TO COME: 5.2 BEING WORKED ON R/N OMGZ
WARNING: NSFW - HAS A BUTT
|| Regen and Anselm worked alone in the graveyard, their shovels sliced through rocky soil. It was hard work, but Anselm felt no sweat break through his skin, his muscles didn’t cramp and lungs stayed deflated and useless in his cold chest. He stamped the shovel deeper into the earth with the heel of a glossy shoe. How many dead bodies lay beneath them, tucked away in their rightful places? Not shambling about feigning life. Not digging their own graves.
Night birds chirped, a susurrus of wings and a lone cry.
Regen looked up, “Damn, they found us.”
A dark shape flickered through the air, a shape that would never be seen by normal human eyes. A bird swooped low and transformed.
Anselm stared in bug-eyed silence.
“Well done,” Regen said flatly, “Dallmann’s crew tried to get me at my home, now I’m stuck with you here.”
The woman furrowed her brow. “You wound me, O’Meara child.”
Regen went back to digging. “What brings you here, Ausmiller?”
“We must all see him, must know him.” Ausmiller’s voice was husky and slow. She looked Anselm up and down. “It is selfish to keep him to yourselves.”
“Why are you so keen?” Regen asked, “You’ll just drag him back to Wolz like a good little retriever. I am actually trying to help him—”
“Herr Eichel,” the woman turned from Regen, “I indeed serve Wolz and she wishes to see you.”
“He’s in no shape for it,” Regen stepped between them, “Very stressed out.”
“Eichel,” Ausmiller crinkled her forehead, “Is that true?”
Anselm searched for the words, “I don’t know… Um—”
“Yes, terribly stressed out,” Regen said, “Tomorrow at the soonest.”
Ausmiller smiled and held a hand out to Anselm. He took it, and after a moment of of deliberation, kissed it.
“How appropriate,” Regen rolled her eyes, “I’m sure Wolz would love it. She remembers how nobility worked once upon a time, knows who gets kissed by whom and where.”
Ausmiller kept her eye contact with Anselm, “It is but a pleasantry.
I enjoyed it, dear.”
A shadowy form darted through the headstones and materialized into a skinny guy with squishy pierced lips. He bowed. Anselm gaped a moment before he nodded.
“Clovis,” the newcomer said, “Pleased to meet you. You’re a new progenitor. That’s really—”
“—Great,” Regen said, “Really great. Excuse us, we have digging to do.”
“Clovis dear,” Ausmiller gestured broadly, “Help them with this task.”
Regen muttered, “Gott im Himmel, you weirdos.”
She handed the shovel to Clovis and let the men get to work.
Clovis looked up with a gentle expression, “We may be the same age. I was turned just four years ago.”
“Ah, yes. Is that your… What do you would call someone’s…”
“Mistress, master, I don’t know. She turned me. She was turned hundreds of years ago by Wolz.”
Anselm widened his eyes momentarily and blinked it away.
“Hundreds. That’s still hard for me to get used to.”
“It’s only numbers,” Clovis said, “I can’t imagine what it’s like to be that old.”
“For the best, perhaps. Are there many young vampires?”
“Depends on how you define ‘young.’ If you mean under a century, yes.”
They dug in silence. The older vampires may have been listening, but there was no way to know with their expressionless corpse faces. Anselm considered his words before speaking.
“Were you there last night?”
“…Yes. My first time at something like that.”
“Did you see?”
Clovis kept his attention on his work. “Ausmiller wanted me there as a lesson — get used to what it means to serve Wolz. But she took mercy and allowed me to stay away from the dying. I was there for the screams, the smell of the fire.”
Ah good, Anselm thought, you didn’t see me. But of course, many people did. He looked down. “Sorry. At least it’s a rare occasion.”
“Every couple decades, I heard.”
“Decades? I thought… Wow.”
“This one was larger than normal.”
“Oh. That’s good.”
“Good? Ah. Yes…”
Regen got to her feet. “We really ought to get going.”
Ausmiller straightened up, “Are you certain—”
“Certain! We will see you tomorrow.”
Clovis looked up with glossy eyes, and Regen shoved a bin of dirt at Anselm. “Let’s go.”
Several minutes into the silent car ride, Anselm realized the animals were not in the back seat. They hadn’t bothered him for an hour or more. Would they continue popping in and out of existence forever? Begging him to kill, to drink blood… What a nightmare.
The buildings they passed turned from brick residential to gravel lots to shabby housing projects as they neared his neighborhood. He leaned on the window frame and watched his ghostly reflection slide over the landscape. The face in that reflection was a corpse. A reflection of a reflection.
“What do you think of me?” he asked without turning.
Regen looked over, searched his face with narrowed eyes. Searching for intent, motive. He didn’t look back, gazing out the window with a melancholy expression.
She took her time answering.
“You’re very human, but with a more grim and real experience than most living people. People might have put me in that category once, but I enjoyed being alive too much.”
“How do you mean, ‘human?’ ”
“You have the range of emotions human have. Emotions that come from knowing human suffering.”
“You don’t have the same?”
“Not anymore. Maybe an abstract notion. Don’t need them.”
“I wonder if I will ever feel that way…"
He considered it, rolled it over in his mind.
“It would be sexist of me to assume you would be the maternal one of the group, but thank you for being kind to me.”
“And thank you for noticing the sexism. And it would be wrong. There is no maternal one in our group. Being responsible is different. I don’t like a mess and that makes me willing enough to clean it up. That includes messes that used to be humans.”
Anselm watched the streetlamps draw streaks through his mirror twin.
“I’ll try not to be messy.”
Regen drove on, brow furrowed. “Are you normally interested in sex?”
“Do you mean we can’t— Wait, no, of course we can, but… I don’t know.”
“Not exactly a hound dog. Got it. Are you gay?”
“I thought so for many years. I guess, mostly still. I had a girlfriend once, other than that just… Why?”
“How much do you like tits?”
Anselm bugged his eyes and sat up straight in his seat.
“What? Why do you—
I don’t know. I didn’t think about— A little?
We were heroin addicts so uh… But I didn't really think about it?”
“Hm. Alright then, we’ll get along.”
“Are we… vampires, I mean… Are we meant to be uninhibited about these things?”
“Sadly, yes. Good to not be surprised, but bad when someone evil owns their desires fully.”
“Oh, your prog— Ah, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay now. I’m free and he is hurt. It makes me happy.”
He didn’t inquire any further.
They came to the former industrial district, with its dingy old factories and warehouses converted into poorly constructed apartments. Regen helped unload the trash bins of soil onto the sidewalk.
“Do you mind if I help you with these?” she asked, “Take them into your apartment?”
“That’s fine,” Anselm said.
She smirked about an unspoken joke and they rolled the bins across the empty street.
“I rarely get to see how those of modest means live,” she said,
“The economy has worsened so much since I was young. And, I majored in anthropology, you know.”
“The study of people,” Anselm restrained the disdain from his voice, “Fascinating.”
A trip to the zoo, how thrilling for her.
The lobby of the Grunwald apartments had checked tiles that were probably lovely sixty years ago, now cracked and dusty. Anselm pulled back a rusty gate and they shoved the bins into the rickety elevator. It bobbed and rocked as it rattled its way up, Regen stood eerily still next to Anselm. He jingled his keys self-consciously. Did he look like that? A mannequin propped into a human pose?
They emerged into the hall and onto the stained green carpeting. The outdated wallpaper peeled at the corners, the air smelled of weed and bleach. Must be working on the mold growth, how nice.
“Oooh, it’s so bad,” Regen said.
Anselm said nothing and pushed a bin along. She should have seen his old studio. Behind his flimsy door was a dim room with one large window. His bed a few feet from the sofa, a pile of unfolded laundry stacked on the desk. But it was his home and relief washed over him just walking over the threshold. Oversized illustrations sat on wire easels, but he no longer hung them for display. This place was his own, not a showroom for prospective patrons. Regen had an amused expression as she stepped inside, self-satisfied about something that he had no desire to speculate about.
“Incredible,” she examined a drawing, “Thirty years ago everyone was into this style.”
“Oh? I guess my patrons were probably that age.” Strange to imagine this young woman was as old as his parents.
“Personally,” she said, “I was into fabrics, incorporating northern Aegenian designs into textiles.
I didn’t get very far.”
“I think they closed that major,” Anselm dropped his keys on a ratty velvet chair, “Book arts and illustration are on the chopping block. When they’re gone, you can blame Von Hechten. Guess he’ll be without some competition.”
She shook her head, “Let’s not talk about him.”
Anselm said, “Let’s never talk about him again.”
She frowned and went back to arranging the bins.
A finch in a wicker cage squeaked— his birds hadn’t been fed since the night before. He hurried to measure out a cup of seed.
“This is all quite charming,” Regen said, “Interesting how someone with tender art and care for tender animals would be deviant enough to become a progenitor.”
Anselm poured the seed into their tray. At least the birds didn’t care that he was dead as long as he fed them.
“You think I’m a deviant?”
“A poor word choice, I suppose. Progenitors have certain commonalities, most seem to have aberrant minds. I meant no offense.”
Anselm leaned against the cage, the birds flitted around inside, perhaps outraged by their mistreatment. What would have happened to them if he’d been burnt up in the fire?
Regen drummed on the lid of a bin to get his attention and gestured to the bed. “You have a choice, when you’re asleep you’re even more dead than you are now. Comfort is not an issue. Still it might be nice to lie down and wake up in comfort. So, dirt in the bed or somewhere else?”
