3. LA CHAMBRE NOIRE: Law of the Gun

“Keep thine eyes on thine prize, beware the danger at all angles! I leap for your life!” And Adam did—leaping into the line of fire!

That was no tranquil glow—it was the light of squad cars bathing riot gear! Who should alight on Giza this night but a full hundred officers ready to spring a trap? Whose squad cars, being futuristic, hovered over the sands? Whose allies, being snipers, set sights from helicopters high above—whose copters had no rotors, being futuristic?

Who waited armed with helmets, shields, nightsticks, and rifles with tremendous muzzles? Who had muzzles themselves, being, as they were, werewolves, shaggy soldiers with keen fangs, keener ears, and a strong desire to bite criminals down to the bone (metaphorically, as they were civilized)?

And riddle me this: how could werewolves, a super-pack of snarling werewolves, have assembled at all when the moon was not full—when the moon had long since been massacred by careless space miners?

This moon lived on not just as space debris, but also in pieces which circled the heads of every last patrolwolfman. The full moon whirled about every helmeted head…in miniature. Each one was a sphere of utter perfection, entirely full on any night of the week. Or even every day.

Dracula, a criminal wanted across the globe with a great bounty on his head, had been followed. Yet here he was in the pyramid’s exit, grinning at Adam like the village simpleton. “Welcome to the year 3001!” he shouted, as if this were merely Adam’s re-rebirthday party.

“SURRENDER NOW, GRR, OR WE WILL USE LETHAL FORCE! GARR!”

“Three thousand…” The number rolled from Adam’s tongue and tumbled into the abyss-like lagoon of time and despair that still represented his mind. Empires had risen and fallen in the years he’d slumbered! “O brave new world…that has such furred people in’t…”

“You are speaking of the werewolves, yes?” Dracula casually indicated the crowd.

“THAT’S RIGHT, RAISE ‘EM HIGH!” the speaker boomed. “THE SAME GOES FOR YOUR FRIEND IN THE HAT! HANDS UP OR YOU WILL BE SHOT, AR-AR-AROOOOO!”

With the same whimsy Dracula said to Adam, “We do as he says for now, my friend.”

“How dare you, my fair vampire,” decried Adam even as he raised his hands aloft. “You revive me, only to seal me away in yet another dungeon? Beest thou blind? They will us to prison!”

“Fear not. As a creature of the night, I have many powers,” said the up-handed vampire gentleman. “I sup on the blood of humans and werewolves alike. I leave no shadow, no reflection. My strength is that of several soldiers, my gaze pierces the will, and I can not only compel bats, wolves, and men to follow my command, but I can become the bat, become the wolf, become the man…” He flashed his fangs. “And become the wolf-man!”

All at once he became an undead top, spinning with such speed he kicked up a veil of dust and produced a distinct drilling sound. Adam, yet and still uncomprehending, knew only that the werewolves readied their guns.

“ALL OFFICERS! CONCENTRATE FIRE ON DRACULA! REPEAT: BARK BARK BARK!”

“My companion of the night!” shrieked Adam to the whirring blur. “Keep thine eyes on thine prize, beware the danger at all angles! I leap for your life!” And he did—leaping into the line of fire!

With a single simultaneous click, a deadly cross-hatch of pink rectangles issued from these their future-guns. Lasers!

But the mummy felt no ravage of light, only the safe thud of his body on earth. He scrambled to his knees. Not a scratch or burn on him…but how? The answer lied in the thick cloud of stirred-up sand surrounding him and the enstillened Dracula.

“I neglected to mention,” hummed the Count. “Whirling sand is perfect for absorbing rays of light.” The shimmering clouds fell to earth, uncovering his person. And his person…was now werewolf in form. The searchlights bouncing off mini-moon hordes fed him more than enough lunar light. His present aspect, brown-furred and moist-nosed, was bizarre to Adam; logically speaking, his hair should have been silver. “Oh, and as well, if I run around in place at sufficient speeds, it awakens the werewolf’s blood within me.”

Adam gaped. “Great Scott!”

“And now if you will excuse me—though you are free to accompany me if you wish!” And with that, the lupine Dracula bolted into the crowd of cops with the speed of a gale.

Most officers raised their riot shields, but one, a new recruit on the very front lines, was scared witless. “Oh no! Here he comes!” he gulped. Even the mini-moon ‘round his head was shaking!

Dracula, running with his cape raised like wings, made a batline for him—and disappeared.

“WATCH THAT SHADOW!” the loudspeaker howled.

‘But Dracula has no shadow,’ you say? You’re right—he was the shadow! In this form had he slipped into the crowd, become as the sand beneath their feet…and cast aside those feet, flinging soldiers left and right! Helpless as pups in his wake, they banged into riot shields and shattered squad car windows.

