My Favorite Fangs

The Story of the Von Trapp Family Vampires

Alan Goldsher

St. Martin's Griffin/Thomas Dunne Books

CHAPTER 1
 
 
HOUSED ON WHAT the majority of Austrians agreed was the most rancid corner in Salzburg, the nameless Abbey was an eyesore, so painful to look at that nobody looked at it. Its asymmetrically constructed grayish-brown and brownish-gray stones, its cracked windows, its spiked wrought-iron front gate, and its rotting vegetable garden were a blight upon the city’s otherwise gorgeous architecture. And then there was the Abbey’s stench, an almost-living-and-breathing odor that some likened to that of a leprosy-sufferer, while others said it was reminiscent of a decomposing stag. Thus the general public avoided and/or ignored the Abbey, which was just how the Abbey’s Sisters of the Undead wanted it.
As was always the case, the moment the sun ducked under the horizon, the Abbey’s Mother Zombie let out a nausea-inducing moan that rattled the bottles in the underground “wine” collection. (Why is “wine” in quotation marks, one might ask? Well, one would have to figure it out for one’s self, but one shouldn’t have to think too hard, considering the presence of a Vampire in our story.) The remainder of the Abbey’s inhabitants followed suit, and the combined cacophony of their groans caused every dog within ten kilometers to howl as if their tails were being tied into knots … as was also always the case.
The 173 Zombies who made up the Abbey’s population dressed identically—black robes, black shawls, black sandals, and black head-coverings—and as the Abbey was badly lit—and as all the inhabitants were unable to stand up straight—it was difficult for the untrained eye to tell the Zombie Sisters apart. The only way to discern one of the beings from another was by her shuffle: Zombie Sister Brandi, for instance, had her mortal life terminated in a terrible female deer accident—after she fell off of her gigantic doe, Golden Sun, the beast stepped on her left leg five, six, seven times, crushing Brandi’s poor bones into powder—so she moved with a disjointed, distinct limp that could belong to nobody but her. As a human, Zombie Sister Cinnamon, on the other hand, died during childbirth, thus when Mother Zombie sucked her brains from her skull, Cinnamon’s body was in pristine shape, so she was able to glide across the cobblestone floors with ease. (It should be noted that “glide” and “ease” are relative terms when it comes to Zombies, as an undead glide was far slower than that of a mortal glide, and in terms of ease, nothing comes easy for the brain-damaged undead.) And then there was Zombie Sister Chesty LaBumm, who was so emaciated at the time of her expiration—her family was impoverished, and she had passed away from starvation—that even with Mother Zombie’s reanimating kiss, the periodic infusion of mortal brain slime, and the weekly silicone injections in her bosom, she did not possess the strength to move faster than the slowest tortoise.
While darkness enfolded the rancid Abbey, all 173 of the Zombie Sisters made their way toward the Auditorium of Worship. The Auditorium was, relatively speaking, an attractive room, replete with stained glass windows that were not all broken, rows of splinter-filled wooden benches that could more-or-less support the dead weight of the undead, and a workable altar that housed a mold-covered, nine-meter-high shale statue of The Being Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered. With its palpable odor of burnt garlic, rotting raccoon carcass, and semi-fresh human feces, it was the ideal setting for a Zombie prayer gathering.
As they approached the Auditorium, the Zombies picked up a unison chant: Mortales spumae, et ne ius nostrum spirare auram, mors est satis, mors est satis, the loose translation of which is, “Mortals are scum, they should not be allowed to breathe our air, death is not enough, death is not enough.” Once the Zombies were seated, the Mother Zombie took to the altar, and wordlessly approached the statue. With surprising reverence, she slowly caressed The Being Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered with her right hand, beginning at his feet, working her way up to his nose. She then stood on her tiptoes and ran her acne-covered tongue over the top of The Being Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered’s head, after which she licked every millimeter of the statue, from top to bottom, and every bit in between. Following Mother Zombie’s tongue bath, each Zombie approached the altar one at a time and licked only the statue’s feet. (For centuries, each Zombie licked the entire statue, but once the Abbey’s populace grew to 81 inhabitants fifteen years before, Mother Zombie decided it was prohibitively time-consuming to have each and every one slobber over the entire T.B.W.N.S.N.B.U. sculpture. Zombies had many tasks, and as they moved sluggishly from duty to duty, it wasn’t logical to spend five hours in the Auditorium of Worship, and Mother Zombie was nothing if not logical.)
After the final Zombie Sister delivered the final Zombie lick, Mother Zombie gave her nightly benediction: Abite cretins terrae abi foetidus creaturis, abite sceleratos deformis, bathe secretion spiritalis entis cui nomen non dixisti, complectere foeditas, complectere foeditas, complectere foeditas, the loose translation of which is, “Be gone, cretins of the Earth, be gone, fetid creatures, be gone, hideous miscreants, bathe in the spiritual secretion of The Being Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered, embrace the foulness, embrace the foulness, embrace the foulness.”
In the fifth row, Zombie Sister Cinnamon turned to Zombie Sister Brandi and whispered, “When will Mother Zombie learn that not a single one of us understands Latin?”
Unfortunately for Cinnamon, her whisper wasn’t whispery enough. “Do you have something to say, Zombie Sister?!” Mother Zombie roared.
