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THE WICKED AUNTIE, PART ONE
 

(Transcript and visual captions below)
 

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The Wicked Auntie

 

 

        “There… Under the second roller; I think it’s caught in the gear.”

The Von Hechten Verlagshaus workers crouched low, peering into the maw of an arcane mechanism. The crowd had gone nose-blind to the scent of acrid chemicals, but getting this close was turning even those hardened stomachs.

        “Just the one piece?” Anselm asked.

        “You’re not really going to...”

        “Come on,” said Helmut, “We’ll disassemble it, won’t take even an hour.”

Anselm got on his hands and knees, spying the crumpled vellum that had brought the works to an abrupt stop.

        “It’s not a big deal. I’ll get it...”

He shimmied around the machine and reaching into the sticky mess of ancient inks and oil. His coworkers murmured as he worked his skinny arm between the massive roller and a sharp gear.

        “I feel it...”

        “No!” Mika cried. “Let us...”
 

 
The Wicked Auntie

Anselm raised the wad of mangled paper that had gummed up the works. Viscous inky fluids ran down his skin in black trails.

        “Good god!” Helmut said. “You could’ve torn your arm off. Go wash that stuff off, you didn’t even have gloves on...”

His coworkers chided him and shuffled him off to the big sink to get cleaned up, but they were grinning all the way.

        “What a fool you are! You’ll be a walking cancer in a few years if you keep that up.”

Anselm smiled as they turned the faucets on full blast.

        “But we’ll make the deadline, won’t we?”

Jan threw a towel at him.

        “Is it worth it? But... guess it saved us some effort.”

Anselm dried himself off and gazed out at the workshop. His fellow craftsman returned to their jobs with brighter expressions, more energy to their labors even as the midnight oil burned on. Despite being human, they woke at the same time, sucking down coffee as he sucked down... other things. They seemed like genuine night owls, not just so desperate to work such uncommon hours. Added to the day shift, Von Hechten Verlagshaus released twice as many books— enough that Anselm had championed printing more than annual exposes on other unfortunate students.
 

 
 

        “Your man’s here,” Helmut called from the entrance.

Anselm turned, brow furrowed.

        “He’s not ‘my man’...”

Helmut and Mika shared dubious looks and returned to gluing bindings. Von Hechten wafted in on a breeze of an endangered species’ scent glands.

        “Hard at work,” he swept Anselm under his wing. “But there is such a thing as too hard— at least for work!”

Anselm squinted to avoid the amused expressions of his coworkers.

        “But what’s happened to you?” Von Hechten lifted Anselm’s stained arm. “You look like a filthy cobbler.”

Anselm snatched his hand away.

        “I’ve been working. Is there something you wanted?”

        “Yes, though now I’m not sure whether you deserve to be seen this way. I need you to help me choose a few pieces.”

        “A show? I have plans for the evening.”

        “Do you? Couldn’t be that important, with that look. It will be an hour at most. We can pretend this filth is some trend. Not one I would be caught dead in but maybe your type...”

Anselm balked, glancing back at the whirring rollers.

        “Come now,” Von Hechten said, “You needn’t watch them all like a mother hen. The presses have run for a century without your tender ministrations. And wouldn’t you prefer to be driven to your ‘plans’ rather than take that horrible trolley?”

        “The bus... Good point. Fine, but I do have plans.”

        The Wicked Auntie
 

 
        “What’s your big plan?” Von Hechten started the engine, as rumbly as any of them.

        “Having someone for drinks.”

        “Of course. You know, you’re always welcome to dine with the grownups, I can’t imagine it’s easy for you on your own.”

        “I do fine.”

        “Do you? What’s your shtick these days? You must have one.”

The car rolled smoothly, even over the rough cobblestones of oldtown.

        “Punk clubs sometimes. Visiting friends... “

        “And tonight?”

        “...Heroin.”

The subtlest flicker over Von Hechten’s face of deep pleasure. Anselm turned to gaze at the smear of brick buildings.

        “Heroin? Tsk tsk... How sad. You are still a beautiful man, to resort to...”

        “That’s not exactly— ugh.”

        “No no no, I’m happy the baby bird is flying on his own at last. Surely you can find more dignified methods in the future.”

 

 

The Wicked Auntie

 

 

        The CUBE gallery once more. It was a favorite of Cosette until her bee pollen paintings sent the curator into anaphylactic shock. Anselm stepped out of the car and was descended upon by Von Hechten, binding him in cloth. For a moment, it seemed he was wrapping him in a straight jacket— but no, just an oversized blazer, leaving his blue hands to poke out like stylish gloves.

        “There,” Von Hechten held him by the shoulders and spun him about. “That will hide your indiscretions.”

        “Excuse me for working for a living.”

        “Just this once, you’re excused.”

Only a few loitered out front and Anselm wove around them - these humans easily ignored obstacles rather than ravening attention junkies. He peered through the massive windows: painted textiles hung from the ceiling, some draping to the ground. Von Hechten slipped into the crowd like a crocodile submerging into a swamp, disappearing save for a shock of yellow hair peeking out here and there between the flames. The smell of his cologne lingered, a clinging ghost following Anselm around the gallery. He nearly picked up a cup of wine before he remembered. Months now, almost a year, and he still thought he could drown his sorrows in human vices.

        The gaudy scent was driving him mad before he realized it had suffused the blazer, and he abandoned the unwanted thing by the door. He took in the art; not his favorite style, but competent and an interesting choice of medium. He formulated a compliment to have at the ready if he met the artist. Funny though, ten minutes passed, and he hadn’t been flagged down by a former schoolie or professor. He squinted through the fiery strangers clustered around him. He didn’t know anyone. Wait... These unfashionable clothes, the awkward stances. Discussions of sports and work— Not art-people; these were family members. Skirting the edges were nervous youths, chattering about their finals. A student show!

        He pushed through the crowd, searching for the figure as ghoulishly cold as himself.

        “I wonder—” Von Hechten’s voice. “What mind state would contribute to this chaotic style?”

        “I don’t know,” said a young man. “I guess it’s just... the way I think.”

Von Hechten leaned against the wall, chatting up another fireball.

        “Look here,” he gestured loosely, “A former protege. You could grow up to be him.” His gaze traced over Anselm. “Not exactly like him, but...”

        “You want to choose a few pieces?” Anselm asked, “I really do have somewhere I ought to be.”

        “Yes, in time. Why don’t you chat with this budding artist? I’m sure you have much in common. Let me know if you do, won’t you?”

He floated off— Anselm glowered to see he did that quite literally, feet hovering an inch off the ground. A showoff to the end.

 

 
 

     “So,” said the young fireball. “What do you think of my work?”

Anselm couldn’t make out his features, didn’t want to.