Adam watched agoggling as the shadow vampire cleaved through, leaving a tunnelish path. Then a pink stripe burned past Adam’s chest—all too close—and he followed the werepire, choiceless, breathless.

The senior officers knew all too well what was transpiring, and they had the perfect counter. One shouted, “Men—wolves, I mean! Track him! We practiced this!”

They had to stop Dracula’s clear, now-predictable path of destruction. One brainy mass of troops, in a whirl of shields, bunched together at just the right moment, catching his shadow like a snake in a cage—and, as a bonus, Adam too. Now frozen, Dracula had no choice but to rematerialize.

“Grrses,” he growled. “This bodes a little less well for me.”

“ALL IN THE CIRCLE, AIM!” advised the loudspeaker. “MOSTLY FOR DRACULA! HOWWWL!” The shields turned aside and the muzzles came forward.

“Adam, I have one more techniques to share, one that is guaranteed to astound you. You have watched me shift to werewolf shape, watched me melt into shadow; now watch again, if indeed you can believe your eyes!”

They shot their guns. He snapped his fingers. Dracula, sire of the eventide, disappeared, and as Adam ducked, the laser rays crossed harmlessly through thin air. Commend the soldiers for their aim; during one sublime moment the beams intersected in perfect asterisk. They had not missed, but their target was…for he had become mist, particulate moisture! As for the disruption that ensued, thank none but Dracula, ruler of gloom. Every laser hit the hand of an officer, and the pain was so great that they needed to shake their smoking hands and blow on them, after flinging their guns backward—a full hundred meters.

A squad hovercar’s driver, a lieutenant close to panic, raised his wristmmunicator and commanded, “All hands! On guard! Stay calm, wait for orders! He’s gone into an invisible werewolf state!” Rookie cops yelped with fear! The lieutenant added, “He’s…he’s mist, guys. Just look for air that looks kind of damp—”

A wild scream cut him off. The cops around his car were collapsing into chaos!

“Oh no, I meant don’t look! He’s using the Evil—”

Everywhere the wolves broke ranks and ran screeching. Adam held his position in the bedlam, crouched under the tramping boots that, momentarily, forgot him.

The lieutenant yelled, “Shut your eyes, I say!” But his men and women mobbed his car, as though he were foe!

Suddenly one comrade opened the door, tossed the lieutenant to the rabble, and snatched the wheel. The lieutenant gawked. “Goodness sakes, officer, have you gone mad?”

The burglarizing hound turned to him with a deranged look in his eyes and said, “Yes!” Then he stomped the gas and rocketed off, straight upward, into space.

At least the rotor-lacking hover-copters high in the sky were safe, probably. “ALL PERSONNEL BE WARNED!” cried a sniper with a loudspeaker. “DRACULA IS USING HIS EVIL EYE WHILE INVISIBLE! TO AVOID BRAINWASHING, PLEASE CAPTURE HIM WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED!” His vehicle was knocked to the sands by three rogue squad cars, landing with a pouf in a soft (but regrettably distant) dune. The nine other copters, by twenty-seven cars, met the same fate.

Was the crouching Adam defenseless, or were his instincts at the ready? As unruly policewolves scattered like ants, one crafty team, with their wits still about them, sought the answer. The most daring member stealthily creeped behind Adam, stopped her own head-moon in mid-orbit, and with it smashed him in the back of the head. He reeled, falling to his side.

“Blazes!” he cursed.

“Pile on!” The team jumped onto his back, their heaping bodies pressing him into the desert. He struggled and winced. Though his strength was massive, their mass was stronger.

Dracula, witnessing this, cried out. He could not be seen, could not be located; he was crying out from seemingly anywhere. “My friend! I will assist you shortly! Struggle lightly if you can!”

Somehow he was found. A large net was thrown from a squad car. It draped gently over a person-shaped patch of air—bullseye.

In that instant, the craze of the wolves was smothered by a hush and stillness. They wiped their eyes…and became exultant.

“We caught ‘im!” marveled the squad car driver, he who had cast the final trap. “We got ‘im with the bat net!” He and five passengers left the car and jigged victoriously.

Swiftly Dracula melted into mist and deflated the net, leaving through generous holes. That’s when the wolves stopped their dance, opened their trunk, and initiated stage two: the humongous pet carrier and the cordless blow dryers. Their warm gusts blasted him into his new home.

Dracula revisibilitized behind bars. “Curses! Myself, foiled!”

“LET’S GET THEM INTO CUSTODY, WOLFRYBODY,” said the loudspeaker cop from earlier, who had just finished his return trek from a soft dune two kilometers south. Rather than risk removing the wolfpile to take Adam away, he decided to play it safe and call an Egyptian forklift company.

