Monster Soap

Disclaimer by the Author

This is a novel I am trying to piece together for the "Camp NaNoWriMo" session in April of 2016. I am cheating a little bit because I am brainstorming ideas and trying to write out scenarios for characters as of 29 March 2016 (sue me).

When reading this, you feel a little out of place and confused, don't worry. This is what I am going to refer to as an "Ultra Rough Copy". Because I am planning on so many characters to be represented, I do not have a good feel for each of them yet.

That being said, I figure it would be easiest if I start with writing different scenarios for them and seeing how the characters develop.1

Please enjoy.



DR. WHIS CRITE: Attorney at Law

That was the sign posted on the door before I walked in. I wasn't so surprised that his title was arbitrary; his office was of the shady sort. No, I was more surprised at what I was doing in his office in the first place. I had little faith that he could help me with my problem. But, then again, I had no where else to turn.

I knocked lightly on the door and did not wait for a response before I gingerly pushed it open. "Hello?" I said quietly, peering carefully around the corner. "Mr. Crite?"

If his outer office had come off as shady then it did little justice to his inner office. It was the image of what I would imagine would be the definition of low level crime. The desk lamp was flickering and looked broken. The window was covered in what I could only guess was a tarp and duct tape. His desk was falling apart. Literally. The thing was split nearly in half and barely held together.

On top of the desk were mounds of paperwork all haphazardly scattered around the surface. There were pens laying askew everywhere and there seemed to be no clean space anywhere; not even on the floor.

"Hello." The voice behind me made me jump out of my skin and I had to clutch my hand to my chest in order to steady myself. My heart was still not beating and I relaxed in relief. I spun around to face the owner of the voice and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. It was a man with striking ocean blue eyes and a wonderful smile. His face was scruffy with a weeks' old beard and his eyes sparkled when he smiled. I was immediately stricken by him and I felt at ease in his presence.

"What can I do for you?" He finally asked after standing in the doorway to his office for several minutes. I was brought back abruptly to Earth and I quickly cleared my throat.

"I'm sorry," I apologized in embarrassment. I immediately startled rifling through my tote bag looking for my information as I talked. "I have a job for you, Mr. Crite."


I pulled my head up from looking for my papers. "Excuse me?" I asked.

"Doctor," he repeated cheerfully. "I know it sounds a little formal, but I like that extra touch."

I was silent as I glanced around the room and back at him several times in confusion. Finally I said, "But you're not a doctor."

"That's rude." Mr. Crite responded haughtily. He brushed past me and sat dramatically down at his desk. "I don't come into your office and claim that you're not a burlesque dancer."

"I'm not a burlesque dancer." I said slowly, still not following his train of thought.

"See." he said pointedly, as if he was making sense. "That's exactly what I'm talking about. I don't just assume things about you."

I was so lost. "Plus I don't have an office." I continued.

"Well I have an office." Mr. Crite responded. He sounded extremely smug.

I paused again for several minutes and waited to see if he would let me in on the joke. When he never did, I just shook my head and tried to brush it all off. I attempted to start our whole interaction all over again. "Look, Mr. Crite—"

"DOCTOR." He exclaimed. I was a little put off by his directness but I decided it was best to let him go. I needed his help so there was no point in killing him. And he did not smell like something I wanted to nibble on. I thought it best to just start over and tread carefully.

"Doctor," I repeated, hoping the emphasis would help ease the tension. It seemed to. He smiled smugly and sat back comfortably in his oversized office chair. "I came to you because I needed your help. I was told that you could…." I paused, biding time to find the right word I was looking for. "Find things."

Mr. Dr. Crite frowned thoughtfully and nodded his head. He tapped his finger on his chin before saying, "Go on."

I reached into my tote bag and pulled out a series of papers for him to look over. I gently pushed them across the desk to him. He picked them up and scanned the pages. I gave him a few minutes to go over the information and I waited. Finally he cleared his throat and looked back up at me.

"What does it say?" He asked.

"Well it's all there in front of you." I stated. I was about to continue when he interrupted.

"I'm going to let you in on a little secret." He said. He leaned forward on his desk and ushered me closer to him. Unsure as to why, I carefully leaned in. After looking around us for anyone overhearing (when no one else was in the office), he whispered to me: "I can't read."

I was dumbfounded. "What?" I choked out as I pulled away. "I don't understand." Mr. Crite shrugged and leaned back in a very laissez faire attitude.

"I just never had the patience for it." He waved the conversation aside as if it was not a complication.

"I don't understand." I paused, struggling to keep my brain wrapped around the chaos that was Dr. Whis Crite. "How can you be a doctor if you don't read?"

Dr. Crite shrugged. "Not all knowledge is book knowledge, young one." He said wisely. I scoffed.

"Being a doctor is!" I shouted. I was losing patience. Even more so when Mr. Crite shook his head.

"No." He answered. As if that solved everything. As I opened my mouth to continue my protest, he interrupted. "Now may we go along with the case? What can I help you find?"

I was in shock. What confidence. What arrogance. What grace.

What a poof.

After debating it over in my head for several minutes, I reminded myself that I had no other choice in the matter. Sighing heavily, I hid my groan as I tried to explain my case.

"I am missing something that needs found." I started.

"Well that's a little obvious," he joked. "I mean, if you knew where it was, it wouldn't need finding." I clutched my fists to my sides in frustration but tried to remain calm.

"Yes, well." I said gruffly as I fought through my irritation. "You see, what I am looking for is my pet."

"Ah." Dr. Crite seemed to perk up right away at this information. "I see. And what kind of pet is it? A goldfish? A kitty cat? A zebra?"

I was confused on that last one. "Handled many missing zebra cases, do you?" I asked. Mr. Crite nodded enthusiastically.

"Oh, yes. They go missing more than you think. They are extremely good at hiding. You think they wouldn't be, but those black and white colors really do go with everything." He was fishing through his desk while he was talking and he seemed to find what he was looking for. Triumphantly he pulled out his pad and pen. "So what kind of animal is it?"

"Well…." I had not really prepared myself for the response I was going to get. I was a little worried about his reaction. But I had already told him enough, I might as well finished the whole story. "It's nothing like a cat or a goldfish."

"Or a zebra?"

"No. Not a zebra either. It's more of a….well…… a dog?"

"Oh good." Mr. Crite seemed thrilled. "I like dogs. So what kind of dog are we talking? Pit bull? German Shepard? Rottweiler? A terrier of some kind?"

"Well….." I again paused, trying to stall. I wasn't sure how he would handle the information once it was given to him. But I knew that there was only one way to find out. Sighing heavily, I came clean. "He's more of a….three…"

Mr Crite nodded his head as the explanation floated through his ears. I was waiting in anticipation for a negative reaction but one never seemed to come. When I finally allowed myself to relax, I saw his face fall. It just hit him what I had said.

"Wait." He stopped and stood up at his desk. "Are you telling me that you lost a three headed dog!?"

"Well…." There came the stalling again. "Maybe not a three headed dog. Maybe…uhm…. the three headed dog?" I braced myself for the blow out.

"YOU LOST CERBERUS!!???" He shouted. You could hear his voice echoing out of his office and down on the street. I tried to gesture at him to be quiet but he refused. "You lost the dog of the Crown of Hell? How….how did that even happen?!"

"I'm the Lord's dog walker," I started. "And I took him out to the River Styx and we were playing and…he kinda….ran……"

Mr. Crite was running his fingers through his hair. He looked pale and sweaty. He was in shock. "How can…how did you….what will he…" He kept muttering half questions to himself under his breath and pacing a short distance back and forth behind his desk. I waited anxiously for him to calm down and let me know how he could help me.

When he did finally calm down a little, he did something I did not expect. He picked up all the papers I had given me and he threw them at me. "Get out of my office. I can't help you." He came around his desk and proceeded to push me towards the door. I attempted to dig my feet into the floor and stop him but he was stronger than I had expected.

"But I need your help!" I pleaded with him as he tossed me out onto the other side of his office door. He just laughed.

"You're on your own, kid." He then slammed the door in my face and it began to disappear in a light whiff of smoke.

I sighed heavily and sat down hard onto the now abandoned floor. "I'm boned." I muttered to myself.

CHAPTER TWO: Creatures Anonymous

The leader of the group looked around at the people beginning to filter in off the streets. He sighed heavily when he saw Mr. Gillman stroll in. He never looked forward to Mr. Gillman's presence in the group. He was very nonchalant about his previous actions and it was very hard to remain calm when he knew what a disruption Mr. Gillman caused.

As the leader started down Mr. Gillman, he caught the creature's attention. Gillman stopped midstep and smiled at the social worker. He knew very well that he made the nervous little man uneasy. A part of him just relished in it.

The lead social worker stood up nervously and had to clear his throat several times to get the attention of those around him. "If you would kindly take your seats," he said quietly, gesturing awkwardly around the room. "We can all begin." He slowly sat down and waited for all to be seated.

Mr Gillman, knowing that doing so would aggravate the man, chose a seat directly across the circle from the social worker. He began by smiling at him. He stifled a chuckle when he saw the social worker visibly wince.

When everyone was seated, the social worker began the formalities. "I would like to welcome you all, again, to C.A. For those of you who may be new, C.A. stands for 'Creatures Anonymous'." He waited a few beats to see if anyone in the group would voluntarily state that they were new members, but nobody took the bait. So he cleared his throat and continued.

"I would like to remind everyone here that everything that is said within these walls is confidential. That is to promote open sharing and non judgment amongst ourselves. The goal of this group is healing. Now would anyone like to go first?" The man looked around the room anxiously, waiting again for someone to volunteer.

Nobody did.

The social worker held his breath and nervously played with the creases on his pants. He continued to look around the room, silently pleading with anyone to come forward. No one offered.

Finally someone spoke up. "I'll start."

The social worker was so thrilled and relieved that someone had finally volunteered, but his hopes were dashed when he realized it was Mr. Gillman who volunteered. The man suppressed a large groan and had to remind himself that he was there for the healing process only. He lowered his head and gestured for Mr. Gillman to continue.

Mr. Gillman obliged. "I still don't see the point of any of this." He began. The social worker was trying harder than ever to keep himself from screaming at the creature. This was a repeat performance from every meeting the Gillman had ever attended. He was very disruptive.

Yet the social worker knew that his job was very simple. He was to listen to the thoughts and emotions brought forward by his group and offer guidance and support. Nothing more. Certainly it was not in his job description to call out members of his group.

So he remained calm.

"Would you like to elaborate?" The social worker asked, through gritted teeth.

"All I did was kidnap this white woman."

The social worker was shocked. He had heard the story many times, but never told quite in that way. It took a few moments for him to realize that the Gillman was just taunting him. It took a couple of the group members chuckling quietly for him to understand.

His fists tightened at his sides but he still did not take the bait.

"And you don't understand why that is bad?" The social worker asked. He could feel himself losing patience. Yet, what bothered him more, was that he knew the Gillman could sense it as well.

Mr. Gillman shrugged. "I mean she kinda was asking for it."

"Asking for it?"

"She was swimming in my swamp." Mr. Gillman replied matter-of-factly. "She knew that something was out there watching them all, yet she went swimming in my swamp."

The social worker halted. For the first time since Mr. Gillman had come into his group, it was the first time he remembered Mr. Gillman making a valid point.

He shook his head to shake the thought away.

"But you abducted her. That was wrong."

Mr. Gillman shrugged apathetically again and leaned back in his chair in a very laissez faire mood. "Says the justice system, maybe."

The social worker growled. "That is precisely why you are here." He snapped. He felt the air of the room change and he was immediately aware of the change in behavior for himself. He sighed heavily and quickly regained his composure. He could sense that the other members of the group were still sitting on the edges of their seats but he tried his best to remain calm and return the atmosphere to normal.

Mr. Gillman, however, looked very pleased with himself in his seat across the circle from the social worker. He was even smiling.

It was a little over an hour later and the group had been dismissed. People were either milling around the room and munching on the provided cookies and coffee; or they were waiting for rides to go home. Mr. Gillman was standing against the back wall. He had a cup of coffee in his hand in a small Styrofoam cup. He stood leaning in the shadows, keeping a close eye on those around him. He didn't converse much with the creatures in the group with him. He still felt like he had nothing in common with them. Their problems were so trivial compared to others and he knew he was the only one there who was forced to be.

"Why do you say such things to the social worker?"

The random appearing voice scared the Gillman and he nearly jumped out of his skin. He looked frantically around the room for the owner of the voice and did not see anyone. It took him a few beats to realize that he had to lower his gaze several feet.

There, standing no taller than his waistline, was his good friend, Igor.

Gillman sighed heavily and placed his webbed hand on his chest. "You scared me." he admitted. Igor shrugged and nodded.

"I get that a lot." He replied. "But seriously: why do you have to torture the man so much? You know how he gets?"

"Pfft," Gillman grunted dismissively. "He deserves it. He's such a nervous wreck."

Igor laughed. "You would be too if every time you were mad, you started fading away into nothingness. Give the guy a break."

"Oh big deal." Gillman mocked. "So he gets a little mad and disappears. He's the invisible man."

"Yes, but he also has one hell of a scary temper when he's invisible. All those chemicals running through his system like that. I mean, you know how it is."

"No," Mr. Gillman replied flatly, staring at his companion with a blank look on his face. "Not really."

Igor shrugged. "Whatever," he responded and waved his hand dismissively. "Let's get going. I'm starving tonight. My treat."

The two pals ended up at a local watering hole in town called the Grateful Undead: Bar & Grille. It was a local hangout for all the people in town who were not really people because they were monsters.

Igor and Gillman got a corner table in the back of the establishment. Gillman chose to sit with his back facing the wall so he could look at all the patrons around them. He was so busy watching everybody else that he didn't hear his buddy talking to him.

Igor cleared his throat loudly and had to pound his fist on the table before he got his friend's attention. "I said," He repeated, annoyed. "Is this place going to be ok for you to be?"

"Yeah." Gillman replied, nonchalantly trying to relax in his seat. His attempt only made his demeanor feel more uncomfortable. "Why do you ask?"

"Because you've got that look in your eye like you might maul someone." Igor replied calmly.

Gillman knew his friend was right. It was hard to ignore his urges. He just wanted to kidnap a white woman. He didn't know why he wanted to do it; he just knew that the urge was overwhelming.

Yet the majority of the people around them were monsters, and that seemed to dull his urges a little. For some reason, he only needed to abduct human white females.

Gillman noticed the look of skepticism on his friend's face and he sighed. "I'm alright." He reassured his friend, a hint of irritation in his voice. "You can trust me."

"Well…." Igor began slowly. "It's just that you haven't been taking these groups seriously and we're all a little worried you're headed for a relapse."

"We?" Gillman hooked himself onto that one pronoun. "Who's 'we'? Have you been talking to that snake social worker behind my back?!" To say that his attitude had turned to fury would have been a tad of an understatement.

"Stop that. You know damn well that Dr. Griffin is not a snake. He's invisible." Igor paused for a beat and cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Sometimes."

"But you're still talking to him about me." Gillman retorted, concentrating on the obvious. He did not wait for his friend to provide an explanation. He immediately stood up from his seat and threw his lap napkin down on the table in anger. "I can not believe you!" Gillman continued to vent. "You know how little I think of that man and you go behind my back and discuss things about me with him!?" Lost for any more words to visualize his rage, he stormed away from the table and left the midget with the bill.

Gillman wandered the streets, still fuming. He had been walking for more than an hour and he still felt adrenaline pulsing through his body, fueled by rage. How dare that little nothing talk about him to that CLOWN of a shrink. He wasn't even a shrink; he was a chemist. More than that, he was a bona fide loony.

After Gillman had been walking for quite a while, he realized that he had managed to calm down a little. He was no longer red lining in anger. He began to take a look around him and find his bearings. Much to his surprise, he first realized that he was unfamiliar with the landmarks around him. The second realization that hit was that he was no longer in his own village amongst the monsters.

He was in humans town.2

Fearful of himself for the first time in quite a while, his first instinct was to look for somewhere to hide. He was in luck because right next to where he had been standing was a small fenced off area with a pool. It was late into the night and the pool was vacant. It even appeared to be closed to the public.

Not ever worrying about rules such as closing times, Gillman slipped in through the gates and managed to find a nice hiding place while he tried to think of how to get back home. His eyes kept scanning the horizon for any clues to which direction he should take. After several minutes, he finally noticed the light from his village's town square in the far distance. He knew he would only have to move toward that light and he would be home free in about an hour.