Cinnamon stammered, “I … I … I … I…”
Mother Zombie said, “You … you … you … you must … you must … you must suffer.” And then she took a golden cleaver from under her robe and threw it at Zombie Sister Cinnamon’s neck.
The Mother had brilliant aim.
But Cinnamon ducked.
And thus ended the life—or, more accurately, the undeath—of Zombie Sister Blaze Starr, the unfortunate creature seated in the sixth row.
The Sister Zombies stared at Mother Zombie, and Mother Zombie stared right on back. As Blaze Starr’s decapitated head rolled down the aisle, one of the Zombies in the back of the room mumbled, “This again?”
Mother roared, “Silence, you odious death mongers! One of you, feed Blaze Starr to the goats.”
In unison, the Zombies chanted, “Lady, oh the lady, oh the lay hee hoo.”
Mother Zombie nodded, the tiniest of smiles playing about her lips. “That’s correct, my beloved ones. Lady, oh the lady, oh the lay hee hoo.”
After the goats were fed, and after the service was completed, Mother Zombie motioned Zombie Sister Brandi and Zombie Sister Cinnamon to join her in the courtyard. Brandi and Cinnamon both turned pale—or, more accurately, paler; most undead are already quite pale to begin with, especially those who spend nine-tenths of their lives in a dark, dank dump like the Abbey—because nothing good ever came of those meetings. For instance, earlier in the month, Zombie Sister Foxxxy was summoned to the courtyard to discuss her cleanliness, or lack thereof. “Foxxxy,” Mother Zombie had said with a quiet, albeit fearsome whisper, “we have discussed your fluid situation. Numerous times.”
Foxxxy stared at the floor. “Yes, Mother,” she mumbled.
“Your nightly discharge is completely covering the floor of the water closet.”
“Yes, Mother.”
“To clarify: I mean the nightly discharge.”
“Yes, Mother.”
“That’s the yellow discharge.”
“Yes, Mother.”
“Contrary to your daily discharge.”
“Yes, Mother.”
“That being the brown discharge.”
“Yes, Mother.”
“We must also discuss your brown discharge, however.”
“Why is that, Mother?”
“Because it’s covering the entire floor of your sleeping chambers.”
Foxxxy mustered the strength to meet Mother Zombie’s eyes. “That brown discharge didn’t come from me, Mother.”
“No? Who, then? Who did it come from? Who left brown discharge by your bed? Who in this Abbey would do such a thing?”
“I, um, I believe it was Vampire Sister Maria, Mother.”
Mother Zombie moaned, then spit a gob of green goo on the wall; the wall steamed where the goo stuck. “Foxxxy, I’m aware that we tend to blame most of our problems on Maria. And that’s certainly understandable, because Maria is a problem, and an unsolvable one at that. But the discharge by your bed isn’t Maria’s discharge. You see, it’s common knowledge that any and all discharge coming from Maria is red. Any discharge.”
“What do you mean, any discharge, Mother? I thought the different types of discharge were limited,” Foxxxy asked.
“When you’re a woman, there’s plenty of discharge, Foxxxy.”
“What kind of discharge, Mother?”
“You don’t know?”
“I might have known at one time, but most of my mortal memories are a blur.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“But I want to know!”
“It doesn’t matter!”
But I want…”
Interrupting, Mother Zombie roared, “Never contradict me, Foxxxy! Never!”
“But I … but I … but I…”
“But you … but you … but you … but nothing!” She pulled her trusty golden cleaver from under her robe and said, “Now put out your hand. The left one shall do.”
“But I … but I … but I…”
“But you … but you … but you … but shut up! Which finger do you wish to sacrifice?”
Foxxxy held out her hand and looked at the floor. “My pinky, Mother Zombie.”
“Your pinky it shall be.” And then Mother Zombie chopped off Zombie Sister Foxxxy’s entire hand. After Foxxxy stopped moaning some six minutes later, Mother Zombie smiled and said, “Oh, dear me. My aim isn’t what it used to be.”
This was why nobody liked being called to the courtyard.
Presently, Zombie Sisters Brandi and Cinnamon knew better than to dawdle, so they hustled after Mother Zombie as if they were squirrels chasing nuts … that is, if the squirrels happened to be undead squirrels slogging through the Seventh Ring of Hell with Sisyphean rocks strapped to their backs. In other words, Brandi and Cinnamon didn’t move at a great rate of speed, as was the case with all zombies, a point that has now been hammered to death.
Once they caught up with Mother Zombie, Cinnamon curtsied, took a knee, and said, “To what do we owe the honor of a private audience, Mother?”
Brandi also curtsied, then kneeled down beside Cinnamon. “Yes, Mother, it’s always a thrill to be invited to your office, because…”
Without warning—and with surprising quickness—Mother Zombie kicked Cinnamon in the chest, then punched Brandi in the jaw. “Both of you, shut it. Your grating voices and your lies about being pleased to meet with me make my undead soul cry out in pain, and I’ve neither the time nor the patience for this sort of blather. Be honest with me, Zombie Sisters: you’re not honored to be in my presence.”
Brandi and Cinnamon said nothing.
Mother Zombie nodded. “Silence means consent. But this comes as little surprise, as you both despise me. I’m perfectly content with that, though, because I, too, despise you. Let’s finish this discussion so you can get out of my sight, and I, yours.”
In unison, Cinnamon and Brandi said, “Yes, Mother.”
