5. L’AMOUR MUET: Humanitas

A limbless Roman statue, though gorgeous, can only offer a hint of its former glory, and thus takes on a melancholy aspect. So too the moon, floating ruin…

What remained foggy in Adam’s memory? As he slept he began to know, but only with the logic of dreamers. It was some moment of utmost rejection…of hope and trust turned to fear…of babe’s eyes, twin jewels of innocence, the two things in this world which should have given him a chance—for what knew babes of monstrosity?

Yet the babe screamed.

The babe screamed, catalyzing a chorus of cries that issued from his own body, tearing at his papyrus-covered seams, disparate voices, half-human faces straining at his flesh—screaming reminder—he was Adam amalgam, disparate parts collected from graves and given what was never their due: new life…

Adam awakened in a sleeping coffin which was, itself, in a coffin-shaped sleeping chamber. He was convinced that several hours had passed since the magnanimous dinner. Outside, though, it was dark. He did not know this, for his present bedchamber had no windows. All around stood slate walls with a conspicuous hexagonal make, and classy electric lamps. Hanging in a prominent position was the portrait of some old guy. According to the placard, he was Dorian Gray.

Adam rose shaking, but the details of his dream wafted away, taking with them the knowledge of why he should shake. So he straightened, assured himself it had been nothing, and strode to the door, and called down the hall, which was a seemingly neverending corridor of manifold suites and fancy carpet. “Dracula, my benefactor, where art thou?”

Right on cue, the Count stepped into view, from one of many oddical rooms. “Good morning, or, rather, good waking!” he greeted. “I am pleased to see you well. Your complexion is looking quite strong, and there is a brightness in your eyes.”

“I thank you, but I dare ask, whose portrait is that which sits upon the wall?”

“Oh, that is from an art auction. It is of no consequence. I wish to inform you that to your right,” said Dracula with a motion to a door inside of Adam’s room, “is your personal ablution chamber. The basin on the floor with overhanging knobs is the shower area, and is used for washing. By twisting the knobs, you can regulate temperature. The small brush is for brushing one’s teeth; it is known as ‘the tooth-brusher.’ I know that new technology may frighten you, but please, if nothing else, smear a pustule of paste on the brush, and brush. When you have prepared yourself, please meet with me in the foyer; you will not lose yourself, I trust, as I have placed helpful road signs along the way. This morning we meet a friend of mine. Ha ha! ‘Morning!’”

Adam said, “What means your chuckle? Is it still night? Has this future gone so mad that it has done away with time itself?”

“Not at all! We merely followed the night! Igor trained Bistritz well. My home ceaselessly circumambulates the earth, always plunged in darkness. The windowless walls, you see, are merely a precaution.”

Adam raised a trembling hand to his face and stammered, “Y-y-ye gads! This steed is capable of tracing the world in a mere twelve hours?” Then his temper became festive: “Well then, burn my briskets! What a thoroughly unfounded era! But tell me, what is Igor? A soft drink?”

Dracula, smiling, shook his head. “In due time, my friend.”

Adam thanked his host and proceeded to ablute. He took extra care to shampoo his papyrus wrappings (that day they smelled faintly of strawberries).

All the while, Dracula waited by one of the more ostentatious castle exits, occasionally consulting his holographic pocket watch. Eventually his guest jogged in with a new question.

“Yet before we leave, I must have inquiry as to your motives,” Adam notified. “Is there in truth some foul design entwined with mine resurrection? Mayhaps a tumultuous capture of the world and its peoples?”

“I give you a resounding no, my friend,” the Count answered with a jot of solemnity. “I have selfishly involved you in my search for allies. I shall divulge further details when I have assembled both you and our third member, but for the present I will tell you only this: I am on a quest…” He paused for effect. “…To save the world,” he concluded.

The ostentatious front doors swung open, and a drawbridge lowered for a full thirty seconds. Bistritz had landed long ago on the midnight shore of an island Galapagos! Soft Galapagos breezes poured in to greet them, and Galapagos turtles scuttled across grass which, sprouting from sand, billowed harmonious. In the emerald trees sat piping Galapagos finches, whose famously varied beaks had played in Igor’s Darwinian dreams so long ago. Now, of course, their beaks were even more astoundingly varied, some needle-thin, others hammer-shaped and larger than their possessors’ entire bodies. Far in the distance, on a rock sublime and dark, a Galapagos penguin, its bill barbed and massive like a harpoon, bounded into the crystal ocean with a happy splash. The Count and his guest stepped out, out onto stairsteps that stopped in the coolest sand Adam had ever known.