Gillman was just about to ninja-sneak through the town towards his own home when a sound disrupted his motions. He heard a soft splash in the pool water. Scared that he had read the humans' sign wrong, and the pool was not really closed, Gillman scanned the surface of the water quickly. At first he saw nothing but gentle ripples in the chlorine concentrated water. But after several seconds, a head emerged from underneath the waters' surface.

Gillman froze.

"A white woman," he mouthed silently to himself.

There she was. A white woman, no more than twenty. She had long dirty blonde hair that clung to her shoulders from the water. Her back was to Gillman so he could not see her face, but he did not mind. He stared lustfully after her and waited for her to turn around.

She swam gently through the water. Gillman thought she was very graceful but it also occurred to him that she was being so quiet because the pool was, in fact, closed. She needed to keep silent so as not to be thrown out.

Gillman hid in his spot for several minutes just watching her gently floating through the water. He thought about how to approach her, but he thought going up to her and introducing himself to her seemed like a bad idea. She might scream. So he waited for an opportunity.

One almost passed him by when he realized that she was pulling herself out of the water. He was horrified. That Kay woman had never taken such a short swim before. He did not even know humans swam for short periods of time. He looked around him for something to get the woman's attention. He could not let her go.

His eyes finally fell on a rock laying near one of the reclining pool chairs. Gillman winced. Rocks were tricky. Sometimes they ended up being too forceful and hurting the white women more than he wanted. Sometimes they never got up. Yet seeing no other resources, Gillman settled on the rock.

Gillman hurriedly and silently moved across the ground towards the young white woman. As he snuck up behind her undetected, he raised the hand with the rock and quickly beat her over the back of the head.

The woman crumpled to the ground.

Gillman remained motionless as he waited for a sign of movement. Nothing happened. As Gillman leaned down to inspect the body, he realized there was a thin trickle of blood leading to the spot where he had struck her.

Gillman groaned and slowly stood up again. He tossed the rock to the ground and turned away from the woman. He began walking towards home alone.

Rocks were always tricky.

Next week….. Creatures Anonymous meeting

"Is there anything anyone would like to discuss with the group today?" Dr. Griffin asked the group. Like he always did, he did not expect anyone to volunteer. Yet he was hopeful.

To his fear, Gillman raised his hand. "I would like to say something." Dr. Griffin felt his fear subside. He was pleasantly surprised that Gillman had offered to speak up without making up some obnoxious story to derail the group's concentration.

Dr. Griffin actually felt himself smiling and his hopes slowly rise. "Go ahead, Mr. Gillman." he said cheerfully. "You have our attention."

Gillman sighed heavily and took several seconds in order to speak. Dr. Griffin expected it was because Gillman was having a hard time coming clean with his emotions. He was all too happy to patiently wait as Gillman made progress on his own behalf.

"I killed another white woman." Gillman finally said.

Dr. Griffin's face fell. All his hope went flying out the window, never to be heard from again. His heart sunk lower in his chest. He quickly asked himself why he even bothered to invest time in this nut case when he stopped himself. He sternly and calmly reminded himself that he needed to remain calm and supportive. Without saying a word, and against his better judgment, he gestured for Gillman to have the floor and speak openly.

"Rocks are tricky." Gillman muttered.

CHAPTER THREE: Me, Myself and…Zombies?

Down a long flight of winding stairs and through a few hidden passageways lay a secret room under ground from the main house. The room was large, with vaulted ceilings. There were few light fixtures, allowing any shadows cast in the room to be tall and looming. It was Igor's favorite room in the whole house. Mostly because he felt tall again.

Igor was cleaning out the beakers and flasks in the sink by the far wall. He had little light to work with, but that never bothered him. What did bother him was that he knew his master never worked with the beakers and flasks, so Igor wasn't sure why they constantly needed washing. Yet Igor never said anything to his boss. He was worried it would remove his job security.

Igor hummed to himself a jolly little tune as he worked. He enjoyed working for his master. They had been through some tough pickles in the past, yet they seemed to get the hang of working together. His boss had gone through a phase in the past where he succeeded in reanimating dead tissue but he had outgrown that phase. His creature (as he called him. Everyone else called him Frank Jr.) had even calmed down from his initial psychotic state. He was married now and he and his bride had their own created daughter. The two men, Creature and Creator, would get together at least once a month to reminisce and potluck.

Yet the Great Dr. Frankenstein still had a fascination with the dead. More accurately, he had a fascination with the undead. Igor did not completely enjoy his boss' new hobby. Reanimated bodies made from various corpses were one thing, but the undead smelled bad. It was one thing to just be dead, but it's another when that dead being walks around and gets dirty and can't bathe themselves.

Igor shuddered at the thought. He did not want to be the one responsible for washing the zombies. He had nightmares about it, and Dr Frankenstein had not even broached the subject with his subordinate yet.

Igor finished washing the last of the beakers and he jumped down from his stepping stool in front of the sink. He grabbed a nearby hand towel and began to dry off his hands. He looked around the lab pleasantly.

That was when he heard the noise. It was a low, primeval groan. Igor immediately froze in place and only darted his eyes back and forth to see how close the creature was to him. To his horror, the zombie was hovering over him.

Igor jumped back several feet. Something about the rotting flesh of a zombie gave him a sickly feeling in his gut. He had wished every day that Dr Frankenstein would get over his current obsession with the undead and move on to something more pleasant.

Like rabbits. Or chickens.

Igor slowly continued to back away from the zombie but the creature only moved closer. Igor found himself panicked when he realized that he had pinned himself against the back corner of the lab and the zombie was closing in. He started to look around for any weapon within reach but everything seemed to be up too high. He silently cursed himself and braced for painful death when a realization hit him.

The zombie was not attacking.

Igor opened his eyes cautiously and watched the zombie, waiting. He was puzzled. Why was the zombie not attacking him?

He then noticed that the zombie was waving its arms around wildly. Igor blinked several times, trying to understand. Was it really trying to communicate with him? He tried to decipher what the zombie was saying but he could not translate. The arm movements were too unpredictable.

At that moment, Dr Frankenstein intervened. He had wandered into the lab after his lunch break and had found his faithful assistant backed up against the wall. He noticed his prized zombie was trying to communicate. Thrilled at the progress, Dr Frankenstein rushed over and stepped between the zombie and Igor. "What is it, boy?" Dr Frankenstein asked with the fervor like speaking to a puppy. "What are you trying to say?" He waited in heightened anticipation for the zombie to speak to him.

Igor could sense the excitement flowing from his employer. He could also sense when the thrill seemed to slowly diminish. Dr. Frankenstein's body relaxed in disappointment. He sighed heavily and moved around the zombie. He grabbed something from one of the stainless steel medical tables and turned back to his creature. He clicked the leash in his hand onto the collar around the zombie's neck and led him away towards the back of the room.

Igor knew his boss was extremely disappointed so Igor did his best to try and cheer him up. "He was talking. I could tell." Igor said brightly. "But what was he saying?"

"He said 'argh'." Dr. Frankenstein responded bitterly before leading his zombie into its cage.

Dr Frankenstein had been an accredited professor once; a great doctor. He had instincts in the field that his peers never even dreamed of possessing. He was intelligent, witty, ambitious and extremely analytical.

But then, one day, he just went silly.

Most everyone knows the story of what he tried to create in his lab; what he did create. He thought himself a genius and an inventor of life; in a way more specialized than becoming a parent. Hell he had sewn together pieces of other bodies and basically redneck-rigged together a creature. It was magnificent.

The public never saw it quite that way, however. They called him a "quack" and a "spazz" and a "delusional maniac". He felt ostracized from the community he loved; the community he had spent so much of his life servicing. It was true that he couldn't answer the basic question of why a reanimated being would be useful but the reason was not the point. It was simply that he had created something wonderful.

Yet everyone shunned him. He hid away in his lab for many years, alone. Occasionally Igor was there, but most of the time he wss alone. He did not even know the fate of the creature he had created. For a while, he had simply assumed that the public had raised up against the creature and killed it. It was a great surprise, therefore, when Dr. Frankenstein found out years later that his creature was alive. He was not only alive, but he had created a wife for himself. Together they had created a young girl

They were a family. Yes, perhaps a horribly disfigured and gory sort of family, but they were accepted by the populace. Dr Frankenstein knew that if the family of reanimated flesh could be accepted by everyone, then he could as well.

He was wrong.

He had tried to come back out into the public eye. Yet everyone hated him still. He could not understand why. His creature was a pillar of the village; a hero to them. How could their hero's very creator be shunned?

Dr Frankenstein fled in upset. He ran back to his lab and shut himself back in. He refused to never show his face again and the community as a whole seemed relieved.

Yet there was one among them that felt pity on the old doctor. It was none other than the creature himself. He had tracked down Dr Frankenstein and the two reconnected.

After that evening with his creature, Dr Frankenstein had vowed to find a new way to do something good for the world as a whole. He did research for hours and contemplated the perfect object of study. Finally, after weeks of searching, he came across his new experiment. It was going to revolutionize the human/zombie relationship. No longer would the zombies hunt humans and try to eat their flesh. The humans would be able to communicate with the souls of the undead and understand why the zombies wanted to eat them. Maybe they could come to some sort of compromise.

Dr Frankenstein was thrilled. It was brilliant. He could become a hero among the people again. He would be adored and honored. After all, what was more important in life than understanding between species and cultures?

The project had started several years before, and that led us to Dr. Frankenstein in the present. After locking away his most promising zombie in its cage, he slumped in the chair in front of his desk and sighed heavily. He buried his head deep within his arms and refused to look up.

He was at a loss. Four years of his life seemed to be slipping away from him. He could not understand why communication with those creatures did not seem possible. He was the one who was able to not only reanimate dead tissue, but inspire that creature to do the same thing. Yet in the wake of his recent problem, the challenge of speaking with undead zombies seemed astronomical. They did not want to speak English, German, Dutch, Japanese, Mandarin, Thai, Spanish, French, Italian, Swahili. Dr. Frankenstein was a speaker of many tongues, yet he could not find the right one to connect. His latest attempt, American Sign Language, also seemed to be a complete failure.

Dr Frankenstein groaned loudly in frustration and sadness. He lifted his head several inches off the surface of the desk before he let it fall with a loud THUNK on the wooden surface.

"Ow," Frankenstein muttered softly.

The doctor heard the door to his lab open and he raised his head in curiosity to see who it was. Igor was not expected back for several hours and he was expecting no visitors. He had mixed feelings when he saw the person who began to descend the steps into his lab.

"Hello, creature." Dr Frankenstein greeted his monster.

"Actually they call me Frank now." His creature, Frank, corrected. It must have been the twentieth time he had reminded Dr Frankenstein of that fact, but the smile on his face showed that he did not mind. His voice was even cheerful when he said it. "How are you doing, doc?"

Frankenstein sighed heavily and let his head hang. He knew it was pointless to try to lie to his creature. After all, he might be the only son the doctor would ever have. "Not well. Not well at all. The zombies are still not talking."

"Oh, really?" Frank asked quizzically. He looked over his shoulder and spied the one in the cage towards the back wall. He started to walk over to it. "I thought this one was your special one, too. I thought you said he showed promise."

"He did." Frankenstein sighed again, pulling himself up from his chair. "But he can only sign 'argh'. I thought, at the time, that that was only the start of a word. Like argument. Or augment. Or August. Or even 'argh, matey'. But, no. Just. 'Argh'."

"Hmm," Frank frowned. "Well that's disappointing." The doctor threw up his hands in disgust and only nodded his head. He started rifling through the pages on his desk and did not notice when his creature nervously stepped from foot to foot. "Look, doc," Frank finally broke the silence. He sounded and looked awkward. "There was something I wanted to talk to you about. You know…if you can spare me a minute."

Frankenstein looked up from his papers, surprised. His creature had never asked him anything like that before. Not knowing how else to respond, Frankenstein simply nodded his head. "Go ahead." he replied.

"Well my daughter, Clarisse. You remember Clarisse, right?" Frankenstein nodded his head in response even though he did not remember his creature's daughter at all. "Well," Frank continued. "She is going to get married in a few days and I thought it would be nice for you to come to her wedding."

"Who on earth is she marrying?" Frankenstein asked. His creature seemed not to notice the horror in his voice because he replied without missing a beat.

"His name's Emilio. They met when Clarisse was studying abroad in Russia last summer. Anyway I would really appreciate it if you could make an appearance. It would mean a lot to our family."

Dr Frankenstein paused for a few minutes and let the idea filter through his head. He couldn't think of anything better he was doing that day, so he agreed. "I'll be there." He promised. Frank seemed relieved.

"Thank you so much, doc. You'll enjoy it, I promise." He took something out of his pocket and handed it over to his creator. Frankenstein looked it over. "All the information you need for the wedding." Frank explained. The doctor nodded his head in understanding.

After the two 'friends' had said their farewells and agreed to meet each other again at the wedding, Dr Frankenstein went back to his desk. That extra pep in his step was back and he seemed to be brimming with excitement. He grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down one word: "Russian".

He stood back and thought about his note for a few beats. Perhaps he wouldn't remember in the future what the note meant. Deciding he should make it clearer, he crossed out the word 'Russian' and instead wrote: "Kidnap the Russian groom to help with Russian communication with zombies".

CHAPTER FOUR: The Complicated Clarisse

"Do you think they'll go through with it?"

"Why not? The wedding's already paid for."

"Yeah, but do you think… you think he knows?"

"How could he not? Everybody else does."

"Do you know what I heard? I heard that the only reason they're getting married is because he's gay and he wants to get away from his possessive lover and flee to the U.S."

"Well I heard that it's because her father is demanded she be married before she's twenty, and this is the only man who can stand to be around her for more than five minutes."

There were echoes of judgmental giggles down the hall as three women dressed as bridesmaids whispered to one another. They were at their mutual acquaintance's wedding. They were bridesmaids only because they were the only ones who volunteered. The bride-to-be did not really have a lot of friends.

The three women stopped gossiping in the halls when they heard footsteps leading from the opposite end. They glanced down the hallway and laid eyes on the infamous Creature made by Dr. Frankenstein. Not knowing what might happen to them all if they were found talking trash about his beloved daughter, they fled down the hallway.

Frank did not even notice the three bimbos in ridiculous dresses. He was on his way to his little girl's dressing room. He came to the door and placed his hand on the doorknob. But he stopped himself before entering. He was overwhelmed with pride. He had always hoped that this day would come but he had never thought he would be alive to see it. He was so thrilled about his daughter's choice in a groom and he was ecstatic to bring the man into his family.

Frank nervously adjusted his bow tie for the nth time before he knocked lightly on his beloved daughter's door. "Pumpkin?" He asked, slowly opening the door. "Are you decent?"

"Yes, dad." Came the reply. Frank breathed a silent sigh of relief and slipped into his daughter's dressing room. He prepared to beam at his beautiful daughter in her gorgeous — and very expensive — gown. Yet what he saw made his jaw drop. He was horrified.

Instead of a beautiful woman standing in front of him, all dolled up and dressed like a proper lady, there stood a creature cosplaying as Two-Face. One half of her body was wearing the beautiful — and expensive — dress that Frank and his wife had bought for their daughter on her special day. On the other side, she was wearing a deep blue tuxedo.

"What the hell is this?" Frank shrieked when he finally regained his voice.

His daughter, Clarisse, looked down at her outfit and frowned. She seemed disappointed. "You don't like it?" She asked, hurt.

Frank, having always had a soft side for his precious daughter, wanted to respond with sympathy and compassion. Instead he said, "It's complete crap! What did you do to your wonderful dress?!"

Clarisse shrugged. "This feels more like me." She replied.

Frank was dumbfounded. "What the hell are you talking about!?"

"I feel like this is a better fit for me, dad. Isn't that what today is all about?"

"NO!" Frank screamed.

For the next several minutes, screams from father and daughter could be heard down the halls of the wedding area. Shouts of "you never understand me!" and "this is not why I brought you into this world!" were heard even down to the village streets. Birds flew off buildings for effect. People not invited to the wedding would hear the drama unfolding and really wished they could see it with their own eyes.

It was a mad house.

