Fairy Werewolf vs. Vampire Zombie

by Charlie Jane Anders


Story Copyright (C) 2011, Charlie Jane Anders.
Images Copyright (C) 2011, Rudy Rucker.
6,000 Words.

If you’re ever in Freeboro, North Carolina, look for the sign of the bull. It hangs off the side of a building with a Vietnamese noodle-joint and an auto mechanic, near an alley that’s practically a drainage ditch. Don’t walk down that alley unless you’re brave enough not to look over your shoulder when you hear throaty noises behind you. If you make it to the very end without looking back, hang a left, and watch your footing on the mossy steps. The oak door at the bottom of the stairs will only open if you’ve got the right kind of mojo.

If it does open, you’ll find yourself in Rachel’s Bar & Grill, the best watering hole in the Carolinas. My bar. There’s only one rule: if there’s any trouble, take it outside. (Outside my bar is good, outside of town is better, outside of reality itself is best of all.) I have lots of stories about Rachel’s. There are names I could drop—except some of those people might appear. But there is one story that illustrates why you shouldn’t make trouble in my bar, and how we take care of our own. It’s also the story of how the bar got its mascot.

There was this young woman named Antonia, who went from a beautiful absinthe-drinking stranger to one of my regulars inside of a month. She had skin so pale it was almost silver, delicate features, and wrists so fine she could slide her hand into the wine-jug behind the bar—although she’d have to be quick pulling it out again, or Leroy the Wine Goblin would bite it off. Anyway, she approached me at closing time, asking if I had any work for her. She could clean tables, or maybe play her guitar a few nights a week.

If you’ve ever been to Rachel’s, you’ll know it doesn’t need any live music, or anything else, to add atmosphere to the place. If there’s one thing we got in spades, it’s atmosphere. Just sit in any of the plush booths—the carvings on the wooden tables tell you their stories, and the stains on the upholstery squirm to get out of the way of your butt. From the gentle undulation of the ceiling beams to the flickering of the amber-colored lights to the signed pictures of famous dragons and celebrity succubi on the brick walls, the place is atmosphere city.

But then I got to hear Antonia sing and play on her guitar, and it was like the rain on a midsummer day right after you just got your first kiss or something. Real lyrical. I let her play at Rachel’s one night, and I couldn’t believe it—the people who usually just guzzled a pitcher of my “special” sangria and then vamoosed were sticking around to listen to her, shedding luminescent tears that slowly floated into the air and then turned into little crystalline wasps. (The sangria will do that.)

So after Antonia got done singing that first night, I came up to her and said I guessed we could work something out, if she was willing to wipe some tables as well as getting her Lilith Fair on. “There’s just one thing I don’t get,” I said. “It’s obvious you’re Fae, from the effect you have on the lunkheads that come in here. And you’re a dead ringer for that missing princess from the High Court of Sylvania. Princess Lavinia.” (Sylvania being what the Fae call Pennsylvania, the seat of their power.) “It’s said his supreme highness the Chestnut King weeps every night, and would give half the riches of Sylvania to have you back. The drag queen—Mab—her eyeliner has been smudgy for months. Not to mention the lovestruck Prince Azaron. So what gives?”

“I cannot ever return home,” Antonia (or Lavinia) wept. “I regret the day I decided to venture out and see the world for myself. For on that day, I encountered a curse so monstrous, I cannot ever risk inflicting it on any of my kin. I cannot undo what is done. The only way I can protect my friends and family is to stay far away. I am forever exiled, for my own foolishness. Now please ask no more questions, for I have tasted your sangria and I’m afraid my tears would sting you most viciously.”

I said no more, although I was consumed with curiosity about the curse that kept the fairy princess from returning to the Seelie Court in Bucks County. I didn’t learn any more—until a few weeks later, when the Full Moon arrived.

Antonia appeared as usual, wearing a resplendent dress made of the finest samite and lace (I think it was vintage Gunne Sax.) She muttered something about how she was going to play a shorter set than usual, because she felt unwell. I said that was fine, I would just put the ice hockey match on the big-screen TV. (Did I mention the big-screen TV? Also a big part of the atmosphere. We do karaoke on Fridays.) Anyway, she meant to play for an hour, but she got carried away with this one beautiful dirge about lovers who were separated for life by a cruel wind, and it grew dark outside, just as her song reached a peak of emotion.

