Count von Blüdferatu had fallen somewhat from the 1300s when he had a Carpathian empire at his command, but he was doing all right for himself.

Living as an undercover vampire in a lovely flat.

It wasn’t glamorous, but it could be worse. Count von Blüdferatu could have suffered the fate of his cousin the Marquis de Suek–staked–or his old friend Baron Saugerblüd–head cut off with a silver sickle and stuffed with wolfsbane. Compared to that, living in a comfortable apartment and going out every other full moon to feed could have been a lot worse.

In order to keep up the facade of not drinking blood with a little lymph to taste, Count von Blüdferatu dropped in on his neighbors from time to time after sunset. He never fed on them, and in fact he counted on them to be his alibis.

This evening, he dropped in on the swarthy Italian who was cleaning out the old crêpe shop that had gone out of business after the Saudis flooded the market with cronuts in ’12.

“Greetings, friend,” said Count von Blüdferatu. “What sort of shop do yo plan to open here?”

“Oh, it’s an idea I’ve had forever now,” said the Italian brightly, “a bakery specializing in garlic bread!”

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“Well, transdeath rights are in a pretty good place right now, but most people only think of vampires and zombies, you know? They don’t even know the difference between a zombie and a lich and a revanent and a ghoul, and they sure aren’t giving us extra points when it comes to hiring.”

“Why don’t you do something about it, Kershaw?” The voice from beneath the grave sounded sad, almost tremulous.

“Well, I try. I run a support group for ‘underserved undead’ out of the community center on 7th. But I’m the only regular attendee since Alan the Barghest died of the rot, and we’re lucky to get three attendees on a good day.”

“That’s…really sad.”

“We have a hard time with those ‘Life Ends at Death’ protestors,” I said. “I’m sure you know how it is. People are scared of the unknown and the unfamiliar, always have been. I don’t blame them and I only light them on fire a little bit, but I think we get targeted a lot because it’s not politically correct for them to pick on zombies or vampires anymore.”

“Would…would you let me come to your support group? Even if I arose as something like a zombie?”

“Of course,” I said. “I’ve never turned anyone away except that one freak in makeup.”

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The ride had lasted nearly ten hours, with the last five spent under a black hood. Academy Award winning actress Ann Pense had won plaudits for her portrayal of a mentally handicapped, wheelchair-bound serial killer in 1944 Warsaw. But The Rusty Wheel was nothing compared to her most demanding role so far: interviewing one of the world’s most notorious fugitives and monsters.

After seeing nothing but the straws her escorts had shoved into the hood to allowe her to sip vegan gluten-free smoothies, Ann found herself seated in a padded chair. The hood was whisked off, and she found herself face to face with her quarry.

“Well, Ms. Pense, here I am,” said Vampire Stalin, fangs glistening beneath his impressive mustache, dripping with the lifeblood of the proletariat. “What would you like to ask me about my unholy armies of the people?”

“There’s been a lot of misconceptions about your drive for equality and dignity through vampirism,” Ann began, drawing on the list of questions she had memorized earlier. “So let me ask you: are you a saint?”

Inspired by this.

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The Deerton School District is committed to a safe and healthful environment for all of its students. We therefore must reluctantly take the following action as a result of the unfortunate events that happened last week.

As such, all garlic is hereby banned from lunches brought from home, effective immediately.

The number of students in the DSD who are vampires has been growing, and their intense allergy to garlic makes an unsafe learning environment for them. Even a student who has handled garlic and gives one of our vampire students a hug or a kiss can cause an allergic reaction, and the school nurse may not be able to get there with an epi-pen before the child melts into a puddle of slurry.

After the unfortunate incident last week, we feel that this rule is the only way to prevent another such tragedy. We at DSD know that there are many garlic lovers among our populace, but we hope that this will be seen as an unfortunate necessity.

In addition, we regret to inform our Catholic students that holy water for the purposes of baptism and ablution is also hereby banned for the same reason, and effective immediately, wood shop classes are suspended. These measures are in response to various incidents of our vampure students being staked and scarred, and are also an unfortunate necessity.

