Vampires on Vacation

When vampires go to the beach, they go at night.   They like it best when it’s cold and foggy or rainy. They cover up from head to toe in heavy clothes and wear death preservers filled with lead weights so they can walk on the bottom of the ocean. They bring blood in thermoses and sit around a pile of kelp that’s inside a ring of stones. They tell scary stories about kids around a campfire with long sharpened sticks.

When it’s time to go home, they don’t gather shells or bottles of sand. They know that there will be shells and sand the next time they come. Vampires live a long time. They like the beach because it is always there and doesn’t really change, even though it’s a little different every time they visit. The shells may be different shells, but there will be shells. There will be sand and rings of rocks and kelp and waves. There will be moonlight and stars too, if they aren’t lucky enough to catch a storm.

It may be a long time between visits. Vampires live a long time and there are many places for them to see. The beach will wait for them, it always does. And when they return, they will let the fish swim in their hair and look for new shipwrecks to explore. They’ll shiver at the idea of impulsive children with deadly pointy sticks coated in sugar or cooked meat and applaud the fantastic lightning shows. Then they’ll make sand castles and graveyards and churches with crypts. And then they will go home and leave the shells and sand and kelp and rocks for the next time they come.

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The Judgment of Parker

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Parker hummed a happy song as he raced out to check the mail. There was a package in the mailbox! Unfortunately, it wasn’t for him. It was addressed to his three older sisters.

When he came inside, all three sisters jumped up when they saw the package. Parker tossed it up in the air so that he didn’t get trampled. Amy caught it.

“Look, it’s for us from Grandma Helen,” she said.

“Well, open it,” Harriet said. She reached for the package. “You’re taking too long.

Amy scowled and hugged the package to her chest. “Back off.”

Annette sighed. “Just open it, Amy. Sit down, Harriet, or this will just take longer.”

Harriet sat, and Amy opened the package. “Look,” she said, “it’s a gold bracelet with a pretty apple charm.   It’s so cute!”

“But who does it belong to?” Harriet asked. She snatched away the packaging. “All three of us? How is that supposed to work?”

“I suppose we can take turns,” Annette said.

Amy laughed. “Like that would work.”

Parker giggled. His sisters had never been very good at sharing. The giggle had been a mistake. His sisters had forgotten he was there, but now they were all looking at him.

“Parker has no claim on the bracelet, and he’s always been pretty fair,” Annette said.

“Yeah, we should ask him who gets the bracelet,” Harriet said.

“Alright,” Amy said. “So who is it?”

“What?” Parker started backing up.   This was a terrible idea.

“Not so fast,” Harriet said. Her eyes narrowed. “Sit down now, Parker.”   Parker sat.

“Pick me,” Amy said. “I’ll make you the prettiest cake ever!”

“Don’t be silly. I’d drive you to school for a month, Parker,” Harriet said.

“I could drive you to the library and help you with your science fair project,” Annette said.

The sisters glared at each other. All at once, they turned and glared at Parker. Parker felt the back of his neck prickle in sudden dread.

“If you don’t pick me, I’ll put bugs in your lunch box and give you a funny hair cut,” Amy said.

“I’ll put ice in your bed and take away your nightlight,” Harriet said.

“I’ll tape mean signs to your back and hide your homework,” Annette said.

Parker couldn’t take it any more. This wasn’t fair. Why should he care about a stupid bracelet, anyways? He felt angry.

“I don’t think any of you should have it. Mom should have the bracelet. If it was Grandma Helen’s, it should have come to her first anyways.”   Then, before his sisters could react, he ran out of the room and hid behind the door. That usually worked when they were chasing him.

But this time, no one followed. “That’s not a bad idea. Mom will let me borrow it whenever I want, unlike you two,” he heard Amy say.

“Unless I ask her first,” Harriet said. “Let’s go tell mom and see she what she says. It’s like we’re starting all over, thanks to Parker.”

“No, I think he did a pretty good job this time,” Annette said.

“I guess so. Let’s go give mom her bracelet,” Harriet said.

Parker smiled. It sounded like they’d avoided having a war after all. He hurried down the hall and out the back door. It was time to play outside for a little while.

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A Classroom Mystery

A month after the new term started, Kim was pretty sure that the girl who sat in front of her in math was a vampire. Her name was Veronica, which is a vampire-sounding name, and she glittered. Kim hadn’t read that popular vampire book, but she had heard that was a telltale sign.