“Not much more room unless it’s in the bathtub. The bed’s fine.”
“Where will you take lovers?”
“Hm, I don’t do that often. I could clean it up if I needed to.”
“When you do, you prefer the bed?”
“I guess so, not a lot of other furniture. There’s always the sofa.”
“Before we render your bed unusable, perhaps we should fuck.”
Anselm laughed. “Yes, inaugurate my undeath. Look, it’s still unmade from when I was alive.”
“I suppose we don’t need it to be in order.” She pulled down her shorts and underwear in one move.
Anselm backed into a wire easel and sent it rocking and clanging.
“OH! Oh— sorry, I thought you were joking.”
She stopped with her shorts down partway and looked over her shoulder.
“Too gay for this?”
“Um, heh, no. Are you— uh, are you sure? It’s not strange?”
“It’s strange, but maybe it will take our minds off the moment.”
She lowered the shorts another inch inquisitively. Anselm chuckled with a turned head and leaned on the easel.
“Um, heh, maybe. I um, it’s different for us? Vampires.”
“It is. Think of this as educational.”
She finished undressing, save for her striped stockings and jacket. She pulled her arms inside of the sweatshirt and left the sleeves as limp cloth noodles. Anselm watched the strange move curiously. Inside the jacket, she crossed her arms over her chest.
“Alright,” she said, “Come here. Tie the sleeves in front.”
"Um, okay?" He complied and knotted the sleeves over the lumpy shape of her crossed arms.
She looked at him gravely. “Can you see my breasts at all?”
“No. Not really.” Her torso now had the appearance of a fat caterpillar.
“Good,” she said, “Help me onto the bed and undress.”
He blinked several times and laughed, but her expression was as serious as ever.
He said, “You don’t have to do this just to educate me.”
“It will take my mind off things as well. Now, put me on the bed.”
What was he doing? He put a hand on her back and one under her naked thigh and lifted her. It was nothing, her body fell into his arms like a sack of flour, lighter than the bag of dirt he’d lifted earlier. They were dead, their organs atrophied and their blood drained. He placed her on the mattress, stepped back and gazed at the wall.
She stared. “I said undress.”
Was this a cultural thing? Would he be some kind of sexual taskmaster in the future? He twisted around to pull up the hem of his shirt.
“You don’t need to take the shirt off.”
“Uh, no, it looks funny with just a shirt. —Um, for men, I mean.”
She smirked and bounced her feet on the edge of the bed. A human-sized pixie, simultaneously too modest and not modest enough.
She watched him undress until he sat beside her and crossed his legs.
“Good, good,” she said, “Now, we could do this like robots but it may be more fun to make it work mentally too.” She scooted closer. “What do you want to do?”
He gave her a sideways glance. He hadn’t been with a girl in a long time, would he even remember what to do?
“Maybe, I like hugging but you have no arms. I could put an arm around you?”
“That sounds good. Hug me.”
He wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin on her shoulder. She kissed his forehead. He closed his eyes and rubbed her back.
“Can you tell me something?” he asked, “About yourself. It doesn’t have to be dramatic.”
“What do you think of psychedelic grunge?” she asked, and kissed him lightly,
“I think it’s kinda cool.” She kissed him again. Her lips, like the rest of her, were cold and soft.
“Oh yeah, I’m into industrial lately but guitars are— uh—”
“Pinwheel Six are my favorite— *smek* but their best song about fucking is— *smek* about incest. Oh well.”
“Haha, we should go to an industrial show. Lots of songs about fucking— *smek* but you can’t hear the words.”
What was this? Why? She bent forward at the waist with a more serious kiss. She could hardly move, trapped in her self-bondage.
He leaned back and gave her a sensitive look, “I want you to be comfortable.”
She groaned. “I know what I’m doing. I don’t normally like to fuck much, call this a weird whim.”
He tried to engage her eyes, but there was nothing he could read behind them. Why did he expect otherwise? Maybe she was right. Maybe they could both use something to take their minds off the recent events.
“Now—” she said, “Just like so... Lower... okay, there.”
She pulled on her shorts, her arms back in their sleeves.
“Not bad, Anselm. Thank you.”
“Yeah, um, likewise…”
He straightened his blankets and smelled his own, formerly human scent. The smell of a dead man.
“So,” Regen said, “Let’s set down a layer of dirt.”
Anselm glanced over at the bins, “I forgot. So weird, I still can’t…”
“Can’t believe this is real. Someone murdered me and now I’m a monster who sleeps in dirt.”
She winced. “The sooner you stop thinking of it as ‘murdered’ and instead ‘turned into a vampire,’ the better off you’ll be.”
He picked up a half-empty can of nutritional milk left abandoned on a side table. Smelled weird, inedible.
He put it back and continued to wander.
She appraised him for a moment.
“What were you seeing before, back in my apartment?”
He rubbed his lips together, and looked down, “I don’t know.”
“You have to know.”
“Your animals? A little deer?”
“Oh,” she smiled faintly and sat on the sofa. “That’s common for progenitors. They’ll go away before long.”
He hated to wish they’d go, but maybe he’d cursed himself with a foolish wish. They’d never leave him.
She patted the cushion next to her, “Guess you’ll need some practice in using this sofa.”
“Using— oh, for— ah, heh. Are we less bound by physical restraints?”
“We’ll get hungry if we do it for long enough.”
“Ah, heh,” he rifled through a stack of cassettes. “I think you might like this early Faulniss Schweine, it’s a bit psychedelic. And it’s mostly about fucking.”
“I remember when that came out. Sure…”
After they were done and cleaned up, they relaxed on the sofa. There in his own apartment, it was easy to forget they weren’t two humans. They talked about music and art, and at one point he offered her some popcorn out of reflex. She declined and changed the subject.
He began to get a sense of her. A flower child with the misfortune of being a vampire’s type. She dodged personal subjects. Not Von Hechten. Not Anselm’s death. Not how she murdered someone for no reason. Sometimes gave him a dark look, a suspicious glance, but he couldn’t figure out why.
He never could understand people. Sex came up again, and he had to ask.
“Those vampires that came to your house… are things quite casual between our kind? Without biological needs, I’m surprised we would be so…”
“It’s something to do.”
“Hm. Being with a human now… Must be like fucking a fire demon.”
“Ha. The most annoying thing is thinking about all the different ways they could tell you are dead.”
“Do they ever notice?”
“Not that’s ever happened to me.”
“Heh. I guess I never noticed.”
She gave him a knowing look. “People don’t notice the supernatural. You’d be surprised how thick their skulls can be.”
He considered it and went to his desk. He dug around for a moment and returned with a scrap of paper.
“I kept this for almost ten years. Carried it in my duffelbag even after I’d sold everything else. I didn’t know what it meant, but it felt important somehow.”
“What is it?” She unfolded it carefully— an ancient receipt.
“I found it at Von Hechten’s. I wonder how many humans have done that, held on to some scrap. Something that could have…”
“Not many humans turn into progenitors.”
“Seems obvious now but kind of too silly, isn’t it?”
“And that’s how we stay secret. We’re too silly.”
The sun touched the horizon and Anselm’s bed was prepared. He sat on the edge. “Thank you for staying with me.”
“Hm, yeah I figured someone should stay in case something weird happened.”
He took off his robe and pulled his feet up. She averted her eyes. A little late for modesty, madame. He settled into the dirt. How many worms were crawling around his naked flesh?
“Um,” he said, “You’re probably going to leave now…”
“Yeah. As much as I hate daysick driving.”
“Is it safe?”
“We won’t die, but it doesn’t feel good. Lucky that you didn’t seem the outdoorsy type.”
He laid his hands on his chest, just like she’d arranged the night before.
“I can bore you to sleep,” she said, “It’s a special talent.”
“Doubt it, but it would be nice to have you here. We can dream, right?”
“I don’t know how, but we can.”
“I wonder if you will dream of me…” He glanced over with a slight smile. “I dreamed about you last night.”
She raised her eyebrows. “I’m not getting into that dirt with you.”
He laughed and settled back. “It wasn’t a sexy dream. Anyway, can you really bore me? Seems hard to believe.”
“Oh yes. Listen closely and don’t say a word…”
She took a seat on the sofa and spoke in a calming voice. “In the day we are dead, but we dream, and we heal. Returning to who we were at the time of our deaths. For progenitors, it only works if you sleep in the earth of the country where you died, so you’ll have to take soil with you if you travel far…”
A beetle scrabbled around in the dirt and he smushed it with his thumb. She continued explaining in exhaustive, redundant detail. He drifted off in time as sunlight licked the edges of the curtains.
The creatures sat with him in the empty cabin, a weak fire crackled in the fireplace.
Rehkitz said, “Vengeance will be yours, by the rules. Everyone must abide the rules.”
Rotkehlchen said, “Let them know! Tell them!”
“I will,” Anselm said, “I’ll tell them the rules.”
The cabin shuddered as if a giant pummeled it with its boulder-sized fists. Anselm fell to his side and the deer skittered around on its skinny legs. Rotkehlchen’s beak moved but he could hardly make out the words.
“You should stay asleep!” But it was too late.
Cosette beat on the door again. He parted it a crack.
“Hey,” he croaked, pretending to sound ill.
“Oh my god, where were you yesterday?” Her stern eyes flashed behind thick lenses.
He cleared his throat, “Just a moment… Let me get dressed.”
She stuck her foot in the door, “Anselm! You have to talk to me!”
He pulled it open and revealed his bare chest, “I will, but do you really want to spend time with me in this state?”
“Oh god,” she stepped back and let him get his robe.
