Between Adam, Dracula, and Jaw, only one craved food; between all the restaurant options of NYDC, none could satisfy such a one more than WoofWonald’s. Established 1952. Open 24/7. Trillions served.
The way Jaw and his riders rose from the ground and into the one empty booth, as if melting in reverse, might have been conspicuous had the scene around them not been so busy. Witness the scuffed tile floor, transversed and paced by werewolves holding weretrays (which were coated in a film of hair, as was the fashion). See young and old sitting in picturesque family-drama scenes, squabbling over who gets the Doggy Meal toy or whether the kids may play in the Pup Tent playground section. Granted, these scenes may be incomprehensible to you, since all werewolves were identical in height, including the one in the stroller whose legs trailed awkwardly on the floor.
Adam sat hunched over, adjusting his high collar. Dracula and Jaw straightaway turned to werewolves; Jaw tucked his doughboy helmet under the table, for a measure of inconspicuity. Yes, he was still unclothed, but that was alright—they’re all werewolves here.
“You can’t tell me this is the U-S of A, pops,” said Jaw with a contemptuous suck of his teeth. He sounded fairly youthy, a younger recruit at time of death. “No doughboys and no dames, just dogs from sea to shining sea. I remember when this place was called ManMonald’s. Looks like wolf-bogies overran it all. I’d crush the mini-moon they gave me if it wouldn’t blow my cover.”
“As would I, Jaw,” Dracula reluctantly lied, smiling gently. “The things we do for stealth.”
“And then Sam Spade here,” Jaw laughed, indicating Adam. “Golly it’s good to see a regular man again. You’ll have to take that getup off when the coast is clear…remind me what a real American looks like.”
The merely mannish scary creature Adam could form no reply but, “Gulp!”
Dracula insisted that Adam and Jaw sit while he ordered, a demand which Adam had no problem accepting but which set Jaw on edge…his teeth began to grind, burgers danced in his mind, he could order himself, he was no child…
Adam wondered how much this shark-wolf-man-ghost knew, or whether he was even really a ghost, seeing as he was, after all, alive, most likely. The mummy reached out across the plastic table with a bloodstained glove, wanting Jaw’s hand. “On the lam, are you not?” he said. “An escapee…nothing but a loose zoo animal, in thoughtless eyes.”
“Yeah, Hamlet,” Jaw derided. He deigned not extend a paw. “I feel like I’m in a time vortex, something from one o’ those black-and-white movie pictures that were popular before the war.”
“Marine Private First Class Pete Masterson.”
“—it is the year 3001, as incredularious as it sounds to you and me! Modern pictures have more colors than two; they comprise entire gradients! Some are even painted, with media ranging from oil to acrylic! Private Masterson, sir, we must exchange stories, and we must help one another—man to man.” At which point Adam edged his white mask off the slightest bit, revealing hairless flesh. Jaundiced, lumpy, rot-bitten flesh…monster flesh…human flesh.
Jaw nodded solemnly at this.
“Do you not flinch?”
He seemed to mature when he said, “I’m a marine, kid. I’ve seen people burned alive.”
Something strangely pleasant welled up in Adam’s heart. Changed though Jaw was, could Adam possibly have been finding common ground with…a human? Tears shone in his eyes as he said, “Me…me too!”
Jaw loosened up and shared, “That chap you’re with may have told you—he seems to know a lot of things he shouldn’t—but my time in the service was cut short by a horrific government experiment. Project Rainbow. Top-secret. Unable to return home, I joined shark society, and lived among them for years. So many years. And then I died. Or…maybe I was a ghost as soon as I fell off that ship. I don’t know. The details are as fuzzy as this golly-awful flea-mutt face. Besides, I’m Jaw, not Brains. I’m not one o’ those science fiction scientists from the black-and-white movie pictures that were popular before the war.”
“Well, I hope my friends and I can be the next best thing to your old shark pod.” Adam held out his hand anew. “Perhaps we can be allies.”
“’Allies?’” said Jaw with a bewildered blink. “Hang on—the war’s over!”
Dracula returned with a tray of heaping hamburgers and chomp-worthy cheeseburgers—all for Jaw. As the marine dug in, Dracula began a spiel about the state of the world, and the rebellion of himself and Adam and the whole big monstrous gang. He explained that though the world was plagued by prejudice, perhaps it was not beyond saving.
Jaw listened and nodded as he munched his lunch. He was remarkably calm, but rage bubbled beneath the surface, rage at his former captors and the aquatic cage, and rage at the devious chefs who, under a deceptively normal burger exterior, had so vastly changed the original recipe.
He seemed to follow and believe so far. Now for the twist: they were “movie monsters,” the likes of which Jaw had likely abhorred from a silver screen. He wanted a human America; if he knew they were irksome ghoulies, would he finally balk?