Kim’s mom said that if you have a question, it’s always best to just ask. So, Kim tapped Veronica on her shoulder and asked. “Why are you all glittery?”

Veronica turned around and raised her eyebrows as though she thought it was a strange question. “My lotion has body glitter in it,” she said.

“Oh.” That made sense. “Are you a vampire?”

Veronica looked at her like she was crazy. And maybe a little bit rude. “No.”

“Okay,” Kim said. Veronica turned around again and Kim had almost decided she wasn’t really a vampire after all. Then she noticed the sunglasses clipped to the edge of her bag.   Hmmm. Weren’t vampires sensitive to sunlight? Maybe she needed to investigate some more.

The next day, she sat by Veronica and her friends at lunch. Veronica was sipping a protein shake. Isn’t blood mostly protein?   Suspicious, to be sure.   “Veronica,” Kim said, trying to sound casual, “would you like some of my garlic bread? It’s really good. My mom made it extra garlicky.”

Veronica gave her a weird look and said, “No, thank you.” Kim smiled, but inside was shouting, “Aha!”

Now that she was pretty sure that Veronica was a vampire, she needed to decide what to do. She seemed to be a pretty nice vampire, and if she could survive on protein shakes, then there was really nothing to worry about, right? Now if her classmates started mysteriously disappearing, Kim would have to do something. She would keep a really sharp pencil in her bag, just in case.

Weeks passed and not much happened. No one had puncture marks on their neck.   Anyone who was absent came back with a note. Kim began to look around for a new mystery. Then, one day, Veronica came to school looking especially pale. She had dark circles under her eyes.

“Why do you look so tired?” Kim asked.

“Oh,” Veronica said, “it was a full moon last night and all the cats in the neighborhood were yowling at the moon.   I didn’t get much sleep.”

Kim almost gasped out loud. The full moon? Was Veronica actually a werewolf? Could someone be a vampire and a werewolf? It was time to investigate. “Veronica,” she asked, “are you a werewolf?”

“No,” Veronica said. She rolled her eyes.

“A werewolf vampire hybrid?”

“Are you serious?” Veronica asked.

“Yes.” Kim said. “Are you?”

“No.” Veronica said.

“Hmmm.” Kim said. Veronica rolled her eyes again and turned around.

The next month, Kim had a plan. The day before the full moon, she tapped Veronica on the shoulder. “Hey, can I have your phone number? I may need to call you about the assignment tonight.”

“Fine,” Veronica said. She wrote out her number and handed it to Kim. “But I may be going out tonight.”

“Uh huh,” said Kim. “Thank you.”

“Whatever,” Veronica said.

When Kim called Veronica’s house, after dark, when the moon was up, no one answered. She heard howling outside, in the distance, and felt a little nervous.   Was it yowling cats? A dog? A werewolf?   “Mom! We need to lock all the doors now!” she said.

“Go right ahead,” her mom said. “Then come and help me fold the laundry.”

Nothing scary happened.  The next day, Veronica looked tired again. “I’m sorry I missed your call. My family went to a movie. We were out pretty late. Did you still have a question about the homework?”

“No, I think I figured it out,” Kim said.   Veronica seemed to be a pretty nice werewolf vampire. There were no suspicious reports about people being mauled last night, either.   Now that she knew to be extra careful, she could let it go. Unless people started disappearing or something, of course. “Thank you for offering,” she said. It probably wouldn’t hurt to be extra nice. Just in case.

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Yellow Cats

Dave frowned. There was just a muffin and a banana in his lunchbox. He hated the end of the month when money was tight.   Maybe if he ate slower he wouldn’t feel as hungry.

He put his books on the lunch table so no one would see how small his lunch was, and unpeeled the banana. He blinked. There wasn’t a banana inside the peel. Instead, there was a little yellow kitten with dark eyes. He pinched himself. Still there.

“Hello,” the kitten said. He looked around and looked back. It was still there. “No one else can see me,” it said. It turned its head and started licking its back.

“Where did my banana go?” Dave asked.

“There wasn’t one,” the kitten said. “Just me.”

“Oh,” Dave said. He started to peel his muffin. He really was hungry. The kitten watched him and leaned forward as he prepared to take a bite. “Did you want some?” Dave asked.