And something strange happened. Her hands, so teeny, started to grow, and her guitar playing grew more frenzied and discordant. Hairs sprouted all over her skin, and her face was coarsening as well, becoming a muzzle. “NO!” She cried—or was it a howl?—as her already pointy ears became pointier and her hair grew thicker and more like fur. “No, I won’t have it! Not here, not now. ’Tis too soon! By my fairy blood, I compel you—subside!” And with that last word, the transformation ceased. The hair vanished from her hands, her face returned to normal, and she only looked slightly huskier than usual. She barely had time to place her guitar in its case, leaving it on the bar, before she fled up the wooden staircase to the door. I heard her ascending into the alley and running away, her panting harsh and guttural.

Antonia did not return for three days, until the Moon was on the wane. When next she sang for us, her song was even more mournful than ever before, full of a passion so hot, it melted our internal organs into a fondue of longing.

Now around this same time, I was thinking about franchising. (Bear with me here, this is part of the story.) I had gotten a pretty good thing going in Freeboro, and I wanted to open another bar over on the other side of the Triad, in the town of Evening Falls. The main problem was, you don’t want to open a bar aimed at mystical and mythological patrons in the same strip mall as a Primitive Baptist church, a nail salon and a Bar-B-Q place, right on Highway 40. And Evening Falls only had a few properly secluded locations, all of which were zoned as purely residential, or only for restaurants.

Now, chances are, if you’ve been to Rachel’s, you’ve already heard my views on the evils of zoning. But just in case you missed it... [Editor’s note: the next ten paragraphs of this manuscript consist of a tirade about zoning boards and the ways in which they are comparable to giant flesh-eating cane-toads or hornetaurs. You can read it online at www.monstersofurbanplanning.org.]

Anyway, where was I? Franchising. So I know some witches and assorted fixers, who can make you believe Saturday is Monday, but it’s hard to put a whammy on the whole planning board. So I thought to myself, what can I do to win these people over? And that’s when I remembered I had my very own enchanting fairy singer, with just a spark of the wolf inside her, on the payroll.

Antonia’s eyes grew even huger, and her lip trembled, when I asked her to come and play at a party for the scheming elites of Evening Falls. “I cannot,” she said. “I would do anything in my power to help you, Rachel, but I fear to travel where I may be recognized. And my song is not for just anyone, it is only for the lost and the despairing. Can’t I just stay here, in your bar, playing for your patrons?”

“Now look,” I said, plunking her down on my least carnivorous barstool. “I’ve been pretty nice to you, and a lot of people would have called the number on the side of the thistle-milk carton to collect the reward on you already. Fairy gold! Which, last time I checked, is made out of the same gold as every other kind.  Not to mention, I put up with the constant danger of you biting my patrons and turning them into werewolves. Which, to  be fair, might improve their dispositions and make them better tippers. But you know, it’s all about one hand washes the other, even if sometimes one of those hands is a tentacle.  Or a claw. Although, you wouldn’t really want one of the Octo-priests of Wilmington to wash any part of you, not unless you want strange squid-ink tattoos sprouting on your skin for years after. Where was I?”

“You were attempting to blackmail me,” Antonia said with a brittle dignity. “Very well, Rachel. You have shown me what stuff your friendship is made of. I shall play at your ‘shindig.’“

“Good, good. That’s all I wanted.” I swear, there should be a special fairy edition of Getting To Yes, just for dealing with all their Fae drama.

So we put together a pretty nice spread at this Quaker meeting hall in Evening Falls, including some pulled-pork barbecue and fried okra. Of course, given that most of these people were involved in local zoning, we should have just let them carve up a virgin instead. I mean, seriously. [The rest of this section is available at www.monstersofurbanplanning.org—Editor.]

Where was I? Oh yes. So it was mostly the usual assortment of church ladies, small-time politicians, local business people, and so on. But there were two men who stood out like hornetaurs at a bull fight.

Sebastian Valcourt was tall, with fine cheekbones and a noble brow, under a shock of wavy dark hair that he probably blow-dried for an hour every day. He wore a natty suit, but his shirt was unbuttoned almost to the navel, revealing a hairless chest that was made of money. No kidding, I used to know a male stripper named Velcro who was three-quarters elf, and he would have killed for those pecs.