Silence! Not another word from either of you.” And then, for the sake of symmetry, Mother Zombie punched Cinnamon in the jaw, then kicked Brandi in the chest. “Now. You two are Vampire Sister Maria’s closest, no, only friends on the premises; am I correct?”
Brandi and Cinnamon said nothing.
Mother Zombie gave the Zombie Sisters simultaneous backhands. “Answer me, idiots!”
Near tears, Brandi whispered, “You said you didn’t want another word from either of us, Mother.”
“I say a lot of things, Brandi. You’re intelligent enough to figure out which of the things you should take to heart. You two are intelligent beings. Correct?” (Incorrect. Brandi and Cinnamon were far from intelligent beings. For that matter, Brandi and Cinnamon were subhuman morons who were considered to be among the stupidest Zombies in the Abbey, and being that the Abbey was a haven of idiocy, that’s saying something.) When neither responded, Mother Zombie repeated, “You two are Vampire Sister Maria’s only friends on the premises, correct?” After a moment of silence, Mother Zombie said, “You may answer me now.”
Cinnamon said, “In this instance, friend is a relative term.”
Brandi said, “If you’re being technical, Maria isn’t a friend, so much as a somewhat tolerated associate.”
Cinnamon said, “We’ve tried to be friends for realsies, but she’s proven to be, well, a problem.”
Brandi said, “A big problem.”
Cinnamon said, “You see, Vampire Sister Maria is a bit of a flibbertijibbet.”
Mother Zombie said, “What in the Devil’s name is a flibbertijibbet?”
Brandi explained, “A whore.”
“Ah,” Mother Zombie said. “Flibbertijibbet. Whore. Makes sense to me. I’m not sure how Hammerstein would feel about it, but, you know, fick him.”
“Who’s Hammerstein?” Brandi asked.
Mother Zombie said, “None of your business. Getting back to Maria…”
Cinnamon said, “Now that I think about it, Maria might be more than a bit of a flibbertijibbet.”
Brandi said, “You mean Maria is a huge whore?”
“Yes, Brandi,” Cinnamon said, “I mean Maria is a huge whore.”
Mother Zombie said, “We need this huge whore business confirmed.” She cupped her hands over her mouth and roared, “Zombie Sister Jazzmine! Zombie Sister Diamond! Zombie Sister Bubbles! Join us in the courtyard immediately!” Twenty-seven minutes later, Jazzmine, Diamond, and Bubbles knelt beside Brandi and Cinnamon. Smiling, Mother Zombie said, “You made it in record time. Now tell me, my darlings, how do you feel about Maria?”
Jazzmine said, “I think I speak for my fellow Sisters when I say that she’s the worst Vampire we have ever met, but we suck it up and deal.”
Bubbles snickered. “Vampire. Suck it up. Nice.”
Mother Zombie screamed, “Shut it, Bubbles!” To Jazzmine, she said, “What’s so awful about her?”
“What isn’t awful about her?” Jazzmine asked. “She ignores every established Abbey rule, she’s unattractive as all get-out, and that hair. I mean, would a little conditioner once in a while kill her?”
Zombie Sister Diamond added, “And can we talk about her behavior in the cafeteria? She puts piles and piles of food on her tray, and never takes a bite. It’s always, ‘I want blood’ this, and ‘I want blood’ that. And yet she never leaves any dessert for the rest of us.”
“So not only is she a whore,” Brandi noted, “but she’s a selfish whore.”
Mother Zombie nodded. “A selfish whore indeed.”
Cinnamon told Mother Zombie, “Though we all agree Maria is a selfish whore, I don’t want you to throw her out onto the street.”
Diamond said, “I concur. Despite her selfishness and her whorishness, we need somebody like that around here. The lot of you are truly disgusting, of course, and a day without true disgustingness is like a day without holding a moonbeam in your hand, but when Maria brings home a bloodied corpse, it’s far from your run-of-the-mill repulsive. It’s … it’s … it’s magically repulsive. Watching her suck those dead bodies dry is foul. Nothing is more vomit inducing than seeing a Vampire have lunch, and a day without throwing up is like…”
Bubbles interrupted, “… a day without holding a moonbeam in your hand. We all agree.”
“Here here,” Jazzmine said, “Quite the will o’ the wisp, Maria is.”
“Goodness, all these new phrases,” Mother Zombie said. “I’m out of the loop. What’s a will o’ the wisp?”
Brandi explained, “A whore.”
Jazzmine said, “No, Brandi, a flibbertijibbet is a whore. A will o’ the wisp is a magical being who elevates everything around them with their mere presence.”
Bubbles asked, “Can a flibbertijibbet be a will o’ the wisp?”
Diamond said, “No, but a will o’ the wisp can be a flibbertijibbet.”
Bubbles reasoned, “But a flibbertijibbet can elevate everything around them with their mere presence … or at least they can elevate one thing around them with their mere presence, if you know what I mean.” (They all knew what she meant. Even Brandi.)
Cinnamon asked, “So is Maria a flibbertijibbet, or a will o’ the wisp, or some sort of combination of the two?”
Jazzmine said, “She might not be either. Maria is as unpredictable as the rain…”
At the same time, Bubbles, Cinnamon, Diamond, Jazzmine, and Brandi said, “She’s a whore!”
“Oftentimes a pain.”
“A whore!”
“No brain. Inane. A bane.”
