Hawkin's Perchby D.M. Rosner
Burn Rubber Man was tall, lanky, and not particularly attractive; his only exceptional quality was the way he drove his Jeep through the woods at speeds far greater than one would think appropriate for mountain climbing. I wouldn’t have paid him much mind if he hadn’t lurched to a halt in absolute terror two feet in front of me. That made him perfect.
That meant he could see me.
We stared at each other, and I called out, “Don’t be afraid.” Stupid thing to say, I suppose, but I couldn’t let him go.
He was shaking. “You can’t be real.”
“I’m real--just dead.” That spooked him. “Wait, please. It’s so rare that people see me, and I need your help.” I gave him my best helpless-female look, and he hesitated.
“What kind of help?”
What could I tell him? I need you to raise Dracula from the dead? So, I lied. “Three hundred years ago, my husband was thought to be a vampire, and was killed. I cannot rest until the wooden stake is pulled from his corpse, proving his innocence.” Not bad for such short notice, I thought.
“You want me to, um, dig this guy up?”
“No, no. He’s in a crypt. All you have to do is walk in, pull out the stake, and walk out.”
“I don’t know.” He wrapped his arms around his chest. “Maybe it’s me, but dead people give me the creeps. Nothing personal,” he added quickly.
I don’t know if it was my charm or his terror that did it, but he agreed.
“Tomorrow night, then,” I said. “Meet me here at eleven o’clock.”
“That is the only night of the year that I can find peace.” I could see the nervousness in his face. “You’re the first real hope I’ve had in ages.”
He nodded, and I decided that was the best I could expect under the circumstances. I gracefully dissolved, hoping he would be true to his word. For the moment, however, I had other business.
The old bat gave a start, then shrieked at me. I entered the room completely, floated along the perimeter of the ceiling, then swooped at him.
“Murderer!” I cried. “Demon!”
“Your sister wears combat boots,” answered the bat.
“Leave Rapunzel out of this, old man. You aren’t fit to spit shine her combat boots.”
“I’m not fit to do much of anything, what with her spells and your haunting. If I’d known the two of you would be so much trouble, I never would have thrown you off that damned cliff.”
“Then you’d be three hundred years dead now.”
“You couldn’t kill me, silly wench.”
I screamed and passed through his ancient body, leaving him shivering.
“You know what tomorrow night is,” I said.
“Again you will try, and again you will fail. Ever since his death, you’ve played this game.”
“It is no game. I will revive your son, and he will kill you. This time, you haven’t the strength to stop me.” Again, I flew through him.
“Will you stop that! Eeesh.” He shook off the chill. “Look, he was in the way.”
“He was my lover.”
“Know this, old man: Tomorrow night, he will live again.” I moved to surround him. The bat flapped his wings and shrieked, his cries of madness merging with my laughter.
I floated out through the stone wall, back to Hawkin’s Perch, where I had first met Burn Rubber Man. There I waited, and prayed he was not afraid of bats.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
“Over the mountain and through the woods.”
“To grandma’s house?”
I stopped. “What?”
“Camp song.” He sang, “’Over the mountain and through the woods, to grandma’s house we go.’ Or is that over the river?”
I stared at him.
We walked on.
“So, what exactly is it you need me to do?"
“I’ll show you when we get to the castle.”
“You don’t mean Dracula’s castle.”
“Of course. Oh, now, you don’t really believe in vampires, do you?”
“Well...” He thought about it. “I didn’t believe in ghosts, but you’re real.”
“Do you believe in killer tomatoes, too?”
He looked abashed.
“I thought not. It’s silly superstitions like that which caused all of this trouble. People thought that my husband was a vampire, and that he killed me.”
“But he didn’t?”
“Right. And now I’ve spent three hundred years restless because of a superstition.”
“You know, I’m a bit concerned that this superstition just might kill me."
“You can’t back out now. We’re nearly there.” That didn’t seem to do the trick. “Besides, if you back out now, I’ll haunt you for the rest of your life.”
“I thought ghosts had to stay where they died.”
“You really do have to get over these stereotypes.”
“Well, maybe an unknown vampire is better than a known ghost, now that you mention it.”
When we could see the castle’s silhouette in the moonlight, I stopped him. “Be very, very quiet,” I said.
“We’re hunting wabbits?”
“Never mind. Why do I have to be quiet? This place is supposed to be abandoned.”
“So you don’t disturb any, uh, spirits.” Or bats, I thought. “Now, quiet.”
The castle was as cold and quiet as a corpse, which I thought was appropriate.
There was no sign of Drac’s father as we slunk along wide corridors and down narrow stairways. We continued downward, past the dungeons, finally coming to the wooden door that led into the catacombs. Burn Rubber Man opened it, and screamed.
I stared at him in astonishment. “It’s a mouse,” I said.
“It’s a rat.”
“You didn’t tell me there’d be rats.”
He went, mumbling about rats and ghosts and vampires.
We walked past holes in the walls filled with the bones of the family that had lived there before Dracula’s, past rows of coffins, through puddles of acrid water, to the far end of the castle. “Through that door,” I instructed.
He pulled on the iron handle; the door swung open with a deep groan.
Or maybe that was him groaning.
We entered my lover’s tomb, and there, on a slab of stone in the center of the room, was his coffin.
A bat screeched and dove at Burn Rubber Man. “Oh, now what?” he whined.
“It’s just Drac’s dad.”
His eyes went wide with terror. “You said he wasn’t a vampire!”
“I’m kidding. Open the coffin.”
The bat dove again, and, wheezing from exertion, shrieked, “Don’t help her!”
Burn Rubber Man stopped short, his hands on the coffin lid. “Did that thing talk?”
Before I could answer, his attention shifted to the lighted skull that rolled slowly into the room and stopped at his feet. “What the hell is that?”
“It’s just my sister. Open the coffin.”
“Not the skull, stupid. Her.” I pointed to the ancient woman who hobbled into the room. Her hair was grey and greasy, her smile was full of blackened teeth. She wore tattered clothes and combat boots, and brandished a broom.
I was sure Burn Rubber Man would pass out.
“I’ve got you now,” Rapunzel hollered, swinging the broom at the bat.
“Here’s your chance,” I yelled. “Open the coffin.”
Burn Rubber Man ducked as the bat--closely followed by the broom--flew over his head. He opened the coffin.
Drac’s handsome face hadn’t decayed a day. My heart would have pounded with excitement, had I owned one. “Pull out the stake,” I whispered.
“Are you sure he’s dead? He doesn’t look dead.”
Ignoring the struggle behind him, Burn Rubber Man seized the stake. “I’m gonna regret this, I just know it,” he mumbled. He pulled it out.
Smoke poured from the hole in Drac’s chest, filling the coffin, pouring out onto the floor.
And then... Dracula arose.
“That’s it, I’m outta here!” Burn Rubber Man turned and ran. It didn’t matter. He had done what I needed him to do.
Drac and I stared at each other, paying no mind to the bitter fight between Rapunzel and his father--until it abruptly ended.
We turned to see the couple frozen; he was half way between man and bat, his teeth in her neck, and she had the handle of the broom plunged through his heart.
They remained like this for a full minute. There was a crackling noise, and a “Poof!” Then there was silence, and a cloud of smoke where they had stood. I looked at Drac.
“You know,” he said, “I always had a feeling about those two.”