He said, “And where, pray tell, are we?”

“The Galapagos Islands!” Dracula whooped. Bistritz’s head, mere paces away, gnawed on one of the many pineapple trees endemic to the Galapagos Islands. He paid the monstro-men no mind.

A limbless Roman statue, though gorgeous, can only offer a hint of its former glory, and thus takes on a melancholy aspect. So too the moon, floating ruin, which hovered high above, higher even than Bistritz could reach, a little misty in the refracting light of its millions and billions of particulates, was but a sad allusion to ancient Artemis. Crumbling beauty! Its main body now was naught but a crescent, and reckless dynamite had strewn rubble about it in an asteroid ring.

This wretched lune remained in sight until it was underpassed by clouds—of leaves, for Dracula and Adam had taken foot through Galapagos trees. With their footpath the visitors, immersed in airy humid, traced the ebbing, tidelike, sandy grains, until, arriving at a wide lake, they halted. There was a gurgle of water, the coo of Galapagos fishes.

Dracula took a knee. He lifted a small stone; beneath it lurked a circular red button. He said to Adam, “Brace yourself.” And he pressed it.

A horrible three-tone trumpet trill sounded from what must have been the island’s very core, affrighting every animal for a mile around. Galapagean birds fled, fluttering in chorus.

Adam gave a start, but, seeing Dracula unflapped, remained in place. Actually, Dracula looked a little annoyed, for though this was their ally’s doorbell, he found the sound irksome. He jabbed the chime twice more, and the same tinny trumpet blared, grated, self-interrupted. Adam briefly attempted to undo the stitches surrounding his ears.

Finally the lake trembled, shaking loose droplets by the tens of thousands! The tens became hundreds, and monumental splashes spluttered free. A quaint house straight from an early American suburb, complete with white picket fence, rose from the depths, its kindly kelp lawn groomed to perfection.

There was some manner of man on the porch, rocking in his rocker, smoking with his smoker (which means “pipe”). What rose from his smoker, however, were bubbles, for he was a moist old man—so moist that he was a fish. He waved to the duo and gasped warmly, “Hello, Drac, old, boy. Both, you, come, right, in!”

And Dracula said, “Meet the only man older than I: Robert Fishman.”

They stepped into his home, making sure to close the picket fence behind them to be decent. The inside was quite as you or I would expect from watching black-and-white television reruns, except in color, and also, Adam had never seen reruns; therefore he felt stupefied by it all. As the old friends chatted, he broke off, walking about the family room in a slow spiral of discovery.

“I have never in all my years seen such an abode as this,” he miranded. He looked to a digital clock. “Such a strange candelabra.” Then to a rabbit-eared television set, on whose screen a lupine man discussed tossed salad and scrambled eggs. “Gads! What playwright could direct such miniscule men? Shakespeare II?”

With a flash that put stars in poor 19th-century Adam’s eyes, the screen changed; a new werewolf was there, on his fur a suit and incongruous cowboy hat, in his teeth a toothpick. “Don’t take chances,” he said through a sheen of static. “If you see something strange and you think it’s a Dracula, call me. Call my Monster Hotline.” At the bottom of the screen flashed a series of twenty-five numerals. How baffling; that seemed as useful for making calls as a bucket of fish and chips.

With a groan, the monster hunter hoisted a laser blaster, a tool larger and meaner than the rifles Adam had seen, a metal hulk hoisted onto his shoulder that easily dwarfed his torso.

Then he aimed it—and the mummyman gasped. The bazooka, charging with a power glow, was aiming through the screen, for the space between his eyes!

The glass screen splintered apart! Just kidding…but I could have fooled Adam, who had hit the deck with soldier speed, ears shut, panting. No damage was done. The laser whine had been confined.

The wolf rasped, “Keep our families safe, roof roof.”

Then he, like all spectres of the television, disappeared, leaving nothing but a warning to sizzle in Adam’s head.

Werewolf world! Felicity from the Count his host had heretofore wrapped him like a protective blanket. But should he ever enter the werewolf cities, they would know that he looked like—that he was—

Suddenly he became aware of the Dracula on the couch and the Robert in the kitchen.

