that creepy feeling you get when you’re talking about someone who died and then the room chills. It was only a brief breath, however, and honestly, it felt more like a warning than anything else.

Sometimes the universe gives you a hint that isn’t very subtle.

Johan looked under his lifted hand at the horizon and said: “Snow.” Then he looked at his watch again and got back into the car. This time, I didn’t join him.

I was now towering over my monstrous German friend as he rolled down his window. “Where does this road go, Johan?” 

Again he crossed himself and mumbled a prayer, before he answered, “Unholy.”

Curious, I asked, “You guys have a circus down there?”

Apparently annoyed by my nonchalant retorts and eagerness to push the issue, Johan burst out into a long story in German and English so mixed up my I could not translate everything, but I did gather a few things:

  • There was a famous circus located just down this road many years ago. I didn’t catch the name. Something happened that caused the circus and the town next to it to shut down. Something bad.
  • The bears and other assorted animals have managed to survive through their wits and abundant water and food supply thanks to the local wildlife. Bears in Bavaria, as it turned out, were not so abnormal an occurrence.
  • The circus and all of its employees were from Romania.

He was afraid to speak those last words.

Johan was now looking around as if expecting some circus bear would manifest itself right then and there and maul him to death. Doing so while wearing a silly hat.

Finally, in an agony of desperation, he cried, Walpurgis Nacht! and started the car. 

I’m ashamed to admit, I lost my temper here. I could only take so much of this “wild rumpus” crap. 

I’m an American after all. Nobody tells me what to do in a foreign country!

“For someone of your size, you should be ashamed of yourself, Johan. Your Rumpus Room crap doesn’t concern me, and it shouldn’t concern you either!”

Johan excitedly implored me not to do anything foolish. He was genuinely earnest, but all the same, I turned and walked away as he continued to jabber on. With a despairing gesture, Johan began his journey back toward Munich without me.

I watched as he drove off. He went slowly along the road for a while until there came over the crest of the hill a husky, dark-skinned man. When the man drew closer to the vehicle, the horses began to jump and kick about, then scream as if the farmer had arrived to send them to the glue factory.

I looked at the horses and then back for the stranger but found that he too was gone.

I was now alone, left with nothing but guilt for my rude treatment of Johan and irrational behavior. Just what was I thinking? I’m not an outdoorsman by any means. The last time I spent any significant time in the woods was when I was eight. I was stung by a bee, I cried, and I never went outside again.

What was he trying to warn me about? And why did I feel this sudden attraction to what was down that road? 

I was about to find out.

***

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, maybe 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 quickly 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 also worth 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 weathered ticket booths. I must have passed under what was the big top and was now seeing what remained 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 read, “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? 

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 I would later find out 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 Johan’s advice. Here, a thought struck me. One that came with a terrible shock. What if Rumpus Room 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 his self-titled Netflix television show. 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 leaning 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. The cover for the VHS was on the floor not far from where I was standing.

Meeting the girl of my dreams would have to wait until she woke up, so I took the opportunity to look around. 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 Funyuns and Coors Light,

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 he 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. But 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.”

Published by B.J. Mendelson

Author, Editor, and Mall Santa

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