They were interrupted, however. Doors flung open, and the muzak, the jazzy skytunes from the invisible jukebox, cut off. All customers shushed themselves, spectated the entrance, and saw an extraordinary werewolf. It was Helen, a daisy fresh-pinned in her yellow power suit! Why here? Why now?
Drac, Adam, and Jaw stared with all the others, but was there something in them of mortal fear?
“Stay calm, everyone, it’s just your First Lady,” Helen said, suave, walking coolly in. “You may have heard the news: there’s a couple of criminals on the loose. They might be hiding in plain sight. There’s nothing to be afraid of…just pass this little test.”
When she had first entered, so too had a werewolf cop and a werewolf priest, and as she talked, the priest filled a styroholofoam cup with water, performed a quick benediction. “The first part of the test is a blood test. The cop will prick you and see if you have translucent ghost blood,” she explained. “Then the priest is going to pass your table with a cup of holy water. Dip your hand in, and if it burns, we know you’re a vampire.” She examined the crowd’s faces; reactions were neutral to positive, for no one was quite holding their breath like the monster table. Helen grinned winningly. “Easy?”
Then Adam barked, “Eve!”
He shot up from his seat. The room was paralyzed. Jaw barked, “What the Sam Hill?”
Adam had thrown his gaze on First Lady Helen. Miraculously, she had paused to return it, and she erased her smile, made her visage as bare and solid as the mask Adam wore. What had he seen—was it something in his own mind only, or something far-buried in her eyes?
“Two hearts,” he said, stepping away from the table, nearing her slowly. “Two hearts, once wedded, shall never part. ‘Twas a promise made before your birth, and tonight I tell thee that, should you take my hand in thine, ye shall never regret it.” He was before Helen now, and took an arrow to the knee.
Helen stared down. The affront, the repulsion she began to feel showed not a whit in her bearing. A snicker escaped the cop beside her.
“Eve!” yelped Adam. “Are not the clothes we wear deceptive? Mine the cloak, and yours the lupish fur? Why do you not let your full moon crumble? Why…why must we hide any longer?”
Tears streamed down his face—his face; he had removed his mask and hat!
Gasps rang out, and diners scrambled for the doors! Dracula sat biting his fingernails at the speed of sound! Jaw, utterly rapt, did not eat a hamb!
The cop grabbed his gun, the priest his squirtgun, but the so-called Eve, like a saint, gestured gently for them to wait. Even with her brave stance, she trembled from head to foot, terrified by Adam’s sallow flesh.
“This is madness,” griped the cop, “I should’ve shot him on sight—”
“I know,” she said quietly, her eyes in Adam’s unwavering, “and this man belongs in maximum security. But he’s also an idiot with a code of honor, and he won’t strike until he finishes speaking.” Indeed, at that same moment he was waxing philosophical about how their love encompassed the beginning and the end of the world, poor dog…he really believed that Helen’s ears stayed trained on him throughout. “Call the trucks.”
The pieces clicked. “…You know him? Like, personally?”
“The trucks,” she said a notch louder.
“Alas!” roared Adam through crazy tears. “Though knowing that thou art at the hip of the President of the World pains me beyond words, still I do not ask what brought you two together! I dare not ask what cards foul Fortune dealt you! I only smile—see these my lips, I smile—to find you well, so many centuries on! Hang on—I may brainstorm a sonnet!”
Helen reared back and wound up her arm. Literally wound it; metal clicks, as if of bolts, resounded. Then she stepped forward and, in one impeccable movement, knocked Adam’s block off. The knuckle fit into his chin; the follow-through lifted both parts together; Helen’s fist came back to guard her face while Adam’s head soared off, losing teeth. (His body trailed after him, for his “block” had not quite left it.)
As the back of Adam’s head banged into a burger, his shoulders having fallen ‘pon the table, Dracula and Jaw staggered to their feet—but were stopped by caution. A few other customers remained in WoofWonald’s, filming the odd scene with their finger-sized cameras. Thus far, these two had done nothing that the other remaining visitors would not have.
They stopped short because they feared what Helen was capable of! Dracula knew that even if Adam, gone mad, had confused her for another or for a mere fable, no werewolfwoman should be able to knock out such a giant in one blow. Adam needed saving, but how much could Dracula do? His strength had been compromised when Jaw engulfed him in a defensive, angry laser that afternoon, and to boot, he had never fully healed from the wounds Alice had inflicted. With his vampire powers thus mightily reduced, he may as well have been an ordinary wolfster. Jaw, on the other hand, saw Helen the captor; he was chomping at the metaphorical bit to rip her shreddentine, yet stopped himself with a fear not unlike that of a child before the parent.
Before sweet Bravery found a chance to wrap them in some saving garb, Adam rewoke. But he was not Adam, for Amun-Ra had come, and it was his soul that sun-flared from the mummy eyes they shared!