After several painful and long minutes, Frank came storming out of his daughter's dressing room and slammed the door so hard, the wood splintered. "The wedding's off!" He bellowed throughout the building. "Everyone get their stuff and get the hell out!"

As Frank stormed down the hallways and trying to throw guests out of windows, his wife, Francis, follows closely behind. She manages to catch most of the guests before they fled (sadly she missed the ones tossed out the windows) and she assured them there was just a small hiccup in the ceremony. She then follows her husband to a private room and traps him inside.

"How dare you speak to our daughter like that!" She hissed at him, trying to keep her voice down. He decided he was not going to do the same.

"She is a fool!" He shouted. More birds flew off the roof of the building for effect. Francis threw a book at her husband.

"You know how confused she is right now. There is a lot of pressure on her today and you promised to be supportive of what she's going through."

"Maybe I said that." Frank responded gruffly. His wife could sense the oncoming 'but' so she spoke quickly to cut him off and avoid it.

"You did." She retorted. "Dr Griffin said that it was important for Clarisse to feel safe in expressing herself. It is the only way she can make any progress into being a cohesive self. You promised me you would work on that. So explain to me why, on arguably the biggest day of our daughter's life, you had to go and pick a fight with her?"

Frank lowered his head in shame. It was then that Francis knew she had gotten through to her stubborn mule of a husband. She sighed in relief and managed a small smile at him. "I know this is hard," she said sympathetically as she began to walk closer to her husband. "But it's for Clarisse's sake. We need to deal with this."

Frank nodded his head solemnly. He felt that he had let his daughter down and that made him feel awful. Francis, sensing her husband's sadness, gently placed her hand on his chest. He looked up and their eyes met. She smiled at him. "It's ok." She reassured him. "Now, let's go to the wedding. You have a daughter to give away."

The wedding was well underway and everyone was waiting patiently for the bride. When the doors to the wedding area opened, in walked the bride to be and her beaming father. All the monsters in attendance stood up in respect and smiled at Clarisse. She was arguably the happiest identity confused monster that was ever going to be married.

As father and daughter slowly walked down the long aisle to the gothic tune of "Here Comes the Bride", something funny caught Frank's eye. He looked up in horror and stopped walking. Clarisse, at first, was horrified and embarrassed by her dad's actions and tried to kick him to get him walking again. When he didn't, she started to follow his eye line to see what he was staring at. The rest of the guests did the same.

There was a collaborative gasp before a short high pitched scream and a 'thunk'. All the attention turned towards the bride to be when she fell to the ground in a dead faint.

"Where is the groom!?" The best man shrieked. He knelt down to the floor where his best friend had stood only moments earlier. Instead of the groom's shoes occupying the spot, there was instead a large gaping hole. It looked like a trap door.

"What happened to the groom?" Frank boomed to everyone in attendance. But nobody seemed to know.

Something else that nobody seemed to know was that there was someone else also missing from the group.

Back at the Lair…

"I don't understand what you are wanting me to do, sir." The groom said, his voice high pitched in panic.

"It's very simple." The other missing guest replied. His tone was hard, like he was running out of patience. "You are from Russia, correct?"

"Yes, but —"

"Then am I correct in assuming that you speak Russian?"

"Yes, but I don't understand!" he groom protested.

"I want you to speak to my creature in Russian and see if you can communicate with him. It's very simple."

The groom looked at said creature in horror and disgust. It was lurched to one side, it's mouth hanging open. What appeared to be dried blood was stained to the waxy skin of the creature and it was groaning.

"But…it's a zombie…" The groom stated, still confused.

"Yes, it's a zombie." Dr Frankenstein agreed. "And you are going to speak to it."

"For how long?" The groom asked, his voice still shaking. He could not keep his eyes off the zombie in case it lunged at him. He did not even notice that his kidnapper was, at that moment, walking away from him.

"Until he speaks back!" Dr Frankenstein shouted before slamming the thick steel door behind him.

CHAPTER FIVE: A Giant Napoleon Complex

The wind howled through the streets of the small village with great intensity. Many townspeople at first thought that the sounds were coming from a band of vicious werewolves, so they hid wisely indoors. But they were all silly, because it was just the wind.

Not too long after the winds began, the rain followed suit. It came down in angry vengeance against the ground, slapping the earth with a fury of a thousand bitch slaps. Drunk sorority girls would have been impressed at the violent rage of the rain's fall.

The thunder clapped in a low baritone overhead as lightning snaked across the dark sky. It was definitely not a night for lovers to take a peaceful stroll.

Down past the train tracks on the other side of town stood a run-of-the-mill little shack called the "End of the Line Bar". It had nothing like the hipster bars that had moved into the main areas of the village. This was a dark and shadowy place. It was old and creaked with each gust of wind. It was a place where no man usually tread.

On that night, the bar was a little busier than usual. The weather was to blame for that. Yet the clientele still remained of the riff-raff sort. Some had eye patches to cover their missing eyes; others had leg patches to cover their missing legs. As a whole, they were not an inviting crowd. Yet they were Mr. Rogers in comparison to who was going to enter the bar next.

The small crowd within the bar were all drinking their drinks quietly. There was an occasional interruption to the silence by way of a snort, a harsh cough or a spit. But none of the patrons talked to one another. Even the bartender said not a word. He knew all the folks who had ever set foot into his bar and all they had to do was approach the counter and nod. The bartender would nod back and slide you over your drink. One would be impressed with how many usual orders the bartender had memorized. And then you would feel foolish because the man only served two things at his bar: beer from the tap and whiskey. It wasn't hard keeping track of the folks who drank whiskey, and the folks who liked their beer.

There came a loud CRASH at the door and the majority of the crowd moved more in reaction to that noise than they had all evening. They all looked towards the entrance to the bar in curiosity. When the individual stomped his way into the bar, he was greeted with groans and growls from everyone inside.

In the doorway stood a large man. He was about eight or nine feet tall, stocky. He had long tangled brown hair and an even longer brown-grey beard. He looked angry and mean. He stormed into the bar and threw himself down on one of the bar stools. The stool crumpled underneath his weight and he growled low within his throat.

All those who had been sitting next to the large man quickly switched seats. The few creatures in the bar who did not already know who the man was didn't seem to want to know him. He had a great air of anger about him and he did not give off any warm and fuzzy feelings to those around him.

"Beer." The massive creature barked at the bartender. The bartender seemed momentarily taken aback by the order but he brushed it off without argument. He simply poured the beer into a foggy glass and quickly moved away from the man's side of the bar.

The man downed his beer in one large gulp and slammed the mug down on the bar. The force of the motion caused the mug to smash into a thousand pieces. This caused all those in the bar to instinctively step back a few steps. Even the few who had been gaining liquid courage to go try and pick a fight with the man instantly sobered up and backed down.

The man, finally noticing that everyone in the bar had their eye(s) in him, stood up quickly and looked down at all of them. All those present could tell that the creature was furious. "WHAT ARE YOU ALL STARING AT!?" The man bellowed. One might think that he was always yelling when, in fact, his voice was just normally four times louder than any other creatures'. "ARE YOU ALL STARING AT MY SIZE?"

Everyone in the room started to collectively nod their heads. They felt they at least needed to be honest with him.

The man sighed in frustration and lowered his head. "I KNOW IT'S BECAUSE YOU ALL THINK I AM SO SMALL AND YOU CAN PICK ON ME."

The air in the room shifted drastically from cautious honesty to utter confusion. They all started sharing glances among themselves and whispering.

"Did he really just say that?"

"He thinks he's small?"

"How can he think he's small when he can see over all of us without lifting his head?"

The whispers continued for several minutes before the giant grew frustrated and let out a short spastic yell. All chatter within the bar instantly ceased. "I KNOW IT'S BECAUSE I'M SMALL. WELL, I REALLY DON'T WANT TO GET INTO ANY PISSING CONTESTS WITH ANYONE OVER IT TONIGHT. I KNOW I GET PICKED ON A LOT BECAUSE PEOPLE THINK THEY CAN SHOVE ME AROUND BUT NOT TONIGHT. TONIGHT, I JUST WANT A DRINK." With that, realizing he had already drank his drink, he left the bar without another word.

Everyone he left behind were all stunned into silence. They all stared, confused, long after he had left the bar.

Back story

On the outskirts of the village once lived a family of giants. The youngest in the family was a boy named Nigel. He was a happy child and always seemed to take delight in the chores that his brothers did not. His father used to call him the "apple of your papa's eye".

And he was.

One day, when he was fourteen, young Nigel was coming back from the fields carrying a large pile of hay. He heard whispers up ahead and only stopped when he heard his name among the conversation. He hid behind the closest wall of the barn and peered around the side. The voices were coming from his two brothers: Chuck and Thom.

Thom, the oldest, seemed extremely frustrated. "It's just not fair, Chuck."

"Shh. Keep it down. They might here you." Responded Chuck. He had always been the cautious one in the group. Nigel giggled quietly to himself when he saw Thom's reaction. He was about to deck him in the face.

"I don't care!" He hissed. He was angry, but Nigel noticed he was also trying to heed his brother's advice and keep his voice quiet. "He is always getting special treatment around here."

"But it's not his fault," Chuck responded compassionately. "You know how it is."

Thom snorted in disgust. "I know he gets away with all the easy jobs while we're out doing all the hard labor."

From Nigel's spot behind the barn, he stepped back and thought hard, trying to figure out who his brother's were talking about. After several minutes, he surmised they must have been talking about Curtis. Curtis wasn't really family. He was a hired hand to help out around the fields when the harvest came.

Nigel snorted in disgust, just like his brother had. How dare Curtis get all the easy work when he and his brothers were out doing back breaking labor on the farm.

Nigel leaned forward again, peering around the side of the barn and watching his brothers in secret. He was fighting his anticipation to hoot and holler in agreement with his brothers.

"It's not Nigel's fault." Chuck said. "You know he's always been the runt."

Nigel's face fell. He felt like someone had just come and knocked the wind right out of him. It was him? They had been talking about him getting away with the easy work?

Nigel was sure he had heard his brothers wrong. But as he looked around him to find evidence against what he had heard, his heart wanted to stop dead in his chest. He was floored.

Behind both of his brothers were wheelbarrows more than twice the size of Nigel's own. They were not hauling hay in it, either. In each wheelbarrow looked to be four adult slaughtered pigs.

Nigel felt woozy. White spots of lights started to show up in his eyes and he felt like he was going to pass out. His breathing was heavy and fast. He did not understand.

Yet, suddenly, everything seemed to make sense.

Father always sent Nigel out later in the morning. He always tried to keep his youngest at the breakfast table longer than anyone else. Whenever any of his brothers had said anything about it, his father had just reassured him that he wanted to make sure Nigel got enough strength to do his work. Nigel always believed his father. He was bigger than life and Nigel loved him very much.

But, knowing how his brothers really saw him, Nigel started to look at those mornings through another light. He replayed those moments in his head and it was as if the truth finally hit him.

He would be sitting at the breakfast table with his dad when his mom would come in and start clearing off the table. She would remove everyone's plate — even his father's — except Nigel's. All the boys would start grumbling and complaining but his mother would hush them and send them out on their way.

When the other boys would try to protest to their father, their father would just pat Nigel on the shoulder and tell the boys that Nigel needed extra breakfast to be big and strong. Nigel's brothers would leave the house, grumbling, and his father would always tussle Nigel's hair and wink at him.

Nigel knew now that the boys had always left the house before him so they could get a head start on their chores. Nigel had never questioned why he never saw his brother's collecting hay in the fields with him. He had just always assumed they had worked on other areas of the field where he could not see them.

Nigel's head started to spin and he fainted on the grass behind the barn.3

Nigel woke up in a cold sweat. He was an adult again and was in his room at the local inn. He had come to the inn in the village years before after his parents had died. He had relinquished any property rights in the farm to his brothers and left without saying a word. From that day forward, Nigel had stayed at his usual room at the inn. The owner, a nice widowed woman named Yvette, and he had become good friends over the years. She always took an extra plate of food for dinner to his room. He woke up to see the plate, sitting in its usual spot on the far table.

Nigel slowly rose from his bed and walked over to the old wooden table. He sat down and picked up the spoon by the plate. He started to eat the food. Yvette had brought him lamb stew. Nigel was sure it had been warm when she brought it to his room, but that had been hours before.

As Nigel ate the stew, he started to cry. He missed his home but, more often than that, he missed his father. He had never gotten over the day he felt like dead wait on the farm, and that inadequate feeling had been looming over his head for decades.

CHAPTER SIX: Daytime Talk Show with Sasquatch

The camera men started wheeling their cameras into positions on the marked spaces on the floor. The audience lights started to dim and the stage lights brightened. The producer, who stood behind the camera line, shouted above the excited murmurs from the audience. "Quiet on set!" As everyone started to simmer down, the producer started the countdown to recording. He started at ten and worked his way down until he hit four. Then instead of voicing the numbers aloud, he continued counting down using hand signals. After 'one', he pointed towards the set. Everyone took their cue and the cameras began rolling. A jovial announcer off screen started to introduce the show to the audience.

"In the days where things are always uncertain. When times are tough and you have questions that need answers, there are beings like this man. He was smart enough to bring us a show you know and love, the terrific Daytime Talk Show; Ladies and gentlemen, he is the gracious and wonderful host of this show. Please welcome the very infamous and fabulous SASQUATCH!"

The fans in the audience broke out into a roar when Sasquatch came out from behind the stage curtain and jogged to his marked spot on the stage. He smiled and waved at everybody. He was clean cut (as clean cut as a hairy monster can be) and dressed in a very stylish Armani suit. He waved at everybody and smiled. He even pointed to someone far off in the audience like he knew them and waved. He was a very entertaining and appealing host. Fans loved him. And he loved the attention.

When the audience cheering started to fade down, Sasquatch looked down the camera and did his usual bow. "I would like to invite you all to our program today. We have a wonderful show planned for all of you today. Today we are going to welcome a special group of people. They're the kind of people you love to hate: families who can't stand to be around each other!" The audience cheered. This had always been the episode that got the show's highest ratings. Who didn't love seeing back woods redneck families who can't stand each other fighting on live TV?

"I would first like to welcome the first family to our show today. They're the Stones. They have a big personal issue going on in their lives right now, and they would like nothing more than to talk about their personal issues on national television. GOD BLESS AMERICA." That got a lot of hottin' and hollerin's from the audience. "Let's bring them on out!" As people started filtering out from behind the stage curtain, Sasquatch introduced them. "Here's Bubba June, Momma June, baby June, Sherry Ann, Carol Ann, Bob, Terry Lee, Sarah Lee, Margie, Shawn Jr., Shawn Sr., Buck, Carl, and Fred." They all shuffled out in a very distinctly related kinda way. They all packed together in a small space around a too-small couch for all of them. Sasquatch, meanwhile, placed himself across the set in a very comfortable and oversized chair. He crossed his legs and paused for a moment, watching them all.

"Would you like to tell us, Stone family, why you chose to come on our little show today?"

"Well, ya see, Mr. Sasquatch," The head of the family, Shawn Jr., spoke up for everyone after spitting tobacco into a styrofoam cup. "We have some issues between ourselves that we need to get resolved."

"Oh, there you go again," Momma June started, sounding sarcastic. "Talkin' like you got some fancy college degree. You ain't even gone to high school, you dumbass!"

"Well at least I went to school!" Shawn Jr. shouted back at his wife. "You just stayed home all the time, living off your daddy!"

"At least my daddy was a proud man!" Momma June shouted back. "You ain't never gonna be like him!"

"I guess that's good since he dead!" Shawn Jr. snapped back.

"I got something to say!" Sherry Ann interrupted. She stood up and demanded everyone's attention. "I'm pregnant!"

"You can't be pregnant, you old bat," baby June snorted. "You're fifty."

"But at least I still got it going on enough to get pregnant."

"You ain't pregnant, Sherry Ann." Bob backed up his niece. "You goin' through them…..what's they call it? Mensy pause."

Sherry Ann gasped in horror. "I am not!" She protested but she sat down.

Buck stood up from the rest of his family next and tried to say something. "I have a confession to make. One night, after a night of heavy drinking with the boys, I started to drive home. I got pulled over by Jim Bob, you know: the local cop." Everyone in the family nodded their head in recognition. They all knew Jim Bob. Buck sniffed and seemed to be holding back tears. "Well he pulled me over for driving drunk but he let me go on the case that I got his baby sister, Sally Maye, pregnant when she was fifteen. But he made me give him my keys so I won't drive no more cuz I was drunk.