Sunlight beamed around the curtain and he winced as he passed through a sliver of it.
Cosette glared as she crossed the threshold. “Were you staying with a gravedigger?”
“Uh,” He got between her and the bed, “It’s a project.”
“Where were you? Tell me!”
He realized he could see her as he had when he was alive— no wreath of flames.
“Anselm, I tried to tell everyone yesterday, but I couldn’t find you,” her voice trembled, “Koko is dead.”
Someone from school?
He put on a sympathetic face. “—Oh… that’s terrible.”
“She— she died in a horrible fire!”
“A f— oh! The party? She was there?”
“You heard about the Heilige Ganzer fire? Not completely dead to the world then? God!”
He cringed at the unintended pun. “I didn’t know she was there. How awful.”
She sobbed and spoke with a slight quaver.
“Everyone is really torn up. So senseless, and such an impact on the art community.”
“Yes, a lot of artists there… I heard.”
“What did you actually hear? It was caused by an artist! Ritter? The floating sculptures?”
Of course they would have to blame it on someone.
“How can you be so disconnected? This affects all of us! Where have you been?”
She knew bloody well where he’d been all these years. He rubbed his faced with smudgy hands. “Go on.”
“He used hydrogen and magnesium in his sculptures— why am I explaining this to you? It was a freak accident but now the arts will be blamed. Budget cuts, Anselm? You always wanted to do a stained glass piece but with less money in public art, how likely is that now?”
He squeezed his eyes closed to restrain himself from rolling them, “I got over that dream several years ago. Anyway, was he really there? I didn’t see any sculptures.”
“You were there?!”
“Wh— ugh— Only… only at the start. You know how I hate those—”
“But you may have— you MUST try to remember, you may have been the last person to see Koko alive!”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t. It was crowded and someone was bothering me. I left to talk to— someone. I didn’t recognize anyone.”
“You might be the only survivor! The last person to see ANYONE there alive! This is huuuuuge!”
“No, no… I’m sure there was— it was a lousy party. Others left, I’m positive. It’s nothing.”
“It’s the biggest tragedy in twelve years! TWO HUNDRED PEOPLE DIED!”
He covered his face, “Why does it matter if I was there? I couldn’t do anything about it.”
“But people have to know! We need to know everything!”
“There’s nothing to know. There were lots of people and I left fifteen minutes in. I didn’t even want to go. I’d say I was lucky but maybe— nevermind. I don’t want to talk about it.”
She shook her head and grasped at the air.
“Come on,” he said, “They really don’t think anyone survived?”
“Oh no one lived. It was intense and fast.”
A wicked thought hit him. “There were people with me…
I wonder… Von Hechten, he invited me, he was there.”
| “Oh? Oh! Von Hechten, the publisher.”
“That’s right, have you heard if he’s okay?”
“I-I don’t know! There were so many people! Luminaries, celebrities…”
“Can you ask around? I’m worried. I think he was the one who arranged the whole thing.”
“Of course! It was a high society party and the Von Hechtens are totally loaded.”
“It’s awful,” Anselm held back a horrible smile, “I do hope he’s alright… All those people, I can’t imagine. He must feel terrible.”
Cosette stammered, “I’ll— I’ll go.” She headed to the door and turned at the last moment, eyes glistening, “Are you sure you didn’t see Koko?”
He closed his eyes, “Everyone seemed like they were having fun.”
A tear raced down her cheek and she slammed the door behind her.
He waited a beat, did the lock, and then the chain. At least Von Hechten would feel a bit of pain at the hands of the rumor mill. What an ass, blame it on the arts? Worthless bastard.
Knocking at the door. How long had it been? Had he slept at all? The sun still beamed under the curtain. It started again. Quieter than Cosette, but insistent. He dragged his corpse across the room and looked out the peephole.
Egon and Lusit. Schoolies. What the hell! This quickly?
“I’m trying to sleep!” he called out.
“Um, sorry,” Egon said, “You should talk to someone? Or something?”
“Let us see you Anselm,” said Lusit, “We’re worried!”
“Fine, give me a minute.” He tossed a blanket over the dirt and cleaned himself. His darker hair caught his eye in the mirror. At least he hadn’t seen these people in a while. He put on his robe and opened the door. “I don’t know what to say.”
Egon said, “We understand. Whoa, head rush…” he stumbled into a chair, his spindly figure splayed out like a dying spider.
Lusit pushed past Anselm and paced the room. “Just tell us everything, then you can go back to saying nothing.”
He leaned against the wall, “I went to the party, Von Hechten invited me. It was too crowded, so I left. It’s awful of course but I don’t know anything else.”
Egon lolled in the chair, lanky limbs flopped over the side, “You look hungry, you wanna go grab a bite? I saw a pretzel shop a few blocks over.”
Lusit talked over him, “But you saw the sculptures. You must have.”
“I didn’t. Do they have evidence?”
“Duh, the sculptures were there. And Ritter… An artist damned by his own work.”
“Ah…” Who was this Ritter again? “It’s really terrible. Maybe you should go have a look at that pretzel shop, I hear they’re good.”
Lusit clutched at her heart, “It’s romantic and tragic and I know it will inspire great art, but why must the cost always be so dear?”
“The pretzels?” Egon blinked a few times, “I’m sure they aren’t that expensive. So uh, I could get it and bring them back here.”
Lusit lurched forward and stared bug-eyed at Anselm, “I can’t imagine. It could have been you, Anselm! It was meant to be you!”
“Think about it. You were invited. I heard Von Hechten organized the whole thing. The very person who set the wheel of fate in motion personally invited YOU to be there where everyone died burning and screaming.”
Egon sat up sluggishly, “I’m just gonna go get some and come back…”
“No,” Anselm waved at him, “I think both of you should go.”
“I can carry it.” Egon clutched his gut, “Oh man, did you hear my stomach growl?”
Lusit balled up her little fists, “Anselm, If you need to cry, I’d understand. It is unimaginable. You must be in a living hell! The guilt! You couldn’t do anything to save all those people. Or maybe you’re guilty that you didn’t even try!”
“Certainly,” Anselm said, “It’s really bad. I think I could use some time to process this. On my own.”
“Oh my god,” Lusit said, “Leave you alone? Don’t be like Satchi! Don’t let art consume you!”
“I’ll… I’ll try my best. Don’t worry. I’ll make it through this.”
Egon slumped to the door, “Yeah, I’ll let you guys work that out.”
“No,” Anselm side-stepped them to get a hand on the doorknob, “I would like to be alone.”
Lusit wrinkled up her forehead, “Anselm, people love you. People want you to live. Don’t do the unthinkable!”
Anselm scrunched up his face and opened the door for the two.
His phone rang about five minutes after he closed the door. Its cry rattled through his head, right next to him on the nightstand. He picked it up with the sourest expression.
“Anselm? Anselm?” The voice was either Axel, Peter, or… Von Hechten? No. Or Helmut.
“Who is this? I’m trying to sleep.”
…Dieter? Wait. Oh god. Professor Schumer. He never should have accepted the invitation to the man’s house. The sex wasn’t bad, but good grief.
“Herr Schumer… What’s the matter?”
“Oh don’t Herr me, Anselm. We’ve known each other. And don’t pretend about matters of life and death. Everyone is worried.”
“How does everyone know this already?” Anselm sighed and flopped back in bed, the telephone cord spiraled across his chest.
“It’s not important. I know—” He choked up. “I know I was cruel to you before…”
“What? No. Don’t worry about it.”
“How can we? We cannot! Anselm… You’re so important and you just don’t know. Can you ever?”
So important Herr Schumer didn’t bother to come to his graduation show, or more than glance at his art once they’d had sex. So important they hadn’t spoken in eight years.
“You never would have called if this hadn’t happened,” Anselm said, “Think whatever makes you happy. I need to sleep.”
“No! Don’t be so cold. Don’t dismiss all human compassion! Is love any less real when it’s called to heart by tragedy? I ask you!”
Love? He had to be drunk.
“I’m glad you would be a little sad if I’d burned up to death.”
“Everyone would be! You’re so intelligent, talented, beautiful… People like you can’t know how you make everyone feel.”
Anselm glanced at a half-finished drawing across the room. Perhaps there was space for another well-endowed frog. Der FroschSchumer. He’d draw it bigger this time. “Mm-hmm.”
“We should see each other soon,” Schumer said, “What are you doing this afternoon? Say, three o’clock?”
“Oh no, I’m very busy.”
“Later? Tonight? How about nine? Ten?”
“No no… very busy.”
“How about I call you?”
The phone rang again. He pulled the receiver off the hook and buried it under his pillow. He didn’t answer the door either, despite the wild banging and hollering from unknown intruders. So much for sleeping like the dead.
He woke with the sunset. Too soon! Hooves stepped over his body.
YOU DIDN’T KILL HIM
He twisted away to avoid those judgmental eyes.
“I can’t. I’m not strong enough!”
GET STRONGER AND KILL HIM
“I can’t do it now.”
They trampled him until he buried his face in the sheets.
HE’S HERE KILL HIM
He bolted out of bed, his real life finches complained and flapped around their cage. The room was dark, empty.
Something at the window. Through the tendrils of his potted plants— Von Hechten waved. This was the fourth floor.
Anselm snatched his robe and approached, a silent movie heroine accosted by Lord Demos. Von Hechten watched impassively, a dry cleaning bag slung over a shoulder, a hand clinging to the sheer brick wall.
Anselm opened the window. “I guess this is real, and not some nigh— dream.”