“A whore, a whore, a whore!”
Mother Zombie held up her hand and nodded. “I think I see what’s happening here. One of the deadly sins has infiltrated our home. Envy.”
Brandi scowled. “What could Maria possibly have that would make us jealous?”
“Like every, how you say, flibbertijibbet,” Mother Zombie said, “Maria possesses the ability to fornicate. And we Zombies, thanks to the frustrating lack of non-lubricative discharge from our lady-parts, don’t.”
“How do you solve a problem like dead lady-parts?” Diamond asked.
Mother Zombie pouted, “That’s a problem that will never be solved. For Zombies, arousal is impossible, sort of like, well, like holding a moonbeam in your hand.” She gave Diamond, Jazzmine, and Bubbles a disdainful glare. “The three of you, return to your chambers.”
“Mother Zombie,” Bubbles asked, “why would you demand to see us, then send us on our way without really accomplishing much of anything, plot-wise?”
“Because I thought you could lend this scene some tight three-part vocal harmonies…”
“What are tight three-part vocal harmonies?” Diamond asked.
“… but I was obviously mistaken. So be gone. Brandi and Cinnamon, go find that flying flibbertijibbet o’ the wisp and bring her to me.”
Sixty-six-some-odd hours later, Brandi and Cinnamon shuffled dejectedly into Mother Zombie’s office. “Mother Zombie?” Cinnamon asked nervously.
“Yes, Cinnamon?”
“Maria is gone.”
Brandi said, “Perhaps we should have put a cowbell in between her legs.” She paused, then added, “But the whore would probably enjoy that.”
Mother Zombie asked, “Have you looked by the lake? You know how much she adores the Swamp Monsters.”
“We searched everywhere,” Cinnamon said, “even in some, um, er, unusual places.”
Mother Zombie perked up. “Unusual? Details, child.”
Cinnamon said, “We looked at Chez Cristin, and Coco NR1, and Donau Dreams, and Erotikbörse, and the Funpalast, and Helga’s Kabinsex, and the Kontakof, and Prinse Eugen Stasse, and Zucker Puppen, and…”
“Stop, Cinnamon,” Mother Zombie said. “I know not of any of these establishments. Are they Vampire meeting places?”
“Possibly.”
“What do you mean, possibly?”
“Well, Vampires could meet there.”
Brandi said, “But flibbertijibbets definitely meet there.”
Mother Zombie lifted her desk above her head and threw it across the room, where it hit the wall, cracked into several dozen pieces, and fell onto a pile of previously thrown desks. “You mean to tell me that you spent almost four days going in and out of brothels?!” she roared.
In unison, Brandi and Cinnamon said, “Yes, Mother Zombie.”
“You two do realize that Maria isn’t literally a prostitute. When we call her a whore, we mean that she’s of ill repute, not that she has intercourse in exchange for money.”
“As far as you know,” Cinnamon pointed out.
Nodding, Mother Zombie said, “I’ll grant you that, Cinnamon—as far as we know, Vampire Sister Maria doesn’t fornicate for pay…”
From a ways away, the three Zombies heard a door slam shut, followed in quick succession by a vase breaking, a bell ringing, a cat yowling, a Zombie moaning, a chair crumbling, a tympani boinging, and a Vampire cursing.
With her black cat suit in tatters—in the last revolting days of the thirties, cat suits were the favored uniform of Austrian Vampires—and her alabaster skin glowing in the dark, and crusted blood dotting her face, Maria stood in the doorway of Mother Zombie’s office and grinned. What little light there was in the room was drawn to her fangs, which shimmered like pearls.
“Good eeeeeevening, ladies,” she said, then clapped her hands together once and asked, “So what’d I miss?”
Mother Zombie shook her head sadly. “Maria. Maria. Maria. Say it loud, and there’s music playing. Say it soft, and it’s almost like praying.”
Brandi said, “Wrong musical, whore.”
Without breaking eye contact with Brandi, Mother Zombie reached behind her, picked up the nearest piece of office equipment—which happened to be a dot matrix printer—lifted it above her head, and said, “Brandi, Cinnamon, I’m sick of the sight of you. Be gone.”
Ducking to avoid being clocked by Mother Zombie’s printer, Brandi and Cinnamon said, “Yes, Mother,” then left. On their way out of the office, Brandi and Cinnamon both accidentally-on-purpose elbowed Maria on either side of her head. Unfazed, Maria than purposely-on-purpose kicked them across the hallway, sending the Zombie Sisters into the wall at a speed of 42.618 kilometers per hour.
After Cinnamon stood up and readjusted her head, she told Maria, “You repulse me, darling.”
Maria curtsied. “That’s the kindest thing you have ever said to me, dear Cinnamon.” She nodded at Brandi. “Do I repulse you, sweetie?”
Brandi projectile vomited up seven of the nine brains she’d eaten that afternoon right onto the front of Maria’s cat suit. The regurgitate was brown, and loaded with living, wiggling worms.
Maria took a deep inhale, absorbed the scent, grinned, and said, “Oh, Brandi, I love you most of all!”
From her chamber, Mother Zombie roared, “Enough dilly-dallying, ladies! Brandi, Cinnamon, be gone! Maria, come closer.”
The striking, hurl-covered Vampire approached the desk, dropped to her knees, and licked Mother Zombie’s hand. Mother Zombie gagged, then backhanded Maria, first on the left cheek, and then on the right; it sounded as if she had hit a stone. Maria, who didn’t flinch, said, “Thank you, Mother Zombie. May I have another?”