"Anyway I started walking down this long road and it was really dark, ya know? But out of no where, there was this big flash of light. And I swear to you," he paused to clear his throat from choking up. Despite him trying to hide it, he started to cry a little. "I swear to you all that I was abducted that night. They did experiments on me." Everyone in the audience was eating out of the palm of Buck's hand. He was sobbing almost uncontrollably and was shaking in fear.

After several minutes of painful awkward silence, one of the family members decided to continue on with the 'family confessions' and stood up.

Margie stood up. "I found the secret to nuclear fission that could help save millions in energy costs over the next decade, and help reduce our carbon footprint on the planet to almost zero."4

Everyone in the family stopped what they were doing. Buck even ceased crying. They all slowly turned to face Margie. She was the youngest of the group aside from Shawn Sr., who was a toddler.

'NERD!!!" Someone in the audience shouted out. It was like the hunting cry from a tribe of primeval warriors. Everyone in the Stone family stood up and spread out in an instinctive attack formation around the ten year old girl. The producer and stage hands started tossing weapons onto the stage. Pool cues, baseball bats, chairs, patio umbrellas, lawn gnomes; basically anything random that was donated to the studio used for this express purpose.

At the sound of the whistle (blown by Sasquatch off camera), they all started attacking each other. Audience members were given popcorn and tomatoes to throw on the family as well. The whole family beat the crap out of each other until there was a direct winner. Unfortunately, as usual, there was no clear winner among the Stone family. They all just ended up passing out or blacking out from the beatings they received.

After the fight was over, the producer signaled to Sasquatch that it was time for a commercial break. Sasquatch stepped over the unconscious bodies of his former guests and walked towards the camera. "We will be right back after these messages. When we come back, we are going to meet another interesting family: the Quiong family. Let's see what kinds of secrets are hidden up their belfry." Sasquatch chuckled lightly to himself and smiled warmly down the camera. "Please stick around."

After his taping was done for the day, Sasquatch stormed back stage and threw his jacket off dramatically and let it fly to the floor. His assistant, a young troll named Trish, scampered after his jacket and nervously raced after the talk show host. She shuffled with the papers in her hands and tried to quickly brief him on the days' events.

"You first have a meeting with the reporter, Dr. Whis Crite —"

"Who is he again?" Sasquatch snapped. He turned a sharp corner to head down an adjacent hallway. Trish almost fell over herself in an attempt to follow him.

"He is a reporter who is looking to get a story from you. One of those 'A Day in the Life of' pieces." Trish responded.

"And why exactly would I agree to have an interview with him?"

"Well you said you wanted to when he asked you for a meeting last month. But you've already blown him off three times. I think it's important you keep this meeting."

Sasquatch grumbled and rolled his eyes. "Fine," he growled dismissively. "But I don't want any pictures. You know how I feel about pictures." Trish nodded hurriedly and was able to stop and catch her breath for a moment as they reached Sasquatch's fitting room door. "Anything else?"

"Well," Trish paused a moment to look over the schedule again. She missed Sasquatch disappearing into his dressing room. When she looked back up at him to respond to his question, he had vanished. She hurried in after him and continued her briefing. "You have a short meet and greet with the newest ad exec for the show. Then you have a dinner reservation at La Petite Rose at six thirty with your mother and sister."

The air in the room started to dim. Trish could feel slightly suffocated by the amount of tension in the room. She swallowed hard and discretely braced herself for the blow out.

"I have dinner plans with my family?" Sasquatch whispered. Even though his voice was quiet, each word was tainted with poison. Trish winced. "And in public?!"

"I know you're not eager to see them," Trish began cautiously. "But they are your family and they have been trying to get together with you for more than a year."

"There is a reason they have been trying to get me to see them!" Sasquatch snapped. Trish could hear his words echo down the hall. "It's because I don't see them, and I would prefer that it stay that way." He was furious. He flew behind the Japanese inspired room divider and started quickly changing his clothes. He continued to grumble to himself but Trish could not make out what he was saying.

"I think it's important that you meet with them," She offered. Her tone was still cautious and she left one leg primed to run for the door in case the host started throwing things at her.

"And why is that?" Sasquatch snapped. "As if your opinion matters." Trish decided to let that comment go. After all, the host was pretty angry.

"Because family's important."

Sasquatch snorted dismissively. "Have you ever met my family?"

Trish shuddered. Those memories came flooding back to her in a horrific flashback. "Yes." She replied, trying to keep her voice level so as not to give anything away. She cleared her throat. "But it's still important." She knew she had not yet convinced him but she also knew it was a good sign that he had not thrown anything at her. She almost allowed herself to smile. It was progress.

She tried one more tactic before she admitted defeat. "You don't have to stay too long. You can always make an excuse so you can leave. I could even help you." Sasquatch peered out from behind the divider. Trish could tell she had peeked his interest.

"Oh yeah?" He asked. He was trying to play his interest off and act like he didn't care, but Trish knew she had him. She almost smiled. "How?"

"You can always text me. It doesn't even have to say anything. As soon as I get that text, I could call you and make up some story about how there's a work emergency —"

"There's going to be a work emergency?" Sasquatch asked, almost sounding impressed. And confused. "But how can you guarantee that?"

"No, you don't understand," Trish responded, trying to get the talk show host back on the same track. "We pretend that there's an emergency so you will have to leave your family at the restaurant."

"That does sound intriguing…" Sasquatch said thoughtfully. He put his finger on his chin and continued to tap his finger against his chin. He thoughtfully walked out from behind the divider.

Trish almost screamed. Knowing that would be uncouth of her, she instead covered the scream with a shriek and quickly covered her eyes with the papers from her hands. "Mr Sasquatch!" She exclaimed in horror. "Please! Put some clothes on!"

Sasquatch looked down at himself quizzically and realized he was, in fact, naked. He shrugged and strolled back behind the divider.

As Trish tried to mentally scrub the image of her boss' naked form out of her head, Sasquatch agreed to her plan. "I like your idea, Tosh."

"It's Trish, sir."

"What did I say?"


"Oh, yeah." Sasquatch replied. He was silent for a few beats and finally said, "I kinda like it better." Before Trish could protest, Sasquatch continued. "That was a smart idea, though. I think we should do that. Expect a message from me sometime this evening while I'm with my family. Start thinking of several good ideas now, so you can thrill me with them at dinner." Trish lowered her head. She was a little confused with identifying her emotions. She was relieved yet anxious, and scared yet excited. And flattered. It was a huge compliment that her boss would acknowledge an idea of hers.

"Well that will be all, Tosh." Sasquatch said dismissively. Trish quickly nodded her head and apologized before leaving the room.

She stood outside her boss' dressing room for several minutes, trying to wrap her head around everything that had happened. Based on previous days, her briefing to Sasquatch was a relative success. On the other hand, she now had to go down to the courthouse and change her name again. Sasquatch was very demanding. Once he decided on a name for you, you needed to stick with it. It didn't matter what your name really was. Trish was born a Susan.

Dr. Whis Crite was waiting for his interviewee for several minutes. He kept checking the knock-off Rolex he wore on his wrist (it was called a Rolodex) to see what the time was.

Sasquatch was more than ten minutes late for his interview.

The not-so-great doctor sighed in impatience. He had a flight to catch in two hours to meet the queen. Not the Queen of England, mind you. It was the Queen of Cheese, in Wisconsin. But she was still an important figure in the world of cheese.

Dr. Whis Crite wasn't sure how much longer he could wait.

When a few more minutes passed and the doctor was just about to leave, the door to the room flung open dramatically and in strolled Sasquatch. He walked with a swagger of a man without a care in the world. He flamboyantly tossed his jacket onto the back of the chair and took his time sitting down. Following up behind him was a small female troll. The doctor assumed the troll was the talk show host's assistant.

"Good of you to join us." The doctor said flatly.

Sasquatch looked blankly around the room before fixing his gaze on the reporter. "'Us'?" He asked.

The doctor-attorney shrugged. "It's a turn of phrase." He said dismissively. Eager to move past his unknown faux pas, he outstretched his hand to the celebrity in introduction. "Dr. Whis Crite: Attorney at Law. And practicing Investigative Journalist. It's very nice to meet you, Mr. Sasquatch."

"Please, just call me Sasquatch." The celebrity said graciously. His tone was pleasant, yet his body language called for obedience. Dr. Whis Crite nodded his head awkwardly and moved on.

"Sasquatch," he repeated pointedly to appease the celebrity. It seemed to work. The talk show host relaxed in his seat. The doctor-lawyer cleared his throat. "I would like to start by telling you a little about my work. I like to write 'feel good' pieces. I believe my audience genuinely likes to know what their celebrity personas do on a day to day basis. They feel like they can better relate to a celebrity when they find out that they have chauffeurs do their shopping for them; or nannies for their children. It's the relatable things that are important.

"So I would like to hear from you: what are the things you do from day to day that are important parts of your routine?"

Sasquatch glanced over at his assistant. She looked white with fear. She looked down at his notes and passed days' schedules trying to find a common thread.

The doctor-turned-lawyer-turned-P.I.-turned-investigative-reporter saw this action by the assistant and immediately stepped in. "Let me help." He offered. "Let me, for example, ask you questions. Maybe then we can come up with a pretty standard schedule of events for you."

The troll in the corner looked relieved. She nearly fainted in her chair after realizing she could relax for five seconds.

Sasquatch frowned slightly, taking a few moments to think over the offer in his head. Finally he nodded his head in agreement. "Let's do that," he responded.

Dr. Whis Crite smiled. "Great." He flipped through the notebook in his hand and looked for the page marked Standard Questions for Celebrity Details. He skimmed the page for a minute before he landed on the perfect opening question.

"Do you have any pets?" He asked. "Like a goldfish? Or a cat? Our readers love cats." He received a blank stare from the talk show host and he felt the awkward silence falling over them. "Or a dog?" He choked out. "A lot of people love dogs."

"I had a fish," Sasquatch replied. He shrugged. "I'm not sure what happened to it."

The reporter was delighted at the little tidbit of information. It was at least something to go on. He pulled out his pen and found a blank sheet of paper. He poised himself to write. "Well tell me something about him."

"Like what?"

"Like a name." Whis Crite replied. "People love pets with names. What was its name?"

"I don't remember."

Dr. Whis Crite paused, frozen. "You don't remember?" He finally asked. Sasquatch shrugged, uncaring.

"I don't really pay attention to those things."

"You don't pay attention to names." Whis Crite asked responded flatly. He was not even sure he understood. Was the talk show host being serious? He looked passed the celebrity for conformation from his assistant. She nodded grimly, confirming his response. And she would know better than anyone the truth about Sasquatch's statement. She had had eight names in the two years she had been working for him. If it had not been for a copy of her birth certificate that she had in her possession, she would never remember what her birth name had been.

"OK," Whis smiled. "Let's forget about the pet angle, then. It's not everything." He went back to reference his list of standard questions. He smiled when his eyes fell on a question Sasquatch was sure to know the answer to. "Where were you born?"

Sasquatch frowned and looked passed the reporter and onto the wall. "That one is a tricky one," he replied. "I have many stories to tell about many different birth places. Unfortunately, since there is no current 'monster hospital' there is no record of my birth. It would be in the pacific northwest, it could be in the central states somewhere in the desert. It could even be in Florida. Which might explain why I hate Florida so much."

"Well…." The doctor started, not sure in which direction to take his question from there. "Wouldn't your mother know?"

Sasquatch shook his head. "I have asked her several times about it but she never tells me. I think she thinks it's more fun if she didn't tell me and pretended it was a big joke."

"So you do have a mother then." Dr Whis Crite said, pathetically trying to create a segue. "Are you close to them? How many siblings do you have?"

The reporter could tell that Sasquatch was not pleased with the line of questioning. Mostly because he said, "I am not pleased with this line of questioning."

The journalist nodded his head in understanding. He had often found it hard to discuss family issues with the people he interviewed. Most of them had a lot more baggage than they were willing to share with the inquisitive public. But the doctor knew how to get information out of his interviewees.

"I think it's really important that your audience see the real you. When people and monsters read my article, they like knowing things about my celebrities that they can not get in any other article. I told you that your audience likes to relate to the things you say. It's important to them." He knew he had gotten through to his subject when Sasquatch sat back to think about what he was suggesting.

"It is important to me that my audience knows who I really am…" Sasquatch thought aloud. After pondering the idea for several moments, he finally nodded his head. "Alright, let's do it." The doctor smiled in delight and reached across the space between the two chairs to tap his interviewees hand in gratitude. After the two new acquaintances shared a connected laugh, Sasquatch asked: "So what was your question again?"

Dr. Whis Crite chuckled but found that he even had to reference his question. When he found it, he repeated: "Let's start with: are you close with your family?"

Sasquatch frowned and shook his head. "No, not really. I haven't even seen them in over a year." He shot a pointed and dark glance at his assistant for reminding him. She tucked down a little more in her seat.

Dr. Whis Crite frowned and nodded his head. He then started jotting things down. As he wrote, he spoke aloud his notes. "'Always talks to his dear mom every night before bed."

"What the hell." Sasquatch was offended. He reached over the space between them and tore the notebook out of the reporter's hands. Dr. Crite tried to stop him, but the talk show host succeeded. He read over what the journalist had just written and he tossed it back at him in anger. He stood up from his chair.

"How dare you write that down in your little notebook. That's not even what I said!"

Dr. Crite knew that body language and the vocal outcry. Sasquatch was about to take a stance and head for the door. The investigative journalist tried desperately to stop him.

"But this is what the readers want to hear!" The doctor cried out. That seemed to peek the celebrity's attention. He slowly turned on his heel and turned back to face the reporter.

"Come again?"

"Look, I know it's not entirely what you said," The lawyer responded. He spoke quickly, knowing from experience that he had little time to change his subject's mind. "But people like hearing about celebrities they love also loving their moms. A lot of these readers are moms, or who used to love their own moms. It's important for them to relate. Remember what I said about your audience relating to you?" Sasquatch said nothing, but the doctor knew that a silent response was better than literally nothing.

The doctor knew he had him when the monster slowly started to walk back to his seat and sit back down. Not wanting to jeopardize what he had already accomplished, the doctor sat back down calmly in his own chair and smiled softly at the man before him. Sasquatch refused to smile back, but Dr. Crite still counted it a win as he had stayed.

"Now can you tell me anything else about your family? Do you have siblings?"

"Sister." Sasquatch said bluntly. Whis Crite nodded his head.

"OK, sister. And is she younger or older than you?"


"Alright," the journalist quickly wrote that down. "Do you get along with her?"


"Well I'm going to write a 'yes'; only because the audience will respond to that better." Sasquatch rolled his eyes.

Meanwhile, in the corner, the young troll started to speak up and offer an opinion. "Sasquatch is going to meet with his mother and sister tonight at a restaurant. They have a reservation and everything. Very fancy."

"Really?" The journalist sounded intrigued. He turned all his attention to the pint sized assistant in the back of the room. "And do you think I could tag along to this dinner date?"

Trish/Tosh shrugged and pulled out her cell phone. "I don't see why not. I can just fix the reservation to four, instead of three." She hit a number on her keypad signaling a speed dial call and she waited.

Sasquatch, meanwhile, was sitting in his seat and fuming.

As the doctor/lawyer/journalist waited impatiently for the assistant to reach the host of the dining area, Dr. Crite looked at his celebrity interviewee in excitement. "Isn't this great?! First hand account of how the talk show host himself acts around his own mother and sister!" He was practically shaking in anticipation. "This is going to be great."

Sasquatch, meanwhile, glared at his assistant over the reporter's shoulder. "Yeah." He responded darkly as he glared coldly at the troll who was eagerly speaking on the phone. "It's definitely going to be something."

(I did not end this chapter. However, since I've seemed to hit a writer's block, I will put this chapter on hold and continue with a different series of events. - A.H. White)

CHAPTER SEVEN: Phantom's Rap Booth

I wanted to give credit where credit was due. This idea was given to me by Jen. I hope this does your idea justice.

Bored as hell and I wanna get I'll
So I went to a place where my homeboys chill
The fellows out there, making that dollar
I pulled up in my 6-4 Impala
They greet me with a 40 and I started drinking
And from the 8-ball my breath start stinking
Love to get my girl, to rock that body
Before I left I hit the Bacardi

A vintage '62 Cadillac was bumping down the dark roads late at night. The body of the car seemed to hit the right pitch for the N.W.A. album blaring from the after-market speakers.