“A nice dream? No, it is real.”
Anselm stepped back, the deer zipped around his ankles and the robin bounced off the walls. The finches screeched and beeped and the room seemed to be haunted by an unhappy poltergeist. Von Hechten rested a hand on the window frame.
“This is an opportunity for me to show you respect. You see, vampires can only enter an area with full health and power if they’re invited.”
KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL
Robin feathers fluttered through the air and hooves clattered on the wood floors.
“You seem distracted,” Von Hechten said, “Focus on the sound of my voice. My show of respect to you is that I will let you know, so you can make an informed decision. So. May I come inside?” The monster adjusted the bag on his shoulder and clenched his jaw.
USE THE MAT CUTTER ON THE TABLE CUT HIS THROAT RELEASE THE BLOOD AND TAKE OFF THE HEAD BURN THE BODY AND THROW AWAY THE ASHES
Anselm shook the pleas out of his head. Did he have a choice?
The animals multiplied in their frenzy, deer and robins going wild. The finches shrieked and fluttered. Anselm flopped on the sofa.
“You really didn’t have to,” Von Hechten said, “I’m quite sincere in that.” His face returned to its placid demeanor, no matter what he said. He stepped in the window like a horrid Godmas fairy tale.
“It’s fine,” Anselm brushed away the birds that gathered on his knees.
Von Hechten took in the humble environment. “Pleasing to once again be in the domain of the artist.”
The real life birds jittered and hopped around their cage. Did they recognize the monster? Or did they see the spiritual onslaught? Deer bounded around Von Hechten’s feet, and he seemed to deftly step by them as he wandered, gazing at the few bits of art that were displayed.
“Hm,” he raised his chin, “I smell that you had fun with Auntie Regen last night.”
“Don’t be embarrassed, it’s good to make new friends in whatever ways you can manage.”
A deer hopped on Anselm’s lap in its circuit around the room.
Von Hechten took stock of Anselm’s expression and shook his head.
“This won’t do at all. Otumbo told me something— he said progenitors often see animals after they are reborn.”
Anselm looked down.
“—And you told Regen you had been seeing animals…”
He walked the room, studying the art and whatever detritus his eyes fell upon. “Otumbo said that these animals give the progenitor advice, teaching them necessary lessons. He also said that they often exhort the progenitor to exact revenge on their executioners.”
Anselm said nothing.
“—At any rate these animals tend to leave with a few days so you needn’t worry too greatly. But do consider this— I would be a formidable opponent and you are young and weak.
I will be vastly more powerful than you for centuries to come.
Most progenitors are killed by mere humans, this is a rather exceptional circumstance you find yourself in. And most importantly, what is there to avenge?
You've been given a great gift— immortal life in a position of power.”
Anselm stood and checked on the finches. He tutted at them to soothe their fear, but they were inconsolable.
“These creatures,” Von Hechten continued, “Are they worse around me? Regen said you seemed fine last night, and you were apparently calm enough to… well, whatever you two did.”
Anselm kept his back turned and measured out a cup of water, defending it from a phantasmal robin attack.
“They will leave me?” he asked.
“Yes. But you didn’t answer the question. Are you changing the subject because you believe their exhortations?”
“No. It would be silly.”
“Why would it be silly?”
“What could I do? It would be pointless.”
Von Hechten sighed and surely made some grand gesture but Anselm wasn’t going to turn to see it. “That is not the answer I would have hoped for.”
“I’m sorry. I suppose our relationship may have had a bit of a setback.” He gave the birds their water, which did little to calm them.
“I’m not looking for an eternal lover,” Von Hechten said, “I merely expect that when these demons are no longer shrieking in your ears that you will see that the appropriate reaction is gratitude.”
Anselm gritted his teeth and covered the birds with their bedtime cloth. “We’ll see. You have a plan for the evening?” He turned, keeping a pleasant face, but leaving his eyes closed.
Von Hechten tsked and folded his arms. “They are telling you ungrateful things, aren’t they?”
“Does it matter? I’d like to get on with the evening.”
“…As it happens, I do have a plan. I imagine the garments I gave you last night will require cleaning after Regen insisted you muck about in the filth. So I’ve brought you a new outfit, and we have to do something about your hair. Take a shower first.”
Anselm cringed. “…Right.”
He dodged a rampant deer and went for the shower with an awful sense of deja vu.
The sputtering water drummed on his head. No room in this bathtub for extra vampires, at least. He expected a lurking shadow to invade his privacy, but sensed nothing other than the odd animal zipping by and the finches peeping anxiously in the other room. This was different. No matter how familiar it seemed. He was not a scared little boy. He’d been through so much already, how could things get any worse? The creatures chanted in powerful unison.
“I know, I know… shh…” he whispered into the shower stream. He returned in his robe, Von Hechten was waiting with a pleasantly relaxed face.
“I’m eager for the festivities. Come.” He gestured to Anselm’s desk chair and began to unpack a pile of hair styling products and tools.
“Oh no…” Anselm took a seat and folded his hands in his lap.
Von Hechten examined a sharp comb and laid it on the desk. “I’m just going to give you a presentable hairstyle.”
“Another presentation? We’ve hardly been able to introduce you to anyone.”
“I mean… the display. The other night…”
“Ahhhh yes. The beautiful youths. It was a display, and they were beautiful and shall be missed.”
“A Godmas feast displayed to the wild dogs…”
“Otumbo can transform into a wild dog— though I have heard that hyenas are more closely related to cats. Isn’t that interesting?”
Anselm stopped speaking and let the monster jerk his head around. The animals milled at his feet, glaring up at him and watching expectantly.
“How interesting earlier,” Von Hechten said, “I didn’t know you were so popular.
The rumor mill started with you, worked its way back to me. As it should. I was able to deflect attention from myself. ‘Oh dear this is the first I’ve heard of it, I just came straight home,’ and so on.”
“How convenient for you.”
Von Hechten reached for a pair of scissors.
TAKE THEM AWAY STAB HIM
“Oh no,” Anselm held out his hand, “No cutting.”
“What? It will look so much nicer.”
“No, haven’t you—” (cut me enough) “—Do I really have to be presented this way? Everyone already saw me— you know. Ugh…”
“Well yes, they saw you being utterly unpresentable! At that point you were some kind of visceral installation, not a lord of the city. Tonight you’ll greet them as a peer rather than a subject. You don’t want to look like some Antearctan greaser. It will grow back if you insist on maintaining this... style.”
“Just… do what you want but don’t cut it. You’re not going to be able to do this every day you know.” (Oh please, no…)
Von Hechten covered his eyes dramatically and let out a long sigh. “Oh well, a greaser it is.”
Despite his feigned resignation, he combed and sprayed and arranged Anselm’s hair with the utmost scrutiny.
Anselm winced at another round of back-combing, “Do you do this much work for yourself?”
“It’s not necessary because I’ve more natural body, and less gratuitous length. Well, at least as far as my hair is concerned, ho ho ho. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t have gotten you better nutrition for the last bit of your life, your hair is so lank and lifeless.”
Anselm’s head would surely be bloody red and scoured to the bone if he’d been human. Von Hechten stepped back and appraised his work, plucking stray hairs straight out of Anselm’s scalp.
“It’s as good as I can do to stow the mass, but there it is, uncut. Another penis joke, ho ho ho. When did I get so bawdy? You don’t have to answer that. Just look in the mirror and reconsider the length.”
Anselm tottered to the bathroom, feeling as though his head had been dunked in a basin of rubber cement. He squinted at the complicated arrangement. His darker hair, this strange style. Someone else. If only he could leave this impostor to meet the monsters for him.
“Ah, it’s… fine.”
The strands already strained against the gluey products, yearning to be free.
Von Hechten held up a strangely cut blazer. “I was going to bring this lovely breastplate, but I left it behind. Such a shame. If it weren’t so late, I’d rush back to get it.”
“Don’t put yourself out.”
“It’s not a problem at all!”
He handed Anselm a pile of red crushed velvet and silk lining. Anselm restrained himself from commenting and smiled tightly.
“I don’t… think this suits me.”
“Nonsense! We could get it tailored. But for now, something a bit ill-suited would perhaps go with that hairstyle.”
“I don’t want to… uh… upstage you.”
“An impossibility! Don’t concern yourself.
The upper half of the blazer shifted to the side and gapped open like shedding chrysalis on Anselm’s narrow shoulders.
Von Hechten grimaced. “Perhaps a little tailoring is in order…”
After sticking a handful of straight pins into Anselm’s flesh and jostling him around like a loose-jointed mannequin, Von Hechten seemed satisfied.
“There, as long as your dance moves aren’t too vigorous, your dignity shall remain intact.”
With each bend of the arm and turn of the torso, needles jabbed into tender places.
“Good to know…”
Von Hechten opened the window. “You may leave your key at home. I may as well give you a lesson on our way.”
Anselm furrowed his brow and Von Hechten hopped out the window without hesitation.
GET STRONGER LEARN SO YOU CAN KILL
Anselm leaned outside. Von Hechten clung to the side of the building, leaning forward at the waist.
“That’s rather unnerving,” Anselm said.
“Not as unnerving as knowing your companion for the evening hears demons constantly calling for your murder.”
“Don’t worry about it, it’s nothing.”
“So you say…”
“I’m supposed to go down there?”
“It’s quite easy. Start on all fours, if these animals have advice for you that doesn’t involve my death, perhaps they can help you.”
Indeed, Rehkitz and Rotkehlchen looked up from the ground, cheering him on.