“Oh—please excuse me,” he said, and he rose only to crouch, only to shrink into himself. His face, gross visage, inspiration of many a pejorative, was hid between his fingers. “Mr. Fishman, sir, please forgive me. Please…my face, my habits…they are disgusting to behold. I thank you for accepting the likes of me into your home, but…I do not require you to pay me mind.”

He must not have seen Robert’s face clearly from the porch.

An amphibious hand slapped him on the shoulder. It was the hand of a grandpappy comforting a sport-playing boy who had missed the big ball, just that one time. Less metaphorically, it was the hand of a green fishman whose entire body, lumpsome face included, was coated in a thick suit of scales, and then again in a business suit (though this was not, forsooth, a part of his body; he had simply put it on).

“Hey,” Robert inhaled. His voice sounded neither decrepit not weakened, but came haltingly forth due to a wound sustained long ago. Rather than a Galapagonian accent, he maintained a perfectly generic American one. “Me, know, what, like. Having, face, only, fish-mother, could, love. You, welcome, anytime.” Holding out twin glasses, he added, “Pink, lemonade?”

Adam brightened. “Even the lemon itself is pink in this unforgiving world!” He ceased his cowering and stood to take his glass with aplomb. “My gratitude, Mr. Fishman. Never before have I met with one so accepting of my appearance, except, well, yesternight.”

“It, happen. Rare, but, happen. Wouldn’t, you, say?” Robert motioned a glass in Dracula’s direction.

“Yes, most truly, and no thank you, Robert my friend,” declined Dracula.

“Oh, right,” remembered Robert, “saving, special, stuff, for, you, in, fridge!” He tromped back to the kitchen and took a medical blood bag from the back of his Frigidaire. “Universal, donor, just, like, you, like.”

“Many thanks, gracious Fishman!”

When Robert returned, the senior vampire retrieved an IV from his cloak, stuck one end into the bag and the other into his mouth, then held the bag aloft as he sucked. “This is the stuff right here!”

“Sakes alive!” Adam gasped through a lemon sip. “Even icicles form in cubic shapes nowadays.”

Adam settled on the couch, across from Dracula, as Robert claimed the reclining chair. Beside them the television babbled.

“Know, why, here,” Robert stated seriously. “Not, interested, in, join, any, thing, ridiculous.”

Dracula settled the empty blood bag on a TV-dinner table. He folded his hands. “My futurephone message-o-gram to you was brief,” he expressed. “You have no idea what my proposition to you will be…only that I intend to discuss it face-to-face.”

“Not, doing, this,” Robert declined with delicate firmness. “It, been, millions, of, years. Me, lived, since, Devonian, period. Me, see, rats, size, of, sheep. Centipedes, foot, long. Now, see, man, that, become, wolf. Change, just, part, of, life. Me, want, no, part, of, this. Me, respect, you, Dracula, but, want, just, live, apart, from, humanity.”

“I know well the story of the last time you fought man,” narrated Dracula. “Scientists invaded your Amazonian territory time after time. Shot harpoons at you, set you aflame…as happens to myself in every motion picture. In their last assault, you were taken into captivity and made to mutate, to grow the lungs of a human. Now, not only do you swim in the water and run on the land—you have expanded your culture, learned of man’s creations. You have adapted to the experience! This fine home would not be yours without that mishap. You have even taken the time to learn all languages!”

“Every tongue known to man?” said Adam, impressed.

“And, every, known, to, animal,” added Robert. “Plus, became, vegetarian. Tofurky, amazing.”

“Would one last odyssey into the world of man not expand your horizons further?” said Dracula. “At least give me the honor of stating my mission, old friend.”

Robert groaned and begrudged, but he breathed, “Go, on.”

“I plan to arrange a group of five, maybe six individuals outside the scope of werehumanity to stage a revolution in the coming days. Well, not a revolution, per se. We are not taking over the government, though one may think I desire to restore the world to its olden human shape. That would be as inconceivable as rolling back the rock to the Cambrian era of your childhood, or to the icéd ages of the Ice Age. I have made peace with this wolfy world, formed though it was by the forcing of werewolf disease upon almost every living soul.

“But there is still a world to save.

“You know what has befallen our beloved moon.”

“Me, weep, every, time, me, see, her,” mourned Robert as he sniffled through his gills. “Mankind, destroy, millions, years, moon, just, for, resources. So, sick, me, plant, trees, just, so, block, it, from, sight.”

