In moments the foursome, snowcoat-clad, stood in a storm so thick with gales and icy clods that to mortals and vampires alike the sky was scarcely perceptible, the Cape’s boulders mere spectres. They had walked not ten footsteps from the Castle Dracula’s front gates when, disturbingly close by, lightning struck! They dove into snow mounds in hopes of avoiding soaring debris, which included a puffin, launched head over heels like a scorched and misthrown football.
“Egad!” pipped Adam. When he raised his head and wiped the snow-crusts from his eyes, however, he changed his tune, for before them was their destination. “Oh, I mean…I am glad!”
There it was: a grand and lonesome estate, which not only towered above, but spread its girth wide. How Dracula could have missed such a monumental thing, could have led Bistritz astray for hours, is explained by the confounding nature of Cape Agulhas’ weather and terrain: landmarks blend together, radar signals bounce.
In front on their right was a mansion, an egregiously oversized mansion. Its walls struggled to maintain snow white, but the color was washing out, beaten by decades of snow and earthy dirts. To the left of the mansion stood its means of self-sustainment: a barnhouse and silo worthy of Old Macdonald, sitting atop grass, the cherry red and emerald green of them visible through a translucent dome. There must have been half an acre in there! It teemed with thick grasses which waved gingerly despite the tundric craze outside; it fostered animals of the domestic sort, and the party, moving closer, could actually see pink pigs as specks roaming the inner expanse.
“Owner, must, be, rich,” Robert hazarded, raising his voice in the blasted snow.
“You may actually be the one to recognize him. Come,” urged the Count, “we cannot keep our final teammate waiting.”
“Yeah, let’s hurry this up,” remarked Trials. “I don’t wanna end up as someone’s catcicle, if you catch my snowdrift.” She had removed her cat-coat many steps ago, citing it as “too itchy”; Robert ached to call her out on this hypocrisy, but restrained himself.
Dracula banged the doorknocker. It was shaped like a tennis shoe filled with a foot, all molded so perfectly that it seemed liable to take off sprinting right then and there. Who could this new enigmatic figure be? A descendant of the remarkable Jekyll or Hyde? Jack the Ripper’s grandson twenty times removed, Mack the Dipper? George Washington’s ghost? The possibilities were restricted only by the imagination. Maybe a troll, I don’t know. That’s a kind of monster, I think.
“What’re ya sellin’?” grunted an angry eye behind the cracked door.
Dracula stated, “Freedom.”
Eight locks were heard twisting loose and falling away. The door was opened by the mansion’s sole occupant: nothing but a frumpy man. His brown hair was frosting grey, which, in concert with fat and wrinkles, betrayed lost youth and fortitude. Yet his eyes retained a spark—and transmuted that spark into an unnerving, even depressing, look. Clearly, though he was no vampire, he had his own power to hypnotize.
“Drac’s back, eh?” he muttered derisively. “And I see you brought the whole monster squad with ya.”
The Count persisted. “May we please come in? It is dreadfully cold out.”
“Do whatever. But I know what you’re gonna ask, and I ain’t interested, mate.”
He opened the door with a careless swing and said, “Here, walk this way.” Then he shuffled inside on fluffed slippers, moving mechanically, straight ahead. The four followed suit, shuffling inside on fluffed slippers, for there were many pairs beside the door. They searched for a coat rack, but there was none. The mansion owner gestured weakly to the floor, where a parka of his own had been flung. The foursome shrugged amongst themselves and did the same. Already this place, and his glare, infected them.
On their way to the lounge, they passed the open doors of a closet and a kitchen. The proportions of the two-story fridge, the basin sink, the closet bar devoid of hangers that stretched as long as a firehouse pole is tall, were outrageous, worthy of kings—large kings.
They entered a lounge so grand that the doorways studding its walls were like holes on a thimble: negligibly small. Against the vaulted glass ceiling which shined and slanted like a diamond, the battering snow was a mere drizzle. Ancient English tapestries, original paintings framed in gold, and countless amphorae lined the walls, their glister hinting coyly at secrets none alive could ever know…
Yet with all their splendor, there remained one fact no opus in an eighty-square-foot guest room could hide: the man was sad. The furnishments told that story. There in the very very center of the room, upon a sumptuous recreation of the fifth scene on the Bayeaux Tapestry, sat a single lamp and two folding chairs. The lamp was off and the chairs remained folded.