GET STRONGER CLING TO THE WALL
FEEL ITS GRAVITY
Anselm pressed his hands against the bricks, feeling their cold grit.
THE WALL IS THE FLOOR
THE GROUND IS THE DOOR
MOVE YOURSELF WITH THE WORLD TURNED SIDEWAYS
He sat on the window ledge and swung his feet over the sheer drop. They magnetized to the bricks. He pushed off the ledge and edged himself down, his back pressed against the wall.
“Whatever works,” Von Hechten said, “I’ll see you on the ground.”
He fell off the side and landed on his feet far below.
LEARN SO YOU CAN KILL HIM IT’S THE RULE
“Yes…” Anselm reached over his head to shut the window behind him.
On the ground, the animals stood in the pathway, staring but silent. Anselm straightened himself out.
“How was it?” Von Hechten asked, “I don’t remember my first time. A bit exciting?”
Anselm considered it, he’d been so distracted that he hadn’t absorbed the impossibility of what he’d just done.
“I guess it was.” Cold air rushed over him, he realized he hadn’t taken a breath all night. Hadn’t even thought of it. “Not being a human… It’s not awful.”
“That’s good to hear,” Von Hechten said. “Now, since I had spare time last night, I arranged a slightly more formal get together.”
“Come now, everyone will love you. It’s just at a little club, one that many of us go to often, they even stock our preferred beverage. In fact, one of your fellow progenitors owns it. Hauptheim.”
“Hauptheim? Oh god. It was too expensive for me but… really?”
“Truly. Come now!”
“It’s the price of being a star.”
Von Hechten must have summoned every vampire in Reckenburg until they crowded the club. There were nearly as many of them as there were fiery pillars of humanity that milled around them.
“That’s how they look to us…” Anselm said, “I looked that way to you?”
“That you did. Not the first time I saw you though. They only look that way at night.”
Anselm widened his eyes. “When did you…”
“I wasn’t stalking you, don’t be silly. At your art show. I showed up before sundown. What did I look like to you? As much as you could bring yourself to look at me.”
“I’m surprised you would care what anyone thought of you.”
“Not so much caring as curious. But a reputation is important.”
“I thought you were an intimidating fancy man who was probably going to ridicule me, or pretend to be interested and ridicule me anyway.”
“Well, reputation intact, but I never!”
Tepid dance music thumped from speakers and no one was dancing. Purplish lights gleamed over undead heads and the booths that circled the perimeter were empty. Everyone turned as they entered. Von Hechten stayed at Anselm’s side, gripping his shoulder to direct him. The animals seemed to have left in the clamor of the crowd. How awful it would have been to have angry spirits trampling his feet as well.
His hair had already begun to untwist and split into mangled strands. Von Hechten took a moment to mash it back into shape.
“Dread. Perhaps… well… I suppose it suits you, with your persistently vulgar ways.”
“You know you carry some measure of pride in an appearance of poverty. Perhaps you consider it honest. Whatever the case, you shan’t disappoint tonight, at least not disappoint expectations.”
“You know that I have an appearance of poverty because I’m actually poor, right?”
“As I said, you consider it honest.”
He moved Anselm into the crowd before he could protest. “Notice that we can easily talk over the music,” he said, “Very convenient. The humans would have to scream, and they often do.”
“…I see.” Anselm curled his lip at that last thought.
“Prepare yourself. You can’t slip away to hide. They’re all here to see you, and they won’t be satisfied until they have.”
Anselm grimaced. At least they would all have something to talk about.
A strangely tall old woman in black approached. She was trailed by some familiar faces, and some new ones.
Von Hechten leaned over to Anselm, “The club’s owner. Lady Wolz.”
“Welcome, welcome new lord,” Wolz said. “A fellow child of Reckenburg, I should get to know you well.” Her voice sounded as elderly as she looked.
“Thank you,” Anselm said, “This club is beautiful.”
“Oh you are so kind! It’s been interesting to see this city change over the centuries. Should you choose to stay, you can experience the same thing.”
She gestured vaguely at her companions, “This is my lineage, those of my blood. It is useful to have servants. You should consider this for yourself. If I was in your position, I would wait at least one hundred years.”
Ausmiller glanced away.
Anselm nodded to the old woman, “It is not a decision to be taken lightly, I’m sure.”
“Quite true. You should endeavor to place the lords of this city in your highest esteem. Don’t get too mixed up with the turned. However, at the moment they are the closest vampires to your age. If you need advice, perhaps young vampires would be easier for you to understand. Two of mine are recently turned and could be of use to you.”
Clovis smiled on command along with the boy with the spike in his forehead. What a strange lot.
Wolz spoke, “What was your occupation, young Eichel?”
Von Hechten raised his voice, “—Anselm was a professional artist. I published his work, in fact.”
“Yes, uh,” Anselm tried to speak up beyond his range to match, “An illustrator?”
“A tradesman?” Wolz asked, “That’s a fine thing now, isn’t it?”
“Finer now that I don’t have to eat, heh.”
“Hohoho! Splendid! It is humor.”
“It is what it is,” Von Hechten said. “Perhaps Anselm would like to hear what you did to earn your keep?”
Wolz’s face crinkled into a mask of displeasure. She smoothed it slightly to look at Anselm. “I was a duchess and a warrior. As you can surmise, I excelled at both.”
“Amazing,” Anselm said, “I don’t remember when we last had dukes and duchesses.”
She smiled with eerie old teeth and nodded. “It has been a while.”
Ausmiller spoke, “This club belongs to the Wolz lineage but you’re welcome here any time.”
“I am grateful,” Anselm said, “It was nice to meet you all.”
“Wait now, child,” Wolz raised her bejeweled claws, “Wait but a moment. I should like to get to know you in more depth. And allow you to get to know me, to your satisfaction.”
Von Hechten said, “And it is good that we have hundreds of years, but tonight—”
Wolz poked the tip of a talon-like ring on his eyelid.
“Eichel,” she said, “You are welcome to visit the upper levels of my castle, and I shall receive you there.”
“A castle? Oh wow,” Anselm said. “It isn’t Castle Turmfalke?”
Wolz looked pleased with herself, “It is.”
“Wow! I’ve been there!”
Von Hechten opened his mouth and the talon raised to strike. He closed his lips tight.
“Aha, that pleases me,” Wolz said, “Yes, during the day, tours are admitted.”
“That’s where I saw it before,” Anselm said, “I would love to see it again.”
“Come tomorrow, I am eager to speak with you.” She bowed deeply, and Anselm attempted to do likewise. Von Hechten waved goodbye to them, lips contorted into the falsest smile. Wolz clicked her talons, but allowed him to spirit Anselm away.
He held Anselm’s shoulder tightly, “It’s not much of a privilege to go to the ‘upper levels.’ It’s a tour site, it’s open to the public anyway.”
“Ah… But it seemed nice.”
“Is ‘seeming’ important? Pay attention to the reality of the situation.”
They’d hardly turned when two gothish vampires blocked their path.
“You are new,” said the bearded man, “I am Henrik Rossmer, and this is Frau Löwenhaar. Welcome to immortality, fair child!”
“Erika,” said the woman, “Please, call me Erika. And yes, welcome. I too returned to life in Reckenburg. Forty years ago, now. Being mortal was a personal hell that only ended with the blackness of sleep. Now I sleep when once I toiled and live when I once slept!” She tossed back a glass of blood which left hardly a mark on her garish makeup.
“Truer words were never spoken,” Von Hechten said. “So, this is the young man I brought into your number, as you know. What do you think of him?
Erika averted her eyes, “I am pleased that he looks well, but I already expressed my opinion of how you brought him to us. His poor little body… I cried that evening. You made me cry.”
Von Hechten waved it off, “And I mentioned that I felt it was necessary. And look, here he is with us! Ende gut, alles gut.”
She pursed her lips.
Henrik said, “Young lord, may you thrive in this world of the night!”
“Thank you very much…” Anselm smiled, trying to banish the memory of his ‘ende.’
Erika looked at him sensitively, “And you are very welcome, sweet boy. But this Herr Von Hechten is a bit—”
“—I’ve always liked you Erika,” Von Hechten said, “But we have many people to meet.”
She glowered at him and took another drink.
Von Hechten moved Anselm on through the crowd. “The youngest progenitors before you. Such kind people.”
“The last were forty years ago?”
“It doesn’t happen often.”
“Hence the crowd. Hm.”
“Ah and here are some members of the Sabet lineage. Names… elude me.”
He led Anselm along, introducing him and allowing brief snippets of conversations before shuttling him on to the next group. They met all manner of strange and/or beautiful creatures. He ended up surrounded by a bizarre assortment of them, all trying to get in a greeting. Some gave up, leaving unsatisfied by a friendly nod and wave.
“Meredith Ethelred, my boy!” a man spoke in Glennish. “How doooo you do?”
“Ah uh, I am good,” Anselm spoke in his almost-passable version of the language, “It is very nice to meet. How are you?”
“Delighted! So, you are the man of the hour, as it were? Hm? Your beauty alone could ‘raise’ the dead, if you catch my ‘meaning.’”
Anselm smiled, nodding as though he understood any of that.
“Yes, I am happy. Do you haff family?”
“Not everyone with me here, but I do. This is—”
“Wonderful, simply wonderful,” Von Hechten spoke perfect Glennish, “I’m sure we’ll get our introductions eventually. Do you plan to stay long, Ethelred?”
“I can’t say, I go wherever the whim takes me. The heart takes me one way, and then the other. Even when it doesn’t move at all!”