“And that is far from the only resource farm in space, Robert, but what I came to discuss is sadder by far,” Dracula spat, becoming unnaturally, over-and-above-supernaturally heated. “Tremendous changes are coming. Changes that could affect yet more billions of innocent souls.”

In the wake of these words, Adam shivered terrifically. He felt himself sucked in like blood through a tooth.

Then issued from Robert a hushed gasp. “Don’t, mean, tell, me,” he stammered.

“That’s right! We have to save the world! The other world!” The Count leaped to his feet and hurled a manuscript from his cloak onto the coffee table. The cover page read, “GOVERNMENT PLAN TO TURN ALL ALIENS INTO IDENTICAL WEREWOLVES.”

“It appears,” proceeded Dracula, “that extraterrestrials have long noticed the ever-scattering light of the moon and its ever-changing mining practices. Like a twisted beacon, it is summoning them! Recently they decided to send delegates to meet with Igor and his cabinet to establish relations between planets—but the World Government is plotting to infect the visitors with the werewolf virus! THE EARTH GOVERNMENT IS GOING TO MAKE THE AMBASSADORS INFECT ALL THE ALIENS AND TURN THEM INTO WEREWOLVES TOO!

Adam cried, “Oh my God!”

Robert clutched his chest in shock—for right then and there, he suffered a heart attack! Fortunately, he had five hearts. He sputtered, “Th-this, truth?”

“Examine the ledger if you wish. Every word in there was pilfered, but the contents are complete and utter fact, signed off by the president himself. As I said, I have come to terms with the way this world has changed. I dearly miss the ways in which mankind used to appear in all shapes and sizes, and find the identical wolfshapes to be immensely dreary. But this is what humans wanted. It is a crime to force this change onto a world that may not even contain wolves!”

Robert flipped through, skimming it all at hyper-speed with his superior fishman reading ability. When finished, he picked the pages up and crunched all three hundred and fifty of them in his palm like a napkin.

“This, legitimate,” he concluded. “Plans, in, making, many, years. Don’t, like.”

Dracula settled his arms behind his back and cooled off. “You still have your old sense of justice,” he said with heavy admiration. “We have approximately five days to gather our forces. All I need to do is meet with Igor and convince him that what he is doing is unsavory. We drifted apart many, many years ago. I am still the most wanted man in the world because he fears what I could do to his empire. But he is still like to me my son, and to him I pray I am a father.”

Robert chuckled grimly. “You, pray?”

“Every man does when he truly needs to,” came the reply.

Then Dracula turned to his mummified accomplice. “That is the true purpose of my quest to revive you! I am guilty of not having revealed this in a timely manner, but as an apology, I offer a route to safety. If you wish, you may leave this dire plot behind; I will deposit you anywhere in the world you desire. I will educate you about vampirism, about how to endure an immortality submerged in darkness without ever sacrificing the high life. (Now that I think of it, with your sunny mummy powers you may tolerate sunlight…)

“But should you resolve to come with us, and protect a world you have never seen from a world you do not know, I shall protect you as leader until my last blood-soaked breath!”

Had Adam stayed awake the night prior to hear about Igor, to learn how seamlessly he navigated life as dual werewolf and vampire—and as president, no less!—he may well have asked Dracula to set him up straightaway in the same way. All he knew, however, was that society had never meant hospitality.

He laughed uproariously! “Ah, you old bat, you forget!” he cried. “Indeed I could leave your service—and run in fearful flight for all my days. I have drunk deep of that life. No more. Here in this home, I feel more accepted than I have anywhere else in my storied history. Even the blind fled me, tripping over their foreign objects! I sit before you thinking of the world’s perception of me, scrawled second-hand by the sailor-adventuress Mary Shelley. Yet by week’s end,” he said with great warmth, “I may not be merely in ‘fiction.’ We all may land in the history books.”

“So it is settled, Prometheus!” Dracula deemed. He whipped an arm from his cloak and pointed two fingers to the two figures. “So we have here assembled two braves renowned the world over for strength…that is, if you still possess, fair Robert, the muscle to overturn automobiles?”

“Most, prodigiously,” the manfish confirmed, curling a bicep.

“I shall fill out the team with two specialists: one with knowledge of the arcane sort, the other with a speed yet unmatched in all the world—this world, at least!”

And the castlebat was off, his sights set for bully England!

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