The roads were clear and the only light seemed to be coming from the dim yellow lights of the passing street lamps.

As the distinctive car pulled into a parking lot, the engine purred as it turned off. The speakers kept playing music for another verse until the key was pulled from the ignition. The front door opened and a foot hit the pavement outside the car.

The gentleman who got out of the car was not a person one would picture listening to "gangster rap". He was about five-foot-nine, dressed in a very nice tailored suit. He had on expensive loafers that probably cost more than the car he drove up in. His hair was styled nicely and he was dressed appropriately for the venue he was visiting.

The sign above the beautifully constructed marble building read: The Grande Village Opera House.

Erik sighed heavily as he stared at the old building. He had made so many memories there. He and his friend, Gillman, used to brag about how many white women they had kidnapped together.

But those days seemed so behind him now. He had been in Dr Griffin's therapy group for several years and he had felt like he had made some strong progress against the person he once had been.

But something had made him come back to the opera that night.

And that something was shuffling hurriedly towards him.

Erik groaned.

"Hello, Madame Giry," Erik said blankly. "How are you?"

When Madame Giry spoke, her tone was in harsh whispers. "Where have you been?" She snapped.

Erik shrugged. "Around." He replied. He was feeling out of touch with the whole affair. He did not want to be in that place; back with his past.

Yet he knew he owed the madame a debt.

"Well everyone's been waiting." Madame Giry hissed. "Let's go." Before Erik could try again to protest, the older woman was shoving him towards the entrance of the opera house.

It had been years since Erik had even thought about the old opera house. He had worked very hard to make that part of his life a distant memory. As he walked with the madame towards the entrance to the old building, he asked himself for the umpteenth time why he had been talked into coming back.

He sighed and, with a heavy heart, once again answered his own question.

After the night when Christine and Raoul had fled the crumbling opera house, Erik had every intention of dying there. He did not want to live without his true love at his side.

But before the destruction of the house got too bad, Erik used the tunnels he had built beneath the building to escape from harm. He had fled but he had not gotten too far before Madame Giry came across him. He had taken refuge during the night on the edge of a small forest, but he had not prepared for the extreme cold that settled in. Madame Giry saved his life. She even went further than that and released information to the papers that the Phantom had died in the destruction.

Madame Giry had cared for Erik until he was well enough to go off on his own. She was even the one to first introduce him to Dr. Griffin and his C.A. meetings. That had set him on the right track towards living a better life. He had even gotten the confidence to get reconstructive surgery.

So when Madame Giry had phoned him a week before and asked him for his help, he could not refuse her. If it had not been for her, the news to the papers about his death would not have been a cover story.

Yet looking up at the massive rebuilt walls of the old opera house, Erik found it hard to go inside. He felt anxiety that he had not felt in decades. He was not allowed too much time to dwell on the significance of what he was about to do. Madame Giry shoved the once-phantom inside the opera house.

As the two raced down the back stage halls quietly, Erik could not help but inquire again about why he was there. "Can you explain to me why you need me here?" Erik asked in a hushed voice. He tried to down play his anxiety. Luckily the madame seemed neither to notice nor care.

"The opera crowd is dying," She whispered back as they continued to hurry down the hallways behind the stage. "There is no interest for the new generation anymore in this kind of music. I thought that if word got out that there was a new phantom haunting the opera house, then we would have more attendance. As it is, I might have to shut down the old building within the next couple months."

Erik didn't care whether the building was shut down or not. In fact, he probably would have preferred it. Yet he had to ask: "What if it gets out that it's not a new phantom but the original? Couldn't I be subject to arrest by law enforcement? I mean, I did kinda destroy a building."

Madame Giry scoffed and waved her hand about to brush that concern of his aside. "The cops would not have any interest in that. Besides, that was a long time ago. I think it's all been long forgotten. We have, after all, already rebuilt. What more is there that can be done?"

Erik shrugged but felt deflated. Trying to make guilt compel the old woman to change her mind didn't seem to work. Erik couldn't think of another way to get out of the situation laid in front of him.

Unfortunately for him, he had run out of time.

The two stopped so suddenly that Erik almost tripped over the old woman. "We're here." She said triumphantly. Erik was confused. He looked around where they were standing and did not seem to understand what the woman was talking about. But then he saw it. Beneath their feet was a small trap door that blended into the hard wood of the rest of the floor.

Erik gulped hard. "No." He finally said.

Madame Giry's mouth fell open in surprise. "No/?" She repeated in horror. "'No' is not an appropriate response, Erik. You need — no. You will go down that trap door. You will find the replica of your once-cherished organ. And you will play chilling tunes to titillate the audience. Do I make myself clear?"

Erik winced. Her shrill tone when she was demanding was always what he imagined a head master's voice to sound like. Authoritative, yet clawing.

The once-phantom tried one more last ditch effort to get out of doing what the woman wanted. "You don't understand," he said, pleading echoing in his voice. "I have worked so hard to get these past memories out of my head. I can't go down there. Doing so would break apart all I've accomplished."

Madame Giry rolled her eyes in the way of a cynic. "I don't have time for this nonsense," she sighed. "Curtain call is in twenty minutes and I will have a phantom underneath that trap door playing creepy music on his organ." With that declaration, the old woman tore open the trap door and tossed Erik effortlessly down into the dark hidden crevice. She then slammed the door. Erik could hear the short stomps of her heels on the wooden floor above his head as she walked away.

Erik sighed heavily and looked around him. He could barely make out faded light at the end of the long tunnel. Fighting against all his instincts, he started to walk towards the light. He was not sure what he was going to find, and he was sure he was not going to like it.

When he reached the light, Erik found himself in an open room. It was cozy and was surprisingly similar to the one he had made for himself in the basement of the last opera house. He felt a shiver race down his spine. Every nerve in his brain was firing warning shots to tell him to back away. It was better for his sanity if he left the organ and the room and the crazy old bat of a lady upstairs alone. He was better off going back to his bitchin' car and listening to rap music. He was done with opera. He was done with the whole scene.

Yet there was no mistaking the power of muscle memory. Even though the room was a fabrication; a recreation of a room that once belonged to him, Erik's spirit was transported back decades. He was standing in his own sanctuary again.

He walked towards the organ — his faithful instrument — and ran his fingers gently over the oak surface. A smile found its way onto his face. His heart began to beat rapidly in his chest.

"My precious…" he whispered to himself. His eyes lit up as he pulled over the chair and dramatically ghost drummed his fingers over the keys.

In a rush, it all came flooding back to him. It was many years before. The opera house was in its peak of popularity. People in beautiful clothes would be excitedly talking among themselves as they headed to their seats. There was always chaotic undertones behind the closed curtains as all the players fought to make their debut. The orchestra would be tuning up their instruments and everyone would be bustling about, trying to find their places.

Erik had always relished in those nights. He could taste the excitement throughout the building's halls. He could feel his revenge and anticipation bloom when he heard the final rehearsal call from the conductor. That meant that the curtain would be pulled up in ten minutes' time.

Erik knew he had to take his seat.

In the present, he was ghost playing the organ. He closed his eyes and traveled back to a time when he was obsessed with the opera. He would practice almost every waking moment, singing and playing his instrument. He would listen passionately to the singers practice their vocals on stage during rehearsal.

As Erik's fingers reached the keys and was about to play the notes for real, a flash in his memory suddenly broke his entranced state.

"Christine…" He whispered to himself. His hands fell like dead weights onto the keys, letting out a garish hodgepodge of tones. He winced at the sound but tried to ignore it.

"I can not do this." He said finally. He shook his head one last time, trying to convince himself of his decision. "I can not do this." He repeated. He stood up decidedly from his bench and turned to leave the room.

He was met, quiet abruptly, by Madame Giry.

Erik almost jumped out of his skin at the sight of the old woman. "You startled me." He finally said.

She was glaring at him. "Where do you think you're going?" She asked fiercely.

"I'm leaving." He told her. His voice did not hold the same conviction as it had when he was talking to himself.

"I don't think so." She snapped. That seemed to have an affect on him, for he could not move past the old woman and continue on his way. "I need you here. You promised."

"Yeah, well, about that…" Erik started. He stalled, trying to find a reason why he couldn't go through with his promise, but he struggled to find one. Madame Giry did not let him have time to find an excuse.

"You will sit back down on that instrument and you will play for us. This opera house will fail without this and I won't let that happen." After she was done snapping at him, she turned and angrily stomped out of the basement.

Despite not wanting to, Erik did as he was told. He found himself, quite involuntarily, sitting back down on his bench and facing the organ. A good part of his psyche did not want to be sitting in front of the instrument. Even though he knew that it was not really the same instrument on which he used to play, the very sight of it gave him the chills. He was not ready to reopen that Pandora's Box of issues from his past. And, glancing at the time on his wrist watch, he knew Dr. Griffin would not want to be awoken to do that either.

Sighing heavily, Erik knew he was caught between a rock and a hard place. He knew it was impossible to say no to the old woman. Even though he kinda wanted to shove her down a flight of stairs and run in the opposite direction. But he knew, somehow, she would sense that plan and she would lock him in the basement for the rest of his life.

Erik sighed again. He didn't know what else to do, so he bided his time by sighing a third time. He clicked his tongue, whistled a soft tune, cracked his knuckles, swung his feet; everything to avoid touching the keys on that organ.

From above, Erik was startled by the sound of an object (probably a broom handle) slamming against the floor right over his head. Erik jumped. "I want to hear music!" Madame Giry shrieked at him. Erik glared up at the ceiling but said nothing. He wondered how the other stage hands would react to the old bat yelling at nothing under the floor. But he figured they all knew Madame Giry pretty well, so they wouldn't second guess any strange behavior.

A few more minutes passed and Erik could hear the dim echo of the orchestra cue.

The curtain was raising.

Erik's heart started to beat fast in his chest. His palms started to feel sweaty and he gulped hard. He knew he wasn't ready for this, but he reminded himself that he had no choice. He had to go through with it.

Erik swallowed and settled his fingers naturally over the keys. He waited for the overture to cease before he started to play.

Erik's fingers started to hit familiar keys. He had intended to play his usual haunting piece from back in his old days as the phantom, but what he heard did not sound like that piece. Although it did sound familiar…

As Erik continued to play, he tried desperately to remember where he had heard the song before. He knew it wasn't the same music he always played, but he assumed it was another famous operetta.

But as he continued to play, another example of muscle memory took over. Only this time, it happened when Erik started reciting words.

Power and the money, money and the power
Minute after minute, hour after hour
Everybody's running, but half of them ain't looking
What's going on in the kitchen, but I don't know what's cooking
They say I've got to learn but nobody's here to teach me
If they can't understand it, how can they reach me

Like a baseball to the throat, it hit him. He smiled and almost laughed. "Gangsta's Paradise!!"6 He laughed in delight. His psyche had stepped in to save him. More than that, his new found love of the rap world stepped in to call the shots.

Above Erik's little hovel below the floor, the small group of people who had attended the opera glanced at one another. They were very confused. They didn't know what they were hearing, but it sure wasn't Carmen.

As the noise of the audience and stage people grew louder, the music performed by the ex-phantom was getting dimmed out. That was until an elderly gentleman, about the age of eighty, stood up and confidently shouted over the distraction of the audience:


A lot of the audience members were horrified by the sight. How could an elderly person — someone from their generation — know such a modern and hip song?

After the opera was over (which wasn't long after the Coolio cover because, let's face it, that basically killed the performance), Madame Giry stormed down to the basement where Erik was. To say she was furious would have been an insult to the chronically furious.

She was livid.

She was steaming.


"How DARE you!?" She shrieked at him, her bold letters almost smacking him in the face with their rage.

"What did I do?" He asked innocently. "I only did what you asked."

"YOUDIDNOTDOWHATIASKED!" She shrieked with such passion that would have put the Sirens to shame. "I asked you to bring a little fear to the audience. Bring about rumors that the phantom was back haunting the opera house. I wanted you to bring people to fill the seats. Instead you bring me this modern day….CRAP!?"

"Hey." Erik said pointedly, feeling understandably defensive. "Rap is not crap." He paused a minute to think over what he had just said. "I mean, it is… I mean, the word is basically 'crap' without the….'c'……." He paused some more after letting his words fade off. And after seeing Madame Giry's face.

She was so red, she looked like a nuclear reactor that was about to overload.

Erik shrugged. "I really don't understand," he said genuinely. "You wanted me to bring people back to the opera. Don't you think this will do that?"

"Don't you think they will be a little disappointed?" She snapped back, still very angry. "When the 'young people' come in and expect rap music and they find out they have to sit through La Boheme!?"

Erik shrugged helplessly. He was not sure how to answer that. "Maybe you can inspire them?" He asked.

Madame Giry groaned. "Inspire a bunch of younger generation hoodlums to appreciate opera!? It can't be done!"

It suddenly hit Erik what the problem was. He smiled as he finally felt as if he could leave the crawl space guilt free. "I don't think you need to worry about bringing more people into this opera house, Madame Giry. I think your real problem is overcoming this stigma towards the younger crowd. Maybe that would involve adding in a little of their music." Madame Giry gasped in horror. Erik chuckled. "When you finally come to realize that, give me a call." He then left the old woman in his old prison and left the opera house for the final time.

Two Days Later…. Dr. Griffin's Office

"I still can't believe it." Erik said, his voice still eminating with joy from the events from previous nights. "I don't think I've ever felt that happy in years."

"Well that's good." Dr Griffin responded, smiling. "I'm glad for you." He let Erik bask in the happiness for a few more minutes before he asked him a question that had been plaguing his mind. "But doesn't it worry you a little that you lost this woman's whole source of income?"

Erik's smile faded from his face, as the doctor was worried would happen. "What do you mean?" He asked. Obviously he had not considered the consequences.

"Well if you are right and she will have to adapt to the newer generation of people…wouldn't you be concerned that she's one of those people who won't be able to adapt? I mean, assume you're right and opera is on the way out in popularity. Where does that leave Madame Giry and her opera house?"

Erik laughed aloud. "I don't care." He smiled. "The old bat can suck it."

CHAPTER EIGHT: Witches on the Rise

Sylvia was swinging her legs back and forth as she sat on the high fence blocking off an abandoned building. It had been abandoned for years and it was starting to fall apart. The few windows that were left in the place were usually broken by passing kids looking to throw rocks.

Sylvia sighed and brushed her grey hair behind her ears. Even though she was only fourteen, she already had a full silver head of hair. She used to get teased about it by the other kids in school, but she had quickly found a way to combat their bullying.

Sylvia was bored.

And not just normal bored.

She was bored bored.

"Sylvia!" Came a sing-song voice behind her. It was coming from within the abandoned building. Sylvia rolled her eyes, snapped the gum she was chewing and jumped down effortlessly from the eight foot high fence. She looked back at her mom and shrugged.

"What?" She asked, a hint of rudeness to her voice.

The woman — her mother — either did not pick up on the undertone or she refused to acknowledge it. Either way, she waved her teenage daughter over to her. "Come help us with this."

Sylvia groaned but she obeyed her mother anyway.

She walked over the her mother and followed her into the open hallway of the falling down building. "What do you need help with?" She asked. She tried her best to hide her curiosity in a tone of apathy. Again, her mother did not take the bait.

"We were asked by some of the members of the community to put a protection spell on this place." Her mother replied. She continued on after Sylvia stopped in her spot and stared at her mother's back, dumbfounded.

"A protection spell?" She asked. She could not have asked it with more disdain to her voice. Her mother ignored her attitude once again but she did stop walking. She turned on her heel to face her daughter and she smiled patiently.

"Yes," She replied. "Some of the community feel like this property is worth salvaging so we have agreed to place a protection spell on it. That should buy it enough time for the city to make up their mind about what to do with it." Without waiting for another outburst from her daughter, she continued walking towards her destination. Sylvia almost had to run to catch up with her.

"But why?" She asked. "A protection spell? That's how you want to waste your powers?"

"Enough." Her mother replied, again as patient as she could be.

But Sylvia persisted.

"But it's such a waste." She tried to make her mother understand what she saw. "You are so powerful, you could be doing things for yourself. Or even trying to do things for other people."