        “It’s an interesting choice of substrate. Reminds me of the early tapestries of—”

Von Hechten descended to another level and out of sight. Anselm leaned close to the artist, who flinched away and tittered.

        “Listen to me. He’s a predator. Whatever he offers isn’t worth it. So just smile and say okay and do not call him.”

        “E-excuse me?”

        “It’s up to you, but he is dangerous. Good luck with your show.”

He left the fireball to his own devices and returned outside to stand with the smokers, burning as much as their cigarettes. Burning as much as a cathedral full of victims. A chilly wind rolled down the narrow lane, whipping their flames like sputtering candles. They were humans under there. He could see them if he concentrated. But did he want to? Better to leave them in their concealing shrouds. If only he could have his own. The gallery door rattled and a cold hand gripped his arm.

The Wicked Auntie
The Wicked Auntie         

        “What did you say to him?” Von Hechten scowled down at him, looming close. Anselm took a step back— the sight activated some secret pit of fear, a dark memory. But the monster did not loom closer, his grip remained loose. Anselm stepped away without reprisal.

        “I didn’t say anything.”

Von Hechten fluttered his heavy eyelashes.

        “Why bother lying?” He wrapped the blazer back over Anselm’s shoulders. “I know you can feel jealous, but it’s their chance to shine. It can’t be Anselm, Anselm, Anselm every time.” He nudged him along, voice in the tone of a toddler’s exasperated caretaker. “ You are still very beautiful and you are very, very talented. But the house needs a bit of variety. I’ll let you pick the cover, how is that?”

        “What? That’s not it!”

        “My dear, you needn’t say a word; I understand completely. Why don’t we plan a special printing of your work? It could come out next year.”

Anselm balked, but the relief of not being torn apart by the monster was greater than his resistance.

 
 

 
***

      The prey arrived at last. Anselm was already up on his feet, pacing around the room. It would be fun, it would be a delectable bit of vengeance for past crimes. But the notion of the man setting foot in his private domain twisted his heart, transformed him back into that nervous student. Nearly ten years, and he could still set him on edge this way?

Herr Schumer greeted him at the door and strode in behind him with confidence.

 
 

        “Anselm, dear Anselm, you sounded so... different on the phone tonight. You must tell me what’s going on with you.”

It didn’t take acting ability for Anselm to look agitated. He paced into the room, pushing the bucket of soil under the bed with a foot.

        “It’s been too much lately.”

        “I can only imagine. How could I help you? It’s all I want to do.”

        “Really?”

A spectral robin fluttered around the ceiling, disturbing the finches who cheeped in protest.

        “I need to relax,” he said. “Want something to drink? Or...” He pointedly glanced at his drawing table, a pack of syringes mixed in with brushes and pens.

Herr Schumer exhaled deeply.

The Wicked Auntie
 

        “No, it isn’t... H, is it?” He tossed his coat over a chair.

        “It’s not that bad,” Anselm bit back an absurd laugh. Only bad enough to ruin a decade...

        “But it is bad!” Schumer cried. “Lives, man! It steals lives! Please, tell me you won’t.”

        “There’s no life to steal.” Again, he had to restrain a twitching grin at his silly private joke. He poured cheap whiskey into an empty jar, imagining the nauseating results if he actually drank it.

        “Don’t say that. Don’t.” Schumer’s forehead crinkled with emotion, feigned or genuine.

        “Fine, I won’t. Drink with me...”

He handed the professor the jar, and served himself a minuscule dribble in a paint-stained coffee mug, easier to hide that it wasn’t being emptied.

        “You wanted to see me tonight.”

        “Yes,” Schumer accepted the drink. “I needed to know if you were okay. Yes, that’s absurd, but I can’t bear seeing you in such pain!”

        “And you think I’m not okay?”

        “Clearly!” Schumer sipped at his jar. “But you deserve to be okay. You do!”

        “Why?” Anselm let Schumer keep on fussing over him with meaningless praise and expressions of concern. Easy to forget that he had to act human sometimes. Blinking felt so strange and unnatural that he had to force himself to do it every time Schumer did. At least it gave him a distraction from the pitying words. His eyes were drawn to a craft knife on the edge of an easel.

        “It’s late, for you anyway. Do you want to join me?” He gestured to the bed, outfitted with his last clean sheet. “To rest. Or whatever.”

Schumer almost dropped the mostly empty jar.

        “Uh, ah, are you sure? Of course...” He stumbled upright. “It’s too hot in here.”

        “Hm, I didn’t notice. You should take your shirt off at least.”

The birds chittered and goaded him on.

 

The Wicked Auntie

 


      “Schumer, wake up.” Anselm pulled on his pants. “Wake up.”

        “Nn... znk... Nn, what? Where am? Oh. Oh! Anselm, my dear—”

        “I’ve got somewhere to go. Do you want help gathering your things?”

Schumer looked hurt. And slightly panicked without his glasses.

        “Don’t be so curt! What of tenderness? Life is so precious, you—”

        “Yes, I appreciate it. We needn’t muck about with these token gestures though. Your glasses.” He handed them over, amused at the power he wielded with such a simple gesture.

The professor scrambled to pull them onto his face. He looked up at Anselm, his confidence at regaining sight melting as he beheld a situation that didn’t match the narrative he constructed.

        “Still...” he said. “Gestures are important. We use them to express our hearts. Are you so cold?”

Anselm laughed.

        “Are you? Well, when you recover, you can call me. For now, I have somewhere to go. Good night, Herr Schumer.”

        “Please! Don’t ‘Herr’ me!”

        “Very well. Good night, Schumer.”

 

 

 

The Wicked Auntie

*Click* Willem took the shot with his disposable camera.

        “Wait,” Janice said, “Did you get my titties in the frame?”

        “I thought you wanted an ass shot.”

        “Why not both? Did you get at least one of them in?”

        “I think so.”

        “Guess it’ll have to do.”

Die Kühle usually had a line out the front. Tonight the door was papered with a “CLOSED FOR PRIVATE PARTY” sign. The lounge was lit in cold blues and aquas, and a life-sized ice sculpture of a naked lady was starting to melt. Small clusters of attractive humans lingered here and there, bobbing their heads to the music.

        Willem buzzed off to take more pictures of sexy people, while Janice, Lucio, and Anselm took a seat at a cushy booth. How many times had they done this? Getting snuggly in semi-public. Anselm leaned against Lucio’s shoulder while he and his ‘sister’ chatted about their latest woes. Janice passed a smuggled bloodshake Anselm’s way.

 
 


        “So Finsterwald says we can’t go out for the next two weeks because we go out too much, and he needs ‘company.’ “ She and Lucio pulled repulsed faces at the notion.

        “It’s not right! I would never do that.”

