Lucretia’s New Mattress
by Danielle L. Parker
Table of Contents|
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
I tasted my own cautiously. It looked like the real stuff, but when I got it in my mouth – nada. Whatever they had fed this donor on, it wasn’t real food. It didn’t taste like anyone I knew, for sure.
The truth slowly dawned on me. “Lucy,” I said, “This is... synthetic. This is synthetic blood!”
It was too much for Lucretia. I really wish she would learn not to cry so noisily, but I could understand the feeling. I made the helpless and desperate sounds that husbands always make at such time and did a lot of back patting. After a while we both calmed down.
“I’m exhausted,” I said grimly, ripping the curtains closed as I spoke. “Let’s skip the meal and go to bed. How many hours were we on that plane?” I staggered off to the bathroom. “You can have the shower, honey. I’m going to hit that coffin right now.”
Lucy felt the same way. We got right to bed. Only... well, I hated to say it, but the dirt didn’t feel right. Oh it was clean enough. In fact there was this vaguely medicinal, antiseptic smell... they’d found some way of fumigating it, I suppose. It didn’t feel right. It wasn’t like home. But neither of us said anything. We lay side by side in stony silence, and the day wore on somehow. It was the worst day of sleep I’d had since I’d missed my plane and spent six hours lurking in the Atlanta terminal.
It looked better in the evening. We still got the same synthetic for breakfast, but there was no help for it. I wanted to complain, but Lucy wouldn’t let me. She thought we’d upset our waiter, and since he was a fresh-faced young thing glowing beneath his white vampire paint and cute little black uniform (with an Uncle Vlad high collar), she was a little soft on him. Instead I thought longingly of just how close fresh stuff was, in the form of that grease-painted young throat, but of course there are laws now... one just can’t Refresh Oneself without consent anymore. I just wished someone had made a law about Uncle Vlad.
“All right,” I said grumpily, getting out the map and tourist guide (dauntingly detailed) that we’d been handed by Mr. Aston Yelena, pre-push. “Let’s see about getting that fresh dirt. I want to go home already.”
But it wasn’t going to be easy. The whole town had changed. The little village on the edge of the river I remembered, with its piney forests and baying wolves in the dusk... I stared at the map with that (figurative, of course) sinking feeling again. Even the name had changed. Draculopis was what it was now, and it must have had a million people in it... dead or Undead, from the look of the street and plaza names, all involved with the Big Business of Vampirism.
It was at that moment that a flash went off. I knocked over my mug of synthetic (no loss, there) in agitation. It was another news reporter. I got up and lunged, with Lucy hanging off my sleeve and screeching stop at the top of her lungs, and then the flashes started in earnest — I wouldn’t look at that photo when it came out next day. But I’m sure I was there, with every fang showing and my wife latched on for dear UnLife.
I had had it. We escaped upstairs, with the hotel management running interference for us, and I had a serious talk with my wife.
“Look,” I said. “This isn’t what we wanted. We’ve got to get out of this city. I’m going to starve on this synthetic stuff, and I couldn’t sleep last day. Real Dirt, Lucy. We’ve got to find Real Dirt. Let’s hire a car and escape.”
So we did. I called down to the desk and made the arrangements, and in a few hours, wrapped in shawls and looking like two ill-fed peasant women, we crept down the service stairs to the back parking lot. The car, kindly provided by the hotel (I had almost forgiven them for those beds) was waiting at the curb. Our luggage was already in it, and as we slammed the doors and gunned into the night (as best as we could: it wasn’t an American model car, and seemed to be smoking a little) I could feel my spirits rising. No flashes. No oily representatives of the press. Best of all, no more plastic versions of Uncle Vlad. We were heading for the real Transylvania.
My mood dipped a little after we’d driven for a few hours. First of all, it seemed like we just couldn’t get out of the city. And then we got into some kind of industrial area, with inefficient Soviet era factories belching smoke and worse into the night. I turned the car’s direction south. Once upon a time... long, long ago... we’d actually had a castle here. Well, okay, it was Uncle Vlad’s. But I’d grown up there, before sweet Cousin Anastasia vampirized me (the details of which I never really explained to Lucretia, but let’s say there were some good memories there still). Like the fish swimming upstream, I was returning home, and hoping I wouldn’t die before I got a good day’s sleep.