“Thank you,” the kitten said. It swallowed the entire muffin in one bite and then went back to licking its back. The muffin was bigger than its head, so Dave wasn’t really sure how that just happened.

“You’re welcome, I guess,” Dave said. “What’s your name?”

“I don’t want one,” the kitten said.

“Then what will I call you?”

The kitten turned around and stared at him. “Don’t say anything at all. People will think you’re crazy. If you only talk to me when we’re alone, who else would you be talking to?”

That made sense. Dave nodded and then looked around. Everyone else was eating. He sighed and began to pack his bag again. No lunch today. Maybe he could win some candy if Mr. Long was giving a pop quiz. He always studied hard just in case.

To his delight, there was a pop quiz. He quickly filled in his answers and waited for the others to finish writing. He could almost taste the chocolate. The kitten jumped off his shoulder and studied his paper. “This one is wrong,” it said. “And this one. And this one. You’re really bad at this.”

Dave looked at his answers again. He really wanted that chocolate. He was pretty sure they were right. But he was so hungry. He changed his answers.

The kitten was wrong. “Sorry,” it said and started licking its paws. Dave groaned and shoved the test in his bag. His stomach growled.

“Dave,” Mr. Long said. “You sound hungry.” The class laughed. Dave’s face burned.   Mr. Long waited until everyone settled down and then smiled. “I’ll give you a second chance to earn a treat. Come to the board and show us how to do this problem.”

Dave was willing to try. The kitten climbed up on his arm, and he went to the board.   The kitten kept yelling in his ear that he was doing it wrong. He ended up making a silly mistake and some of his classmates laughed. Mr. Long gave him the candy anyways.

The kitten yelled the opposite of whatever the teacher said for the rest of the day. Dave had an enormous headache. When he got home, no one was home. There was another banana and a package of ramen on the table with a note. Mom would be home late.

Dave was sure this was a bad idea, but he unpeeled the banana. There was another kitten.   “Where did mom get these?” he asked.   No one answered. Instead, the other kitten climbed on his other shoulder.   The cats began to sing opera loudly.   He groaned.

“I think it’s time you both got down,” he said.   They ignored him. He tried to pick them up and move them, but it was like trying to catch smoke. They darted away from his hands and scratched at him with little needle-like claws.

Dave sat down and the kittens perched on his shoulders. Cats hate water, right? “I think I might need to take a shower,” he said. “Right now.” The first kitten growled and its eyes grew large. It was kind of scary.

“Never mind, I give up. What do you want from me?” he asked.

“We want to go home to our mother,” the second kitten said. “I’m hungry.”

Dave made up the ramen. The kittens ate it all. He called his mom’s work. “This had better be important,” she said.

“Umm…I think I heard something outside in the bushes,” he said.

“Are the doors locked?” Mom sounded impatient.

“Uh, yes,” Dave said.

“Then turn out the lights and go to bed early. We have nothing to steal.”

Dave frowned. He still had homework to do. And he was hungry. “Mom, where did the bananas come from?”

“Aunt Jenny, when I was returning her umbrella.   I’ll see you in the morning Dave.   I’m sorry you have to be home alone.”   Mom hung up.

Dave called Aunt Jenny. “Hi, Aunt Jenny? Where did the bananas come from? Do you have the neighbor’s number? Thank you!”

He called the neighbor, and then a garden store, and then a bakery. The baker told him they were from an elderly lady who lived by the bakery. By now, the kittens were having a loud argument.   They kept swiping at each other and scratching Dave instead.

It wasn’t late yet, so Dave walked to the bakery.   He knocked at the door of the house next to it. A very tall man answered and said the old lady lived two doors down.

Dave trudged down the street and knocked on the door. The house was clean and well kept. And neon pink.

The old lady who answered had bright blue hair.   Her house was full of yellow cats.   The kittens climbed down and raced around the corner. The old lady smiled. “Thank you dear,” she said. “You look hungry. Would you like something to eat?”

“Not a banana?” Dave asked. Just in case.

“Of course not.” The old lady looked shocked. “Here, have a nice muffin from the bakery. Would you like to come by sometimes and help me with my sweet cats?”

“Probably not,” Dave said. “But thank you for the muffin.”

“I’ll pay you for your time, of course,” the lady said.