The mansion’s master made the long shuffle in, the visitors close behind, all in a line, unbreaking, unturning. He picked up the first chair. It collapsed into parts, destroying itself in his very grasp. He picked up the second chair. It disintegrated, atomically blowing away in the sudden chill that wandered through this warehouse-sized guest room.
The man stared at his empty hands.
Then, without a word, they all sat criss-cross on the tapestry (except Trials—reader, don’t be a smart-apple). They used the ceiling’s snow and moonlight to illumine their conversation, since their host did not bother to turn on the light.
Robert pieced together all the facts: the exorbitance; the physical features; the neck-bound gold medal, dented, which he used to open soda cans. “Such, money, that, face,” he said. “You, must, be, Walter, Whipple…Olympic, sprinter, from, back, in, day!”
“Yeah, and what of it?” Walter growled. “Want an autograph or somethin’?” He spat. His spit landed seventy feet away in an antique spittoon originally awarded to the winner of the 478 B.C.E. Panathenaic games.
“Wow. What a dump,” snarked Trials, “and I’m not talkin’ about the house.”
“I heard that!” the Whipple snapped. “Look, you can warm up, state yer business, and then I want yer butts outta here. I’m thirsty, so I’m gettin’ me a drink.”
Everyone watched as Walter Whipple shuffled across the floor and made a straight line from the seating area to the humongo kitchen. No longer was he King of the Sprint. One would not even think him King of the Bocce Ball.
Walter Whipple returned with a single enormous drink in a wide-brimmed goblet. He sat. He lifted sapphire to lip and drank deep of this life. Did his cup runneth over? No, for he no longer ranneth. He set it down.
“What’re you lookin’ at? Spill those beans, Drac.”
Dracula gulped, drinking deep of sadness and a bygone friendship. “I was only, ah, waiting on you, dear Walter.”
“Well, don’t. I got errands. I just got done night-feeding the horses and soon I’ll have to night-feed the chickens.”
“An exiled life of animal husbandry does not suit you!” Dracula bellowed with his arms thrown wide. “I come to you with my ragtag band of monsters and misfits to invite you back into society. If my plot is successful and my heart can reach Igor’s, I assure you I can grant you amnesty and mainstream acceptance the likes of which you have never experienced.”
Walter gruffed, without humor, “You’re pullin’ my leg. And nobody pulls these hamstrings but me. You think I’m not happy where I am? It was my choice to come out here, as far away from werewolves as I could, and live my own way! You’re not puttin’ me on your terms. Not me, of all people.”
“Pardon my ignorance,” said Adam with his hand raised schoolkiddishly; “however, I have slumbered for a millennium, and have no knowledge of this angry oldman I see before us. Why, in truth, must we scrape to incorporate a normal human in our ranks? If this be the goal, why do we not merely reach into any city in the world and pluck an ordinary Joseph from the street?”
“I’m with Rags,” said Trials uncomplimentarily. “We’ve got enough fogeys. This guy is so fat and old, the only thing he could outrun is a BLT!”
Robert heaved, “Trials, you, centuries, old.” Then, turning to Adam, he said, “This, man, incredibly, special. Back, in, day…”
“Yes!” Dracula co-opted, pointing with an eager finger. “Back in the day—”
“Save your breath, guys, I can give my own backstory,” said Walter. “You seen any other humans in your travels so far? Must not’ve gone into any o’ those miracle cities you just made up. Ever since the world government made humanity a crime, I’ve been refusing the werewolf surgery. I’m the only man who didn’t want it. I live human and I’ll die human. To the rest of society, this makes me a monster. A fleshy freak of nature. Like how you’re a freak of nature, Hatshepstein.”
“Monsieur, call me not monster. I am Adam.”
“Heck! They used to call me the Olympic champion sprinter!” He slapped his hands upon the knees and hamstrings that withered even as they spoke. “Nobody gave me respect then, either! And I was happy livin’ that way.”