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“Well, my friends, we have put our latest vintage through the usual tests: color, swirl, smell, taste, and savor. As per the tradition of the competition, you will all be provided with another glass and asked to render your judgement,” said Sommalier Quislyng.

The first judge, Graf von Blutmord, sipped daintily at the crimson liquid in his glass. “It has a fine bouquet. Woody, complex, and round with a hint of basil and nuances of toast. I would surmise it’s a vintage Hungarian AB-positive from a 35-year-old female in the Budapest area.”

“I hate to differ with you,” said Earl Vätskasuga, the second judge, as he dabbled his fangs in gently swirled liquid. “While I agree in the fineness of bouquet, I find it has much more a delicate coconut flavor, and a sinful sushi essence with velvet overtones. A young and prime B-negative male from the Pyrenees, most likely Andorra. I do so enjoy these Andorran boutiques.”

Countess du Nălucăamor made a derisive sound and took in her entire goblet in a single suck. “You’re both naive old fools. It’s a raw vintage from the parts of Romania where there’s still a taster in every village and the old ways have been refined for a new century. Intoxicating gingerbread essences, a bouquet of passionate molasses, and a caramelized chocolate perfume undercurrent. It’s an A-positive from the Sighişoara region, I’m sure of it.”

“Well, now that you’ve all rendered your verdicts, allow me to reveal the truth,” said Sommalier Quislyng. He pulled the velvet covering from the bottle on a refrigerated and gently vibrating pedestal to reveal…幸运的777快乐的猫血, a Chinese O-positive vintage from Guangzhou commonly disparaged as a cheap garbage brand in connoisseur circles.

“Impossible!” cried Graf von Blutmord.

“Ridiculous!” shouted Earl Vätskasuga.

“Treachery!” roared Countess du Nălucăamor.

Their verdicts praising the cheap 幸运的777快乐的猫血 vintage have been known ever since as the “Judgement of Chateau Bloodtooth” and remain controversial to this day.

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“Oh, shit,” Mellany said. “It’s Carter.”

“Look the other way and maybe he won’t see us.” Susyn turned and tried to ease herself to the outside of the bloodmobile line without losing her place.

“Mellany! Susyn! What are you doing there?” It didn’t work. Carter, looking as disheveled and unstable as he had in their tutoring group, approached the line waving his hands. “Why are you lining up for the vampire bloodmobile?”

“Because it’s the right thing to do,” Susyn sighed, without facing him. “They always need blood.”

“Also we’re in a blood race with Sigma Qoppa Phi,” Mellany added. Susyn bopped her for making them look shallow in front of the handsome line handlers.

“Don’t you see? The bloodmobile is just a front for vampires to satisfy their demonic bloodlust without drawing attention to themselves! And we line up to be part of it like suckers!”

“Oh God,” Mellany winced, visibly pained. “More of your paranoia, really? Go yell at some other line.”

“Yeah, I hear the lunch line is really a cannibal plot to fatten people up,” Susyn added.

Carter continued his gesticulation. “Not until people wake up and see the truth!” he yelled. Turning to the line of people leaving the bloodmobile with choc’late chips and juice, he continued: “Are you happy with yourselves? You’ve sold yourself to the nosferatu overlords for cookies! Bloodwhores, all of you.”

“That’s just sad,” Susyn muttered to Mellany. “Just do your best to ignore him.”

Turning to the bloodmobile itself, Carter rolled up his sleeves and held his wrists forward. “Bet you’d love to get what’s in here, wouldn’t you? Full of AB positive, the vampire special reserve! Bloodsucking freaks!”

Inside the driver’s cabin of the bloodmobile, on the right side of UV-screening tinted windows, Count von Saugen glanced outside. “What’s all the fuss about?”

“Just another wacko,” said Archduke Bluttrinker. “Here, try this glass of B negative. It’s a 1989 vintage with excellent color and bouquet.”

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“Oy! You there! Hands off them morsels.” Figures emerged from the valley mist; Gertrude thought they might be rescuers until she could make out their features with clarity: pale, bruised, and rotten.

The living dead of another sort.