        “I know, honey.” Janice glanced Lucio’s way, and they shared a bleak look.

        “What if I talked to him?” Anselm asked. “Get you two off the hook? We’re on the same level, he and I. Wouldn’t he listen to me?”

Janice had to laugh at the naivety.

        “You’re welcome to try, I guess.”

        “Are you sure?” Lucio asked. “What if he thinks we sent you and gets more pissed off? Two weeks is bad enough, but two weeks of him in a pissy mood...”

        “Pissier mood,” Janice said, then looked to Anselm. “We appreciate it, but you don’t have to do this. Stuff’s rough, but we’ll survive.”

Anselm got up from the booth.

        “I know, but I can’t sit here while you suffer.”

His gentle lovers could provide no argument, and he moved through the club in search of a certain lingerie-wearer.

 

 


Finsterwald waved a hand encrusted in gaudy rings.

        “What’s this determined look you wear?”

A vaguely familiar hottie stood nearby and smiled to Anselm.

        “Lorenz’s little experiment. And what a successful one it was.”

Anselm restrained himself from curling a lip. All the courage of his convictions was tested now, moments away from a potential argument. At least standing up for others was easier than standing up for himself.

        “Finsterwald—” he began, but the woman (Isa? His daughter?) raised a finger.

        “I have to ask you— what do you think made his experiment work? I know the torture, the betrayal of trust and all. But don’t you feel like there was something extra? You were there, you experienced it.”

        “Why do you ask?” Anselm blinked heavily, “It’s a horrible idea, ruining someone’s life even if you ‘succeed.’ ” He leaned against a nearby table, as terrible memories threatened to wash over him. “The next person who tries will get their head chopped off, and who would care?”

        Finsterwald gave her Isa a sour look and shooed her away.

        “Forgive her,” he invited Anselm closer. “It is still fresh for you, isn’t it?”

The Wicked Auntie

 

 

 


        “Yes, yes, I’m sorry.” He sat at the distant end of Finsterwald’s chaise, and the scantily-clad man sighed, disappointed.

        “But it is not all misery?”

        “No,” Anselm said. “No, you’re right. But we would never choose to be here, would we?”

        Finsterwald pursed his lips.

        “I wouldn’t go that far. But indeed, none of us choose our lot in life, it’s about making the best of what we’ve got. I notice you don’t bring Lorenz around these days.” Whatever expression Anselm made amused Finsterwald into a hearty chuckle.”—Not a fan still? You may find him more amusing as the years pass, though I can understand not forgiving him. You’ve met my Blaschko?”

        “A bit,” Anselm said. “Your oldest?”

        “That’s right. I have to admit I was jealous of Holber.”

        “Von Hechten’s progenitor?”

        “Yes. Not for his... face or his personality, of course, but to have one’s own little raconteur. Someone to smooth over social situations for you, that one could commit whatever faux pas you prefer, guiltlessly. Blaschko was my copycat move, though I was much more successful with my lad.”

        “Well, Holber died?”

        “Yes, he did. But even before then, I suppose he hoped the golden reputation of the golden boy had would rub off on him. Rather, he became his own star and left his ‘father’ in the dust. The parent of a celebrity is lesser than their child, and more so for us— we just pick and choose, our children are not even the fruit of our genitals.”

Anselm chewed back a grimace at that analogy.

        “True, the artist will always get more attention than the curator. But that’s not how it worked for you?”

        “Of course not! I was already charismatic, and Blaschko was there as a mediator, not the attraction. And my children adore me. Who could love that frizzy-haired nanny goat? Von Hechten seamlessly moved from human star, to star of the undead. I wonder then...” He smirked. “What are you to him, dear Eichel, the prince of Reckenburg? Lovely as our man is, he is no king.”

        “What do you mean?” Anselm asked. “You think he is jealous of me?”

        “As the old dame is of her debutante daughter.” Finsterwald smiled darkly. “And what love do you have for your— well, he’s not your ‘father.’ Your curator, as you say.”

Anselm didn’t have to respond before Finsterwald was chuckling again.

        “—Of course. So, you seemed to be searching for me earlier, dear. What was it you wanted?”

        “Ah— I was talking to Janice and Lucio—”

Finsterwald fluttered his kohl-smeared eyelids.

        “Yes, yes. You’re very fond of them. I’ll let them visit you once.”

        “Don’t you think it’s...” Anselm couldn’t meet the elder vampire’s cold stare. “I don’t know...”

Finsterwald put a lacy arm around his shoulder.

        “You will understand when you are older. Perhaps you have the unique perspective thanks to dear Lorenz, something that makes you feel more kinship with the turned. But you aren’t like them, you are a lord of the city. Hell, you shouldn’t suffer a single insult from Von Hechten before you strike him down. He is nothing, and we are everything.”

Anselm laughed bitterly.

        “I’ll be sure to strike him down the next time I see him.”

        “I look forward to it. Now, dance! You never know what beautiful mortal you may find, someone to have for your very own. I do recommend waiting a couple decades at least, but the heart wants what it wants.”

 

 

 

 

The Wicked Auntie

 

        Von Hechten picked up, interrupting Regen for the second time that conversation.

        “Wait— Give me the description again,” he said. “...No! Good god, that’s Mihailo, her son. I gave you their photos. Are you blind?”

Regen gazed up at the marquee of Le Grand Cinema. Would they ever see the first twenty minutes of a film? At last the berating abated.

        “No luck?” she asked.

        “These damned ragamuffins. How can we expect them to know proper drama? They probably just shame each other for not having enough cockroaches in their hovels.”

        “Seeking dirt on Teufelkunst again? What has she done now?”

        “Nothing, and that’s suspicious. When you reach our age, Regen, you will understand. One must always have an advantage on the competition, and good gossip expires. No one cares that she had an affair with the Marquis of Blahburg forty-three years ago; it needs to be fresh! I thought these ‘cuckoos’ would be better at sneaking around than I could, but you get what you pay for, I suppose.”

        “Cuckoos?”

Von Hechten put away his phone with great exasperation.

        “Yes, yes, we’ve already missed the beginning so I may as well explain. ‘The Cuckoo Troop.’ Grimy little nobodies from Kirschland, but they’ve done some good work. Before now, at least. Perhaps the likes of Teufelkunst is too advanced for them, but they dug up moderately juicy dirt before.”

        “Huh. You’ve got a number?”

        “Ooh, ready to jump into the game? I suppose you have to start small anyway...”
 

 
 

        “I have to show you!” Janice flopped on Anselm’s lap and lifted her already skimpy top.

        “Uh,” Lucio leaned on a hand. “Pretty sure he’s seen those two. A lot.”

        “No, I mean these!” she shook her shoulders, and her new nipple rings jingled.