“We have not lost yet, Adam, my fellow in vampirism!” cried Dracula as two officers began the slow and cumbersome process of lugging him away. “I have fallen but I still believe you can get up!”

“How, I beseech you, how?” inquired the vampire mummy with muffled voice (which Dracula could hear with his monster hearing). “How, when you are done? You, who have the powers of all manner of magic, yet have fallen to lupine forces? I am not even a candle against your heat and radiance! I am nothing but a mere Frankenstein’s monster!” His dried tear ducts manifested tears.

“You have spent your entire life running,” said Dracula. “From your creator. From hunters. Even from Mary Shelley herself. But this is a new era, for the world just as much as for your very being! You are no longer the same Adam you once were; even a casual glance assures me of this! I may have the blood of the wolvy with me, but there is a juice running through your veins far richer than my own aristocratic plasma: that of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ozymandias!”

That flicked a switch inside of Adam. He truly was anything but the man he used to be. Now, in fact, he was one, maybe two more people.

Dracula roared, “It is the era of Adam! You must do the chasing from now on! Spread your vampire wings and fly!”

And the wolfpile burst asunder! The mighty Adam rose and roared with a savage fury not seen since the year 1818—and the orange sun disc on his headdress roared too, with relentless flame. “HUROOOOOAH! With my left hand, I invoke the name Ramses!” And that hand he raised, with fingers curled. An infinite brightness erupted from his headdress, drenching the sandscape in yellow-white!

The many myriad moons of the wolfmen shattered, perishing under such concentrated solar strength. The mob’s furred forms un-transmogrified into the human shapes natural to them. Some were fat, some were skinny, some were tall, some were short, and all, horrified.

Thus Adam retroactively realized a curious thing: every werewolf had looked the same. Their pelts had been the same shade of brown, their muzzles had maintained the same length, and even their heights had stood at precisely five feet, ten inches.

Even stranger, they were less afraid of Adam than of seeing their current skin-covered selves.

“Don’t look at me, guys!”

“Turn the werewolf back on!”

“Don’t look at my fleshy faaace!”

Adam had rolled back the clock to pre-werewolfinization days, revealing their old human faces with this light, a ghastly mirror. Now every last wolf, plagued with shame, cowered behind any and all available cover. Their faces were hidden by helmet visors shoved down, by shirt collars tugged up, and even by the sand, ostrich-style.

Dracula watched bemused. The light died down, revealing that he had phased mistily through the pet carrier and reclaimed his human shape. Good thing sunlight passed harmlessly through mist! Now he leaned coolly against the carrier’s bars. “So much for being a mere candle,” he chuckled in astonishment…but the real astonisher was yet to come.

Adam’s papyrus tracks began to move on their own, the shorter ones merging to grow longer, the longer ones miraculously multiplying. They made circles along him, as if these his wrappings were paper coils. Then they, like so many snakes congregating, moved to the top of his headdress. But this papyrus did not simply drape down and waft in the wind as party streamers. Rather, it became even longer until all the tendrils reached the sand, where they strengthened and steadied themselves. Like a hut’s roof they surrounded him—save a gap in the front, for enemies to see his face. The paper snakes raised Adam a little, holding him inches aloft; now they were his feet, or, rather, his slithering serpent tails!

His eyes burned with the fury of the Egyptian summer sun…with a vampire in it. A vampire wearing SPF 5000. He declared, “With my right hand, I invoke the name…of Dracula!” And the six papyrus tails glowed with blood-red writing—not hieroglyphics, but “VROLOK” over and over again, down their whole lengths, as if by magic.

Officers behind riot shields peeked at their peril. “Oh no,” one said, “that means ‘vampire’ in Slavic!”

Then finally Adam cried out, “Wolfmen, I! Am! ADAM!” He threw his right hand before him, thus commanding dozens and dozens of the wraps to rush forward—and to weaponize! Their tips spun into the shapes of sharp fangs…just like the teeth of a vampire. Operating on their own limited sentience, these snakes fanned out and pierced the necks of all the officers, who, gasping, were too boggleminded to move. Then Adam bent his fingers. Swiftly and with the sound of many small children with bent straws slurping the last drops out of soda cups, blood was shlepped through the bandages, and it traveled their lengths into Adam’s body.

After a mere two seconds, the deed was done, and the dozens of foes all fell into an anemic nap, due to recover by next morn. The last of the copters and squad cars crashed in Giza’s sands, which, again, were famously pillowy. Just as Adam with his left hand had crushed them all in daylight and released them into night, so now did his right hand free them from a strangledom of wraps. The papyrus tails set him down, and all the other strips bolted back into place, into Adam, their king, their tape measure. Adam had won.