The other startlingly beautiful man was named Gilbert Longwood, and he was big and solidly built, like a classical statue. His arms were like sea-cliffs, and his face was big and square-jawed—like a marble bust except that his eyes had pupils, which was probably a good thing for him. When he shook my hand, I felt his grip and it made me all weak in the knees. But from the start of the evening, both Gilbert and Sebastian could only see one woman.

Once Antonia began to play, it was all over—everybody in that room fell for her, and I could have gotten planning permission to put a bowling alley inside a church. Afterwards, I was talking to Gilbert, while Sebastian leapt across the room like a ballet dancer, landing in front of Antonia and kissing her hand with a sweeping bow. He said something, and she laughed behind a hand.

“You throw an entertaining party,” said Gilbert, trying not to stare at Sebastian’s acrobatic courtship over in the corner. “I don’t think I’ve seen half these people show any emotion since the town historian self-immolated a few years ago.” His voice was like a gong echoing in a crypt. I never got Gilbert’s whole story, but I gathered he was the son of a wealthy sculptor, part of Evening Falls’ most prominent family.

At this point, Gilbert had given up all pretense that he wasn’t staring at Antonia. “Yeah,” I said. “I discovered that girl. I taught her everything she knows. Except I held back a few secrets for myself, if you get my drift and I think you do.” I winked.

“Please excuse me, gracious lady,” Gilbert said. When he bowed, it was like a drawbridge going down and then up again. He made his way across the room, navigating around all the people who wanted to ask him about zoning (jackals!) on his way to where Sebastian was clinking glasses with Antonia.

I couldn’t quite get close enough to hear the conversation that followed, but their faces told me everything I needed to know. Sebastian’s mouth smiled, but his amber-green eyes burned with desire for Antonia, even as he made some cutting remark towards Gilbert. Gilbert smiled back, and let Sebastian’s fancy wit bounce off his granite face, even as he kept his longing gaze on Antonia’s face. For Antonia’s part, she blushed and looked down into the depths of her glass of Cheerwine.

You could witness a love triangle being born, its corners sharp enough to slice you open and expose your trembling insides to all sorts of infections, including drug-resistant staph, which has been freaking me out lately. I always wash my hands twice, with antibacterial soap and holy water. Where was I? Right, love triangle. This was an isosceles of pure burning desire, in which two men both pined for the same impossibly beautiful, permanently heartbroken lady. My first thought was: There’s got to be a way to make some money off this.

And sure enough, there was. I made sure Antonia didn’t give out her digits, or even so much as her Twitter handle, to either of these men. If they wanted to stalk her, they would have to come to Rachel’s Bar & Grill. I managed to drop a hint to both of them that what really impressed Antonia was when a guy had a large, heavy-drinking, entourage.

I didn’t have to turn on the big-screen TV once, for the whole month that followed. Sebastian and Gilbert, with their feverish courtship of Antonia, provided as much free entertainment as ten Married With Children marathons. Maybe even eleven. Sebastian gave Antonia a tiny pewter unicorn, which danced around in the palm of her hand but remained lifeless otherwise. Gilbert brought enough flowers that the bar smelled fresh for the first time since 1987.

This one evening, I watched Gilbert staring at Antonia as she sat on her stool and choked out a ballad. She wore a long canvas skirt, and her feet were crossed on the stool’s dowel. He looked at her tragic ankles—so slender, with tendons that flexed like heartstrings—and his big brown eyes moistened.

And then Sebastian arrived, flanked by two other weirdly gorgeous, unnaturally spry men with expressive eyes. Everytime you would think their eyebrows couldn’t get any more expressive, or their gazes more smoldering, they’d kick it up another notch. Their eyebrows had the dramatic range of a thousand Kenneth Branaghs—maybe a thousand Branaghs per eyebrow, even. The other two smiled wan, ironic smiles at each other, while Sebastian kept his gaze fixed on the tiny trembling lips and giant mournful eyes of Antonia.

A few weeks—and a few thou worth of high-end liquor—later, both Sebastian and Gilbert began to speak to Antonia of their passion.