“No. Two slaps is even too good for the likes of you.” Mother Zombie gestured to the chair in front of where her desk used to be and said, “Sit.”
Maria followed her order, then said, “Oh, Mother Zombie, I’m so sorry for departing from the Abbey without permission, but when my muse muses, I have to follow it. The front entrance was open, and the hills were beckoning, and my fangs needed release, and the scent of fresh kill was so overpowering and seductive that before I knew it…” She again reached for Mother Zombie’s hand; Mother Zombie pulled it away, then, for good measure, punched Maria in the chest. Again, it was like she had hit stone, and again, Maria didn’t flinch. “Oh, please, Mother, might I beg for mercy?”
“Fine, Maria. Go ahead and beg. Beg like you have never begged. Beg like you’re a dog. Which you are.”
“Mother Zombie, I beg your mercy.”
“You can’t have it. Even though you have brought me five-score fresh kills over the past month, you shall not be forgiven for your transgressions, and your blatant disregard for Zombie Law.”
“Then why did you allow me to ask you for mercy?”
Mother Zombie shrugged. “Who am I to refuse a request?”
“But I just requested your mercy, and you refused that request”
“I can refuse a request when I choose to refuse a request.”
“But you just said, ‘Who am I to refuse a request?’” Maria pointed out. “Thus, I refuse your refusal.”
“This is my Abbey, and I make the decisions, so I refuse your refusal of my refusal.”
“Then I refuse your refusal of my refusal of your refusal.”
“And I refuse your … wait, what were we talking about again?”
Maria scratched her head. “I haven’t the foggiest.”
“Nor do I.” She stood up, elbowed Maria in the temple, then said, “Just tell me why you left the Abbey without permission.”
Utterly unaffected by the punch, Maria rose and smiled dreamily. “You see, Mother Zombie, the summer sky was so seductive, and the air smelled of both life and death, and my cortex was so engorged with singing white cells and dancing red cells that I just had to be a part of it. Also, the pressure in my head was great, and had I not let my blood flow onto the mountain grass, my brain might well have exploded.”
Mother Zombie mumbled, “I wish.”
Maria cupped her ear. “Excuse me?”
“Nothing. Continue.”
“Very well. The Untersberg was calling for me … no, yelling for me … no, screaming for me! And when the Untersberg talks, people listen.”
Mother Zombie squinched up her face. “The Untersberg? What’s the Untersberg?”
“The Untersberg is a mountain massif of the Berchtesgaten Alps that straddles the borders of Berchtesgaten, Germany, and our very own town of Salzburg. The Berchtesgaten Alps are popular with tourists and Austrian Vampires alike because they’re a mere sixteen kilometers to Salzburg. The first recorded ascent of the Berchtesgaten Alps was in the first half of the twelfth Century by Eberwein, a member of the Augustinian Hydra Monastery at Berchtesgaten. As you may recall, the mountain lent its name to an 1829 opera by Johann Nepomuk, Baron of Poissl.”
Mother Zombie stared at Maria. “Could you have not just said the Alps?” she asked.
“No. Like all female Vampires, I’m quite precise.”
Mother Zombie mumbled, “Like all female Vampires, you’re quite a know-it-all bitch.”
Maria cupped her ear. “Excuse me?”
“Nothing. Continue.”
“The point is, that’s my land. I was transformed with an eternal bite on it. I was brought up on it. I’ve killed on it. I’ve feasted on it. I’ve bled upon it.” She paused, inched her hand slowly toward her waist, then said, “I’ve fornicated on it.”
Mother Zombie took a ruler from under her cloak—a ruler fashioned from the corpses of ten King Brown snakes—and slapped Maria’s hand just before it moved below her beltline. “Do that on your own time, please.”
Maria gave her lady-parts a rueful flick, then said, “That’s what compelled me to come to the Abbey, Mother Zombie.”
Rolling her eyes, Mother Zombie said, “For the love of all that’s evil in the world, do I have to listen to this story again? How many times must you…”
Maria launched into her tale. “The year was 1331. I was a young woman just getting in touch with her sensuality…”
“For the love of Jesus Christ burning in Hölle, yes, I know…”
“… and I’d come down from the mountain and fly to the top of a building and look over into your courtyard. I’d see the Zombie Sisters eating their luscious brains, and I’d hear their mournful moans as they made their way to vespers…”
“You have mentioned this several hundred…”
“… then one afternoon, while skipping gaily atop the Berchtesgaten, I was attacked by a bat. A beautiful, beautiful bat…”
“I recall…”
“… and this bat changed my life! The bite! The blood! The fever! The … the … the transformation! The magic! The boys! The men! The release! The multiple releases!”
Mother Zombie yawned, then slapped her own face. “Apologies, Maria, I almost nodded off. Are you still talking?”
Maria again dreamily moved her fingers down to her lady-parts, but she caught a glimpse of Mother Zombie’s snake ruler, then abruptly stopped her hand and changed the subject. “Which brings me to another transgression, Reverend Mother. I discharged my teeth today without permission.”
Shrugging, Mother Zombie said, “Honestly, Vampire, I could care less.”
“But there are rules, Mother. Everybody knows that in Zombie Law, there are edicts against unauthorized bloodletting.”