“Fantastic. So, this is the young man I brought into this world, what do you think of him? Quite a feat, isn’t it?”
“An-selm, An-selm!” Ethelred rolled the syllables in his mouth like delicious chocolates, “Anselmmmm, the worshiper who was drowned in an icy lake. An apt image to describe his beauty— the ice prince! Will you freeze us all with your wintery charms?”
Anselm could only pick out individual words from the man’s fast-paced Glennish, but he kept up a smile as they sounded like nice words. Something about the seasons? Poetry?
Ethelred continued, “I should wish to talk to you at ‘length’ lad, but I can’t forget about ‘girth’ either, ahahaha!”
“Yes,” Von Hechten gripped Anselm’s shoulders, “Everyone would love to meet him, but alas! Things to do.”
Anselm assumed those were parting words, “Very nice to zee, goodbye to you.”
“Ohhhhh how tragic!” Ethelred clutched his heart, “Goodbye, fair one.”
Von Hechten took Anselm a few feet south. "Can you believe that anachronistic oddball was of a similar lifestyle to me once upon a time?"
Anselm rolled around various insults and jabs in his mind but couldn’t decide on what he liked the best. "Oh really," he murmured. A skinny blonde woman gave Von Hechten a withering stare for a micro-second before melting into a pleasant gaze.
“Gelthilda,” she said, “You met my children, and they told me that you were pleasant and cordial.” Mihailo and Ignacio nodded on either side.
“Madam Teufelkunst,” Von Hechten prompted him.
“Hello,” Anselm said, “Thank you, I’m glad to meet you.”
“Likewise. I believe I’ve seen your work. Von Hechten is a criminal.”
Anselm grinned more earnestly, then tamped it down. “Haha, yes.”
“Perhaps one day he will be brought to justice,” she said with a wink.
“But I preserved art!” Von Hechten said, “I never—”
“You didn’t know whether it would work,” Gelthilda said, “You risked his life to sate your whimsical curiosity. You degenerate iconoclast.”
“Suit yourself,” he pressed on Anselm’s shoulder.
Anselm resisted the push, “I should at least say hello. Every progenitor. Right?”
Von Hechten stepped back. “Do hurry.”
Gelthilda rolled her eyes. “Don’t suffer his insults, he is beneath you.”
“…I can’t imagine you’re talking about me,” Von Hechten said from behind.
She waved at him until he retreated further.
Anselm smiled and gestured in a wordless impression of Von Hechten’s manner. Half-closed eyes and airy hand waving.
She did likewise, raising her eyebrows, lowering her eyelids and cocking her head side to side. Anselm laughed.
Von Hechten tapped his non-existent watch, “Ahh there are so many progenitors to meet tonight, I would hate to shorten someone else’s visit…”
“Of course,” Gelthilda said, “Honestly though, at the end of it all, villainy produced a result that I can regard as an unequivocal good. The art you could make.”
“I hadn’t even considered it yet,” Anselm said, “Maybe all that suffering will give me inspiration.”
She kissed his hand while looking into his eyes. “Come to my estate, let us talk further, away from this madding crowd.”
“Thank you, that is very kind.”
“Wonderful, wonderful,” Von Hechten said, “Onward then…”
When they’d gotten a distance away, Von Hechten looked over his shoulder, “Ah, best to be careful about that one. She was familiar with the occult before she died. A sorceress, with powers beyond her years.”
“Did she curse you?”
“Not as far as I know…”
“Must be a busy woman.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Oh look, our friends!”
“Otumbo! Regen!” Von Hechten said. “Good evening!”
“ANSELM!” Otumbo grinned broadly. “Wonderful to see you in human form again! I do apologize for Von Hechten scaring you that way, I should not have egged him on.”
Von Hechten looked to Anselm wearily.
Otumbo clapped, his bangles jingling. “We must try again, we’ll teach you our ways and I will learn your every secret!”
“Haha, um, sure,” Anselm said, “Why not.”
“NO REASON NOT TO!”
Regen whispered to Anselm, “See? He doesn’t want to hurt you, just friendly.” Anselm smiled shyly, but she didn’t hold the eye contact for more than a second.
Von Hechten glanced around, “Regen, where are the others?”
“My sisters in bondage? They’re somewhere…”
The ‘bondage’ part was surely figurative, but hard to say with this bunch.
Von Hechten said, “Unfortunately, I must ask. Where have you disposed of O’Meara tonight? Anselm is to meet every progenitor.”
“Do what you want,” Regen rolled her eyes in the direction of a far corner. “As much as you can stand.”
“We shall say hello to him,” Von Hechten said, “Thank you Lorelei, Otumbo.”
Regen raised her eyebrows to the roof, but Von Hechten just spun Anselm on to the next person.
“Goodbye my friend!” Otumbo called after them, “Let us celebrate!”
“I assumed Regen was her first name,” Anselm said.
“Last names are a sign of respect. I didn’t mean to do that, just distracted. Ah, the famous O’Meara.”
The reddest hair in the room framed the face of a sad sack in tweed.
“Y-you’re the new lord, then?” His fragile voice trembled.
“These beauties are Lotte, Gigi and Antonia— my children.”
They had a common theme…
“O’Meara was quite the poet,” Von Hechten said, “Though translations of his works can sound rather vulgar.”
Lotte chuckled heartily, “It gets a bit repetitive in Grau, only so many words for ‘bruste.’”
Anselm stifled a laugh and O’Meara closed his eyes.
“So,” Von Hechten said, “What do you think of Herr Eichel? This young lord that I have brought into your number.”
“Oh… Yes, that was rather vicious. I don’t know what to say.”
“The circumstances were strictly necessary. But what of the result? The most important part.”
“Young fellow…” O’Meara looked to Anselm with watery eyes, “You are a progenitor now, hm? What do you think of it?”
“I haven’t had much of a chance to think. It’s exciting to be part of a secret world I suppose. But, yes, it's…”
“About neutral? A little good, a little bad?”
“Maybe it will get better.”
“Hmm…” O’Meara turned to Von Hechten, “Then that is what I think of him. Maybe it will get better.”
Von Hechten sighed. “You’ve got the perspective of centuries, O’Meara! Don’t you enjoy being a vampire? Especially with your privileges as a progenitor?”
Lotte snorted and clapped O’Meara on the back. “He enjoys his privileges well enough.” The fragile man tipped back and forth like a creaky rocking chair.
“See,” Von Hechten looked to Anselm, “It’s a great thing! Great! Privileges!”
Anselm smiled tightly. “Great.”
“Very well, very well. We continue our journey…” Von Hechten pushed him away.
Anselm glanced back as they retreated, “Regen doesn’t get along with him?”
“Ahahahaha… That is a problem you’ll never face. Being born into eternal slavery.”
“Couldn’t you just run away? Fly over the ocean and never come back? I don’t understand it.”
“It’s a dangerous world for lone vampires. Plus, power of calling could make it a maddening excursion indeed.”
“Beckoning with the mind. Imagine a telephone call that could not be ignored.”
“There now, you said you met Dallmann’s children, but here is the lady herself.”
“Wow!” the woman with the bow and frizzy hair said, “You look amazing! Doesn’t he look amazing?”
“Totally bitchin’,” said the topless woman.
“What was your name again?” Dallmann took a sip of blood and smeared it off her lips with the back of her hand.
“Anselm. Your family is quite glamorous.”
“Awwww! Thank you! You’re just so sweet.” She did look very young and a little funny, but Anselm couldn’t imagine describing her in such rude terms as Von Hechten had.
Von Hechten said, “I take it you approve of my handiwork, then? My cleverness in deducing who would make a good progenitor and bringing him into your company?”
“A clever man knows not to announce that he is clever!”
“Naturally,” Von Hechten said, “That is why I humbly requested that you do the announcing for me.”
The man next to her whispered into her ear, plain as day. “He doesn’t know what humble means.”
Dallmann giggled and grabbed Von Hechten’s lapel, smearing blood on it like a child with chocolaty fingers. “Of course, you are verrrry smart.”
“Yes, thank you,” Von Hechten slipped out of her grasp, “Perhaps we should be seeing someone else?” He huddled in on himself and grimaced an unconvincing smile.
“Oh pish!” Dallmann said, “I’m the oldest here so I get first dibs. Wait, I didn’t even get first dibs! You’ll have to make it up to me.
Oh, and you can make it up to me at my place, Anselm! My house is really cute and you can come visit in my parlor. Tomorrow!”
“Thank you,” Anselm said, “That’s very kind.”
“And with that,” Von Hechten said, “I’m sure we are free to move along to the next.”
“Whateverrr!” Dallmann stuck her blood-stained tongue out.
Anselm and Von Hechten disappeared into the crowd.
“Three invitations for tomorrow night,” Von Hechten said, “How will you make them all?”
“I suppose it will be a busy night…” Anselm hoped that these vampires were less horrifying in their homes than they were at big parties.
“I shall drive you, I’ll take the Gepard so Regen can come along. It’s got four doors, you know. A bit clunky for my taste, but it has its uses.”
“My chauffeur? I’m surprised you’re not too busy.”
“Nothing to do that can’t wait. Years, if necessary.”
“Von Hechten!” A voice with a garbled accent called through the crowd, “Bring me your boy.”
“Oh no,” Von Hechten said, “He’s not my boy. I am but a humble turned vampire, and he is a Lord of Reckenburg.”
“Hm, yes.” Vicier eyed Anselm with perhaps less dismissal than before. “As Von Hechten told you as you die, your death could have been more interesting. I have done ‘zhis exact act hundreds of times I swear, it was a bit, hm, lackluster.”