        “Cute,” Anselm said. “Gold’s an interesting choice.”

        “You know me, never settle for the conventional. Try ‘em out.”

He reached out a hand and grazed the cold metal before he flopped back to the booth. Janice and Lucio glanced to each other, confused, and he sat upright, blinking heavily.

        “Weird,” he mumbled, and tried again. This time nearly slipping off the seat, only pinned in place by Janice perched on his legs.

        “Got the Narco-sleepy?” she asked. “Didn’t get a good dirt nap?”

        “Maybe those two are too exciting,” Lucio said.

Anselm rubbed his eyes, the bizarre sensation of drowsiness seeming so alien in these nightly hours.

        “What the hell is wrong with me?”

The Wicked Auntie
 

 
        “I know it’s not my titties,” Janice furrowed her brow. “Unless you developed an allergy literally overnight.”

        “Not mine either,” Lucio said. “Guess we’ll have to experiment.”

He lifted his shirt and Anselm copped a feel— nothing.

        “Touch your own,” he said.

        “Nothing.”

        “Is it just the rings?” Janice asked. “Poke this part here...”

Sideboob was fine, underboob was fine...

        “What the hell...” Anselm mumbled, drowsiness still lingering. “Can you take one out?”

        “Only for a minute, or they’ll wanna heal up.” She removed a ring and set it on the table. Anselm poked it— and went limp, barely held in place by his friends.

        “Could it be these rings in particular?” Janice snapped her fingers as Anselm groggily awakened. “You probably don’t handle gold much.”

        “Not gold,” Anselm slurred. “Use gold leaf all the time at work.”

The experiment continued, as Janice ordered a glass of Rivière d’Or with gold flakes floating within. One finger dipped and Anselm nearly fell to the floor.

        “The hell?” Janice helped him sit upright. “What’s different? Anything new about you?”

Anselm glanced down at himself.

        “I guess... I guess this ring?” He pulled off his silver signet ring and dipped a finger in the drink. Nothing.

        “Gold and silver?” Lucio asked. “That’s... weird.”

        “Oh no,” Janice murmured, her face contorting to an uncharacteristically severe expression. “There’s a thing with progenitors... They all got a weakness. Some weirdo obscure shit. Guess this is yours.”

        “Gold and silver,” Anselm covered his mouth in horror. “Like the Judgement Bower...”

        “It’s fine, baby!” Janice patted his hair. “We won’t tell anyone. You know you can trust us, honey.”

        “Only stainless steel for you,” Lucio squeezed his shoulder. “Gold and silver’s kind of tacky anyway...”


 
The Wicked Auntie        

  

        Buraq took care as he dialed the number on the card, not wanting to punch it in wrong and waste what little spare change he had. Isabel and Tanya convinced him to take this job, neither getting a good vibe off it, but money was money. A woman answered.

        “Who is this?”

        “I have the card,” Buraq said. “You want information?”

        “What are your animals?”

        “You wanted the cuckoo troop?” Buraq asked. “Isn’t it obvious?”

        “Yes, obviously a cuckoo.” The woman said, “What is the other one? I want proof you are who you say.”

        “A house cat. Not that I can do that one. Happy?”

The line was quiet for a moment.

        “All right,” the woman said. “I want to know about a progenitor.”

        “Hooo—” Buraq began to balk.

 
 


        “—It’s a weak one. The weakest. You are surely stronger than him in every way, he’s barely a year old.”

        “It’s not so much that I was expecting him to kick my ass, it’s more—”

        “Just don’t get caught. You can observe from a distance. I need to know anything... interesting.”

        “Interesting, huh?” He rolled his eyes. These creeps always had different ideas of what they considered ‘interesting.’

        “Watch for, say, a week. The more you uncover, the more you get.”

        “Starting at a hundred?”

        “True to my word. I’ll send the check tonight. His address is on the back of the card.”

        “What’s he look like?”

        “Short. Skinny. Blonde scraggly hair. Like a depressed elf with a rent-boy style.”

        “Fine. Guess I’ll call you in a week.”

        “Wonderful.”

The line went dead. Some jobs sounded too good to be true, and some jobs sounded like dangerous pains in the ass. He wasn’t about to expect a pleasant surprise.

 

 

The Wicked Auntie

 

 

       The address led Buraq to a grimy block of low-income housing. A decent hiding spot for a vampire lord, who would expect to find one there? The listed apartment had the curtains shut tight, black paper taped over the glass, so obvious enough it was the right place. But where was our scraggly monster? Buraq staked out the nearby pretzel shop, sitting at the patio table pretending to drink a lemonade. God, it had been years since he tasted one, now it smelled like an acrid cleaning product. Swing-shift workers made their way to bus stops and the odd junker rolled down the narrow streets. Cheap stereos, arguments, and rattling ventilation filled the night. The three of them could score an apartment in this neighborhood, he thought, about time they moved out of that terrible old man’s hovel. Though how many more jobs would they need for the rent? Prices went up exponentially the closer you got to the city center.

        At last— a flameless creature stalked to the bus stop. On the hunt for a hapless commuter? Buraq shifted deeper into his coat and faded further into the shadows, becoming an amorphous blob near an abandoned lemonade. Blonde scraggly hair, little short, and Buraq guessed that black raincoat was kinda ‘rent-boy.’ The bus rumbled around the corner, and the vampire boarded. Royalty taking public transit? He really had to be new.

        Buraq took his feathered form, and soared high, keeping careful track of the bus as it rolled straight out of town. The guy didn’t have a suitcase, so why ride out to nowhere?

 
 

 
        The vampire lord deboarded in the middle of the uninhabited forest. Didn’t one of the real ancient creeps live out in the woods? But why couldn’t they pick him up in a hot rod or something? Buraq stayed high in the canopy, flitting about as the progenitor meandered through the trees. An impromptu solo-hike? He ruffled his feathers when the other vampire’s glinting eyes almost seemed to spot him. Nothing to see, just a cute little birdie minding his own business.

        At last the vampire lord found a clearing that satisfied him, and sat in the grass. Buraq hopped along branches to get a better look. This had to count as ‘interesting’, at least, really weird. But what did it mean? The progenitor pulled off his boots and lounged in silence, wiggling his toes and gazing off into the distance. Was he meeting someone? A wild fox emerged from the brush and approached the vampire lord. Huh?

        The two stared at each other, then the animal rested in the grass, like a pet cat would at the foot of its owner’s bed. Again, silence drew on, nothing but the rustling leaves and the chirring of nocturnal insects. The vampire lord checked his watch, then pulled on his boots. Just like that, he wandered back to the bus stop. ‘Interesting’ or insane? Well, that was the name of the game for progenitors. What was wrong with this guy? He was young, conventionally attractive. What could have laid him low? What torments dragged him back from the grave?