“But would it be no lie,” Dracula proposed, “to say you wish to experience something from bygone days? Like, say, the moon, or the house of your childhood…ah!” He snapped his fingers. “Deep down you may still crave a sense of community that you received in that greatest of Olympic sprints!”
Walter shook his head. “My life ain’t a bargainin’ chip, Drac. Besides, any chance I have to distance myself from werehumanity and laugh, I’ll take.”
“You laugh?” said Trials. “In this freezer? What’s that gonna do? Those people don’t care. Games aren’t worth anything if you’re like fifty million miles from whoever you’re toying with. Unless you’ve got a megaphone.”
To the circle’s surprise, this got Walter to hyuck. Exhausted though that laugh may have been, it tempered his character ever so slightly. The unnerve streaming from his eyes changed, as if the mind within, a vessel of long-expired and curdling milk, had been left outside for thirty-five years but just took a step back in time—one day back. This gave Dracula hope, for Rome was not pasteurized in a day.
Then issued forth a wistful sigh. “Yeah, I miss the days when I used to whip my legs in front o’ the world. But I’d rather keep ‘em cooped up in the southernmost tip of the continent than live among those were-jerks. No thanks.”
Dracula raced to say, “But have you considered—”
But Walter Whipple leaped from his criss-cross’d position, a feat which none others on Earth could manage—not the acrobat vampires, not reanimate dead, no hyphenated men, nor even the flexy felidae. He flipped three times in the air and landed on his slippered toetips with such ease that to him, the magnitude of his accomplishment did not even register!
“Now, Drac,” he said, “I respect ya as a fellow outsider, but you can go play your games with someone a little less tired of this crap. Take yer leave when you’re set, anyhow.”
He shuffled away, as slow as a stalactite’s melt, in a perfectly straight line.
Dracula could hardly suppress his excitement. He was shaking and grinning like a child circus-bound!
When the man was distant enough, Trials said, “Who needs ‘im?”
In his exuberance, Dracula exploded! “You just witnessed his acrobatic capability! He shuffles now, but were those slippers off, he would move as if weightless. His athletic ability far surpasses any wolfman’s! Being a werewolf does enhance the muscles and reflexes of normal humans (as well as of many monster types, yours truly included), but when he flapped those feet in those 2987 Olympic Games, the spectators swore up and down that his human shape gave him an unfair advantage. Walter Whipple is a natural-born running monster.”
Walter, with a third of the room to go, froze. He was squinting at its exit.
“What is wrong, my fast friend? Have my paltry compliments thawed your icy heart?”
“No, no, just hush up a second…” He squinted harder. What was wrong with his hallway? The lighting was off, but why? Seconds ticked by until the reason came to light. The reason was light—on a bomb’s fuse!
Walter retreated, doing a hustle-shuffle back toward the guest room. “Everybody in the kitchen!”
The guests looked about for a moment more. Only when Dracula dashed to that kitchen waving the rest on did they follow suit.
“It’s a bomb!” shouted Walter, sweat flying. “Get in the sink!”
The squad jumped and rolled in, their slippers flying! Lucky for them, the sink, as big and platinum as money could buy, was as roomy as a triple-sized tub. Walter, seeing that no room remained, spun ballerina-like into the fridge.
Seconds later, a fireball blast detonated in the living room, and its infernal remnants came their way, blazing through cabinetry and chip bags (fifty dollars each). It only charred the backs of those in the sink.
The aforementioned four rose bewildered. There was a newly wrought fire crackling in the center of the guest room—and though it was not nearly big enough to cover eighty feet, it was devouring the center, chewing through the tapestry fragment they had sat on a mere moment ago.
Walter emerged from his fridge unharmed. Fear not for his exposure to cold; he was quite familiar with it.
“Tarnation!” said Adam.
“Good gracious!” said Dracula.
“Good thing I have such a big house,” said Walter.
“Have I truly brought danger into the home of my friend?” Dracula went on to gulp. “Dear sweet Walter! Please make haste. Get to safety as we deal with whatever visitors we seem to have brought alo-”
Two garlic canisters rolled in through the doorway.