"We are doing something for other people." Her mother retorted. "I just explained what we were doing. Were you not listening?"

Sylvia was appalled. The patience that woman had with her was impressive. But Sylvia was not about to make her mother have the final say.

"But we could do so many other things. Why do we need to put a stupid little protection spell on a stupid building no one cares about?"

"People care about it." Her mother replied. It was the first time Sylvia had heard a little tug of stress on her mother's voice all afternoon. Something made her capitalize on that weakness. Perhaps it was the bitchy teenage hormones of a bored teenage girl.

"I don't." She retorted. She knew that statement would not be enough to rattle her mother. Her mother knew Sylvia cared about very little. "And if these people cared about this place so much, why did they wait till now to ask you to do something about it?"

Her mother opened her mouth to reply, but something stopped her. In a flash, she seemed to go back to normal. She was back to her calm self. It was almost spooky how she could switch herself that way.

"We are apart of the community, Sylvia," her mother replied wisely. "For that reason, it is our duty to help out other members of the community when it is necessary."

Sylvia couldn't think of anything else to throw at her mother so she just paused mid step to roll her eyes.

"I saw that." Her mother said blankly, not even turning her head. Sylvia instinctively jumped, as if she had been caught drinking a beer, but then she remembered that her mother couldn't have possibly seen her rude gesture.

The two of them came to an open area of the building. Sylvia guessed it had once been the servants' quarters. It was the only place in the house that had not been caked in dust. Sure, there was some dust. But not as much.

There, in that small square feet of space, stood the other members of her mother's coven: Gretchen, Sylvia's aunt; Betty, another aunt; Daisy, one of her mother's neighbors; and Chuck, Daisy's grown son. Together with her mother, they all made up the Neighborhood Watch Coven (their choice of title, not Sylvia's).

Sylvia's mom — her name was Scarlett — stood in her place among her peers and smiled softly at all those present.

"Good afternoon everyone." She greeted. "I assume everyone's prepared their piece of the protection spell?" Everyone murmured an answer or otherwise nodded in agreement. "Good," Scarlett replied after everyone answered her. "Now let's begin."

Sylvia was walking alone at night along the sidewalk. She was trying to drown out her thoughts with loud metal music dripping from her ears. But no matter how loud the volume, she could not seem to stop thinking.

Why was her mother such a goody-two-shoes? Why did the coven always believe in helping people? It seemed like such a waste. Sylvia had aspirations and goals. She wanted to tear some stuff up.

She was not paying attention to where she was going so her feet decided to lead the way. When her iPod playlist finally finished, Sylvia took a minute to look around at her surroundings. She paused for a moment and looked puzzled. She slowly pulled the headphones out of her ears and draped them around her neck. "Where am I?" She asked voicelessly.

She seemed to be on the edge of the forest — at least a forest, since she didn't recognize her location. Ahead of her was a winding pathway that led off into another clump of trees, but she could not see where it was headed through the trees' density. She stepped forward lightly and cautiously. All her senses were heightened and anxiously awaiting the newest sound.

But something strange was happening. Every time she tried to turn away from the path, she felt her legs being pulled back towards it. The mouth of the path kept laying right in front of her and she wasn't sure why. After trying several times to break away without success, Sylvia decided there must be a reason she kept going back to the trail.

Cautiously she followed it.

She kept checking around her at every step. Her arms remained out in front of her in a defensive stance, waiting to attack anything that tried to attack her first. She was too busy playing defense that she didn't even notice her feet had stopped moving. She only seemed to notice the change in venue when a voice seemingly from nowhere said, "'Ello."

Sylvia screamed.

"Who said that!?" She shrieked, instinctively jumping back. Her eyes landed on a small troll. She blinked several times and waited for further introduction from the troll but nothing happened. So she tried again. "Did you say 'hello'?"

"No," the troll said, shrugging. "I said ''ello'. But close enough."7 The troll seemed extremely pleasant. Perhaps even more pleasant, considering one would not think a troll would be pleasant. He was holding a basket of fresh fruits in front of him. As soon as Sylvia noticed them, the troll held out the basket for her. "Would you like some, miss?" He asked nicely.

But Sylvia had heard too many stories about the Alices who had fallen into Wonderland and the little girls named after weather patterns who would eat a shiny red apple from a stranger. She smiled tightly and waved down the invitation. "No, thank you," she replied back. She was still on guard. "Could you please just tell me where I am or why I'm here?"

"Of course —" The troll began to explain but he was cut off.

"Or how I came to even find this place?"

"Yes, but —" The troll tried to explain again but Sylvia kept talking.

"Or why you needed me of all people?"

"YES!" The troll shouted. He had lost his patience. Usually a bit such as this could go on for much longer, but trolls were not the sort of creatures to sit through nonsense for very long.

His outrage seemed to startle Sylvia back into silence. She stared at him, wide-eyed and stunned. The troll took the opportunity to explain to him everything she had asked.

First, he lowered himself to one knee and bowed to the fair lady. "Before I get to all of your questions, I would like to thank you for coming to see us. Your help would be most appreciated in our grave time of need, Lady Lancelot."

Sylvia was caught off guard. "Lady Lancelot?" She asked, disgusted that she would be confused with such a person. She and Lady Lancelot (her name was really "Lady". How pompous.) had gone to school together. They had always competed for everything: who would kiss a boy first; who would get on the cheer squad for their team, the Knights; who would win the archery contest. They even competed for who could juggle the most barn animals in a single sitting.

And every time the two had come up against each other, Sylvia had been bested.

But not this time.

"I am not Lady Lancelot," Sylvia declared. The troll looked up at her, confused.

"You're not?" He asked. He paused for several beats and looked at her. He seemed to be examining her. Finally he said, slowly, "Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure!" Sylvia barked. "I think I would know if I were that dretch excuse for a cheerleader. I should've gotten that spot!"

The troll held up his hands in a common surrender move and took a step back from the ranting girl. "OK, my mistake," he admitted. "But you have to admit: all you humans look the same." Sylvia glared angrily at him but the troll was either unmoved or didn't notice. Regardless, he turned away from the young witch apprentice and started to walk away.

Sylvia was appalled. No one had dared walk away from her before. She didn't know what to do to get his attention back. Before he was too far out of ear shot, Sylvia shouted out the only thing she had on her mind. "I can help you!"

The troll stopped mid step. He was intrigued. He turned back to face the young woman and his eyebrow was raised in peaked interest. "Go on," he finally said.

Sylvia took a couple steps closer to the troll. She looked as if she was showing determination to help but, really, she was just stalling for time any way she could. "What was Lady Lancelot supposed to do for you? I know her skill levels and I have been right at her level since we were kids. I think I could help you with your problem."

The troll studied Sylvia again, trying to figure out if she was up for the challenge. Finally, after several long minutes, the troll nodded his head. "Agreed."

"I can help?" Sylvia asked, ecstatic. She did not even realize that she had no idea what she was getting into. But that was not the information running through her head at the moment. She was thinking that she had finally gotten a leg up on that snobby Lady Lancelot and she couldn't wait to rub it in her face.

"I will warn you that the project is very taxing. I hope you're up for the challenge." The troll said, his way of stating a disclaimer. Sylvia did not even seem to hear the troll. She was too excited about her victory. She agreed readily to follow him deeper into the open hovel and to his home.

When the two got inside, Sylvia was expecting something complicated, adventurous and perhaps even dangerous. Would she be slaying a dragon? Would she need to cast a spell for the troll? Would she be required to dabble in some black magic for a curse? She was positively brimming with possibilities.

It was, then, to her huge confusion and disappointment that the troll led her to a desk sitting against the far wall of his home. Packed on top of the desk, nearly from floor to ceiling, were piles and piles of paperwork.

Sylvia's mouth dropped open.

"As you can see, it's a pretty big mess." The troll admitted. "I hate to almost show it to you because it's going to take a lot of work. But if you swear that you have the same skills that Lady Lancelot does…I'm sure you'll get through all this just fine." He turned to leave the hut for her to work when she stopped him.

"What am I supposed to do with all of this!?" She shouted, feeling extremely overwhelmed.

He turned back to her slowly. "You mean…you're not a C.P.A.?"

"What in Ra's good earth is a C.P.A.?"

The troll sighed in fueled frustration. He should have known that this girl would not have the skills necessary to handle a simple job. "An accountant, you dunder-flunderhead." He snapped. "That's what lady Lancelot was traveling here for; to help me settle my books before the IRS comes to throw me in jail."

"Well I can't help you with any of that." Sylvia responded, annoyed. "That's not what I even came here for."

"Then what did you come here for?" The troll continued to be snappy. "Because I am starting to think that you only came here to make my life more difficult!"

"Well, I came here to see if you would have any potions for me. Or spells." Sylvia replied, not noticing that the troll was obviously asking a rhetorical statement.

"A….spell…." He repeated slowly. He was bewildered by her dimness.

"Yes." She replied. "See, my mom is the head of this coven group and all they do is help people. I want to do something more……..I don't know…." She paused to think of the word.

The troll volunteered. "Dangerous?"

Sylvia smiled. "Exactly."

The troll sighed heavily and waddled over to another distant corner of his home. He pulled out a stool from a crawlspace and dragged it over against the wall. Standing up on it, he reached up high on the tallest shelf and grabbed something. He blew all the dust off before getting off the stool and handing it over to the young witch.

"Take that." He offered. She looked at it. It was about the size of her hand. It was a small book. Etched around the hand crafted leather bound cover read the words, Potions and Dark Magic for Dunderheads.

Sylvia looked back up at the troll. Her eyes were sparkling with delight. She could almost cry (except she couldn't, you know, because of that water thing). "Thank you!" She said joyfully. Getting too excited to wait, she ran from the tiny home and headed towards the mysterious path. Before she left, she called out over her shoulder: "I will never again think that trolls are just mean and bitter little creatures!"

When that statement reached the trolls eyes, he frowned. He felt his heart pang a little. He was hurt. "They say that about trolls?" He asked, heartbroken.

Sylvia waited until she was sure her mom had fallen asleep to open her new book. She hid under a blanket like she had done when she was a kid, with a flashlight and opened the front cover. She felt a rush coursing through her veins as she started to read the title page. Even the lettering on the title page seemed printed for epic things.

With excitement building in her body, she anxiously turned to the first page of the book and began to read.

Chapter One: How to Do Magic

Sylvia paused and frowned. "How to do magic?" She repeated back to herself, mouthing the words. Her frown deepened. But….she knew how to do magic. Thinking she had just misinterpreted the meaning of the title, she read on.

It is important to know that, when doing magic, you need a wand.

She laughed aloud. What wand? She had never needed a wand before.

It also helps to buy long dark robes and many crystal balls. You may think you are giving off the impression to some people that you are not a professional magi, but this is not true. Crystal balls and long robes only serve to enhance the aura of a magi and make you more powerful in the future.

Sylvia put the book down. She was beginning to think that this was all a big joke. She didn't need to learn any of this. Besides, she knew it was all complete crap anyway. No one who performs magic really wears long robes or has crystal balls.

Feeling suspicious, she went back to the Table of Contents page and started skimming through the chapter titles. Rage began to overwhelm her when she started reading.

How to Find a Good Eye of Newt
How to Buy a Cauldron That Won't Disappoint
When You Have Found the Right Wand For You
Love Potions: Which Ones Work, and Which Ones to Avoid

She was horrified.

She had actually wasted time on a foolish and false book like that?!

She screamed in rage as she tore off the blanket and threw the book across the room. It hit the far wall and fell with a loud 'thud' to the floor.

Anger was beginning to boil beneath her skin. She could feel it building. All she could think about was that troll who had deceived her.

"Troll…." She growled to herself.

She was shaking as she clenched her fists tight against her side. Her body was rigid and her eyes were blazing.


If Sylvia could see herself in a mirror, she would see her pupils turn to flames within her irises. She was more furious than she had ever been. She felt betrayed by that slimy little troll-man. Her mother had spent so much of her life trying to tell her that dark magic was not an "appropriate outlet" for lady witches. She could feel all that pent up anger and frustration flooding through her. And before she knew it, it all erupted like a volcano. And the kindling for that fire lay across the room, on the floor, where she had thrown it.

The phony book burst into flame. It was very controlled, however, as it died out as soon as the book had turned into a pile of ash.

The reaction from her anger seemed to startle Sylvia back into reality. She jumped back, momentarily startled by the event. She blinked several times, trying to understand what she had seen happen.

But then she smiled.

A cooling calm washed over her; again, something that had never happened before. She allowed herself to smile as she felt the power rush from her head, to her feet, and out through the fingertips on her hands.

She was powerful now. She could take on the world.

"Let's start with that sneaky troll." She smiled sinisterly to herself.

Melvin the Troll was preparing to head out for the night. Despite most people's beliefs about trolls, they did not live under bridges.

They took shifts.

Melvin had already passed the torch to his buddy, Donny, and he was putting his things in his locker for the next morning. He smiled at himself in the small mirror he had hanging on the door of the locker. "Marcie is going to loooove you tonight." He winked at himself before slamming the door shut.

He went to turn away from the lockers and leave the bridge for the night when he saw someone blocking his path. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw the young witch standing before him. "It's you," He breathed, almost gasping as he tried to catch his breath.

"Damn right it's me," Sylvia replied. Melvin was a little confused by her body language. He had assumed that she would have been angry by the prank he pulled on her. Most monsters were. They usually just yelled and maybe shoved him but then they were persuaded to lay off by accepting the true object of their desires.

But Sylvia seemed to be the sort that Melvin felt would not be easily won over. He had not felt that energy coming from her beforehand (otherwise he would have thought twice about giving her the book) and he felt a little scared.

He gulped.


"What can I do for you?" He asked, cautiously aware of the shaking in his vocal chords.

"Oh, I don't know…" Sylvia said slowly. She seemed as if she was going to start playing with him; a little cat and mouse game. She drummed her fingers on air and stared at them as if she was focusing on nothing. "I think you know why I'm here, though. So why don't we cut to the chase?" Melvin was about to open his mouth and express to her his sincerest apologies. But his usual trolly self got in the way.

"I don't know what you're talking about." He replied. As soon as he had said it, he knew that he shouldn't have. He didn't even really mean to say it. He had wanted to just apologize, but his cocky self took over. Melvin flung his hands over his mouth and begged her in a non verbal manner for mercy.

Sylvia played with her fingers in the seemingly empty air for a few more seconds before she snapped a couple of her fingers and the darkened night lit up. She was holding in her hands, very calmly, a ball of fire.

Melvin started to scream underneath his own hands that were pressing against his face.

Sylvia chuckled to herself. She seemed to relish in making the troll uncomfortable. "Oh, relax, numb nuts," She said passively as she rolled the fire ball expertly between the palms of her hands. "I just came here to get what I definitely deserve from you. If you give me that, I will be on my way."

Melvin nodded earnestly. He did not have to be told twice. He pulled his hands away from his mouth, resisted the urge to scream, and ran to the other side of the bridge. From his hiding spot, he found what he was looking for and he quickly brought it back over to the young witch.

She did not look at it before she took the book from him. She knew she had made her silent point very clear and he wasn't going to try and mess with her again. She stared him down for another couple minutes before smiling sweetly. "Thanks, love." She blew out the flaming ball of flame in her hand and disappeared into the darkness.

CHAPTER NINE: An Alternative Realtor

Chelsea was in a panic. The clients were supposed to meet her there at any moment, and she was worried she wouldn't be done in time. As she looked around the open foyer of the home, she saw that the mantel still needed to be dusted. The floor needed to be shined. How could the clients see the beautiful staining of the reclaimed wood if it wasn't clean?

Chelsea started furiously jotting down notes into her folder to bring to the attentions of the cleaning crew later that day.

Before she could finish writing, she heard a scratching at the door. For a moment, she panicked that it was a stray dog, or perhaps a rodent. But then the doorknob twisted. She quickly took a deep breath and calmed herself. She was able to smile genuinely as her clients breezed through the door.

"Welcome, welcome." Chelsea smiled at them both. They were a young couple, out buying their first home. Chelsea made sure she knew everything there was to know about each client. She felt it gave that special touch that people look for when they trust a realtor. The wife's name was Denise. She was a fashion designer and owned her own little boutique in the downtown district of the city. The husband's name was Charles. He was a Finance Banker. Chelsea had no idea what that meant, but she knew that it sounded like he made a lot of money, and that Denise was very impressed with the title.