The Wicked Auntie
 

 

        The week passed, Buraq checking on the man each evening. He gathered the guy’s name from his mailbox, (only ever filled with benefits notices and junk mail.) Some nights ‘Anselm’ took the bus out to oldtown and entered a brick building and wouldn’t leave for hours. A book binder? What did they really do in there? Had to be a mafia thing, like a doughnut shop that never sold a single doughnut. One night he bought matchbooks and razor blades at the local grocer. What he used to slit his victims? On the last night of the seven days, he attended an industrial concert and Buraq lost track of him. Must’ve been where he fed, and coincidentally, where Buraq decided to feed too. One last look wouldn’t hurt. He could finally uncover how the guy indulged his perverted murder fantasies. Nice— this time the curtains were drawn.

        He lit on the edge of the window sill, keeping his little bird head low. Beyond the glass was a dimly-lit, ill-furnished room; more care and love put into the things pinned on the walls than the ratty furniture populating the space. The progenitor walked into frame and flopped onto the unmade bed, shirtless. Already going to sleep?

 

The Wicked Auntie

 

 

       Oops. Buraq fluttered away, to leave him a bit of privacy. All this spying over the years, and he still couldn’t help but feel kind of gross. This guy, whoever he was, lived a solitary life, doing whatever gentle weirdo things he enjoyed. Why was someone so intimidated by that? He toyed with the idea of inventing more outlandish claims so he could get a few extra marks, but that always came back to bite him.

        “That’s it?” The woman’s voice was as terse as he predicted.

        “If you already got his address, you probably know as much as I do.”

        “Keep trying. Another hundred.”

        “Why? Is it really that important?”

        “Do you want to get paid, or not?”

        “Of course. At least I can’t die of boredom.”

        “He might seem boring, but think about it. Can you name a single progenitor who never committed an atrocity?”

        “I dunno, my progenitor died like back in the Queen’s age, didn’t he?”

The woman grunted, annoyed.

        “They end up the same way. They lord their power over the weak, they murder and rape and destroy. Even if he’s not doing it now, he will.”

        “I guess I got rent to worry about. Fine.”

 

 
 

       Three more boring days, the gentle progenitor either staying in his apartment, or going out to that mysterious ‘book binder.’ That had to be where the dirt was, but the storm windows were too smeary with ancient dust. What if he could lure the guy out? Interrupt whatever nefarious activity he did in there, get close enough to tell if he was covered in baby blood. This wasn’t going anywhere, he would have to talk to him one on one. Tanya said she once cuckoo’d a dude into a warehouse to give him a talking to. A quick interrogation was better than wasting all week hoping something interesting would happen.

       An abandoned candy factory stood nearby on Boling Strasse. Some less scrupulous squatters had already taken claim of the best window, but being generous with a couple cigarettes let Buraq pass the threshold into their domain. Progenitors all had a weakness, right? The things of legends. Who knew if any were true? Not like he tested his luck against one of the creeps. He could toss the guy around, ‘tell me your secrets’ or something. Damn, no, how would that work? There were still a few days, no need to be impatient.
 

       The Wicked Auntie
 

       The Wicked Auntie

        It was him. That same stripey sweater he wore last week, unmistakable. Buraq’s thoughts went wild, imagining how he would interrogate the guy if he was in the room, if he was sitting across from him in that chair. It would just take a second, bust him up a bit, get him to talk.

 

 
 

The Wicked Auntie

 

 
       And there he was. Screaming. Bleeding. Buraq was too stunned to move for a moment, staring down as blood gushed out of the man’s eyes, mouth, drowning his screams of pain. Invitation! He hadn’t even thought of it!

 
 

        “You’re invited!” Buraq cried. “You’re invited! Oh god, I’m so sorry!”

The progenitor collapsed face first to the grimy floor, silent.

Buraq rushed to him— no pulse to take, of course.

        “Fuck, damn, I’m so sorry. I thought you’d be— I mean a little uninvited but not like, all the way. These squatters!”

He got the guy upright and offered him his wrist. The progenitor pushed it away, still too alarmed to do anything but flail weakly.

        “Please,” Buraq said, “Take it easy. Err— I know it’s difficult but—”

        “Who are you?” The progenitor slurred, spitting out another mouthful of blood. “What am I doing here?”

The Wicked Auntie
 

       “Yeah, my name is Buraq and you don’t know me— ugh, of course, but... This was an accident, and I am really so sorry.”

        “What do you—” He coughed and spit again, trying to blink away the sticky tears that still rimmed his eyes. Buraq offered him his kerchief.

        “I— that’s a... special talent. But I screwed it up, obviously. Anselm, right? Yeah I was— I dunno, I saw you out there and I wasn’t thinking straight...”

        He babbled for a time, as Anselm cleaned up as best he could. He tried to explain in a roundabout way before he had to admit it.

        “—All right, I fucked this job anyway. Somebody wanted me to follow you around. I don’t even have anything to tell her”

        “Someone? Who?”

        “No idea, never gave me a name. Just some lady who contacted my roommates. We do these jobs, rent’s tough, you know. Spying on people, little pranks... I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

        “So you... teleported me in here?”

        “Kind of— um, that chair is probably sitting out on the sidewalk...”

        “Huh?”

        “I, uh—”

He picked up a crushed beer can from the floor, waved it aloft like a magician. He nodded toward an overstuffed ashtray by the far wall. Then, snap, he held a sloppy ashtray and the beer can clattered on the other side of the room.

        Anselm craned his neck, looking between the two locations through his bleary, sticky eyes.

        “Wow, you swap things? Ah, the ‘cuckoo.’ So have you ever swapped someone’s wallet for a live grenade?”

        “No! Damn, what do you take me for?”

        “I dunno, it could come in handy though, couldn’t it?”

        “I try not to do it too much,” he said. “Obviously it can cause a lot of trouble if I don’t plan it right. Do you ever... uh, have a problem like that? You know, getting into trouble.”

Anselm smiled crookedly.

        “Still trying to gather dirt on me?”

 
The Wicked Auntie       

        “Ha, no! I guess I just want to know more about you. We all got our ideas about progenitors, but even sneaking around I don’t get you.”

        “What’s to get? You wonder when I make my sacrifices to Dorein? Last year I lived in low-income housing for disabled people, and there I remain. Not much has changed except my grocery bill. Or you want to know what terrible crime I committed to end up this way?”

        “No— that’s not what—”

        “I trusted someone. I gave someone a chance they didn’t deserve, and they tortured me to death and made me a vampire. But surely you knew that?”

        “I... guess I should have done my research. That was you, then? The three of us are outsiders, so we don’t really get the scoop on what happens downtown but even we’ve heard that one.”