In a mere sliver of a mere second, Walter kicked off one slipper and it hit the first canister, and he kicked off the second slipper and it hit the second canister, and readers should imagine this happening in slow-motion, and all four things—the kicked things and the hit things—flew out, and they landed in the bonfire as ash.
Walter chuckled. “Puh-lease, mate. This is my house, and you’re my guests. And no wolves are gonna throw a party on my property uninvited!”
Dracula looked to Walter’s feet and was filled with gladness, for he was wearing familiar toe socks. The sprintmaven’s spirit had grown rougher over the years, but it surely had not dulled.
Military-grade boots kicked through the glass ceiling, sending shards flying across the concrete and twinkling into the central flame below. Three werewolves descending via ropes, in berets and white-mottled army fatigues, with green-camo moons, made their ghastly entrance. Dracula readied his fangs, Adam rubbed his hands, the whole of them tensed…but the ropes stopped a quarter of the way.
“Grrreport!” yarped one commando into a wristmmunicator. “Ropes too short. Requesting additional rope to tie to the ends.”
But an Antarctic chill swept across the roof and had its way with the dangling wolves, rustling them like windchimes. The three became tangled, konking into each other with heads, backs, and moons!
“Weather conditions too hazardous for additional rope operation,” an ally responded. “Initiating doggy recall.” In a quite sluggish and embarrassing display, the three werestooges were reeled back into the helicopter whence they’d lunged.
“I figured this’d happen someday,” said Walter. “Had this house set up with several anti-siege measures. Thanks to my Olympics money, I’ve got more tricks than a werewolf at a werewolf show.”
Their next foes emerged from holes…dozens of hand drills came cracking through the floor before their kitchen. Wolves poked their heads out, looked around, and spotted our favorite ghouls.
“Enemy sighted! Commencing disengagement from tu—ruh-roh!”
The diggers ducked just in time as the fridge, like a hammer, smashed onto their holes. Robert, triumphant, pumped his appliance-throwing arms and squealed like a hog!
Walter, with a wonderful singing laugh, rang a tiny glass bell. I don’t know why.
The guest room’s open ceiling let cold and snow stream in, meaning the bonfire was shrinking by the second and the militia’s “storm the guest room” concept was beginning to look pathetic—that is, until its commander made her presence known. “Enough games!” she shouted; from a hole just before the pyre steppened another wolf with a bad attitude. Alice Liddell, the Head of Defense, climbed out in fatigues and aviator shades, framed by the last glint of a dying fire, capping her sentence with the pop of a dying gum bubble. If her authoritative tone had not made her position clear enough, her mini-moon did, haloing gold. “They know we’re here. Let’s say our greetings all at the same time. All hands fire!”
The gang had no time to think, hardly time to clear out, and Walter was still ringing his bell, though with a grim face now. “Come on, babies,” he muttered—moments before the entire kitchen-facing wall of the guest room was decimated. Barreling in like a steamroller came a whole wall’s worth of laser-packed light, flying at the speed of itself!
In a blazing flash, all that Dracula’s people had seen of Walter’s house was razed. The kitchen: gone. The amphorae: obliterated. The ceiling eighty feet above: now nothing. The guest room: nonexistent, save for two charred walls. The piles of parkas and slippers by his door: destroy—well, actually, the entrance remained blissfully intact.
When the pink flash left, there followed wispy smoke and vapor, then a cheer and high-five from the firing squad behind them. Alice clambered back out of her hole, onto the concrete floor where snow was beginning to heap. Raising her sunglasses, she watched, keeping her eyes on the space where her enemies once stood.
Perhaps she and her firing squad had given not only greetings, but partings.
Or not, for in that spot, in place of Dracula et al., there now stood two giant mechanical shoes—sneaker-shaped bumper cars. From the hole of one, Robert and Trials poked out tentatively. From the other came Walter Whipple and the two delightful hogs who, in answer to the bell, had skillfully driven the emergency bumper cars into position. And in front of them, saviors by their twin tango of kicked-up diamond dust, were Dracula (in wolf form) and Adam!