Dave looked down at where a yellow cat was chewing on his shoelaces. “Well, let me think about it. I’ll let you know.” The lady handed him another muffin and smiled. Dave sighed. He knew he’d probably say yes. He hated the end of the month when money was tight.

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Is Stan…Normal?

Awesome Guy came home from saving the world, happy to see that his wife, Dynamic Girl had already picked up their son Stan from daycare.   Dynamic Girl didn’t look as happy.   “Is everything okay, dear?” he asked.

She smiled a fake smile. “Stan honey, why don’t you go draw something for Mommy, alright?” she said, and sent Stan out of the room.   Once he was gone, she dropped the smile. “I’m worried about Stan.”

“Did something happen?” Awesome Guy asked.

“He’s not showing any superpowers. I think he might be normal,” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong with normal.”

Dynamic Girl flopped into a chair with less grace than usual. “I know,” she said. “But that’s not all. He’s so clumsy. He keeps tripping over his feet lately. I had his vision checked and his eyes are fine.”

Awesome Guy sat on the arm of her chair and put an arm around her shoulders. “Did you take him to the doctor?”

“Yes. He’s, well, normal.” Dynamic Girl frowned.

Awesome guy patted her back and stood up again.   “I’m sure it’s fine. A growth spurt, maybe?”

Just then, there was a loud thump in the next room.   Dynamic Girl sighed. “There, he just tripped again.” She raised her voice. “Stan dear, are you alright?   Come in and let me check on you.”

Stan came running in with his drawing and handed it too his mother with a grin. “I’m okay,” he said, and ran back out, darting around the coffee table with ease.

Dynamic Girl held up the drawing. “Look, he’s written ‘me’ at the bottom. It’s another self-portrait. Do you think he’s becoming a narcissist?” She gasped. “Maybe he’s really a supervillain?”

Awesome Guy laughed. “No son of mine is going to be a supervillain. I think you worry too much. Now let’s see what’s–“ He tripped.

“Honey?” His wife asked with a shaky voice.

He chuckled nervously. “I wasn’t expecting that.” He sat up and saw his son peeking around the door. “Come here, son. Did the noise scare you? I just somehow tripped over my own two feet. But look, I’m okay.”

Stan shuffled into the room and held out another picture. Awesome Guy smiled. “Oh, is this me? That’s great.” He stood and handed the picture to Dynamic Girl. “Look, honey, Stan just drew a picture of me.” She smiled and everything was right in the world. For a while.

A week later and Awesome Guy came home from saving the world, happy to see that his wife, Dynamic Girl had already picked up their son Stan from daycare. Unfortunately, once again, Dynamic Girl didn’t look as happy. “Is everything okay, dear?” he asked. He hoped that this wasn’t going to become a new routine.

She smiled and sent Stan from the room again. She frowned. “Stan seems to be alright, but now the kids and teachers in the daycare keep tripping. Do you think it’s something contagious? Perhaps it’s a symptom of some kind of weaponized virus?”

Awesome Guy sighed and sat in the nearest chair.   “Honey, if it is, it doesn’t seem to last long. And there aren’t any other symptoms, right?”

She nodded and her shoulders slumped a little. “That’s right. Maybe I do worry too much.”   She walked towards her usual chair and tripped.

“Honey, are you okay?” Awesome Guy asked. He hurried over and helped her up.

“Yes,” she said and brushed herself off, looking a little embarrassed. She glanced away and then smiled. Stan was peeking around the door. “Oh, Stan, is that you? Did you finish your picture?” She held out a hand and Stan shuffled over and handed her the picture. “Is this me? Thank you, sweetie!” She gave him a big hug.

“Ouch! Mom, that hurts!” Stan scowled. Awesome Guy laughed and everything was right in the world.   For a while.

A week later and Awesome Guy was on the superhero council organized to try to discover the source of the mysterious wave of tripping incidents. Celebrities from around the world were tripping, and there was no known connection or trigger for the incidents. There was a lot of arguing and posturing on the council, but nothing was resolved.

Awesome Guy went home, having not saved the world. The house was empty, so he left again and picked up Stan from daycare. One of the teachers handed Awesome Guy a stack of drawings. He flipped through them. “These are all people from the tripping case.” He looked at his son and felt proud. “Have you been keeping up with my work, son?” His son might not be a superhero, but maybe he would be a reporter instead. He couldn’t wait to tell Dynamic Girl! And everything was right in the world again. For a while.stan-10-26