“A heart so grievously wounded as yours requires careful tending, my lady,” Gilbert rumbled in his deep voice. “I have strong hands, but a gentle touch, to keep you safe.” His sideburns were perfect rectangles, framing his perfectly chiseled cheekbones.

“I fear...” Antonia turned to put her guitar in its case, so the anguish on her face was hidden from view for a moment. “I fear the only thing for a condition such as mine is solitude, laced with good fellowship here at Rachel’s. But I shall cherish your friendship, Gilbert.”

Soon after, Sebastian approached Antonia, without his cronies. “My dear,” he said. “Your loveliness outshines every one of those neon beer signs. But it is your singing, your sweet sad tune, which stirs me in a way that nothing else has for decades. You must consent to be mine, or I shall have no choice but to become ever more mysterious, until I mystify even myself. Did I say that out loud? I meant, I’ll waste away. Look at my eyebrows, and you’ll see how serious I am.”

“Oh, Sebastian,” Antonia laughed, then sighed. “Had I even a sliver of a heart to give, I might well give it to you. But you speak to a hollow woman.”

Blah blah blah. This went on and on, and I had to re-order several of the single malt whiskeys, not to mention all the mid-range cognacs, and Southern Comfort.

Who can say how long this would have gone on for, if both Sebastian and Gilbert hadn’t turned up on an evening when Antonia wasn’t there? (You guessed it: The Full Moon.) The two of them started arguing about which of them deserved Antonia. Gilbert rumbled that Sebastian just wanted to use Antonia, while Sebastian said Gilbert was too much of a big ugly lug for her. Gilbert took a swing at Sebastian and missed, and that’s when I told them to take it outside.

Soon afterwards, we all tromped outside to watch. Sebastian was dancing around like Prince on a hot griddle, while Gilbert kept lashing out with his massive fists and missing. Until finally, Gilbert’s forearm caught Sebastian in the shoulder, and he went flying onto his ass. And then things got entertaining: Sebastian’s face got all tough and leathery, and fangs sprouted from his mouth. He did a somersault in mid-air, aiming a no-shadow kick at Gilbert—who raised his boulder-sized fist, so it collided with Sebastian’s face.

After that, the fight consisted of Gilbert punching Sebastian, a lot. “Stupid vampire,” Gilbert grunted. “You’re not the first bloodsucker I’ve swatted.”

By this point, Sebastian’s jaw was looking dislocated. Those expressive eyebrows were twisted with pain. “I’m not... your average... vampire,” he hissed. Gilbert brought his sledge-hammer fist down onto Sebastian’s skull.

Sebastian fell to the ground, in an ungainly pile of bones. And he smiled. “The more beat up I get... the harder to kill... I get,” he rasped. And then he stood on jerky legs, his flesh peeling away.

Sebastian’s smile turned slack and distended. Instead of his usual witticisms, he said but one word: “Braiiiiiinnsss...”

Gilbert kept punching at Sebastian, but it did no good. Nothing even slowed him down. Sebastian thrashed back at Gilbert with a hideous force, and finally he hit a weak point, where Gilbert’s head met his neck—and Gilbert’s head fell, rolling to land at my feet.

Gilbert’s severed head looked up at me. “Tell Antonia... my love for her was true.” And then the head turned to stone. And so did the rest of his body, which fell into several pieces in the middle of the dark walkway.

Sebastian looked at me, and the couple other regulars who were watching. He snarled, with what remained of his mouth, “Braaaaaaaiiiiiinnsss!”

The nearest patron was Jerry Dorfenglock, who’d been coming to Rachel’s for 20 years. He had a really nice smooth bald head, which he’d experimented with combing over and then with shaving all the way, Kojak-style, before deciding to just let it be what it was, two wings of fluffy gray hair flanking a serene dome. That noble scalp, Sebastian tore open, along with the skull beneath. Sebastian reached with both hands to scoop out poor Jerry’s gray matter, then stopped at the last moment. Instead, he leaned further down and sunk his top teeth into Jerry’s neck, draining all the blood from his body in one gulp.

A moment later, Sebastian looked away from the husk of Jerry’s body, looking more like his normal self already. “If I—” he paused wipe his mouth. “If I eat the brains, I become more irrevocably the zombie. But if I drink the blood, I return to my magnificent vampiric self. It’s always hard to remind myself. Think of it as the blood-brain barrier between handsome rogue... and shambling fiend.”  The other patron who’d been watching the fight, Lou, tried to make a break for it, but Sebastian was too fast.