“What coordination!” remarked Dracula. “You make a fine vampire.”
“I surprise myself,” said Adam with a bow.
“Hey, dog bones!” cried Trials from Robert’s lap. “How’s it feel knowing you fired everywhere and still missed?” Then, shortly after giving Robert the stink-eye, she climbed onto his face and head with mercifully nonextended claws! “Try again, aim here!” As she cackled, Robert, rocking and groaning, lurched into a special technique: the “get off my lawn” fist shake.
Commander Alice raised one arm saying, “How impudent. Well, if at first you don’t succeed…”
A posse of soldiers re-aimed and re-fired at the cat and her fish, but the shots all bounced away, cast aside by a sneaker launched from the sneaker gun on the giant sneaker housing Walter and his two cozy pigs.
“Shoe cars,” Walter said coolly. “Don’t leave home without ‘em. Or, rather, don’t be home without ‘em.”
“How stupid,” Alice maligned. Almost dismissively she ordered, “Charge. Apprehend them, hand-to-hand.” And the whole centurion of wolf-folk reholstered their guns before stamping forth!
The undaunted Adam rallied Dracula’s troops, leading with a smile, his left fist raised. Though they were all suffused with blizzard snows, without coats nor ceiling to guard them, the fighting spirit warmed them. “Tally-ho! Let us loose us monsters of war!”
The werewolves were closing the gap with wicked speed, mere meters away now, and Walter’s pig-friends snorted with fright, but Walter stared them down, and aimed his shoerifles. Robert again insisted that Trials get off his green, lawnlike face, and she did, bounding onto the concrete. Dracula rolled up his sleeves, for the werewolf blood raced positively hot within him. And Adam’s bandages glowed with arcane Slavonigrams and began sliding along his body, just as they had when he powered up in Giza.
And then the mummy said it: “With my left hand, I invoke the name Ram—g’augh!” A werewolf clotheslined him, knocking Adam off his feet and nearly casting his pharaotic headdress from his skull. He rose on his left palm, raised the right, and hollered, “With my right hand I—D’AOUH!” Five werewolves ran simultaneously across his chest. It was no use; the wolf army was here, the forces had already converged!
Luckily, his friends were kicking butt in the snowstorm. Dracula was flitting back and forth between mist and corporeality, darting through the crowd and picking off wolves like a fish pursuing nutritional flakes—one nip at an unsuspecting neck and they collapsed, knocked out for another fix, maybe six hours.
This time, Trials needed no illusions to evade capture; nimble and lithe, she ran between shins like a soccer ball gone haywire. Everywhere she went, a werewolf barked and fell in a simmering blaze, for she chanted, “Fire Pyre Multiplier! Fire Pyre Multiplier!”
Adam was not to be outdone. “I needs must—ouch—simplify my tactics,” he concluded, briefly suffering a knee to the face. Glowing red wrappings congregated around his arms, and the scars they exposed hummed faintly gold, and he became a beacon in the storm. He rose, and, with hands in karate-chopping shape and form, began whapping and smacking wolves from his path. He was relying on strength alone, but it was strength enhanced, equivalent to that of—if I had to guess—twenty-two humans!
Meanwhile, in their own theatre of this battle, Walter Whipple and Robert Fishman were firing sneakers left and right. The bottom of their bowling-shoe cars produced little warm jets of air, melting the earthbound snow. This allowed them to drift slowly about the concrete floor, as if each were a puck on an air hockey rink. Lucky shoe shots hit wolves in the gut, making them to buckle, but the wolves were getting wise to this and starting to slap shoes away. As they encroached, the spat-travelers broke into ice-cold sweats—and not because of the bitter snow. “Guys,” Walter moaned, the terrified pigs at either side hugging him, “I’m starting to think that shoes might not be strong enough!”
“Axe Wax M’gacks!” magic’d a saint nearby. Then she did it again. Two Viking battleaxes poofed into existence and fluttered into their hands. Then she did it two more times! Walter’s pigs got axes too.
