It was Fall 3001, and while change had come to NYDC, it was change that nobody had expected and few had wanted.
Many things had to be explained by the Brown House. The demolition of its vast underground prison, and the subsequent freedom of its incarcerated; the proportional decrease of werewolves to non- in his very own capital city, and the subsequent rise in hate crime; the degeneration and regeneration of the House itself; the revelation of alien life, followed by its abrupt, apparently anticlimactic develation. The existence of non-werewolves in space!
It was not possible for the House to save face. That meant Igor took the brunt of the blame—but amazingly, the more he took, the bolder he became.
Igor quietly halted future moon mining activities, saving the lunar lump from any further destruction. With no ceremony at all, he established a De-Werewolfinization Station in town, the first of its kind—utilizing the treatment that had been perfected long ago, but stashed away. More loudly he demanded, in a speech to the world-nation that garnered more listeners than any before or since, that all species, werewolf or no, must be not only tolerated, not only respected, but beloved, as fellow people.
“If the planet disagrees with me, I am unafraid to step down,” he said, his voice echoing across seas of people with keen pointy ears.
In truth, he was afraid, deathly so, and he gulped a gulp that all, thanks to the microphone, could hear. He expected instant fury. Indeed, there was fury, but what he got, overwhelmingly, was a cool reception.
Most werewolves were happy to remain werewolves. Few rioted when moon rock imports ceased; the dusty chunks had been harvested so deliriously that there would be a surplus of them for a full decade.
Slowly, over the languorous course of days, those who had never enjoyed werewolfdom came out of the shadows. They came to the Station in early morning when the streets were close to empty; when they left, no welcoming arms they met, but heckling, protests, and the antithesis of love, for a national policy does not equal a national truth!
Then one day, a miracle happened in New York D.C. What once had been a trickle of werewolves walking into the Station became a flood. It was like watching water pass through a rarefying filter. This sudden torrent of citizens was comprised of no citizens at all! The werewolfinized animals of the city had come, as if driven by group instinct, turning in their moons, flying in the sun! One werewolf became a fluttering goose; the next, a screaming chicken; a whole family of pigeons, a crowd of alley cats, little baby mice and shiny beetles!
The people of D.C. were so delighted by this gleaming gallimaufry that they came to agree: variety really is the spice of life!
Technically the Brown House was a public building, constructed as it was for the public good. Dracula liked to knock at the front door anyway—and as long as many citizens remained afraid of the mythic dread vampire, it was only polite. Especially now, in the thick of spooky night!
To his left, his right, and his abovespace, Brown House employees were de-hairing the house. Not completely; they merely picked off a hair here and a hair there. The idea was to better represent the planet’s demographics by matching the amount of hairs on the House to the percentage of werewolves on Earth.
Dracula knocked the knocker, and a lupine guard opened the opener. The guard smiled, gave a bow, and sent him without hesitation to the office in that famous oblong shape. Igor was expecting him.
Yet when he came to that wide-open door, he saw Igor on the holophone, its image disabled, paying not a lick of attention either to the doorway or to the moon-mining progress on the screen directly above it. He was splashed across his rolling chair, anxiously bobbing a crossed leg. Dracula patiently took his seat before Igor’s desk and tried not to eavesdrop too badly.
“No clubs,” Igor said emphatically. “Weapons away, self-defense only. You’ll be okay, you’ve got robot powers. Just keep watch and defend the public. I know we might look bad, but – wait, since when did you care about looking bad? …Okay, I apologize for saying that. Uncalled for. Just keep the peace. Say hi to Lara for me.” Igor hung up looking glum. When he raised his eyes to Dracula, he forced a smile.
“Well, Dracula…what are your demands?”
Was this the first thing Igor said? Not a message of welcome, but a cut to the chase, to the quick?
Dracula followed along. Whatever the tone of this talk was to be, Igor would set it. “The demands are as follows: refrain from werewolfening the planet Flutoid, save the moon, and…” He narrowed his eyes. “Allow me to overthrow the government.”
“Take it,” said the president, leaning back. “Happy to cede.”
Dracula saw the lie in him, mingled though it was with the exhaustion of recent events.
Toppling the World Government had never been one of Dracula’s desires until Alice suggested such a thing; he knew, however, how enticing the dream of a truly free, open, and equal society was to his monstrous fellows. If anyone could make it possible, surely it was an outcast – and one who remained so, one who did not, or could not, hide their hunchback.
Say that Igor really was extending an invitation to claim his throne. So be it. Here lies the opportunity, Count.
“You have enacted the first two terms,” Dracula determined. He did not know to what deep extent the words of First Lady Helen and former Supreme Commander and Head of Defense Alice Liddell, administered like spoons of medicine over the course of weeks, had influenced the president. It almost did not matter, so long as it was done in the name of justice. “Though if I were in your stead, I would execute it all with more haste.”
“It is a balancing act,” he sighed. “It’s not about my popularity anymore. It’s more…how do you do something without prodding the public psychology too hard? You can put a monster next door. Great. Now you have to keep them safe. You’ll need legions of guards around the block. And considering what happened with our prison lately…it’s a tall order.”