I looked at the bloodless husks of my two best customers, plus the chalky pieces of poor Gilbert, then back at Sebastian—who now looked as though nothing had ever happened, except for the stains on his natty suit. I decided being casual was my best hope of coming out of this alive.

“So you’re a half-vampire, half-zombie,” I said as if I was discussing a Seinfeld rerun. “That’s something you don’t see every day, I guess.”

“It is an amusing story,” Sebastian said. “When I was a mortal, I loved a mysterious dark beauty, who grew more mysterious with every passing hour. My heart felt close to bursting for the love of her. At last, she revealed she was an ancient vampire, and offered me the chance to be her consort. She fed me her blood, and told me that if I died within twelve hours, I would become a vampire and I could join her. If I did not die, I could return to my mortal life. She left me to decide for myself. I went out to my favorite spot on the edge of Stoneflower Lake, to ponder my decision and savor my last day on Earth— for I already knew what choice I would make. But just then, a zombie climbed out of the lake bottom, where it had been terrorizing the bass, and bit me in the face. I died then and there, but as the vampire blood began to transform me into an eternal swain of darkness, so too did the zombie bite work its own magic. Now, I remain a vampire, only as long as I have a steady diet of restoring blood.”

“That’s quite a story,” I said. I was already trying to figure out what I would do with Lou and Jerry’s bodies, since I had a feeling Sebastian would regard corpse cleanup as woman’s work. “You should sell the TV movie rights.”

“Thanks for the advice.” Sebastian looked into my eyes, and his gaze held me fast. “You will not speak to anyone of what you have seen and heard tonight.” As he spoke, the words became an unbreakable law to me. Then Sebastian sauntered away, leaving me—what did I tell you?—to bury the bodies. At least with Gilbert, it was just a matter of lugging the pieces to the Ruined Statue Garden a couple of streets away.

By the time I got done, my hands were a mess and I was sweating and shaking and maybe even crying a little. I went back to the bar and poured myself some Wild Turkey, and then some more, and then a bit more after that. I wished I could talk to someone about this. But of course, I was under a vampiric mind-spell thingy, and I could never speak a word.

Good thing I’ve got a Hotmail account.

I put the whole thing as plain as I could in a long email to Antonia, including the whole confusing “vampire who’s also a zombie” thing. I ended by saying: “Here’s the thing, sweetie, Sebastian is gonna think you don’t know any of this, and with Gilbert out of the way, he’ll be making his move. Definitely do NOT marry him, the half-zombie thing is a dealbreaker, but don’t try to fight him either. He’s got the thing where the more you hurt him, the more zombie he gets and then you can’t win, he’s got you beat either way. And not to mention, the full moon is over as of tomorrow morning, so you got no more wolf on your side. Just keep yourself safe okay because it would just about ruin me to see anything happen to you—I mean you bring in the paying customers, don’t worry, I’m not getting soppy on you. Your boss, Rachel.”

She came in the next day, clutching Gilbert’s head. Her eyes were puffy and the cords on her neck stood out as she heaved a sob. I handed her a glass of absinthe without saying anything, and she drained it right away. I made her another, with the sugar cube and everything.

I wasn’t sure if Sebastian’s mind control would keep me from saying I was sorry, but it didn’t. Antonia shrugged and collapsed onto my shoulder, weeping into my big flannel shirt, Gilbert’s forehead pressing into my stomach.

“Gilbert really loved me,” she said when she got her breath back and sat down on her usual music-playing stool. “He loved me more than I deserved. I was... I was finally ready to surrender, and give my heart away. I made up my mind, while I was out running with the wolves.”

“You were going to go out with Gilbert?” I had to sit down too.

“No. I was going to let Gilbert down easy, and then date Sebastian. Because he made me laugh.” She opened her guitar case, revealing a bright sword, made of tempered Sylvanian steel with the crest of Thuiron the Resolver on the hilt, instead of a guitar. “Now I have to kill him.”