One moment ago, that werewolf right in front of Robert had looked devious, bloodthirsty…but the glint of the axe wiped the smirk from his gullet. Now Robert stood in his seat and, with his axe raised like a golf club, said, “Time, for, reversal, to, end, all, reversals!”
But then Alice halted the action with a shout: “Make way!”
It was impressive how quickly the werewolves scattered. They ran yipping and tripping into the foggy veil of snow, many fighting to push past others, to escape most quickly; those who had been pushed to the ground, who ended up nearby when Alice approached, broke out in whimpers and involuntary twitching fits. Observers could safely conclude that Alice was a strong and excellent commander.
Daringly, she marched into Robert’s path in the middle of a heavy axe swing. She had considered reaching for a pistol, but she thought better of that. Instead she thrust forth a lighter! She clicked the fire to life and waved it in his face, and Robert shook so terrifically that he dropped his axe, which shattered on the floor. Memories of accidentally dousing himself in gasoline and bumping into a gas lantern came screaming back! “Aaaaah! Fire! Fire! You’ll burn my gills!” he shrieked.
He promptly lost control of the bumper car! It drifted quite slowly into Alice’s kneecaps, bumping against them.
Alice flicked shut the lighter. With ease and her foot, she shoved the car away. Robert spiraled helplessly into the snowdrift, toward some hungry pack of soldiers, any one of whom could easily have made his match in combat.
Walter came in gun blazing, hitting Alice’s shins with a torrent of turret-fired size-sevens. Actually, he had been doing this from a little distance for the past thirty seconds; only now did Alice devote any attention to him. With his free hand did he also raise his battleaxe very threatsomely. His haunting eyes said, “I may be too far away to axe ya now, mate, but in a minute? Two minutes? Then you’ll be sorry.” The pigs, being pigs, had eaten their axes long ago and sat contentedly at his flanks.
To make sure that every monster around could hear the message to follow, Alice tapped her moderno-future accessorial wristmmunications hyperwatch, causing a megaphone to spring forth. “NOW, MR. WHIPPLE,” she all but hollered into his face, “I COME AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE WORLD GOVERNMENT TO COMMANDEER OWNERSHIP OF YOUR HOUSE! ALL OF YOUR LAND IS NOW UNDER JURISDICTION OF MYSELF, ALICE LIDDELL!” And just to prove her point, she briefly produced a legal document that read “DEED – This House” with a gold ribbon attached at the bottom.
Walter gasped, “But that’s not real!”
“CORRECT,” she blared as he sluggishly, sweatily approached, “BUT IN WORLD GOVERNMENT COURTS, WORLD GOVERNMENT-PRODUCED FORGERIES ARE THE HIGHEST FORM OF EVIDENCE!”
Walter, stunned, could only breathe.
Dracula re-visibilified behind Alice and wrangled her in a chokehold. Alice, however, utilizing judo moves, bent forward at incredible speed, flinging Dracula clear off and out of bounds! He was launched into the entry hall (still standing), onto the front door (now collapsed under Dracula’s weight), and straight into a massive pile of snow.
He flung a flurry’s worth away and scrabbled upright, dumbstruck, staring through the doorway. He remained nearly unharmed, and yet he puffed as thought the wind were knocked out of him. Slowly he brought his hand toward the doorway…but not through it, as he was barred from doing so by a repulsive force. “Oh no,” he whispered. Then with infernal fury he pounded the field-like force and roared, “How dare you, Alice! Invite me, invite me in right now!”
“THESE RIDICULOUS WEAKNESSES GROW CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER,” she replied. “SORRY, I MEANT ‘MORE STUPID AND THEN AGAIN EVEN MORE STUPID.’”
From tens of meters away Dracula could see, as through a tumultuous haily veil, specks and masses of camo-clad werewolves. Then he saw a bolt of unmistakable red: one of Adam’s papyrus wrappings stretching so far through the crowds that it cut clear across Dracula’s field of vision. Were he closer, he would have seen it zip past soldiers’ heads and moons to coil around Alice’s head. Now that’s some aim and hand-eye coordination! Adam cried, “There is nothing more stupid than guile and evil!”
Walter cried, “Frankie, no!”