Anselm raised his eyebrows as Vicier continued his review.
“No screaming, why? It is like a cake wizhout icing. And Von Hechten, too much talking, perhaps he could not get a word in edgewise. All business, bla bla. More about being a whore, it was amusing.”
Von Hechten furrowed his brow, “You do realize my talk was all cruelty meant to achieve the end of creating a progenitor. Not to achieve an aesthetic effect.”
“We were an audience, I am giving my thoughts as an audience member.” He sipped his blood, “It is all art, even real life as you know, it is open for criticism. So why so quiet during your death, Ahn-zelm?”
“There wasn’t much to say. I figured if I had to die at least I didn’t entertain my murderer.”
Vicier tutted. “We should all wish to entertain, even in our final moments.”
Von Hechten put an arm around Anselm, “Vicier is a visitor to Reckenburg, and in case you never see him again, perhaps we should say farewell.”
Vicier sighed deeply, “You are no host, Lorenz. Remember my parties? ‘Zhose were parties to remember.”
“Oui, oui,” Von Hechten said. “Salut. Anselm, you should visit the progenitors you will be living with. Let us go…”
Vicier nodded to Anselm, which seemed to be the greatest sign of conviviality he had in him.
“Lorenz…” Anselm said.
“Yes, it is my first name. And now—” He cast about the room for the next guest. “There we are, it is who you were intended to meet the other night. Finsterwald. Come along.”
He led him to a crowd of scantily clad vampires lounging in the booths.
An androgynously presenting person looked up, hairy chest tucked into feminine lingerie beneath their blazer. They seemed to have the bearing of ownership in that company.
Von Hechten closed the distance, “Finsterwald, my good man. Eichel.”
“Eichel…” the man said, “I am pleased to meet you. Very much… But something has me in a foul mood and I’d rather not take it out on you.” He pointed at Von Hechten and rose to his feet. “Come with me.”
His coterie looked away, swinging their feet and lolling their heads.
Von Hechten gestured to them, “Anselm, plenty of people to meet. I’ll return shortly.”
Finsterwald stormed off and Von Hechten followed dutifully.
||The crowd looked him over with only slight interest. A man and woman took the lead in the crowd, and the others allowed them.
“Hey,” said an insouciant man with the floppy hair, “Remember us?” Indeed he did, the couple he’d met the last night of his life.
“Yeahhh,” the woman said and rubbed her blue lips together, “Sorry about that. We thought you’d become a vampire but just the normal way. Not like that.”
Anselm stepped closer and they made room for him in their booth.
“It’s okay. Um, I forgot your names.”
“Janice,” she pointed to herself, “And Lucio.”
Janice glanced the way Finsterwald had gone and put on an easy smile. Both of them visibly relaxed the longer the strange man was away.
Janice asked, “So, how’s being a vampire treating you? It can only get better, right?”
“I hope so. This party is actually somewhat nice. I hate parties.”
“You’ve never been to a party with us,” Lucio said, “That’s why.”
He swung his bare feet up and draped his legs over Anselm’s knees. Janice tucked her arm behind him.
“Heh, maybe so,” Anselm hunched his shoulders at the attention. This would be a lot easier with wine. “How did you do that thing before? With the shoulder rub.”
Janice broke into a grin. “That is our famous technique.”
“Some kind of power?”
“It’s power alright,” Lucio said. “Our lineage can remove pain from people with a touch. Very nice. But us… You didn’t even get the best part of what we can do.”
“What could that be?”
The two coquettes looked at each other slyly and back.
“We can give you a boner,” Lucio said.
Anselm laughed and shrugged shyly, “Do you really need a power for that?”
“Nah,” Janice said, “But we can do it if we were wrapped up in fuzzy pjs and mittens and you were blindfolded.
“Huh? Wait— you mean… I thought we have to control that stuff— like, you can’t get one accidentally now…”
“We can do it,” Janice said. “Should we demonstrate?”
Anselm gave them a dubious look, and they gazed at him brazenly.
“Think of it like this,” Lucio said, “It’s our way of making it up to you. We couldn’t warn you of your impending doom, so I think that’s at least worth a handy.”
Anselm let out a bark of a laugh and covered his mouth. “No— no, haha, um, thank you but… in public and everything.”
“Aww,” Janice glanced around at the thinning crowd, “I guess if you wanna be a prude about it. No handies. For now.”
“But we’re still showing off for you,” Lucio said, “Let’s bet.”
Anselm gave him an incredulous look, “Bet that you can give me a boner? Uhh… Alright, fine. But I don’t have any money.”
“We don’t need money,” Janice said, “We win, you gotta take us on a date. You win, we gotta take you out on a date.”
Anselm smiled and settled into his seat. “A date? Oh dear, what a risk… Alright. Maybe. What are the rules?”
“Okay, here are our terms,” Lucio put one hand on Anselm’s shoulder. “We each touch you like this and then we feel you up to determine who won.”
Anselm laughed behind his palm, “Fine. No monkey business.”
“Never!” Janice put her hand on his other shoulder. “Ready?”
“Go for it.” Anselm closed his eyes and restrained a grin. Whatever this was, it was amusing enough and being away from Von Hechten was a joy all its own.
Like before, warmth flowed from their undead hands, even through his clothing. The warmth rushed over him and loosened his muscles. All worries and doubts melted away. If he’d been human, he would have fallen into a blissful slumber. Then… he felt something else.
Janice and Lucio giggled, watching his lips part and his head rock back as he moved dreamily under their hands. He let out a little moan of pleasure, then straightened up, surprised by his own reaction. Janice and Lucio simultaneously reached for his crotch.
“Let’s see—” Janice said, “Uh ohhh!”
“Someone owes us a date…!” Lucio gave him a sly look.
Anselm covered his face and laughed. “You got me.”
They let their hands linger there a moment before they pulled away and wrapped their arms around his shoulders. He relaxed into their embrace. Janice smooched him on the cheek and left a perfect blue lip print.
“Let’s have fun while we still can.”
“Do you mean before—”
A cherubic faced man with wild poufy hair came upon them, a shirtless man on his arm.
“Well well,” said the cherub man, “Janice and Lucio. Already making time with the devil of the new school.”
“We do what we can,” Lucio said.
The shirtless man raised his eyebrows, “A progenitor though, you didn’t make out with Rossmer when he first came to town.”
“Duh,” Janice wrinkled her nose, “I wonder why!”
“Not to cause offense, young lord,” said the cherub-man, “But it is always best for the turned to be careful when dealing with an unknown progenitor. Many of your number are both powerful and unpredictable.”
Anselm nodded, and the two youths let him go reluctantly.
“We met him already,” Lucio said, “The other night.”
“Yup,” Janice said, “Had a good ol’ conversation, we did.”
The shirtless man appraised Anselm, “But what dangers might he bring into your lives? Tell us about yourself, Eichel.”
Anselm folded his hands on the table like he was at a job interview. He glanced around, no Von Hechten to cover for him.
“Uh. I’m not very interesting. I’m just someone who was unlucky enough to meet the wrong person.”
“Oh there’s something interesting about you,” said the shirtless man, “Or you wouldn’t have gotten up at the end of that mess.”
“Ah, uh, maybe so. Von Hechten didn’t introduce us…”
The cherub man said, “Not a problem, he’s focused on the progenitors, which is to say Finsterwald, when he returns. In the pre-revolutionary era, Finsterwald had occasion to turn two vampires, one of which was myself— Blaschko. I turned Willem—” he gestured to the shirtless man, “—Janice, and Lucio. It is my good taste to which you owe your present, and pleasant company.”
“Ah wonderful,” Anselm said, “It’s nice to meet you.” How freakish to imagine a pre-revolutionary man come to life this way. He tried to picture the man with a powdered wig instead of
“Likewise,” Blaschko said, “Would you like to be alone with my children?”
“Yes,” said Janice.
“Yes,” said Lucio.
Anselm glanced to them both and smiled sheepishly.
“Then, have fun,” Blaschko said.
Willem looked at Anselm with a stoic expression, “Be nice.”
Anselm nodded, and his two new friends swooped him up into their arms.
Von Hechten grimaced as he came upon them. He reminded himself that this was a good thing, in fact, the more Anselm enjoyed being a vampire, the better off both of them would be. He braced himself and approached.
“Anselm… enjoying yourself? I see you’ve become reacquainted with Janice and Lucio, everyone’s favorite duo.”
Anselm straightened up, but with less fear than he had the other night. His jacket had come unpinned by chance or careful fingers.
It hung loose on his shoulders and his hair had turned into a stiffened and crunchy version of its more typical configuration.
“Yes… They are very nice.”
Janice and Lucio shrugged dramatically and withdrew.
“Did they acquaint you with their special powers?”
“A gentleman never tells,” Lucio said.
“And a gentleman never asks,” Janice said.
Von Hechten gave them a cheeky smirk and looked back to Anselm. “All Finsterwalds can remove pain, but only Janice and Lucio have the ability to give one pleasure through unnatural means.”
“It’s all natural,” Lucio said, “It’s our ancient technique.”
“Learned from the masters in…” Janice searched the room,
“Right,” Lucio said, “My wise ancestors. Very secretive.”
Von Hechten kept turning to glance at the exit.
“Is it time to go?” Anselm straightened out his collar.
“Perhaps it is for the best,” Von Hechten said.
Anselm stood, and Janice and Lucio took his hands, gently pulling him around.
“Callllll us,” Janice swung his arm back and forth like a playful child.