"Why don't you take a look around the home, see what you like. We can discuss anything you want. I will just be waiting right here, so come to me with any questions." Charles walked around the house, almost like he was looking for something specific. Denise nodded her head absently and strolled slowly around the foyer.

As Charles left the room, Denise called out to him: "Darling, did you see this paint job in the foyer?"

Chelsea opened her mouth to explain the paint job to the couple. "Well, you see, there was this woman who used to —" but Denise cut her off with her laughter.

"It is ridiculously horrid." Chelsea's face crumpled in confusion as she gazed upon the walls. She didn't see what Denise saw. She thought the color was very becoming of the house. Still, she quickly reminded herself that showing any dislike or negativity towards the guests was forbidden. So she smiled politely and allowed the young couple to continue their tour.

Chelsea could hear the couple walking from room to room. The house itself was not huge, but it was well maintained. Built in the nineteen eighties, the previous owners had done a full remodel on the home before putting it up for sale. Chelsea had fallen in love with the house the first time she had laid eyes on it. She had been delighted when she was the one who was going to sell it. She felt like there was no better realtor to choose than the one who knew the house inside and out.

Chelsea heard the couple in the next room talking to each other. Against her better judgement, Chelsea stepped quietly over to the wall separating the two rooms and she peered around the corner.

"I think it's wonderful." Charles said. Chelsea smiled. She knew there was a reason she liked that man.

Denise, on the other hand, still seemed a little skeptical. "I don't know…" She let her voice trail off as she gazed at the mantel. Chelsea knew she was trying to picture how the room would look after they had moved in. But Chelsea wasn't worried. The whole room was fantastic on its own, there was no need to do much work. "I think I might want this mantel torn down."

Chelsea's mouth fell open in horror. How dare she!

But Charles stepped in for the realtor. He stood between his wife and the mantel. "Why would you do that?" He asked, sounding hurt. "I think it's beautiful. And think of all the things we could do with it. We could decorate it for Christmas. Imagine our future children's stockings hanging on the mantel…" He let his voice trail off as he swept her up in his arms. The two gently swayed back and forth in front of the centerpiece of the room. Denise actually laughed.

"OK," She finally admitted. "It can stay."

"I honestly don't know why you are being so hard on this house, though," Charles commented. "I think it's beautiful."

"I know," Denise replied, sighing. "I just don't want to move. I like our place."

"It's a dump. It's too small. Plus where are we going to put our future kids? It's a one bedroom."

"I know, but it's our first place."

Chelsea finally understood. All the resentment she had been feeling towards Denise was gone. She felt empathy for her instead. She could understand what it was like to not want to leave a place behind.

"So shall we do it?" Charles asked, smiling knowingly at his wife. She looked around the house one more time before looking back at him. She bit her lower lip and hesitantly nodded her head. After a few beats, that hesitation in her body language diminished and she was enthusiastic.

"Yes." She replied, laughing. Charles shared in her laughter and they embraced.

Chelsea waited a few minutes behind the wall. She wanted to make sure that her entrance into the room would not make them aware that she had been eavesdropping. She started to walk into the main living area of the home. "I just need you to come look over some of the paperwork with me and we can get set putting in an offer."

As she was trying to explain to the clients about the paperwork, the front door suddenly opened. Chelsea stopped what she was doing and turned to look in the direction of the foyer.

In strolled, very confidently, a mid-forties woman in a red-orange pant suit. She was wearing high heels that chimed with the pearls on her neck when she walked. "Hello, hello," She greeted energetically.

"Hello, Amanda." Denise said from the next room as she led her husband over. Chelsea shot a quick confused glance between the clients and the new woman in the home. Was she a friend? Was she going to be moving in with them?

The mysterious Amanda woman walked straight over to the young couple, stopping for nothing. She even passed right through Chelsea. She shook Denise's hand and she was introduced to Charles.

"So, do you like the home?" Amanda asked happily.

"We love it." Denise and Charles replied back at the same time. Amanda beamed at them, her smile shining from ear to ear.

"I'm so glad to hear it." She replied happily. "Now come into the dining area with me and we'll look over the paperwork and put in an offer."

Amanda led the couple out of the living area and into the adjoining room.

Chelsea remained in the foyer, speechless. She didn't know how exactly to react. It wasn't every day that a realtor got a house stolen from under her. That was her commission.

On the other hand, it wasn't like the dead really needed money.

But it was the principle of the thing.8

CHAPTER TEN: Demon Hunter

(I am giving all credit where credit is due for this idea. Jen, you are amazing.)

My name is Phil Donahue. I am forty two years old, I am five foot six. I have brown hair and green eyes and I am of average girth.

All in all, there is not too many interesting things about me. I like to have my coffee in the morning, I like to read the paper while I'm eating my usual breakfast (farm fresh eggs and toast). I am the type of guy you might not look at twice when crossing the street.

Yup, I'm just you're every day, run of the mill, ordinary, salt of the earth kinda average guy.

Except for one thing.

Oh, yeah.

I fight monsters.

I don't have a typical origin story like you might read in the comics. Nobody in my immediate family died for me to turn onto the path of righteousness. In fact, both of my parents are happily living in a retirement community in Boca Raton, FL. They're not currently living together (as they have both taken what I can only describe as "lovers"), but that is a whole other story for my therapist.

Regardless, I came across my current self employed occupation when I found myself one night face to face with a vampire. I was at a bar where I had been stood up by a blind date I met on eHarmony. I was leaving the establishment when I found a couple outside in the alley behind the bar. I thought at first that they were simply making out, or macking, or whatever it is those young people do. But when the young woman's lifeless body crumpled to the ground, I knew something was up.

The man who had, I had thought, been kissing her looked at me, he looked at me with eyes that seemed to pierce through to my very soul. His very gaze sent shivers cascading down my spine. Even revisiting that memory in my brain, it still gives me shivers.

But the man was not scared of me at all. He seemed completely unthreatened by someone having witnessed a murder. He simply smiled at me, chuckled, and raised his finger to his lips. He 'shh'd me there in the streets.


In the streets!

I, Phil Donahue, had witnessed that abnormal creature murder a woman before my very eyes….and he SHH'd me!

Well, I do tell you to this day that I was appalled.

Before I could say anything to the man, however, he had disappeared into the darkness.

But I vowed, from that very evening, that I would find that creature and let him know how I felt about being 'shh'd by a mere murderer.

I spent years researching and tracking down ambiguous leads. I finally found a reliable source that, in exchange for a tasty gluten free seaweed snack, led me right into the heart of the monster village. It was only five miles from the town where I grew up. I was amazed at first that I had never realized a whole village existed outside of the rest of the world.

The creature who led me into the village set me up with a fake identity. He said that I would better blend in if I pretended to be a visiting vampire from out of town.

At first, of course, I objected. I was abhorred by the idea that I would have to stage as the very creature that had done me wrong. But after hearing the very real and very threatening warnings about what the inhabitants of the village do to humans, I graciously accepted my host's efforts.

So for the next several months, I made sure to blend in to the surroundings. I rarely left my room at the local inn during the day. I remained secluded to myself and took meals in seclusion. I could hear other visitors and townsfolk whispering to each other as they passed my door. I knew my disguise was working.

Tonight will be the first night that I leave my room to embrace the other monsters in the village. I feel as though I have created enough of a reputation for myself and I was eager to start my revenge plot against that rude vampire-like creature.

//I like this chapter but I honestly have NO idea where it's going. :( And since there isn't much time left to "complete" my novel by the end of the month, I have decided to skip this chapter and write something new. My apologies

The good news, though, if you loved the chapter: I LOVE this character and I can't wait to develop him and his story more in the future. —A.H.White//

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Who's Your Daddy?

(I just want to add, as a little "behind the scenes" info that this is the chapter that inspired everything.)

Dr. Whis Crite: Attorney at Law was sitting in a comfy looking swivel chair. The chair actually wasn't all that comfy, but it looked comfy. And that's why the doctor had bought it. He crossed his legs several times, switching sides each time. He had a look on his face when doing so that expressed professionalism. Anyone who would have seen him sitting like that would have thought that he was busy at work. But, in fact, it was a rouse. He was just trying to get comfortable in a very (as it turned out) uncomfortable chair.

There was a light knock on the office door that broke the doctor's concentration. He immediately stopped shuffling from side to side and he jumped to his feet. He hurried to the door but paused and took a breath before he opened it.

On the other side of the door stood his first ever client.

He smiled.

"Welcome, Clarisse."

The young doctor stepped aside to let his newest client in. She walked into the office, looking at first a bit apprehensive. She studied the layout before picking her seat facing the only window in the office. Dr. Crite had decided that, when choosing an office to suit the mentally unstable, a small and single window would be best.9

Dr. Crite waited patiently for his patient to sit down before he moved back to his own chair and took a seat. It was still uncomfortable, much to his dismay.

Trying to ignore the unusual lumpiness of the chair, he reached over on his desk and retrieved a yellow legal pad and a pen. "I like to first get acquainted with my patients," Dr. Crite explained, by way of introduction. "I like to get a good 'feel', as it were, for the person I am treating. So I'm going to ask you a few questions and you can answer them as you see fit." He paused for a minute and studied the young woman. He waited a beat or two for a response from her, but she said nothing. Assuming she understood everything, he continued.

"Now before I begin, I want to make it clear that all the questions I am going to ask you are strictly voluntary. They don't really serve much purpose in the overall treatment. It just helps me find the best method to help you. Do you understand?" He expected some kind of verbal acknowledgement, but all he received was a curt nod of the head. Dr. Crite realized that was the best response he was going to receive, so he put his pen to the paper and started writing.

is going to be one of 'those' patients he wrote in the margins of the paper. He then looked back up at his client and smiled. "Let's begin, shall we?" Again the woman nodded. Dr. Crite resisted the urge to sigh. "What's your full name?"

"Clarisse de Sauvignon Blanc." She replied in a heavy French accent. Dr. Crite's eyebrows raised before he could stop his gut reaction. He quickly tried to cover up his response (as all therapists should remain neutral). However he wrote down something on his sheet of paper.

'Clarisse of White Wine'?

He let that question go. He wanted to think that she was joking around with him — a silly way to break the ice — but he had a sickening feeling in his stomach that she wasn't joking.

This was going to be a doozy.

"How old are you, Clarisse?" He asked.


Dr. Crite wrote that information down on the sheet.

"Are you a religious person?"


"Are you involved in any kind of cult?"


Dr. Crite nodded, trying to look thoughtful as he wrote down all the information she provided. "Are you married, single, divorced…?"


Dr. Crite's interest was peaked. Maybe he could talk her into doing a couples counseling. It was more expensive. "Would your husband be willing to sit in for a session or two?" He asked. He tried to keep his enthusiasm to the minimum in case Clarisse noticed something but she did not seem at all suspicious.

Clarisse, however, shook her head in response. "I don't think he would be willing to do that."

Dr. Crite could feel all that money flying away from him. He tried another approach and tried his best to remain subtle. "Well, I am always willing to do a case-to-case trial run if you would be interested in that. I know a lot of people don't think about this part, but most trauma cases affect their loved ones as well as themselves. It might be good for you as a couple." He held his breath, hoping against hope that he had not laid it on too thick for the client.

Yet, even after his impassioned speech, Clarisse still shook her head. "I don't think that's possible." She again replied.

"Why not?" Dr Crite asked, trying not to sound disappointed or irritated.

"Because he's been kidnapped." Dr. Whis Crite stopped. He was frozen for a beat. Had he heard her right? Kidnapped? He tried to think of something to say — anything to break the ice. But he did not need to worry about it. Clarisse explained. "It happened on our wedding day. He just disappeared right before we could get married." Clarisse's voice broke and she was struggling to hold back tears as she talked. As soon as she was done reliving the event in her head, she broke down into a series of harsh sobs.

Dr. Crite remained motionless. He was not sure what to do. His eyes darted around the room, looking for any kind of inspiration. Unfortunately he had recently moved into that same office and his walls were derelict of any muse. He silently swore at himself but tried to say something reassuring. "I can see this is something very painful for you," he started, his voice soft. "I know pain like this is very difficult. But there is healing in sadness." He stopped talking to let his client wail a few more times. "I will just make a note of this event so we can come back to it later."

He didn't make a note of it. He did, however, make a note that she wasn't really married.

He waited patiently for his client to finish crying before he continued with the questions. "Since I think we've gone through all the preliminary things, Clarisse, I would like to ask you the main question. Why do you think you came here?"

Clarisse calmed herself down and wiped the tears from her eyes. She sat there looking as if she was trying to compose her thoughts. Finally she sighed and came clean.

"I don't know who I am." She admitted.

Dr. Crite was pleasantly surprised by that answer. With monsters, sometimes it was hard to tell what their issues might be. They might have an irrational fear of stakes (although why any vampire would be afraid of some beef puzzled him). But not knowing who you are in the world was kind of part-and-parcel for any monster.

"That's fairly common," Dr. Crite said reassuringly. "It's easy to feel lost and even to feel like you've lost your sense of self. When things get really tough and you have been through a drastic change, it's sometimes hard to understand yourself as a person."

Clarisse shook her head. "No, that's not what I mean." She replied. "I don't mean 'I don't know who I am' as in 'I can't decide if I should buy a Ferrari, or adopt a dog'. I mean literally. I don't. Know who. I. Am."

Dr. Crite was confused. He studied the young woman for several minutes, trying to figure out what she was saying. Could she be having an identity crisis that wasn't an identity crisis? Clarisse must have sensed what the doctor was thinking, because she sighed in frustration and leaned in closer to him.

"Come up to me." She invited. "Look at me. Closely." Dr. Crite was a little put off by the suggestion, but Clarisse waved him closer. She was feeling impatient. Against his better judgement, the doctor leaned in closer.

What he saw on her skin made everything more clear.

"Ahh…." he stated knowingly.

Clarisse nodded. Finally he understood.

"So you understand my predicament." She said, almost relieved to know someone kind of understood her situation. "My father is Frankenstein's monster and I am his mashed-up daughter."

Dr. Crite frowned and found himself slowly shaking his head. "I don't think 'mashed up' is the correct term…" he started slowly but Clarisse cut him off.

"It is exactly the right term." She snapped. "I mean, I don't even know who I am. Or…..who I was. Was I a business man on Wall Street? Was I a baseball player in Little League? Was I a ballerina?"

Dr. Crite nodded his head, picking up on something. "I notice you relate a lot towards a male role." He commented.

Clarisse paused. "Huh?"

"All those things you listed off — those possible 'past identities', if you will — were all male."

Clarisse stared at him for several minutes before she replied. "I think the ballerina one was more a female role."

Dr. Crite shrugged. "Males can be ballerinas too." He mumbled to himself, feeling his heart crushed as it had all those years ago when he was turned down from ballet. But he choked back his own repressive memories and tried to stay focused on his patient.

Clarisse sighed, letting herself continue. "I just feel….I don't know…..lost sometimes. Ya know?" Dr. Crite nodded in silence. He did know. He knew all too well. "I just wish I knew who I was. Or even who my real parents were." She slumped back in her chair. It seemed they had reached a real focus of the therapy.

The doctor got an idea.

"You know," he started. He kept his voice optimistic and light because he was not sure how the patient was going to react to his therapy approach. "Your case, as I'm sure you realize, is quite unique. I have been a therapist for almost a week now and I have never met anyone with a condition such as yours." He could feel himself losing his audience so he quickly thought of another direction in which to take his explanation. "But I think I have an idea." He smiled inwardly to himself when he realized that he had his patient's attention. "Although the two will not be parallel, your situation is very similar to that of an adopted child."

"How so?" Clarisse asked, sitting upright again and listening intently.

"A lot of adopted children have a skewed sense of self. They do not know who their real parents are and they are usually overcome with lots of questions. When they ask their adopted parents, their new parents usually aren't told much about their biological parents. So they are left wondering what kind of people they are, and if they will be anything like them. For some adopted children, it becomes a great strain on their development. They feel that they can't move forward emotionally because they don't know who they're supposed to become.

"I feel you have a similar case."

Clarisse was blown away. She had had her concerns going to see Dr. Crite that day. She had heard he was kind of a whack job (one of the nicer things she had heard about him). But she was pleasantly surprised at how insightful his interpretation of her case was.

For the first time in a long time, Clarisse felt a small glimmer of hope.