But wait—he was struck with fright! Was not Dracula allergic to sunlight, as in all the myths and vampire tales!?

“Fear not!” assured Dracula, returning to his side. “One might suspect that the light of the sun would reduce a man such as myself to dust, and that it does, if my flesh is too strongly or too longly exposed! I cannot remain in misty form for long, but five minutes a day has been more than enough.” With a wink he added, “I do try to avoid sunburns as best I can.”

“And thus have I saved my savior,” laughed Adam. He inhaled the air of a liberated man. Now he was free, free of loneliness, of helplessness, of sarcophagi. He truly was a vampire and a mummy…and a Frankenstein. Technically.

“The night may be young, but I say we have had too much excitement,” Dracula reckoned. “Come! Let us take our leave and have respite. There is still so much work to be done, and so much to tell!”

“Where, pray tell, shallst we be headed for?” inquired the curious Adam.

“My house, my home, my aircraft—and my pet. Come, Bistritz!”

Not far away, an enormous and, come to think of it, conspicuous sand dune wobbled apart and revealed a gigantic castle in fourteenth-century style, built to perfection save its utter lack of windows. It was borne by a truly titanic vampire bat, to whom the dune was naught but a little dust to shake from his back and furry head.

The valiant vampires strode over. Dracula gave Bistritz’s chin a hearty rub and chucked three strawberries into his mouth. “I raised him from birth with special techniques. He is not only a loyal friend, but also my Castle Dracula, undetectable to radar. Let us enter from the sides, much faster; note these stairs.” Bowing and showing the way, he said, “I invite you into my home, my fair Adam.”

Those were the words Adam had wanted to hear for almost one thousand and two hundred years.

* * *

There once was an American governmental institution known as “The White House.” Alas, by the year 3001, cultural tastes had risen and fallen, and the people had voted for a remodeling. As such, it was now “The Brown House,” and shaggy with furs.

In an oval-shaped office, its walls lined with moon rocks in commemorative cases, a wolfman sat at his desk. He stared up and ahead, watching a screen built into the wall above the doorway: a routine transmission from the moon’s remains, plus newsflashes and stock prices racing along the bottom.

“Mr. President, sir.”

The wolf looked down. There in the doorway was a stateswolfwoman in shades and a sharp suit. There was, aside from clothes, no physical difference between them, but she did speak with a British twang.

“It appears that Dracula has been spotted in Egypt raiding tombs.”

“Ah, Dracula,” the president sighed with what definitely sounded like a French brogue. “My old friend.” The sarcasm was bitter and—forgive the pun—biting. Beneath his muzzle sat a name plaque reading, “PRESIDENT IGOR.” “Tell me, Alice, how is he doing?”

“Bad, Mr. President. Obviously.” Her tone was level despite the gall of her words. “You may outrank me, but I feel the need to put my foot down this time. Given recent affairs in the Brown House, he has to have something planned, and as for what it is, I have—pardon the expression—a hunch.” As all who had read Igor’s memoir knew only too well, his immaculately backed wolf form concealed his human self’s hunchéd spine. “Give me free rein and I’ll sniff him out, and put him away for good.”

“I have always had faith in your survival instincts, Alice. But why, pray tell, should I let my Head of Defense run into harm’s way to track down a single vampire?”

“We are not looking at a single vampire anymore. The situation has turned into vampires.

The president’s expression hardened. “Do you mean to tell me he’s revived a mummy from ancient Egypt?”

Alice unfolded her paw-like hand to present a small floating future technology screen. It showed a miniature mummypire assisting the world government’s public enemy number one. “I have reports from officers stationed near Giza that he hasn’t gotten just any mummy. It’s Frankenstein.”

“You…you don’t mean…with the bolts in the neck?”

“Sir, do you see any bolts?” she said. “I don’t. I don’t see any bolts.”

“An honest mistake.”

“Get back on topic.”

“After you.”

Alice didn’t miss a beat. “This creature destroyed a squadron’s mini-moons in one blow with the power of the sun god Ra…allegedly.”

“That’s Horus. Horus was the sun god.”

“I know,” she said, laying a hand across her forehead. “It’s nonsensical and I hate it. You see now why I must end this.”

“Of course,” he said with a dash of sympathy. “You are certain you can arrest the man who has run from me for a thousand years?”

“It would be a wonder if I couldn’t, arooooo,” she swear-howled. She took her leave triumphant, but stopped short to turn back and ask, “Just double-checking. Are the world delegates still slated to meet with you at the end of the week?”

Igor smirked. “Which world are you asking about, exactly?”

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Author: Joi

I write, I draw, I do it all

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