While the Brown House had been reconstructed by the flying saucer, the massive underground prisnabyrinth had not. Cheap, unfinished housing had been called into service, and Brown House public officials had set off hunting for more local doctors, more local jobs, to ensure more fully-stocked grocers…
The prison guards, too, were left without jobs, and without their subterranean homes. Their robo-bodies and dino DNA prevented them from becoming werewolves; while they were devoted to the public good and to their world-nation, as long as it was a wolf-world-nation they would never be considered full people. The Terminating Robot opted for a position as the city’s police chief, which did not inspire much cheer in the populace; his new co-workers, on the other hand, took a shine to him, and among them he was affectionately dubbed “The Robotic Cop.”
A suspecting snarl remained in Dracula’s chest. A snarl benevolent, wishing that Igor would move more quickly, with a fierce ambition. That he was not doing enough. Yet, it seemed quite something that every prisoner had gone free, and that no future trial awaited them. Quietly like a mouse in the rafters, Igor had removed “not a werewolf” from the dockets of crime.
If Dracula had one concrete, verifiable sticking point, it was Igor’s term limit.
“Tell me about your presidency,” he said.
“It’s over. Either next year, or next election cycle in 3004. Alice talked me out of it.”
Dracula’s eyebrow jimmied. “So you two do talk.”
“We do, on occasion. And I wish she would run. We need a strong contender to go up against Dan.”
“My knowledge of Earth politics has grown spotty as of late. Who is this ‘Dan?’”
“Oh, you don’t know?” Igor chucked not a winsome chuckle, but a chuckle that feared justice’s loss. “I used to have a political apprentice. We were going to prop him up as a hero, then a senator. Now he is the face of werewolf rights—really a misnomer, it should be ‘only werewolf rights.’ And he is campaigning already.” He grinned. “Anyone who hates me is for him.”
“But you have more allies than you know.”
There were no terms left to discuss; their topics of news had waned.
“I’m sorry I ignored you, Dracula. Not just now, but for the past…eternity.” He leaned forward, hands folded on the desktop. “From now on, this house is your house as long as I’m in it. I only wish you didn’t have to watch yourself in my streets.”
Slinking through sidestreets was second nature to him, and, in truth, he did not mind it. For such a man of the night, the gift of Igor’s home was more than enough.
“And I on my own behalf apologize,” said Dracula, a bony hand across his chest. “I have been unkind to you, and before bringing myself to your door, I should have taken greater pains to understand you.”
The moment hung heavy on them both. When two hearts are closed to one another—for whatever reason, from circumstance to vitriol—the path between them is barred, and like a dam it rises to block. A dam did not make that moment heavy; it was the dam’s destruction. Cataracts streamed from either side, swirling now in momentary whirlpools before their descents into the safe trespasses of the other one’s soul. They had well and truly met!
“How is…Adam?” Igor managed to say, though the moment, as you know, was heavy.
Grimace of regret! A pain swept over Dracula.
“Believe me, I am gladdened and surprised to hear you ask that,” he replied. “Through my own inaction, I lost contact with him. After our big burger meal at the North Pole, all in my squad parted ways: Trials returned to Stonehenge, Robert to the Galapagos, Alice with Jaw to find a new home somewhere aboard this wide and wonderful planet, and while I made plans to reconvene with you, I prepared to ride Bistritz anew.
“Adam, however, did not even take a speeder back to solid, non-icical land. Instead, he elected to walk toward, of all places, Siberia.”
He remembered the night. How could he not? In a drizzle of gold and snow it showered upon him, and the coins of reminiscence gleamed in his eye again. Cold fields made warm by burgers and angels…and the hearts of those he knew and, perhaps, in this flux future, could still better come to know. He remembered seeing Adam in the scanty clothes of a prisoner, lacking his hat, one eye replaced with a pit of many fathoms. He remembered the cheer aboard that face; it had struck him as the cheer of a man about to die.
Without anyone knowing just why he was smiling, the man amalgam trudged on through the wastes. One parting wave, and then…his figure was shrouded in snow.
“Instead of inquiring as to his plans, I figured it was better not to say anything,” Dracula admitted. “At the time, I assumed he preferred the silence. Now I wonder if I had been cold again.”
Igor said, “You can’t be hard on yourself for these things. Was there a right answer?”
“The right answer,” said the count with a shiver, “was not leaving him to die.”
“…Here he is, I found him.”
“His number, I looked it up.” The proof was in Igor’s hand: a hologrammic holophone directory.
“Oh!” Igor snapped his fingers. “I thought I knew him from somewhere!”
Dracula’s pupils shone with twin furnacent blazes. “Then we must call him!”
Igor laughed aloud again—a full-faced guffaw. “You can try. Somehow I doubt he’s going to be free for quite a while.”
“But when he is,” the party-planning fiend determined, “there will be a night—or at least a conversation—to remember!”