        “You three?”

        “ ‘The Cuckoo Troop.’ Well, this is just the local branch. They like to turn tight-knit bunches so about... six years ago? Our LGBT support group got stormed and nobody survived... in a sense. Me and Isabel and Tanya still room together. Doomed to be the outsiders, but at least everyone has an idea about our little talent, so they don’t give us the business too much.”

Anselm nodded solemnly, looking down at the blood-soaked kerchief.

        “Right or left pocket?” he asked.

        “Huh?”

        “Black paisley— BDSM? I considered getting a red one for blood play but thought it might be too on the nose. Or was red for fisting...?”

Buraq widened his eyes.

        “You— you know the code? Wow, no, black is just the best to hide bloodstains but...”

They smiled at each other.

 
 

 
       “So,” Anselm said. “I don’t actually remember what any of the colors mean except like white, yellow, and black. No, I forgot what white means. It’s been a while since I was clubbing.”

        “Think I got a pink one back home,” Buraq raised an eyebrow. “Want me to make up a new meaning? Ha, uh, just kidding. But I have my scooter downstairs, you could probably use a change of clothes.”

        “Yeah, thanks a lot for that. I liked this sweater.”

        “Sorry. I’ll give you some laundry tokens.”

        “Guess I’m late to work anyway.”

        “You work over there?”

        “Weren’t you spying on me? What did you think I did?”

        “...Nothing. Come on.”

Riding on the back of a guy’s scooter wasn’t as romantic as a big roaring motorcycle, but it sure beat the bus. Buraq didn’t fuss too much about finding a safe parking place and wedged the bike in wherever it would fit. The pretzel shop was closed for the night, but the ground was gritty with salt leavings from the day’s business. Anselm walked along, boots clacking on cement, wishing he had a cigarette, or that a cigarette would do anything for him anymore.

        “Reminds me of my neighborhood,” Buraq said. “A little nicer.”

        “Really? Crazy how many of them are obscenely rich. I still live here, see the same people, go to the same bus stop. But for how long? Will I be forced into a dusty mansion or a creepy old castle? It sounds fun but I’m sure you know it wouldn’t be...”

        “I’m sure. It’s weird, being a vampire you’re supposed to feel like it will last forever, but we definitely don’t.”

        “Heh, too real. I was always a melancholic, but how about you?”

        “No, bad luck is all. Is there anything you like about your neighborhood?”

        “I like a lot, actually. I’ve lived in some scuzzy dumps so this place is tidy and well-made in comparison. The bus isn’t too far, the manager is nice. Where do you live?”

        “Been staying with an old guy in Kirschland. He likes to watch Isabel shower. That’s rent in the big city. You’ve been here a while?”

        “Bleh, guess it’s even harder to get the paperwork in when you’re dead. Yeah, I’ve been here almost fifteen years, since I started college. A country boy before, if you can believe it. Glad to be gone. Whatever squathouse I was in after, it was still better. But for you...”

        “We’re fine, it’s a lot nicer now that we don’t have to eat or worry about medicine or bureaucracy...”

They came upon his building, freshly planted pansies and violets in cheap plastic planters were gathered around the door, the pathway swept. Air conditioners listed out of windows, dusty and topped with dead leaves. Anselm glanced back to him, arms crossed to hide the bloodstains on his sweater from passers-by.

        “Feels like only an idiot would invite a secret agent in.”

        “Hey how’s this,” Buraq said, “You’re invited to my shitty apartment on Markt Strasse, anytime you like.”

        “What if you don’t have an apartment on Markt Strasse?”

        “Okay, clever. You’re invited to wherever I stash my filthy vampire body every morning. I’ll give you the address later. That work?”

Anselm rolled his eyes.

        “You really don’t know who hired you? I’m not exciting enough to warrant that kind of thing.”

        “I know— err, I think you’re interesting, but I understand—”

Anselm laughed and shoved him gently.

        “Whatever. You’re invited, secret agent.”

They stepped into the lobby, dusty checkered tile floor a little less dusty lately. The tang of cleaning products tried to mask the musty carpet and old couches. The furor about Anselm’s survival had long since died down and poor Concetta wasn’t still harangued by his weird classmates and acquaintances of his. He held open the rusty metal gate to the elevator.

        “It’s silly but... I’m feeling shy. Don’t bring people by much these days.”

        “That’s fair. We’re perfect strangers. How do we get to know each other better?”

        “Hmm, do you like art? I’m not a fancy boy, more of a craftsman, really. But it’s interesting to talk about.”

        “I saw a little through the window but—”

Anselm raised his eyebrows.

        “—Uh, it looked great,” Buraq stammered, “I didn’t— ugh, I feel like I should do something more to make this up to you.”

        “Maybe I can think of something...”

The elevator shuddered up a couple flights. Outside the shrieking gate was a prominent ink stain the size of a dinner plate. Anselm nodded toward it.

        “Ha, yeah, that one is my bad. Tried to help scrub it but... adds character?”

        “Damn, guy, you’re wrecking up the joint.. Hope you made got some good art out of it.”

        “I guess you can judge for yourself.”

He unlocked a door near the elevator, the astringent odor of solvent and adhesive rushed out. Stark black and white drawings took up most of the walls: animals falling into vortexes of filigree, birds escaping blade-like lines. A half-finished drawing sat on an easel: a tangle of brambles entwining rose buds.It was certainly an artist’s studio, with the accompanying mess. Ink stains on the furniture, wadded up stained rags, brushes and pens lining the edges of flat surfaces. A wicker cage of finches hung by the window, the birds inside beeping and fluttering.

Anselm laid his keys on a messy end table and sat uneasily on a ratty velvet sofa.

        “I don’t have these up all the time but there was a show and... I guess it’s been a while since then, I should really take them down.”

Buraq took in the art thoughtfully.

        “But If you leave them up, you’ll look cool for guys that come over. Very sexy.”

Anselm chuckled.

        “You like it? I won’t feign a complete lack of confidence, but they’ve never been on-trend.”

        “Anything good is good... Seems like artists are the special ones. The rest of us just take from life, don’t give anything lasting back.”

        “Pft, I waste a lot of paper and make messes of nice carpets. There are plenty of more important things to do. Why, you could inspire great works! I haven’t done figurative imagery for a while, maybe it’s time for a character with lovely dark eyes. Is that cheesy?”

        “If it’s cheesy, I’m sure all the boys want cheese.”

Anselm chuckled bashfully, and stood, following him as he took in the art.

        “So...”

Buraq looked over his shoulder with a cheeky smile.

        “So...”

 

xxx The Wicked Auntie

 

       Anselm gestured down to his blood-stained sweater then tore it off and tossed it aside.