She smiled warmly at the doctor. "I think you can help me."

Dr. Crite smiled back. On the paper in his lap, he quickly drew a palm print and high fived it.

His first client.

Later that afternoon, Frankie was walking down the hallway of his bungalow. He heard happy humming coming from one of the rooms. He stopped to listen to the music and was surprised that it was coming from Clarisse's room. He had not heard her humming or singing — or doing anything happy — since her marriage fell apart right at the alter.

Frankie quietly opened the door and peered inside, making sure that it was his daughter in the room.

She was sitting with her back facing him. She was sitting in front of the vanity he and his wife had made for her for her quinceanera. He stood by the door frame and leaned against the wall. He watched his daughter silently for several minutes, smiling at the sight. Despite everything that had happened recently, she was still able to find happiness. He was so proud of her.

"Did you have a good visit with the doctor today?" Frankie asked. Clarisse nodded her head but did not turn around to face her father. Instead, she made eye contact with him through his reflection in the mirror.

"Yes, he was very helpful." She replied.

"Good," Frankie nodded, relieved at the answer. He had not come highly recommended, but he had been cheap. Plus he had seemed very devoted to helping his daughter. Well, he was highly motivated after Frankie's lower level goons had gone to see him about accepting Clarisse as a patient. Dr. Crite had seemed very enthused about the idea after their little visit. "I'm happy for you, sweetie." He turned to leave when he was stopped by his daughter.

"Wait," She said. He turned back to face her and looked inquisitive. She sighed and slowly turned around to face her father.

Frankie could not stop himself from gasping in horror.

His daughter — his precious daughter that he and his wife had created and raised as their own — was dressed like….. like……

Well, she wasn't dressed like really anything.

At least not any fashion statement Frankie had ever seen before.

That wasn't to say that she was naked. On the contrary, she was wearing a heavy assortment of clothes. However she resembled Batman's Two-Face character. One side of her body was dressed in a very conservative summer dress; the other side like a skateboarder. The two separate styles of clothes were crudely sewn together and she even wore different shoes on each foot. One was a flip flop with gentle sparkles, and the other one was a DC skater shoe.

She smiled expectantly at her father. "Do you like it?" She asked hopefully.

Frankie, however, was standing there with his mouth hanging open. If his reattached muscles would have allowed it, his jaw would have literally hit the floor.

He had never in his whole life wanted to be a zombie than at that very moment. They, at least, had that dramatic talent.

Knowing how he must have looked to his daughter and not wanting to hurt her, he tried his best to regain control of his demeanor.

Frankie stalled for time by slowly letting out a deep breath. He tried to organize his thoughts as quickly as he could to come up with a response. But he was finding it hard to say something that wouldn't hurt his daughter's feelings.

"It's…." he paused, still trying to search for the right word. "Different."

Thankfully Clarisse seemed to take that description as a compliment. She smiled and sighed in relief. She had been holding her breath in anticipation of his reaction. Dr. Crite had told her that it was very important for her to express herself, and very important that the people in her life were to be understanding.

"Good," She smiled happily at her dad. "I was going for that." She hopped up from the chair and ran over to her father. She gave him a quick hug before she joyfully walked out of the room.

Frankie was happy for his daughter — he thought — but he definitely knew that he was going to have a loooong talk with that doctor.

The door to Dr. Crite's office was broken open. Dr. Crite: Attorney at Law - Psychiatrist was busy with a patient when this action happened. The patient, a banshee by the name of Kurlokk, screamed in terror.

All those present in the room (including those who just blew open the door) covered their ears and cringed in searing pain. Dr. Crite almost doubled over from the pain but fought with everything he had to get through it. He was able to crawl over to his desk, grab the stun gun off the desk and shoot Kurlokk with it.

She immediately stopped screaming and slumped in her chair.

Everyone in the room slowly and cautiously removed their hands from their ears. Some of the intruders had blood draining from their ears.

Dr. Crite looked at his very unwelcome guests and was about to scream at them for barging in in such an inappropriate way, when he stopped.

He gulped. Hard.

He gazed up at the towering figure of the created man standing before him. He had heard stories of him from news articles and others in dive bars who had seen him. But those descriptions — as tall tale as they sounded — didn't do the giant justice.

Frankie was glaring coldly down at the play-doctor. The temperature in the room seemed to suddenly drop. Dr. Crite could literally feel himself shaking in his boots.

Frankie slowly shortened the distance between himself and the doctor. His two goons, the ones who had previously been there to see Dr. Crite, were standing guard at the door in case anyone tried to intervene.

Dr. Crite watched in immobilized horror at the monster standing before him. And he was only getting closer.

When Frankie decided the distance between them was enough, he took a few more minutes to let the doctor sweat in fear. When that time was up, Frankie growled at the man. "What. In the hell. Did you tell my daughter?"

"Your — your daughter?" Dr. Crite asked. Apparently it was the wrong response. Frankie slammed his foot down so hard that it shook the very foundation of the building. A piece of dry wall from the ceiling came crashing down in the far corner of the room. Frankie took one more mean step forward and put his disfigured face right up close to the doctors.

"Care to try again?" He asked quietly. His voice was cold and non verbally threatening. But Dr. Crite got the message.

He gulped and chuckled lightly to himself. He always found the need to keep tough situations light with a little laughter. Frankie did not see the amusement, but he also did not attempt to kill the doctor.

So Crite thought of it as a win-win.

"Your daughter is Clarisse, right?" He asked, knowing the question needed no response. He nodded to Frankie's non existent answer. "I saw her earlier today and we discussed her missing identity."

"What the hell does that mean?" Frankie snapped. "She's a Frankenstein…..'s monster-monster. What other kind of identity does she want?"

Dr. Crite laughed, but this time it was not for the need to ease the tension. He was seriously baffled. "Why would she not need an identity?" He asked back. When Frankie's cold calculating body language softened for a moment into a look of confusion, the doctor capitalized on it. He nodded his head, quickly gathering his thoughts. He leaned against his desk and started to explain the situation to him.

"Basically your daughter feels lost."

"She has us." Frankie replied defensively. Dr. Crite held up his hands in non verbal surrender.

"Yes," he agreed. "But as a person on her own, that sometimes isn't enough. Don't get me wrong: it's enough to form a certain part of identity; the 'where do I come from?' part. But she is struggling with her individual identity. Who is she? Why is she here? What makes her happy? Those are the questions she is seeking answers to."

Frankie did nothing to reply but Dr. Crite knew he was starting to slowly understand.

"I know, with everything that has happened in your daughter's life recently, maybe she feels like she has lost herself along the way. She just needs to take some time and rewind a little; try to figure out what makes her a happy individual."

"Then why is she dressed like some kind of whacko, walking around the streets in a half-woman/half-man suit?"

Dr. Crite was confused. "What?"

"She made her own clothes. Half of her is wearing a dress and the other half is wearing boys' clothes."

The color drained out of the doctor's face. "Oh no." He said worryingly. He put his elbows down on the table and pressed his weight against them. He lowered his head between his shoulder blades and tried to keep from feeling nauseous.

"'Oh no'?!" Frankie repeated, infuriated. "What does that mean, 'oh no'!?"

Dr. Crite sighed heavily. He was not looking forward to the very possible outrage that was going to happen. He turned to face the father and braced himself for the fallout. He chose his words carefully.

"I want you to understand that I had no knowledge that your daughter's case was so serious." he said. He hoped that his apology would somehow ease the situation but it seemed to be throwing more fuel on the fire. Frankie's eyes blazed in rage. He stepped towards the doctor, hands out and ready to strangle his neck. Dr. Crite jumped behind his desk, putting the piece of furniture between him and the creature. Frankie's goons even surprised the doctor by stepping in and trying to hold their boss back.

Dr. Crite used what little time he might have to explain all he could to the creature. "In my psychological studies in the table top game, Call of Cthulhu, identity crises can sometimes be triggered when the patient has lost all sense of herself. I was under the impression at the time of speaking to your daughter, that she was just struggling with a minor identity set back. But if she is creating these fantastical outfits…" he let his voice trail off, unable to finish his prediction.

Frankie, however, wanted to know the end of the thought.

And Frankenstein's monster usually got his way.

"What is it?" He screamed at the doctor. Dr. Crite winced slightly at the reaction, but he was able to calm himself. He knew it would end up being a worse ending for him if he never told the father what to expect.

He gulped again. "It may mean that she is fighting to find a new identity. She isn't sure if she is identified as a male or female anymore. That may explain the two different genders in clothes. She is trying to find a way to express her true self." He shrugged helplessly. "It's going to take time."

"Well what happens to my daughter?" Frankie demanded. "Will she even be my daughter anymore?"

Again, Dr. Crite shrugged. There really was nothing he could say.

"I really don't know." he replied honestly. "But there is something you can do. You can help her remember all the things she used to do when she was a child. All the things you, perhaps, used to do together as a family. That may help trigger some emotional responses that could help her find her identity faster."

"And you're going to keep seeing her and treating her." Frankie said. It was clear it was not a request.

Dr. Crite lowered his head to the ground and nodded. "Yes." he replied, solemnly.


"I just don't understand," Ethan sighed in annoyance. He rubbed his temple not so gently and tried to remain patient. "Just why won't it work?"

The individual he was talking to was his right hand man. His name was Elliot. He was getting a little impatient with his employer. There were only so many ways to explain why he couldn't do what Ethan was asking him. He sighed heavily, mirroring his employer's coping methods. "Just to clarify," he tried explaining it again slowly so he would understand. "You want me to put a mirror in your office."

"Yes." Ethan replied. "Right there behind my desk." He gestured to the wall pointedly. "How is that difficult to understand?"

"Why do you want a mirror anyway?"

"So I can make sure I look good. I need to keep my appearance in line."

"You're a vampire!" Elliot shouted, losing patience.

"Even more reason we should keep our looks on point." Ethan argued.

Elliot was baffled. Was it the core concept that his employer was not understanding? "You don't have a reflection." Elliot explained. He fought to speak through a tight jaw.

Ethan nodded his head. "I know but I was hoping we could do one of those new age-y mirrors that where I could still see myself. They use some kind of trick in making them…?" His voice trailed off in a way that suggested he was open to ideas from his staff.

Elliot, however, threw up his hands in defeat. He didn't know what else to do. "You're insane." He finally said. Ethan only smiled. That action seemed to irritate Elliot to no end and he was about to scream when there was a knock at the door.

Ethan peered over his associate's shoulder and saw his assistant, Marcie, step into the room. "Your ten o' clock is here." She said. Elliot was relieved. He jumped at the chance to excuse himself from the room and he left.

Ethan nodded knowingly at his assistant and she sent his appointment into the room. Ethan walked to meet his appointment halfway and held out his hand in greeting. "Good morning, Mr. Nash." He smiled at his prospective new client. "Such a pleasure to meet with you today."

The man entering stopped and shook Ethan's hand. He smiled in return. "Thank you for having me," he replied back. "But please: call me Phil."

Ethan had spent the last several hours at the gym. He was very proud of his physique and spent a lot of time on it. He knew that he was immortal but he did not use that as an excuse to look undignified. He had met other immortals (vampires and otherwise) in the past who had simply given up. He wasn't about to do the same.

The gym wasn't too far from his loft apartment so he decided to walk home when he left the building. He stopped several buildings down to gaze at his non reflection in the window.

It was then that he noticed the car.

It was a none too subtle Ford Taurus. It was easy to spot in that town because nobody really drove. And anyone who did owned much nicer cars than a beat up old Ford.

Ethan felt a small pang of uneasiness as he watched the car in the window. He noticed that the driver of said vehicle must have known he was onto the tail, because the car suddenly veered off and circled around. Ethan chuckled to himself. Amateur. But he still felt a little strange.

Something wasn't right.

He slowly continued on his way back home. At first every footing was cautious and planned. But when he saw what he suspected — that the vehicle continued to follow him — he started to run.

The car only accelerated in response.

Ethan cut down a small alley way as a short cut and seemed to lose the tail. He was relieved when he reached the end of the alley way and stood there, catching his breath. He felt relief for a brief sweet moment and then he crumpled to the ground.

Elliot was sleeping in the middle of the morning when he heard his cell phone vibrating on his coffin stand10. He groaned through the blocked off light and rolled over. His hand went wide in trying to reach his phone and eventually knocked it onto the floor. He swore and sat up, running his hand over the carpet to retrieve it.

He answered it, sounding quite annoyed. He hated being woken up in the middle of the day. "Hello?" He asked, his voice sounding gruff.

"There's been an accident.

Because Elliot could not go out in the day light, he had agreed to meet the caller in the basement morgue of the local hospital. He was still rubbing his eyes from exhaustion when the elevator 'dinged' and the doors opened. He was immediately hit with a pleasant cool rush of air from the morgue and he smiled a little.

He sauntered over to the individual who had phoned him. It was Dr. Hyde, the local mortician. He was attending to the body in question.

"What's the problem, doc?" Elliot asked.

"Someone tried to kill me!" Ethan shouted, his voice high pitched in panic. Elliot smacked his employer lightly on the head.

"I wasn't talking to you." He growled. In a normal employer-employee relationship, it was definitely uncommon for an employee to hit his boss and get away with it. But Ethan and Elliot had been friends long before they became creatures of the night. And Elliot deserved a little leeway.

Elliot focused his attention back on the doctor and shot him an apologetic smile. The doctor nodded his head in nonverbal understanding. "Right," he said, getting right to the point. "It appears that the patient is right."

"Of course I'm right." Ethan mumbled bitterly but his comment was ignored.

"He told me that he was being chased by this unknown person in a car, of all things. And he was gunned down."

Elliot blinked several times. "Excuse me?" He asked, not sure he had heard the doctor right. "'Gunned' down?"

"Yes." Dr. Hyde replied, nodding his head.

"Like, with a real gun?" Elliot asked. "That's not just some fancy euphemism?"

Dr. Hyde shook his head and held up a pair of pincers. Between the tongs was a small silver bullet. "Afraid not." He replied.

Elliot was shocked. "Who would do this?" He asked.

"That's what I want to know." Ethan demanded. "Elliot, make a list of all my enemies and we'll go through them one by one."

Elliot, and even Dr. Hyde, turned slowly to look at the patient. Ethan, oblivious, stared back blankly. "What?" He asked innocently.

"It would be faster to list off all the people in this town that liked you." Elliot replied flatly. "Let's see. There's me……and Dr. Hyde here. There. Done."

"Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves in the 'like' department." Dr. Hyde chuckled. Ethan glared at him but his response was ignored.

Ethan was offended. "That's untrue!" He exclaimed, feeling hurt. "Marcie likes me!"

"No," Elliot replied patiently. "Marcie tolerates you."

"Then what about that nice old woman who lives in my building. What's her name?"

Dr. Hyde's eyebrows raised. "You think someone likes you and you don't even know her name?" He was baffled. Ethan ignored him.

"Which one?" Elliot asked.

"The one with the cane and that cute little cat…thing."

Elliot suddenly remembered who his employer was talking about and he laughed out loud. "Mrs. Tristan? You ate her cat one night after staying up and drinking all day! She might hate you the most!"

Ethan was genuinely hurt. He had always thought of himself as a lovable guy. He had thought his antics were acceptable to others. And it turned out that wasn't the case?

As Elliot took a few more minutes to laugh over Ethan's mistake, Dr. Hyde decided it was time to address the main issue.

"I am just confused about one thing." He voiced. "If Ethan is right, and someone was trying to kill him…..why did they choose the weapon that they did?"

Elliot, having finished making fun of his employer, stopped laughing and calmed down. He started to think about that mystery and soon found himself equally as puzzled.

"Maybe they didn't know that Ethan was a vampire?" Elliot suggested.

"Maybe." Dr. Hyde responded but he sounded skeptical. "But why shoot him at all if he had no idea who he was?"

Elliot was stunned into silence. Ethan, also, did not know. He had thought the world loved him, and his world just got a lot smaller.

Meanwhile…across town…

A man was standing in his rented motel room. He was facing the wall and smiling to himself. He seemed extremely pleased. His chest was puffed out in confidence and he had his hands placed on his hips.

In front of him, pinned up on the wall, was a series of pictures. Among them — the one the man was currently gazing upon — was a picture of Ethan. He had a large circle drawn around his head and a straight line drawn through it.

"One down, unknown more to go."

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