“I’ve told you dozens of times, that only applies to the bloodletting of postulants. You can let out your own blood as often as you wish.”
Maria ignored Mother Zombie and bulled ahead. “And what’s even worse, I’ve developed a tendency to burst into song.”
With that, Mother Zombie perked up. “Songs? What sort of songs? I like songs. Especially ones with tight three-part vocal harmonies.”
“Songs with nice melodies and interesting chord changes, but corny lyrics.”
“Would you care to sing one right now?”
“I’d love to, but there might be issues with royalties.”
“Royalties as in King von Habsburg of Austria?”
“Er, no. Royalties as in usage-based payments made by a licensor to a licensee for use of an ongoing asset—the asset, in this instance, being a song lyric—sometimes, for instance, an intellectual property that…”
Under her breath, Mother Zombie said, “Know-it-all bitch.”
Maria cupped her ear. “Excuse me?”
“Nothing. Go on about this singing.”
“There isn’t anything more to go on about. I sing corny songs that have very little to do with what’s going on around me. Also, they do very little to advance the plot.”
“What’s this plot business that everybody’s talking about?”
Maria disregarded her, and again changed the subject. “And I’ve been having many a disagreement with Zombie Sister Brandi, who has taken to calling me a whore.”
“So I’ve heard.”
“But I’ve taken to yanking off her arm before our disagreement has even started, because I know I’ll eventually get to that anyhow.”
Mother Zombie turned around and banged her head against the wall. And then she did it again. And again. Then, with her back still turned to the Vampire, she said, “Maria, when you saw us over the Abbey wall and longed to be one of us, did you not realize we were zombies?”
“Of course I realized it. But you’re undead, and I’m undead, and I believed the undead can live together in harmony, regardless of how they were killed then reanimated. I was mistaken, of course—Zombies are scum and Vampires are beautiful, and the two genera can’t cohabitate without the disdain boiling over into outright hatred—but I believe that after six centuries, I’m finally learning how to co-exist with you vile creatures.”
“We find you equally vile, Maria.” She spun around. “And while vileness is an essential part of our lives here at the Abbey, and while we have come to tolerate your presence, enough is enough. It is time for you to be gone.”
“Oh, no, Mother Zombie! I beg you, don’t do that! Don’t cast me away! I belong here in my feces-smelling home. You’re my ghastly family. It’s my entire life, er, my entire undeath.”
“Life is unfair, Maria, and undeath, even more so. Perhaps if you go out into the mortal world for a time, you’ll have a chance to find out if you’re worthy of being in the eternal company of Zombiekind, to see if you have the capacity to truly live your life under Zombie Law. There’s a brood near Salzburg in need of a Governess. You’ll be taking care of seven mortal children. How do you feel about kids, Maria?”
“They have stringy necks, but they generally taste sweeter than adults. The combination of innocence and premature death makes for a well-nigh irresistible dessert.”
“For us, for Zombies, children’s brains, while tasty, are useless. The sourness of their taste mitigates any worth they might have. But that’s neither here nor there. I’ll alert Captain Georg von Trapp that you’ll be at his doorstep posthaste. The Captain is a widower, and his children are, well, let’s just say that the von Trapps have had trouble keeping their Governesses. It’s a problem.”
“That’s good to hear, Mother Zombie, because nobody fixes problems like Maria.”
Mother Zombie shoved her out of the office. “That isn’t what I heard.” As Maria skittered away, Mother Zombie yelled, “One piece of advice, Vampire Sister: When you enter mortal society, don’t go Edelweissing anybody!”
Maria called back, “Never, Mother Zombie! Never. I must get dressed. I made myself some new cat suits! Red ones, and blue ones, and yellow ones, and purple ones!”
“Fantastic,” Mother Zombie mumbled, rubbing her temples as if this scene would never end.
After returning to her chambers, Maria tried on cat suit after cat suit after cat suit, each more ill-fitting, badly-sewn and horribly-colored than the last. Finally—believing that an ill-fitting, badly sewn, and horribly colored cat suit would make a bad first impression on Captain von Trapp and his brood—she tore the new outfits to shreds and donned one of her reliable black numbers, as well as a floppy hat that she had sewn in 1832, but had not seen the light of day since. The chapeau was musty, dusty, and odiferous, and thusly, Maria believed, a piece of clothing that would make the von Trapps realize she was a force to be reckoned with. (Most Vampires have a wonderful feel for style, and would realize that a musty, dusty, odiferous hat would repel any human being within smelling distance, but after decades of living with Zombies, Maria’s fashion sense had evaporated.)
The Vampire then packed up her suitcase and her tenor saxophone—that’s correct, dear reader, our Maria was the only sax-toting Vampire in all of Europe—then trudged toward the Abbey’s exit, irked that nary a soul was waiting to bid her adieu. Maria snarled, “Those petty Zombies don’t even have the courtesy to say goodbye. They shall feel my wrath when I return home. And I’ll return. After I prove myself to be the best Governess I can be, Mother Zombie will have no choice but to invite me back.” She then touched the wrought iron gate and whispered, “When the Devil closes a door, somewhere he opens a window, and shoves somebody right on out of it, and into the fires of Hölle. Am I worthy of being shoved? Shall I be burnt to a crisp in said righteous fire? What does a burning Vampire smell like? Ah, questions, questions, questions. But the main question is, how the fick am I supposed to get to this guy’s house?”