        “What a mess... hm... want to make it worse?”

        “Had something in mind?” Buraq blinked heavy eyelids.

        “I always wanted to do this but everyone is too fussy...” Anselm opened a desk drawer. “Favorite color?”

        “Black. Why?”

        “Black! A man after my own heart. Closest I have is dark blue.” He returned to the bed and set a tin of watercolors on the nightstand. “Take off your clothes.” He dipped into the tin then wiggled blue fingers.

Buraq looked sideways at the artist, before he disrobed as requested.

        “What perversion is this?” he asked, tossing his pants across the room.

        “The most perverse.”
 

 
The Wicked Auntie

        Anselm doodled a spiral over his shoulder, leaving behind a blue streak. Buraq made a showy gasp of surprise.

        “What’s the big idea?”

Anselm drew faint swirls over his arms, admired his work, and then reached into the tin for the purple.

        “Is this like a hippy thing?” Buraq asked.

        “I did this at raves before. Painted many hippie boobs, but yours are the nicest.”

He drew swirling lines of purple over Buraq’s throat. He dipped into the red and hesitated. Too real? He ignored a strange impulse to draw blood droplets on Buraq’s neck and instead added hearts and roses into the mix.

        “I considered adding red into my art before, but now it seems a bit tacky given my circumstance.”

        “Why do you have colors if not to use them?”

        “I get hand-me-downs sometimes, always plan to do something with them... I hate the scene; you need a ‘brand’, the thing you do is the thing you do forever. Imagine now, forever could be quite literal.”

He dipped a pinky into the green and added stems and leaves. He offered the tin and Buraq accepted it, considered the material inside before dabbing a finger into the dark pigment.

 
 

 
        “This is probably toxic to humans, isn’t it?”

        “Mmn, yeah probably.” Anselm reached the border of the much fuzzier parts of Buraq’s belly and had to move to the sides, lazily drawing swirls with whatever colors remained on his fingers. “Found it funny that people with no problem with heroin get antsy about a little lead.”

        “That is funny.” Buraq brushed his painty fingertips over Anselm’s cheek and Anselm giggled childishly. “A long time ago with Isabel, we were huffing, and she got on my case about smoking. I think... We all forget sometimes.”

        Anselm painted pink circles across Buraq’s forehead.

       “You know all about me, but what about you? What are you doing when you’re not a secret agent?”

       “Spying on fancy vampires, trying to not get murdered by fancy vampires for spying on them.”

       “Oh god that’s awful.”

       “Eh, still better than being homeless. Do I look like a ridiculous clown yet?”

Anselm leaned on an elbow to admire his work.

       “I guess we have even more in common than I thought. You know I’m doing all this work so we can ruin it. Do me next... I meant paint— well, not just that...”

 
 

 

The Wicked Auntie

 
 

 

       The lovers lay together, cradling each other in arms that would be sweaty and weak if they had still been human. The bed had become a slovenly artist’s paint rag with all their rolling around and horseplay. The birds rattled their cage bars, annoyed by the rowdiness. Anselm clicked his tongue with a testy bird-ish sound, and they settled down.

       “Do you ever feel glad to be grown up?” Buraq asked. “I feel it when I’m doing gay stuff like this. I remember it seeming impossible.”

       “Oh my god, yes... How old were you? That’s why I came to Reckenburg, art school was a distant second. I hunted down the first gay boy I could find, poor thing. The first week of classes, had zero in common otherwise.”

       “Heh. I think my story’s probably ‘too real’ again, but I remember good times, laying in bed, thinking ‘this is heaven. End of the line.’ “

Streaks of paint ran through their hair, faces stained with rainbow colors like they had eaten a birthday cake with no utensils.

       “Now I get to throw dirt on this pigsty,” Anselm said.

       “Still weird... You’re not like any progenitor I’ve ever met. Not that I met many up close.” Buraq peeled himself off the sticky covers. “Think I’m gonna have to send my whole paycheck for your laundry... Sorry about that again.”

Anselm kissed him, smearing a green star onto his lips.

       “Guess we’ll have to make a payment plan. You’ll have to come over more often— weekly?”

Buraq ran his fingers through Anselm’s messy hair until he hit a tangled blob of paint.

       “Now see, payback should be something I don’t want to do.”

They embraced for another moment, before the weight of the ever-rising sun pulled them apart.

       “This is all a secret, right?” Anselm asked.

       “Yeah. I’ll tell Ms. X I suddenly grew a conscience.”

       “Still can’t understand...” Anselm sighed. “Guess there are a lot of weird drama queens in our number.”

       “Tell me about it; that’s how I pay the rent.” Buraq gazed at the lightening sky.

       “It’s not all bad though?” Anselm posed coyly, an expressionist painting come to multi-colored life.

       “Heh— yeah. I get into trouble but sometimes the trouble’s worth it.”

 

 

 

 

        He was easy enough to track down. Same tedious schedule like a boring old man. Regen hadn’t needed to pay that idiot kid to tell her that much. Same back corner in Schweinestall, out-of-date industrial beats thumping away. Anselm saw her and smiled, beckoning her to dance with him but stopped mid-wave upon seeing her expression.

       “Is something the matter?” he asked, as she pulled him aside.

       “What’s with your face?” she gestured to the bizarre rainbow stains. “Didn’t think you were into Vitalism. Got your body prints on a canvas somewhere?”

       “Huh— oh,” he glanced away, bashful. “Just fooling around with someone.”

       “Last night, huh? Someone new?”

       “Yeah? You have a problem with casual sex suddenly?”

She hid her grimace behind a hand. Not a coincidence, right as her 'Cuckoo' cancelled on moral grounds. Of course if she searched, she would find another young vampire stained candy colors.

Anselm rolled his eyes.

       “Don’t worry, it’s not anyone you know. Now what did you want to talk about?”

       “Nothing.”

She stormed out of the club.

The Wicked Auntie
x

 

        There he was, not worrying about who could be sneaking up behind him, what horrible wicked curse could be dropped from the heavens, obliterating him completely. Von Hechten strolled along, oblivious until Regen tugged on his sleeve.

       “You have to treat this more seriously,” she said.

He looked up from his phone with a world-weary look, as though he had any idea of the gravity of the situation.

       “Regen, you can’t live your life always worrying about—” His phone chimed. “—Sorry, I’ve got to take this.”

He would never treat this seriously. Not until he was dead meat, and she was left friendless. He strolled off as though to demonstrate.

       “—Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. But I need to know if she ever returned Sabet’s Godmas ornaments. We’re talking about a decades long feud here, it’s serious.”

 

 
 

 

        Isa twirled the scalpel around, not quite slicing open the human’s skin as her brother watched on.

       “Janice and Lucio not going to make an appearance?” she asked.

