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Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lach

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Estimated reading time — 5 minutes

Nothing was working.

Garlic, one of the hokier vampire myths, was completely useless. He was prepared for that.
It had bounced ineffectually off the tumbling wave of raking claws and gnashing teeth, crushed fragrantly under their mass.

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“No big deal.” he thought to himself, as he ran down the musty hallway, putting some distance between him and the mob of killing dead. Each thud of his foot sent a doughnut cloud of dust up from the centuries old carpet, thickening the already hazy air.

He zigged into a room that he knew would wind it’s way through the labyrinthine upper floors. Even in his frantic state, he managed to marvel at the decrepit stateliness of the run-down manor. This had been a bedroom for a daughter of the long-dead bloodline, indicated by the late 1800’s dolls watching him with sightless eyes from inside the ornate canopy bed. Even in his hectic survivalist state, he remembered reading about the sad tale of the daughter while researching the house. She starved to death after falling down a waterless well in the back yard.

Sad, but unrelated to the calamity he was now facing.

The clinking of the various items in his swollen doctor’s bag was inaudible over the tortured, hungry wails of his would-be devourers. Through fingers numbed with adrenaline, he fumbled in the bag, looking desperately for another life saving trick.

Finally finding what he wanted, he yanked out a bottle and threw great, leaping arcs of holy water backwards onto the cruel, hollow faces in the ravenous pile. The water mixed with the group’s murky slaver as it drenched their grotesque features.

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If there was a telltale sizzling sound, he couldn’t hear it over his own harsh breathing and the tortured cries from the throng, some of them even going so far as to croak out words like “kill” and “eat.” Even if he had heard sizzling, actions spoke louder than words, and the mash of living corpses tripping over each other to feed on him wasn’t slowing down in any meaningful way, which was the effect he actually needed.

“To be expected.” he told himself, comforted by the heft of his bag, which was chock full of an arsenal to be used against these creatures. He continued to run while rummaging, rummaging while running. He needed to make sure that he didn’t run into any dead ends in this great, Victorian mansion. He felt confident that he had studied the layout of the house, enough to know which bedrooms had two exits, which hallways he could turn down in a circuit, and how to flee back to the great staircase in the lobby. He always needed a route back to that colossal staircase, so he could escape back out into the outside world.

Passing a suit of armor from a long-forgotten dynasty, he wasted precious seconds to topple it onto the floor behind him.

It barely presented a hurdle to the frenzy pursuing him.

He pressed on.

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He zagged into the old trophy room, which was adorned with such a consistent and deep crimson it immediately overwhelmed him with the sense of being swallowed by some immense being, a sensation that was exponentially amplified by the innumerable carcasses throughout the room. Zebras, Lions, Crocodiles, Gazelle, all with heir heads mounted on the walls. Curiously, instead of having the placid, serene look of most animal trophies, the taxidermist had instead decided to capture their last moment of fear and panic, forever freezing them in this intense expression. As he spun around the preserved body of an impossibly large Bear with its paws thrown up to protect its face from a death blow, he noticed that many of the creatures he had never seen before. He assumed they were long extinct but common for the era, like perhaps the carrier pigeon, Tasmanian tiger or the dodo. Even while evading capture, he had time to ponder if some of the more fantastical beasts might be results of the Victorian habit of creating fraudulent or joke taxidermy. His mind used this to explain away the mammals with hundreds of legs or the large birds with decidedly human faces.

His frantically searching hand finally seized on it’s targeted prize. For the first time he completely stopped in his tracks. As he spun around, holding up a large, intricate crucifix, a skeletal hand clawed out from the tangle and snatched it in an impossibly strong grip, splintering the cross into pieces immediately. He turned to run again, feeling cold fingers brush against his cloak.

“Always a possibility.” he had told himself, sprinting now to better secure a lead between him and the bloodthirsty fiends. Finally, he felt comfortable about how much gloomy hallway lay between him and certain death, so he began fishing in his bag again. He suddenly became acutely aware of how entirely drained of stamina he had become, realizing that he needed to be less particular about which specialized weapon to use.

His steps started to lag, as he showered silver powder on the villains. Their shining yellow eyes didn’t even blink as they passed through the dust cloud. His breathing became more labored and he threw handfuls of salt at them. This only seemed to make their gaping maws leak Stygian drool more freely.

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He exhaustedly blundered his way into the master bedroom, which seemed somehow more well lit than the other rooms, as though it had trapped light in here through some unknown method. Even after years of disuse, under layers of spiderwebs and dust, the radiant emerald colors of the room held a regality. Gold inlay wove through every bit of furniture, ivory or jewels encased the candle holders and clocks. The curtains were thick and rich, the rug, dizzyingly ornate. The baroque chairs, wardrobes and bed all made of a matching, dark wood, most likely the now endangered Grenadil, held together the air of casual opulence that permeated the room.

Even in his drained state and desperate flight, he noticed the massive family portrait of the one-time occupants. Forever immortalized in paint, the family’s mutual disdain was worn plainly on their features. His tired mind pulled up more information he had dredged up in his research, of the bloodlines’ ultimate demise. How after the youngest daughter’s death in the well, more of the children fell to misadventures, some being consumed by unknown viruses while on safari, others simply never returning from arctic expeditions, more of them simply hanging themselves from the mammoth chandelier in the lobby. The matriarch eventually buried her husband alive in the basement inside of a burlap sack, before absconding with the family fortune, never to be seen again.

This was all information that was of little use to him at the moment.

He finally looped back to the great staircase, aware that his grand hunt might not end fruitfully this night. He grabbed handfuls of apparent vampire weaknesses, supposed “Christ nails” and blessed rose petals, white horse hair and children’s teeth, throwing them behind him like the flower girl at Satan’s wedding.

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He fell rather than ran down the stairs, his legs on the verge of seizing up. His almost empty bag spun across the marble floor, cutting a trail through the dead leaves strewn about, causing the final occupant of the bag to spilled out- the revolver.

He had been saving this for last since it was a brute force solution. Of course, it shot silver bullets, but those are deadly to regular people, too, not just vampires. He had wanted to slay this accursed den of undead with more finesse, but he supposed that the time for practicality had come.

Not bothering to attempt standing on his exhausted legs, he rolled towards the revolver, grasping it with shaky hands. He turned to level it at the horde tumbling down the stairwell towards him.

He shot.

Then he shot five more times.

Then the gun clicked and clicked and clicked.

He did gain some small satisfaction, right before the host descended on him, that they did react to getting shot. Their ivory flesh had peeled away where the bullets met them, the bloodless wounds bloomed at the site of impact. He had seen the glowing jade bones underneath.

They reached him and, predictably, began to drink his blood. They also bit into his flesh greedily, scooping his innards with malice, breaking his bones to extract marrow.

One of the things leaned into his screaming face, and whispered to him, confessing the mysterious nature of his victorious foes.

As he was disarticulated, he laughed.

Credit : Dakota Lee Dahl

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