“Look, I understand that you need them, but we do too,” the lead bloodsucker said, diplomatic if only because he and his buddies were outnumbered. “Not a lot of blood left after you’ve dismembered one of the poor sods.”

“And there’s not any bleeding flavor left in them morsels after you berks suck it dry,” the living dead leader croaked, maggots writhing in his gums. “Or worse, make it one of you. D’you know what happens when we try to eat one of you wankers?”

Gertrude had heard that the living dead would swell up and explode like liver sausages if they tried to snack on a bloodsucker, but she’d never seen it.

“Oh, you’re one to talk about spreading the love,” the bloodsucker retorted. “How many of your bosom buddies over there started off as a meal?”

“You’d best use your loaf, berk,” the living dead leader said. “You’ve bloody near run out the lot of morsels in the valley, and unless there’s an understanding betwixt us we’ll be having a butcher at bleedin’ starvation.”

As the creatures argued, Gertrude struggled to loosen her bonds.

“So we’re to just give up our meal to you, which we ourselves caught after a fortnight of sucking on field mice? If anyone’s got to go on a blinking diet for the cause of undead harmony, by rights it ought to be you!”

Cecelia Dugaine, born 1727, woke up in a fancy hotel suite on Times Square with a splitting headache.

Where had Gaelan gotten to? He had been such an obvious, easy mark at the party. Nervous, gullible, unattractive, and giving off waves of type AB positive scent–the good stuff, rare and vintage. It had been easy as breathing to give him a whirlwind seduction, a quick whiff of persuasive pheromones, and then retire to a small room upstairs to feed. Cecelia remembered the expression on his face as she’d sunk her dripping fangs into his jugular, the last clear thing she could recall: not so much scared or pained as thrilled.

As she staggered upright and lurched toward the bathroom, Cecelia wondered at her puzzling lack of the Hunger, which should have returned after a day’s rest. Her movements lacked their usual fluid, deadly grace; upon entering the bathroom, she very nearly lost her balance and fell, something that hadn’t happened since she’d been turned in 1755 by the Comte de Vézelay.

Two things were visible in the mirror that shouldn’t have been there. The first was her reflection, which Cecelia hadn’t seen in centuries.

The second was a message scrawled in blood: WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF MORTALITY!

A card was propped on the countertop below; with trembling hands–her hands hadn’t trembled since the Hunger had almost consumed her in 1859!–Cecelia opened it and read.

Dear bloodsucking fiend,

I’ve passed on a rather unique condition to you, and your body has now cleansed itself of the bloodsucker virus for good. Don’t think of trying to get bitten again: your body now produces the same antibodies as mine. Get ready to enjoy all the fruits of humanity, from aging to vulnerability to old enemies with scores to settle.

Have a nice life.


Panicked, Cecelia threw the card down. She dashed to the balcony, throwing open the door and casting aside the curtains. The early morning sun shone gaily down upon her exposed skin, without so much as a tendril of smoke or a whisper of pain.

“No!” she cried, sinking to her knees in important rage.

“Hey nature child!” someone cried from the next balcony over. “Put on a shirt and get the hell over it!”

But Andrea Bergstrom & Associates didn’t pay Cynthia to do that. No, her job was going through the slush pile.

Every day, hundreds of letters from would-be authors arrived at AB&A, looking for one of the agents to represent what the writers were no doubt convinced would be The Next Great American Novel. Junior assistant editors got to wade through the muck, looking over query after query and routing the ones that seemed decent upstairs for a second look.

“What would you do,” Cynthia read, “if you learned you were a vampire princess…” She stopped there and chucked the letter into a wastebasket she’d set up, one labeled ‘Vampire Shit.’ Oh, it’s true they were hot now, but with the press time and the concurrent glut on the market–plus the fact that most were unspeakably dire–Ms. Bergstrom had decreed from on high that they were no longer to be considered.

Cynthia opened a fresh one. “Izzy Connington had everything in life: a hot boyfriend, a fast car, and the prom queen’s tiara. But that’s before she became a vampire…”

Paper was roughly balled and flung into the VS basket.

“Kyra Heartache and Nostra Rameses. Friends and lovers torn apart by the ancient feud between vampyr and mummies.”