The mini-moon burst into less than powder. All along the papyrus wraps, letters sparked as if to catch fire, and their glow, shining beneath the burly coat, was clear to see, and golden hot. Steam billowed fast through collar and sleeve; his body floated upright on a pillar of smoky air, and stood anew. Then the body rose almost to the ceiling — the better to honor the radiant facsimile of a sun upon his head, for there on Adam’s skull was a disc now fierce with daylight.
Quite another transformation consumed that head. The old hat transformed into a pharaoh’s headdress striped with green and bronze. A royal gold ribbon, appearing from nowhere, wrapped around his goatee, which appeared from nowhere. Finally of all finallies, the coarse and decrepit face Adamic shapechanged into the head of a man-sized eagle of Egypt, and when his beak opened to issue commandments, tiny vampire fangs were seen therein. “CEASE YOUR PUNCHING, WARLIKE PUP! SO SAYETH I, THE SPIRIT OF GREAT AMUN-RA!”
Scarcely ten seconds had passed since the god’s strange appearance, yet all in the room were sweating torrents. Such was the power of the fright he inspired and, even more than that, of the warmifying rays from that mock sun o’er his brow! And the heat was getting bolder—and lest we forget the light!
Dracula howled, spun on his toes, and fainted, all while his skin boiled and roiled. He collapsed, spasming terribly, shedding vaporized skin in steam and droplets, and he fell into the arms of witless Jaw, and he moaned, “Oh-h-h! At least I have my shades…” And he slid the shades on, but shades could not save him from death.
To Jaw, the next move was clear: toss his doughboy helmet back on and get the heck outta Dodge. He charged out the door, past civilians who were themselves nearly flame-broiled by this devilish heat. And as he charged, the weak and delirious Dracula clawed at his saving arms, desperate to stay behind and help Adam some way, somehow…!
At least the two drew little attention. Werewolf guests and werewolf employees followed, howling as though at the moon, and the stragglers either tripped or collapsed, striving through new pools of sweat. And speaking of moons, their mini-moons quaked, threatened by mighty Sol!
The werewolf priest, after flinging the water cup on his face, darted away; the werewolf cop looked jealously on, panting a cacophony. The only victim of Amun-Ra’s rays who did not fall nor panic nor sweat even a drop, was Helen.
“Turn off the heat!” she barked. “You’re going to kill innocent people!”
“DO NOT COWER BEHIND AN EXCUSE,” bellowed Amun-Ra, staring straight ahead rather than down on her. “THEY RUN, AND THE WEAK ONES CRAWL FOR THE EXIT. NO, THE LIGHT ONLY STOPS WHEN YOU CAN ENDURE NO LONGER!” He cackled, and it was an eerie ring. “OR SHALL I CUT TO THE CHASE AND DO WHAT MY HOST COULD NEVER BRING HIMSELF TO DO: BRUISE AND BATTER, THEN SUP ON YOUR FLESH, THE NUTRITION OF YOUR CORPSE AUGMENTING MY VAMPIRIC ATTRIBUTES?”
He answered his own question by raising his fists, which were encased in twists of papyrus like boxing gloves. It was deadly beauty they bore; the paper had gone blood-red while the letters of “VROLOK” were a golden pulse. Amun-Ra, as if on wires, began to descend.
“YES, I MIGHT SHALL! HAVE AT THEE, MMM!”
Helen, dauntless, threw the first punch, and Amun-Ra spiraled away, bits of papyrus fluttering in his wake.
But in a second he, puppetlike righted himself. Though face be dented, he would not be outdone. He jabbed her core, and with a loud crunch of bone, sinew, and networks of blood, sent her reeling over the policewolfman’s fainted form—tripping over it, slamming into the cash register.
“HMM?” Amun-Ra perplexited. “MOST PECULIAR. MORTAL BONES CRUNCH NOW?”
Helen leaped up, darted around him, and swept the legs. Bad move; Amun-Ra simply bobbed over the sweep. Now his heat grew oppressive to even her; she knew that the battle needs must end soon, or else she and the cop would melt outright.
Then with a shatter of glass, every window of the WoofWonald’s burst asunder, and through them came roaring pellets of—rice!
Amun-Ra paused to chortle, puffing his chest. “HA HA HA! MY BODY IS VAMPIRE BUT MY MIND IS GOD! YOU THINK I WILL…will…” His consciousness was competing for space. The flame in his eyes, and subsequently the flame on his head, flickered out. “Oh dear, oh no…what a mess of rice this is…” Then his beak retreated, his paper glow faded, and his ornaments popped out of existence—he was Adam, and he metamorphosed just as if his fire were doused with a traitorous bucket. Sad sight he was now, bending to the floor, pinching kernels of rice while police in hordes came looming above.
Helen helped the cop to his feet with an uncertain look, a look that knows the work is far from over.
“You know him?” said the cop in a weak wheeze.
“Yeah. He’s a jerk.”
July 4th, 12:30 AM: the time of Adam’s incarceration.