“Hey hey hey,” I said. “There are some good reasons not to do that, which I cannot speak of, but hang on, let me get a notepad and a pen and I’ll be happy to explain—”

“You already explained.” She put her left hand on my shoulder. “Thanks for your kindness, Rachel.”

“I don’t—” What could I say? What was I allowed to say? “I don’t want you to die.”

“I won’t.” She smiled with at least part of her face.

“Are you starting your set early tonight? I have a request.” Sebastian said from the doorway at the top of the short staircase leading into the bar, framed by the ebbing daylight. “I really want to hear some Van Morrison for once, instead of that—”

Antonia threw Gilbert’s head at Sebastian. His eyes widened as he realized what it was, and what it meant. He almost ducked, then opted to catch it with one hand instead, to show he was still on top of the situation. While he was distracted, though, Rachel was already running with her sword out, making a whoosh as it tore through the air.

Antonia impaled Sebastian, but missed his heart. He kicked her in the face, and she fell, blood-blinded.

“So this is how it’s going to be?” Sebastian tossed the head into the nearest booth, where it landed face up on the table. “I confess I’m disappointed. I was going to marry you and then kill you. More fairy treasure that way.”

“You—You—” Antonia coughed blood. “You never loved me.”

“Oh, keep up.” Sebastian loomed over Antonia, pulled her sword out of his chest, and swung it over his head two-handed, aiming for a nice clean slice. “I’ll bring your remains back to Sylvania, and tell them a lovely story of how you and I fell in love and got married, before you were killed by a wild boar or an insurance adjuster. Hold still, this’ll hurt less.”

Antonia kicked him in the reproductive parts, but he shrugged it off.  The shining sword whooshed down towards her neck.

“Hey!” I pumped my plus-one Vorpal shotgun from behind the bar. “No. Fighting. In. The. Bar.”

“We can take it outside,” Sebastian said, not lowering the sword.

“Too late for that,” I said. “You’re in my bar, you settle it how I choose.”

“And how’s that?”

I said the first thing that came into my head: “With a karaoke contest.”

And because it was my bar, and I have certain safeguards in place for this sort of situation, they were both bound by my word. Sebastian grumbled a fair bit, especially what with Antonia being a semi-professional singer, but he couldn’t fight it. It took us a couple hours to organize, including finding a few judges and putting an impartiality whammy on them, to keep it a fair competition.

I even broke open my good wine jug and gave out free cups to everybody. Once his nesting place was all emptied out, Leroy the Wine Goblin crawled out on the bar and squinted.

Antonia went first, and she went straight for the jugular—with showtunes. You’ve probably never seen a fairy princess do “Don’t Tell Mama” from Cabaret, complete with hip-twirling burlesque dance moves and a little Betty Boop thing when she winked at the audience. Somehow she poured all her rage and passion, all her righteous Sarah McLachlan-esque anger, into a roar on the final chorus. The judges scribbled nice high numbers and chattered approvingly.

And then Sebastian went up—and he broke out that Red Hot Chili Peppers song about the City of Angels. He’d even put on extra eyeliner. He fixed each of us with that depthless vampire stare, even as he poured out an amazing facsimile of a soul, singing about being lost and lonely and wanting his freakin happy place. Bastard was going to win this thing.

But there was one thing I knew for sure. I knew that he’d have to shut his eyes, for at least a moment, when he hit those high notes in the bridge about the bridge, after the second chorus.

Sure enough, when Sebastian sang out “Under the bridge downtown,” his eyes closed so his voice could float over the sound of Frusciante’s guitar transitioning from “noodle” mode to “thrash” mode. And that’s when I shot him with my plus-one Vorpal shotgun. Once in the face, once in the chest. I reloaded quick as I could, and shot him in the chest again, and then in the left kneecap for good measure.

It wasn’t enough to slow him down, but it did make him change. All of a sudden, the lyrics went, “Under the bridge downtown, I could not get enough... BRAIIIIIINSSSS!!”

He tossed the microphone and lurched into the audience. The three karaoke judges, who were still enchanted to be 100 percent impartial, sat patiently watching and making notes on their score sheets, until some other patrons hauled them out of the way. Leroy the Wine Goblin covered his face and screamed for the safety of his jug. People fell all over each other to reach the staircase.