She stepped through the Abbey’s gate, and into the real world, homeless for the first time in centuries … and, much to her surprise and chagrin, the tiniest bit frightened. So Maria did what she did when she needed comforting and there were no human necks around to suck on: She unsheathed her sax.
After Maria attached the mouthpiece, she cleared her throat and blew a loud F-sharp that broke every window within a three-block radius. She mumbled an inaudible apology to the neighbors—which, had it been audible, would be called insincere at best, and a pile of Zombie excrement at worst—after which she blew a series of arpeggios that would have knocked saxophone inventor Adolphe Sax onto his Belgian backside. She held another F-sharp that grew louder, and louder, and louder, then, right as she ran out of breath, several tendrils of smoke escaped from the instrument’s bell. The tendrils then weaved themselves into a braid, and the braid began to take shape. As it grew taller and wider, its shape became that of a human being, a male, to be precise, a black male, a stocky black male with close-cropped hair, wide eyes, and thick, sensual lips.
Maria dropped her saxophone and gave the man a through once-over, taking in his regal chest, his large fingers, and his impeccably pressed tan suit. Her stomach fluttered, and it took all of her restraint to keep from fondling her lady-parts. She reverentially whispered, “Come to mama, Chocolate Thunder.”
As the man floated to the Earth, he said, “Excuse me, young Vampiress?”
Clearing her throat, Maria said, “Nothing. Dare I ask, what are you?”
The man favored Maria with a warm smile. “Not what, young Vampiress—who.” He tipped an imaginary hat. “John Coltrane, at your service.”
She gave this John Coltrane character a closer examination, then leered, “I hope you can be at my service, my thick ebony saxophone spirit. No, let me rephrase that: I hope you can service me. If you get what I’m saying.”
“I know exactly what you are saying, young Vampiress; I’m a spirit, not a eunuch. But as a spirit, I don’t have the means to, um, service humans.”
Maria sighed. “That’s unfortunate.” She picked up her saxophone from the ground and licked her mouthpiece. “Since you can’t be of service, I must ask you to take your leave. I have no time to dilly-dally. I’m off to see the wizard.”
“The wizard?”
“Oh, apologies, wrong musical. I’m off to begin my new job … no, my new life … no, my new undeath.”
John Coltrane frowned. “That’s truly unfortunate, because we need to talk. I believe you have some questions, and I might be able to offer you some answers.” He ran his index finger up and down Maria’s saxophone—causing her to again shiver—and said, “How about you pack that thing up and we’ll go on a walk. Or even a skip.”
“A skip?”
“Yes, Maria. A skip.”
Saxophone safe in its case, John Coltrane took Maria’s hand and the two skipped down the street, nary a word spoken between them. They skipped for miles and miles, Maria’s foul hat flopping in the breeze, its otherworldly stench leaving dozens of birds dead in its wake.
Maria said, “This skipping business is ridiculous, John Coltrane. I look like a fool. I can transform into a bat and fly, you know.”
“Be quiet, little girl. I want to skip, so we’re going to skip, and you’re going to like it.” His voice took on a menacing tone. “Now clam up unless you want me to stick that saxophone where the sun never shines.”
She licked her lips and said, “Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep.”
Finally, after thirty-plus kilometers of silence, Maria spoke up: “What will my future be, oh dashing spectre? I’m about to enter a new and exciting phase of my undeath. I should be excited to go out into the world, to be free, to have my choice of beings to feed upon. My fangs should be gushing with excitement, yet they remain dry. What’s wrong with me?”
“You’re an Austrian Vampire, Maria. The list of things wrong with you is long.”
Ignoring John Coltrane, Maria said, “From the moment I became what I’ve become, I’ve dreamed of having adventures—adventures such as killing the Pope during a Sunday mass, or having intimate relations with a large-breasted sixteen-going-on-seventeen-year-old girl—but I’ve never brought these dreams to reality.”
“That’s probably for the best, Vampiress.”
“That’s your opinion. But the point is, if I consider these dreams, then my soul—my inner-self—has the courage to consider anything, and if I have the courage to consider anything, I could…”
John Coltrane interrupted, “Apparently what you lack, Maria, is confidence.”
“Confidence?”
“You have plenty of courage—you couldn’t have survived in that hellacious Abbey for as long as you did without it—but here you’re in the outside world, all alone, all by yourself, and you’re scared. You have doubts…”
“Do not.”
“… and worries…”
“Nuh unh.”
“… and you must seek for what you lack.”
“I lack nothing!” She paused thoughtfully, then said, “No, John Coltrane, you’re correct. I lack the fortitude to serve them with assurance.”
“Vampiress, the truth is that servitude is a two-way street. The responsibility isn’t entirely yours.”
“It’s my responsibility to own up to my mistakes without argument.”
John Coltrane frowned. “Your only responsibilities are to keep those von Trapp brats out of prison, and to learn to play your tenor sax in tune. And to maybe take up soprano sax, while you’re at it.”
Maria ignored him. “It’s my responsibility to show them I’m worthy.”
“Worthy of what?” John Coltrane asked.
“Worthy of their respect.”
“Maria, you have murdered 19,216,145 people…”
“19,216,146,” she corrected.
“Right, 19,216,146. No mortal will respect you, and justifiably so. You don’t deserve respect. Just fear. And, some would say, a stake in the heart…”
“That stake in the heart business is a laughable myth.”