Four hours later, the car topped a rise. The sky was beginning to lighten, but I couldn’t feel too much fear. For over that hill, just as it had been centuries ago, was a castle. The Castle. I stopped the car and just stared, letting the view sink in. Home. It looked like home.
For a few minutes anyway. There was a pause. Lucretia said, “Honey... was that parking lot there in your day?”
I started the car. “Look, Lucy, do you have to spoil everything? At least, I can’t see Uncle Vlad yet, and when we get close enough... don’t point him out, okay?”
She was a sweetie. She didn’t say a word. We pulled into the parking lot, next to the rest of the tourist cars, and got out. There was a sound of hammering and saws and the like wafting from inside on the soft early morning air.
I walked in. The entrance hall had been changed, and there he was... the hugest, most lurid, most annoying representation of my uncle I’d ever seen, larger than UnLife size and twice as lustful and stereotypical. They’d made a complete plastic statue of him, and I can tell you he really isn’t seven feet tall, like he was in that... that Idol. There were tourists around him of course, a few simpering girls and one dreamy eyed black haired teenager who would have had Uncle Vlad’s fangs pressed into instant service (I’ve warned him that this underage thing is going to get him into trouble one of these days, but then, when you’re as old as he is, everyone’s underage).
I kept walking. The entrance hall had been Touristerized, but as we climbed the stairs it was clear they hadn’t yet managed to finish the job. The sounds of the saws and the hammering and a man singing off-key came louder. As I got to the landing an official sort with a Transylvanian Tourist Office badge rushed out officiously.
“Here,” he shouted, “This part’s not open to the public. You’ll have to stay below!”
I drew myself up and fixed him with my most mesmerizing stare (and according to Lucy, it’s a doozy). “I am Count Dmitri Alexander Tepes,” I intoned threateningly. “How dare you bar me from my own ancestral home!”
The victim gasped and tried to take hold of my hand (falling upon one knee to do so). I held the desired appendage up out of his reach and stirred him with my foot.
“Up, base servant,” I said. “Um... what’s your name?”
“Anton Rochovak, Your Highness,” he blubbered, getting up with great difficulty (it seemed most of the breathers in Transylvania could have used a little bleeding now and then for their health). “W... what can I do for you?”
The title wasn’t quite right, but I didn’t correct him. “We want to see the castle,” I told him. “Lead the way.”
The first, second, and third floors were a ruin. Everything was ripped up and getting renovated. My heart sank. Not only was Uncle Vlad unfairly (copiously) represented, but there was a statue and portrait of myself, looking much better than my uncle of course, on the stairs to the East Wing and in the Long Hall on the third floor. I could feel my throat tighten, all the same. It was... I don’t know how to explain it. I felt like a ghost, seeing everything around me changed over time. There was no place for me here. And it looked like we weren’t even going to find a place to sleep.
“That’s it, Your Highness,” said our (by now exhausted) guide, stopping at last. “There’s just the attic.”
I saw Lucy stop fidgeting. “The attic?” she said.
Anton Rochovak shrugged. “Hasn’t been renovated yet,” he said. “The dust in that place!” He shuddered. “We’re not sure it’s worth cleaning up, to tell the truth. The dungeons, now. Tourists love dungeons. I suppose we’ll do the attic eventually, bring in a few bats, who knows. But it’s not worth climbing for now.”
I didn’t know where Lucy was going with this, but I saw her eyes get a certain mad gleam that I recognized. “Dust,” she said. “Hasn’t been renovated. Lots of dust?”
Anton Rochovak blinked in surprise. “Lots of dust, yes.”
I suddenly got it. “Lead on,” I commanded. “We want to see this attic!”
“It’s a pretty steep climb,” he said doubtfully. “I’ve just had my uniform dry-cleaned.”
I seized the candle out of his hand. “We’ll see it ourselves. Wait here.”
I helped Lucy up the stairs. With bated breath we pushed up the opening... and it was just as Anton had said. There was dust. Bags of it, barrels of it, shining silvery dust, undisturbed for the centuries.
Lucy turned to me in ecstasy. “Dmitri,” she breathed, “The best of beds... like feathers! Get some plastic bags!”
So that is how we got Lucretia’s New Mattress. And mine, too, of course. I have to admit the trip was worth it. I never slept on a bed so soft, so scented of home. Home’s not there any more, of course, but we brought what was left of it back with us.
But it was the last vacation I agreed to take for another seventy-five years. And for some reason, Lucy didn’t ask.
Copyright © 2005 by Danielle L. Parker