“I shall take it from here.” Antonia hoisted her sword, twirling it like a Benihana chef while Frusciante’s guitar-gasm reached its peak. She hacked one of Sebastian’s arms off, but he barely noticed.

She swung the sword again, to try and take his head off, and he managed to sidestep and headbutt her. His face caught the side of her blade, but he barely noticed, and he drove the sharp edge into Antonia’s stomach with his forehead. Blood gushed out of her as she fell to the ground, and he caught it in his mouth like rain.

A second later, Sebastian was Sebastian again. “Ah, fairy blood,” he said. “There really is nothing like it.” Antonia tried to get up again, but slumped back down on the floor with a moan, doubled up around her wounded stomach.

I shot at Sebastian again, but I missed and he broke the shotgun in half. Then he broke both my arms. “Nobody is going to come to karaoke night if you shoot people in the face while they’re singing. Seriously.” I tried not to give him the satisfaction of hearing me whimper.

Antonia raised her head and said a fire spell. Wisps of smoke started coming off Sebastian’s body, but he just shrugged. “You’ve already seen what happens if you manage to hurt me.” The smoke turned into a solid wall of flame, but Sebastian pushed it away from his body with a tai-chi move. “Why even bother?”

“Mostly,” Antonia’s voice came from the other side of the fire wall, “just to distract yoooooooooo!” Her snarl became a howl, a barbaric call for vengeance.

There may be a sight more awesome than a giant white wolf leaping through a wall of solid fire. If so, I haven’t seen it. Antonia—for somehow she had managed to summon enough of her inner wolf to change—bared her jaws as she leapt. Her eyes shone red and her ears pulled back as the flames parted around her and sparks showered from her ivory fur.

Sebastian never saw it coming. Her first bite tore his neck open, and his head lolled off to one side. He started to zombify again, but Antonia was already clawing him.

“Don’t—Don’t let him bite you!” I shouted from behind the bar.

Sebastian almost got his teeth on Antonia, but she ducked.


She was on top of him, her jaws snapping wildly, but he was biting just as hard. His zombie saliva and his vampire teeth were both inches away from her neck.

I crawled over to the cooler where I kept the pitchers of sangria, and pulled the door open with my teeth. I knocked pitchers and carafes on the floor, trying to get at the surprise I’d stored there the night before, in a big jar covered with cellophane wrap.

I hadn’t actually buried all of Lou and Jerry.

I pulled the jar out with my teeth and wedged it between my two upper arms and my chin, then lugged it over to where Antonia and Sebastian were still trying to bite each other. “Hey,” I rasped, “I saved you something, you bastard.” And I tipped the jar’s contents—two guys’ brains, in a nice balsamic vinaigrette—into Sebastian’s face. Once he started guzzling the brains, he couldn’t stop himself. He was getting brain all over his face, as he tried to swallow it all as fast as possible, brains were getting in his eyes and up what was left of his nose. There was no going back for him now.

Antonia broke the glass jar and held a big shard of it in her strong wolf jaws, sawing at Sebastian’s neck until his head came all the way off. He was still gulping at the last bits of brains in his mouth, and trying to lick brain-bits off his face.

It took them an hour to set the bones on my arms, and I had casts the size of beer kegs. We put Sebastian’s head into another jar, with an UV light jammed inside so whenever the Red Hot Chili Peppers come on the stereo, he gets excited and his face glows purple. I never thought the Peppers would be the most requested artist at Rachel’s. I never did get permission to open a second bar in Evening Falls, though.

As for Antonia, I think this whole experience toughened her up, and made her realize that being a little bit wild-animal wasn’t a bad thing for a fairy princess. And that Anthony Kiedis really doesn’t have the singing range he thinks he has. And that when it comes to love triangles and duels to the death, you should always cheat. And that running away from your problems only works for so long. There were a few other lessons, all of which I printed out and laminated for her. She still sings in the bar, but she’s made a couple of trips back to Sylvania during the crescent moon, and they’re working on a cure for her. She could probably go back and be a princess if she wanted to, but we’ve been talking about going into business together and opening some straight-up karaoke bars in Charlotte and Winston-Salem. She’s learning to KJ. I think we could rule the world.



About the Author

 Charlie Jane Anders invented a much groovier question mark, known as the interrothang. She's living in your basement, but she'll try and be quiet

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