“Fine. Then a stake in your lady-parts.”
Maria said, “Leave my lady-parts out of this, Chocolate Thunder…” She flicked her left nipple. “… unless you intend to, um, peruse them.”
“No perusal,” John Coltrane said. “We must continue examining the confidence issue.”
Full of false bravado, Maria puffed up her chest and bared her fangs. “I ooze confidence, John Coltrane…”
He gestured to the reddish liquid dribbling from her teeth. “You sure are oozing something.”
Clapping her hands, Maria said, “Oh, hoorah, my fangs gush anew.” She gave John Coltrane yet another lascivious look. “Looks like you got me wet, spectre.”
John Coltrane shook his head sadly. “Can we get back to this confidence business? My time here grows short.”
“Okay, fine, so like I was saying, let them bring on all their problems,” she said. “I’ll do better than my best…”
He gestured at her bloodstains on her chin. “Looks like you’re already doing better than your best.”
“… and I have confidence they’ll put me to the test!”
“If you have confidence, if you really have confidence, then I’ve done my job here. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to reinhabit my mortal, living body. I’m late for a recording session with…”
“But I’ll make them see I have confidence in me.”
“Wonderful, Maria, just wonderful. Now that it’s well established that you have confidence…”
“Somehow I’ll astonish them. Somehow.”
Resigned, John Coltrane sighed, “Okay, Maria. I’ll bite. How will you astonish them?”
“Well, um, I’ll be … I’ll be … I’ll be…” She grinned and nodded. “… firm but kind!”
“From what I’ve heard, you have never been kind in your entire life. Never.”
“Have so.”
“When?”
“Well, um, okay, there was the time when I ripped off the head of a peasant farmer, then stitched it back on with a string made from hay.”
After a pause, John Coltrane asked, “And that’s your definition of kindness?”
“Well, it was kinder than the alternative.”
“Which was?…”
“Throwing his head into the pig pen. Which is what I usually do when I’m at a farm.”
John Coltrane shook his head. “So what you’re saying to me is that because one time—one single time—you managed to restrain yourself from feeding one of your victims to a gaggle of swine, you have the temperament to be a proper Governess?”
“You know what, Chocolate Thunder…”
“I wish you would stop calling me that.”
“… this isn’t about me, but rather the children. Ah, those kids, Hölle bless them, they will adore me!”
“They’ll run from you, Maria.”
“They’ll follow my instructions!”
“They’ll attempt to drive a stake into your heart. And your lady-parts.”
“Everything will turn out fine, John Coltrane. I have confidence.”
John Coltrane shook his head and mumbled to himself, “Man, this confidence thing was a bad idea. If she says confidence one more time, I swear…”
“I have confidence!” Maria cried. “Confidence the world can all be mine! Confidence in clouds! Confidence in tornados! Confidence in eternal winter! Confidence in Hölle!” She gave John Coltrane a penetrating look in his eyes. “And it’s clear, Chocolate Thunder, that you’re now able to see I have confidence in me.”
“You mean confidence in myself.”
“What?”
“Grammatically speaking, you should say I have confidence in myself rather than I have confidence in me.”
“Tell that to that jerk Hammerstein,” Maria mumbled.
“Why bother?” Coltrane said. “There’s no talking to that guy.”
“Tell me about it. In any event, the point I’m making here is that I have confidence in confidence alone.”
“Then, to repeat, I’ve done my job.” Under his breath, he added, “Thank Gott. I can’t wait to get away from this neurotic whore.” Then, in full voice, said, “Well, Vampiress, it looks like we have arrived.”
What with all of her incessant babbling about confidence, Maria didn’t notice how far she and the spectre had skipped. “Already?”
“Already,” John Coltrane agreed, gesturing at the beautiful white mansion in front of which they stood.
Maria peered through the wrought-iron gate, then, after taking in the perfectly manicured front lawn, the pristine brick, and the flawless architecture of the von Trapp residence, she whispered, “Goodness, this sure as scheisse is an improvement over the Abbey.”
John Coltrane’s body began to evaporate. “Goodbye, Maria. You may see me again in a couple of chapters. Or maybe not. I may be too obscure of a reference to be invited back into the story. I understand I will make it into the epilogue, but beyond that, one never knows.”
“Wait, John Coltrane, wait! Before you go back into my saxophone, answer me this: Why is it you who have come to me in the night, and skipped with me in the day, and given me confidence, and set my loins on fire. Why you?”
John Coltrane smiled an inscrutable smile. “Atlantic Records, catalog number 1361.”
Maria gave him a quizzical look. “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“In March of 1961, Atlantic Records will release an album called My Favorite Things by yours truly.”
“What’s Atlantic Records?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“What’s My Favorite Things?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“What does this all have to do with me?”
“I’ll answer that with a question, Vampiress: What are your favorite things?”
“That’s easy: Blood drops on roses and bloody-nosed kittens, and…”
John Coltrane raised his index finger and said, “Shh, shh, shh. Save that bit for later. It’s a showstopper. And I’ll perform it on soprano saxophone, and it will be a watershed moment in my career.”
“This is gibberish.”
As John Coltrane faded into nothingness, he said, “If there’s anybody in this story who knows gibberish, Maria, it’s you.”


 
Copyright © 2012 by St. Martin’s Press