Alice enacted the same judo flip. Adam, gone airborne with his bungee-cord paper, slingshotted through the very same entryway and the very same formerly-standing door. He slammed into Dracula with an “oof.”
“OF COURSE I WILL NOT INVITE YOU OR YOUR PROTÉGÉ BACK INSIDE. I’LL GET TO YOU ONCE THE WEAKER SET IS DEALT WITH. OFFICER BONES, GET THE CROSS.”
A peon, muttering “gotcha, boss…grrrruff,” darted briefly past the entrance for to toss a tiny rosary at them.
“Eugh!” said Dracula as it landed in his hands. He bounced it around like it was an incredibly warm potato, then hurled it away blindly. It cracked Adam in the shin and it really smarted.
“Yeowch!” he said, proving the point above.
Not so far away, Trials had just finished deceiving a couple of werewolves: one was running right to catch her, the other running left, and just when she had seemed within each one’s grasp, she had hopped away, causing them to buffoonically crash into each other. Now she approached Alice rather casually. “Injustice from the government? That joke’s even older than the one about airline food.”
“A little late, aren’t you?” said Alice. She just happened to have a bag of salted peanuts in her pocket. These she opened and strewed about Trials.
But the cat, instead of capering about them as Alice had hoped, sat there unimpressed. “You expect me to play with these miniature trashes? You’re kitten me! This is literally airline food!”
“Think of it this way,” Alice rationalized. “This is a show, and that’s your movie food.”
“Yeah, a movie about watching you beat up old dudes.”
“Sure, but look at that,” said Alice with a gesture toward Walter.
His shoe was still hurtling in like a comet! His arms were still raised, only now they were empty, and quivering with panic! He said, “Oh no! The pigs, they’ve eaten my axe!” Indeed, the pigs were gnawing happily! “Say the axe spell, cat, the axe spell!”
Trials clicked her tongue. “Kinda mean, innit?”
“That’s kind of the point.”
Trials looked down to the peanuts, then back to Alice. Then her gaze fell to Alice’s ankle, which idled conveniently close to her fangs…
A hail of lasers from Alice’s corps peppered Trials! I mean—phew! —they merely peppered the air and ground which she had so recently occupied. She ran yowling, skittering as if on hot tin, and scrambled for cover as the lasers followed.
Alice smirked. She raised her megaphone anew and said, “THANKS, SOLDIERS.”
From far away, through a dense curtain of snow, the nearest officer screeched, “YOU’RE WELCOME, COMMANDER!”
“YOU ALL CAN COME A BIT CLOSER, YOU KNOW.”
The soldiers didn’t respond.
“WELL, WALTER WHIPPLE,” she said to the man who was still a good three feet and two minutes away, “YOU HAVE JUST AIDED THE WORLD’S MOST WANTED CRIMINAL, COUNT VLAD DRACULA.” She revealed her pistol. “FOR THIS CRIME, YOU’VE BEEN SENTENCED TO DEATH. ANY LAST WORDS?”
Being in a giant shoe undeniably had its advantages, but Walter Whipple knew it was time to hop out and stretch his quads. So he stepped onto snow, and when he stooped, it was to conquer.
“Yeah, ya slow wolf,” he roasted, readying haunches. “You’ll have to catch me first!”
In the distance, Dracula’s fists pounded against the houseforce fencing the vampires out while Adam’s red arms punched and chopped. They were barely able to hear Walter’s side of this talk; they almost did not need to.
“No, you cannot do this!” shrieked Dracula. “Alice!”
“How cruel is this fate!” blubbered Adam; each moment he came closer to tears, was filled more completely with pathos. “Beg for clemency and free yourself of senseless destruction, Walter!”
“Why don’t you hit me with your best shot?” Walter challenged. “I can outrun anything you dish out at me.” He wobbled a leg in boast. “Just watch me whip ‘em.”
“NAY, WHIPPLE, NAY!” wailed the two vampires.
But Walter was insensible to reason. He turned his back to Alice with a laugh, and Alice thumped the light gun against the back of his head. The trigger clicked and a single line, charged with ultraviolet powers, shot from the bulb. So Walter whipped his legs back and forth.