“From the mountain tops,” Lucio said, “Or a telephone, if you must.”
“I’ll save my pfennigs.” Anselm waved as he pulled away. Von Hechten smiled falsely and led him through the dwindling club goers. They found his sportscar in the sparsely attended lot and got on the road to the bad end of town.
Anselm tucked back wiry tendrils of his disheveled hair and wiped a smear of blue lipstick from his ear. “We’ve got a lot of places to go to tomorrow.”
“Are you actually looking forward to it?”
“Oh, I don’t know… everyone was very nice.”
“That they were. I shall drive you where you need to go”
Von Hechten stayed silent until they hit the highway.
“Everyone was rather nice, weren’t they?”
“Yes, it was a lot better than I expected.”
“Did it seem to you that, perhaps, it was a bit much?”
“Any party is a bit much for me, you know. It was okay, I’m fine.”
“Not quite what I meant. I mean to say… Tremendous, you’ve come back from the dead, become a progenitor, somewhat of an achievement to be sure. But you wouldn’t have been in the situation in the first place were it not for Von Hechten. Yet scarcely a word was sent my way. Why is that?”
“Oh, well…” Anselm found himself saying, “We didn’t have a lot of time to talk to any one person.”
“Still. No congratulations for me?”
“They applauded at the… uh.” Why was he comforting this monster?
“I just think that in a chance to have a one on one conversation with me— well, one on two, they would have anything at all to say.
I don’t understand it.”
“Huh… People usually ignore me too.”
“It’s not the same thing. This is a rather different circumstance than what you’re used to. Indeed, it was difficult what you went through, but all you had to do was die in an unfortunate way. I had to conceive of the scenario in the first place and enact it in all its brutality and specificity. Very challenging. All that in addition to throwing the party itself. It took so much planning, you have no idea.”
“Hmm,” Anselm clenched his fists inside his pockets. “Yes.”
“Perhaps if this had happened yesterday, if Otumbo hadn’t dragged us into that silliness at the graveyard, it would be more fresh in everyone’s mind. They would have remembered my contribution.”
Anselm nodded along, grinding his teeth.
“Well, perhaps not,” Von Hechten continued, “People are so oblivious. They’re so wrapped up in themselves and their own prejudices. The progenitors only care about other progenitors and their children just go along with it. Why is that? This is an instance where it should be obvious who deserves the praise. There is a progenitor that would not exist if not for me. But they can’t take any interest. Can they be so simple-minded? No appreciation for genius, they say.”
Anselm held back a cringe that his body craved. “Merit always wins out.”
“Does it? Perhaps, perhaps so. Thank you for the encouragement.”
Anselm attempted a tight smile and closed his eyes.
They arrived at his building, and Von Hechten leaned over.
“Get good rest tonight. You’ll have fun tomorrow, I’m sure. Then perhaps someday, Von Hechten will get to have fun as well.”
Anselm almost wanted to ask what that fun would be, but knew the answer in his heart.
He trudged to his room, tossed his keys on the desk and rid himself of Von Hechten’s fashion sense. This was it, his new life as a monster. He would climb into his bed of dirt and sleep away the day and meet more monsters after the sun went down.
He turned. Rehkitz and Rotkehlchen sat in the middle of the floor, staring.
“I know, I know…” He couldn’t bear to look at them.
ANSELM YOU KNOW WHAT YOU MUST DO
“You’ve told me again and again, but I can’t! He’s like a million years old and I don’t know what I’m doing!”
GET STRONGER SO YOU CAN KILL HIM
“I’m trying! It’s going to take a long time, if I even can!”
YOU CAN WE WILL HELP YOU
“How can I do anything if you’re always yelling at me?”
YOU MUST KILL HIM WE LOVE YOU
“You keep saying that! Alright, I’ll kill him! I will!”
The animals looked at each other, and back to him.
“Yes! I promise I will kill Von Hechten! I will!”
GOOD BOY ANSELM WE LOVE YOU
“Okay, will you leave me alone now?”
YES YOU PROMISED WE WILL HELP YOU CALL TO US AND WE WILL COME TO YOU
They blinked out of existence. He stared at the place they had stood until the sun crested the horizon and he had to drag himself to his bed of soil and collapse into a deathly sleep.
| October 12th, 2016
| By: Kelly
Sorry this took so long, lots of little things got in the way. Damn those group pictures! Oh also, I was annoyed to see that some pictures in the 'party' chapter hadn't gotten updated with my new versions. Argh! You can go back to look if you like, mostly they were just touched up to reflect Anselm's slight design change, but I'm still annoyed. :( That aside, I'm looking forward to Kingfishermas in this month of Halloween, and I hope to have something cool and special for you guys, my loves, to commemorate such a grand occasion. <3
TRANSCRIPT: This is visual description of the illustrations, for purposes such as accessibility and internet searches.
(The art style of most of these illustrations is black and white with strong shading plus occasional red areas, with light texturing evocative
of decayed photographs. Many of the backgrounds are black to match the background of the page. In this first panel, Anselm and Regen
have pensive expressions in a nighted graveyard. They've returned from Anselm's escape at the end of the last chapter.)
(A kildeer flies into panel and transforms into a slim severe woman in androgynous attire, slouching between tall tombstones.)
(Severe woman rests herself on a tombstone looking down at Regen, who is resting against the
base of it. Anselm and a young guy in dark clothes are working shovels in the graveyard soil.)
(Regen drives Anselm, who is leaning on the window, lost in thought. She appraises him.)
(In Anselm's apartment, he and Regen are bringing in trash bags full of
the soil. She stands closer to the door in the background, eyes glowing.)
(Anselm is naked and having the sex with Regen. She is wearing her
black and white striped stockings and hoodie, with her arms tucked in.)
(A small interstitial drawing of Anselm sitting up in bed, the whole image rendered in white lines on a black field.)
(Peephole view of the person at his door - a slim short-haired woman with glasses and a pierced nose. Artist chic.)
(Cosette is shocked - shocked! - at these revelations, Anselm.)
(Peephole view of more weirdos outside his door - Egon is tall and goony-looking
with floppy hair, Lusit short and round with a crocheted beret. Artist chic again.)
(Anselm wakes up naked in his dirt-laden bed, being oppressed by the animals Rehkitz and Rotkehlchen.)
(Von Hechten casually comes in through a window, Rehkitz rampant and Rotkehlchen
screaming at him from the spirit world, or Anselm's imagination, whatever it is.)
(Anselm looking all bedraggled but cool, through a cage with three zebra finches.)
(Von Hechten tries to sculpt Anselm's hair, Anselm looks dismayed.)
(It's Anselm, with cruddy hair styles and ill-fitting VH-curated clothes.)
(Overbearing Von Hechten has an arm around Anselm, escorting him into a club past fiery humans.)
(It's Wolz lineage. Left to right, it's a guy with facial piercings, red punk hair, and a creepy smile, followed by a serious cool guy in leather,
wrinkly tall old lady Wolz with her malevolent jewelry, Ausmiller from the graveyard looking rather more demure, and her boy Clovis.)
(Two middle-aged goths pose affectionately as they greet us.)
(Von Hechten is still leading uncomfortable Anselm through the club, holding forth with hand gestures.)
(Random weirdos of the party. The tall folks in the back row are feminine, one punk and one glamorous. The front row is a short salacious
looking fellow and two more tall people, one dark-skinned cutie and one slightly gothy and angular person with a severe expression.)
(The fancy man and the goldfinch in human form, present now with their lady - a thin blonde slightly taller than them, perhaps
on heels. All look pretty classy, but Mihailo's lack of a shirt beneath the open jacket perhaps betrays his status as a man-toy.)
(Regen and Otumbo. Otumbo is looking up, head back in his eternal cheer,
hoisting a glass of blood. Regen wears a blazer over a formless dress.)
(Anselm and Von Hechten speak with Regen's progenitor and his bosomy turned vampires. He seems a nervous
type, a hand clutching his beardy chin. The largest of his ladies brings some cheerful personality to the scene.)
(It's the cute fetish people from the first chapter, now with their progenitor Dallmann. Long-haired lady
has a fur jacket over a mesh shirt, military cap lady has electric tape Xs over her nipples, Dallmann
looks a little more like an R&B fan with a bow on her head, and fetish guy is still in his leather and chains.)
(It's our old friend Vicier the artist. He has a tight dark shirt and glass of blood, looking cooler than usual but as bitchy as ever.)
(Big sexy crowd scene of the Finsterwalds, a few in states of partial undress. The progenitor is
front and center slouching with a jacket worn over lady lingerie, the four others in front are
pale Graus - three men and one woman - and the two in back are slightly swarthy foreigners.)
(Finsterwald points angrily where he wants Von Hechten to go. VH is blithe as ever, Anselm still getting nerves.)
(Those swarthy foreign Finsterwalds were Janice and Lucio from the party of doom!
Their tender ministrations turn Anselm's agitation to a more pleasant flavor of distraction.)
(Underdressed men hang together homosexualistically. The boss has lofty hair, apple cheeks,
and a jacket baring his torso in front - a popular look at this dead people party. The other
fellow is shirtless and jacketless, hanging on the boss with long hairs and a vampy pose.)
(Janice and Lucio caress and smooch on Anselm for hella.)
(Von Hechten drives Anselm home. VH looks dissatisfied at the evening's events,
Anselm like he is wondering how it all came to this unbelievable situation.)
(Anselm is home now, alone with his mind and its inhabitants. He
clasps his hands as he swears an oath to Rehkitz and Rotkehlchen.)
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