       “I don’t think they’d be interested,” Blaschko said. “Might be uncomfortable for them with their little progenitor friend.”

       “What a shame.”

The two vampires had to raise their voices as the human’s screams increased.

       “Sorry for the noise,” Isa said. “I would have taped him up, just thought the freedom was important to the experiment.”

       “This really isn’t scientific,” Blaschko said.

       “I’m no scientist. But it’ll be amusing either way. And best case— we’ve got a powerful new friend!”

       “Worst case, Finsterwald executes all of us.”

       “Whatever. It probably won’t work anyway.”

       “OH GOD PLEASE! LET ME GO!”

The Wicked Auntie
 

 
       She clicked her tongue and waved the scalpel around again until the human quieted.

       “Max, you know I love you. I love you so much I’m going to make you my immortal lover.”

       “A vampire?! This is how vampires are made?!”

       “Only the most special ones. You trust me, don’t you, Darling? You said you trusted me more than anyone last night.”

       “I— I— don’t know! Please, let me—”

Isa waved for Blaschko to give them privacy. He stepped outside the meat locker and took a seat at the butcher’s counter. What if it really worked? A new progenitor, but one in their debt? Something to finally worm out from under Finsterwald’s thumb? Thumping came from within, and the screams picked up in volume. Ah, the torture must have begun in earnest. No way this would work. Von Hechten had planned for ages, and Isa came up with this just a couple weeks before. Who was to say ‘depression’ was mentally ill enough for—

       That screaming was aggravating. Sure the area was vacated, but it seemed over the top. But on it went, invading Blaschko’s every thought. How could Isa do the whole betrayal thing properly with that racket? At last his patience hit its limits, and he tapped on the door. He knocked louder. The screaming waned for a moment so he could shout.

       “YOU OKAY IN THERE?”

Just more human screaming. Sheesh. He parted the door a crack— the metallic tang of blood caught him first, before the sight of it. Not human blood.

 

 

The Wicked Auntie

 

 

       “Oh,” Blaschko said.

 

 

 

 

Part Two on its way…
 

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     December 6th, 2019
     By:  Christopher

Ah, what to say? I'm working at a brain-wreckin' full time day job so my stuff ain't been happenin'. The guy that does Anselm stories and wants to someday finish The Kingfisher has been tore up with health probs for years. That said, I'm getting used to the mental heavy lifting at work and might be able to start helping out with comicking things in the coming year.

The real question is this: Which of us will get our KF tale's next installment done first? Me or him? Follow us on social medias to see the announcements when they drop.
 

COMMENTS

 
 

       TRANSCRIPT: This is visual description of the comic, for purposes such as accessibility and internet searches.

1.)

(The art for the Anselm story now is made to resemble woodcuts, with carved textures and tones, value in positive and negative space, white and black lines. Here we see vampires in a graveyard - Regen burying Anselm alive. She is crouched with a shovel at the edge of an open grave. Anselm is alert and seems like he could climb out - unless he gets conked with that shovel first.) (Anselm works with silhouetted people behind him. He clutches some wadded materal and his hands are covered with black ink.)

2.)

(Anselm works with silhouetted people behind him. He clutches some wadded materal and his hands are covered with black ink.)

3.)

(Von Hechten has pounced on Anselm from behind, wrapping him in a loose embrace. He's fashionable as ever, Anselm is still stained from his print shop labors. He rolls his eyes.)

4.)

(An art gallery with two floors, heavily shadowed save where spotlights touch the art. People drink wine and mill about.)

5.)

(Anselm - still ink-stained - and a fiery-aura'd human artist are both looking pensive. Anselm looks like he has something to say.)

6.)

(Von Hechten has accosted Anselm, seizing him by the wrist to interrogate. Anselm is alarmed.)

7.)

(The same night - or those stains are very persistent - and Anselm has a man over at his place. The man is bald in the male pattern but not very old. He is concerned for Anselm. Anselm has his back to him and is making a vampire face.)

8.)

(The man is shirtless and whipping off his pants. Anselm is on the bed, still clothed but ready for action.)

9.)

(Anselm Janice and Lucio pose for a photograph, framed by their shadows in the flash. Anselm's hands are no longer stained and he has a long sweater. Lucio has a low-cut black t-shirt, Janice as a super-skimpy white top and black tights.)

10.)

(Finsterwald - Janice and Lucio's progenitor - is seated in his usual lingerie and spooky slut attire, looking imperiously lazy and attended by a nervous woman in a short black dress.)

11.)

(Von Hechten talks on his cellphone and Regen is annoyed. His cellphone is a bit smaller than the old brick. Technology advances quickly.)

12.)

(Janice is in Anselm's lap with her tits out. The nipples are pierced now. Anselm has touched them, and instantly fallen unconscious. Janice and Lucio are concerned.)

13.)

(A swarthy sexy young guy in a white t shirt takes a call in a phone booth. His dark hair is a bit messy.)

14.)

(The young guy - Buraq - us in a jacket now, spying on Anselm who is wearing a raincoat in the distance.)

15.)

(Buraq continues to spy. He is a cuckoo bird perched on a branch above Anselm, who lounges barefoot in the forest. A fox is interested in him as well, but less stealthy about it.)

16.)

(The cuckoo bird is on a windowsill outside Anselm's apartment now, looking scandalized as Anselm has his hand down his pants.)

17.)

(Buraq is in a human shape once again, spying from a high window in a scuzzy building.)

18.)

(Anselm walks below.)

19.)

(Suddenly Anselm is inside the room with Buraq. Buraq is surprised, Anselm is uninvited and doubled over - bleeding from his face.)

20.)

(Buraq holds Anselm as he's passing out.)

21.)

(Anselm is still all messy from blood, with his eyes stuck mostly shut. Buraq offers him a black bandana to wipe up.)

22.)

(Buraq has lost the jacket and now the guys are kissing and butt-grabbing.)

23.)

(Buraq is down to his black underwear and Anselm is shirtless, painting his body with vines and flowers.)

24.)

(Now they are both painted - Anselm more messily - and having that gay sex. Buraq is on top and the pose is very dynamic.)

25.)

(Regen is in frumpy grunge mode interrogating Anselm. He has a sassy hand on his hip and looks away, face still discolored from painty sex.)

26.)

(Regen bothers Von Hechten while he remains on an eternal cellphone call. He waves dismissively and wears a moan on his face.)

27.)

(Finsterwald's shy lady from before - Isa - has a mostly naked man in bondage and holds a razor to his flesh. He is alarmed, she is smiling at someone else.)

28.)

(The bound man is now spattered in blood - but not his own. Isa has been mysteriously decapitated, now dead at his feet.)

 

 
 
 
 
 

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