Lucy and the Crypt Casanova
To: Chris Keeslar,
a wonderful editor whose
humor adds greatly to the
story. Thanks for helping
me reach my potential.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the top of it Romantic Times BOOKreviews. I was so pleased to win Best Historical Vampire Novel of 2005 for The Remarkable Miss Frankenstein. And to Carol Carrol for being a true family friend.
Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind
"It was horrible, just horrible. You can't imagine the terror of it! Nobody should have to go through this, you know?" The black-haired girl cried out dramatically, and the lenses of the television cameras homed in on her big hazel eyes. She had an expressive elfin face; this was the main reason why she had been chosen to do the talk show instead of the four other abductees: her look of utter sincerity.
In the background, portions of the Twilight Zone talk show set stood out in stark relief. Strands of green ivy and lacelike cobwebs hung from the antique bookshelves. The shelves were full of marbleized skulls, gris-gris charms, and carved coffins hewn from a range of materials from wood to jade.
"Ya know, they had these really big black eyes staring at me. And they smelled, too!" the girl remarked adamantly.
Lucy Campbell, Twilight Zone host, nodded once. She was a West Texas girl who had sort of made it good. She was in the limelight—even if that limelight was rather peculiar, much like the guests on her show.
"What did they smell like?" she asked, wanting her guest, Carol Carroll, to reveal more of the strange encounter.
"Like really bad body odor, for sure," Carol replied. "And maybe some kind of dead fish thing."
Again Lucy nodded, commiserating with her guest. "And how long were you held captive?"
"Three days! Three horrible days filled with golden gooses and fee, fi, fo, fumming. And talk of blood!" Carol Carroll added, horror evident in her voice. "I was poked and prodded and fed golden eggs."
Lucy held back a grimace, thinking her guest sounded like she'd been held captive by a great big Easter bunny with a penchant for metallic spray paint, rather than an American Desert Ogre.
"Yes, it must have been quite an ordeal," she said neutrally, trying to keep an open mind. Personally she didn't know if she believed the girl, but there had been more than a few humans laying claim to having been abducted by American Desert Ogres in the last six years.
Searching Carol Caroll's hazel eyes for the truth, Lucy recalled her mom's sage advice: Where there's smoke, there's fire. So Lucy reasoned that where there were beanstalks, there might be ogres. In today's strange new world, anything was possible.
Thirteen years ago, monsters and all manner of supernatural creatures had come out of the closet—or rather, cellars and crypts. It had been the media event of the twenty-first century; probably of all centuries. At first there had been many skeptics, but one man changing into a werewolf and another guy drinking blood from a third guy's neck on News 10 could quickly make believers out of even the most devout skeptics. Suddenly the unexpected and unbelievable were real. The American public and the world were expected to accept the impossible.
Almost overnight there were new legislation, new laws, and new attitudes on this startling and scary revelation. It had become a mad, mad, mad world; the whole world turned upside down. But American capitalists, always quick to profit, decided to make the best of the bloody business, and marketing departments everywhere began hawking Monster Madness, Monster Mania, and so forth. In short, monsters were marvelous.
Within three years, a bewildered and bemused America had bought into the whole supernatural scene. And it was still going strong. People were corpse crazy, werewolf wild, ghost giddy—and witch and warlock woozy.
The most recent fad, which had already lasted more than ten years, was a fang frenzy. Life was a veritable Fangtasia, because everyone wanted in on the act—especially dentists, who were making a legitimate killing with the whole big teeth thing. You could get insincere fangs, sincere fangs, fake fangs, and fangs for the memories. Fangs that were eye-blindingly white, and fangs that were ebony black. And some people wore the two in combination, for a piano key effect. You could get newfangled fangs with intricate engravings, or bejeweled and bedecked biters. Small fangs and big fangs, monstrous fangs in snarling or howling mouths, all were displayed in every advertising campaign in America. Yes, wherever a person went, she was almost guaranteed to be flashed by fangs. Of course, fang flashing with intent was now a felony.
Along with the radically changing mix of human and non-human culture, other new opportunities had presented themselves, spawning a whole new category of television. There were supernatural talk shows like Dr. Spook, the premier spectral authority on adolescent ghosts, and Haunted Home Improvement hosted by T. Taylor Andrews. Comedy shows had sprung up for the walking dead, such as Saturday Night Unlive, and The Tonight Show hosted by Blade, a vampire with a razor-sharp wit. Not to be outdone, the shape-shifting community had developed the game show Jeopardy 2, where humans hid and ran from werewolves, werelions, and werebears (which were not cute and cuddly like teddy bears, if you were thinking they might be). In the last year, a program called Supernatural Survivor had garnered top ratings. The show was reality-based, and participants needed to survive nights in haunted houses, or in cemeteries while being chased by ghosts or ghouls.
New industries provided new job opportunities, which was great for people like Lucy. She had been in debt not only from finishing college, but also from paying her mother's medical bills. So, when opportunity knocked in the form of a talk show—even if it was really out there—Lucy had answered. She knew she might be sacrificing a bit of her journalistic integrity, but a job was a job; she'd decided to enter the Twilight Zone. And so Lucy had packed her bags and gone to New Orleans, which was now the major hub of supernatural activity. The city's new motto: "We'll raise your spirits."
But her talk show had turned out to deal with sensational and silly subjects of the supernatural realm. At first Lucy had hoped that she could guide the program into more serious topics, but since the Twilight Zone had been talk show sensationalism at its best before she replaced the last host, the producers demanded to continue in the same vein. No respectable or self-respecting monster would be caught on her show, dead or undead, so two years later found Lucy's professional reputation shredded by the sometimes-ludicrous stories she was forced to do in hopes of almighty ratings.
Like right now. Lucy silently sighed and turned her attention back to her guest.
"For sure, I'll never forget his big black eyes and that creepy goose he was holding. And that harp music."
"I've heard that ogres like harps," Lucy commented, a polite smile on her face. Harp music was synonymous with ogres. Lucy had done some research, and had learned that ogres were enthralled with the sound—or so every other abductee had said.
"I hate the harp, and that's all I heard night and day—that damn music! It was like being stuck in an elevator forever. Man, it was a bad scene."