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Round Robin

It was a dark and stormy night. A cold wind whipped the trees under the pale moon, battering their bare branches with icy, driving rain. Against the sky, the--

ELAINE: It's raining and the moon is out?

FLEETWOOD: It's for mood. Hey, when it's your turn, you can make the weather whatever you want.

ELAINE: I thought one of the rules of this kind of thing is that you can't change what other people have written.

FLEETWOOD: In that case, you're stuck with it. Anyway...

... the cold, naked stones of an ancient castle rose against the moon...

SAGAN: She's right about the moon, you know. It can't shine when it's raining because the clouds cover it. Have you ever been on an actual planet?

FLEETWOOD: It's shining through a hole in the clouds, okay?

From somewhere under the ragged, wind-whipped trees, the beat of unshod hooves cut a rhythmic cadence through the wind and rain. Out of the trees burst a black horse, galloping with its head down and foam flecking its chest. A woman crouched over its magnificent neck. Her sodden, unbound hair blew behind her like a dark flag. Her dress was ragged and the rain whipped against her half-naked breasts--

FRANK: I wondered how long it would be before you worked sex into this story.

FLEETWOOD: Are you implying something about me...?

FRANK: Implying? I'm not
implying anything.

FLEETWOOD: Where was I?

ELAINE: Wind-lashed breasts.

FLEETWOOD: Oh, right, those.

....wind and rain lashed her ample breasts, straining against the shreds of clothing remaining to cover them...

ELAINE: Enough already!

FLEETWOOD: Okay, okay...

...so anyway, the horse pounded down the path and pulled up short at the gates of the castle. To the girl's amazement, they stood wide open, and cautiously she urged the horse through them, into a strange and eldritch courtyard.

ELAINE: So basically she's an idiot, is what you're saying.

FLEETWOOD: Gothic heroines are all idiots. I think all the blood supply goes to their heaving bosoms or something.

ELAINE: Read a lot of gothic romances, do you?

FLEETWOOD: Only the good bits.

Weird statuary loomed above her head, marble twisted into tortured shapes terrifying to look upon. The girl slid to the ground and looped the horse's reins about a gnarled bush near the door. Quickly she climbed the wide marble steps and stood before the doors.

FLEETWOOD: Okay, somebody else's turn.

ELAINE: Yeah, like there's anything we can do with this drivel.

FLEETWOOD: Fine, I'll go on a little ways and anybody else can jump in whenever.

She raised her hand to tap on the door, but before her delicate knuckles touched the rain-soaked wood, the door swung open with a sonorous creak. The girl opened her mouth to ask for help, but the words died in her throat at the sight of the slim figure wrapped in a long black cloak. The figure stepped forward, and a flash of lightning illuminated its bloodless face. The girl recoiled in terror, stifling a scream. It couldn't be... and yet it was. Her worst nightmare, come to horrific un-life -- the vampire, feared and hated by all -- Vlad Fleetwood. Unable to run, frozen with terror, she...

ELAINE: Oh, God. You must be joking.

FLEETWOOD: I suppose you can do better? You are welcome to try.

ELAINE: Somebody please, please,
please put a stop to this. Anybody? Please?

FRANK: Okay, fine, I can see this is going to go on all night...

FLEETWOOD: You want a turn?

FRANK: Sure. Where did he stop?

ELAINE: She's frozen with fear and unable to run.

...frozen, unable to run, she pulled out a gun and shot him.

ELAINE: That's it?

FRANK: What? Seems perfectly logical to me. It's what I'd do.

ELAINE: That may be, but...

FLEETWOOD: Can't you at least try to play nice with the other kids?

FRANK: That's what my grade school teacher used to say about me... It was an accident, though, I swear. I was only seven at the time.

FLEETWOOD: Does anybody besides Frank want to have a go at it?

SAGAN: I will.

The 2200-caliber laser in her firm grip did nothing, of course, against Vlad's undead flesh. "Shit!" she cried, as wisps of smoke curled up from his cape. "Try this, you son of a bitch--" She leaped, executed a double backflip and delivered a two-footed kick to his chest. Vlad staggered, stunned, and she fled past him, into the house.


SAGAN: Yeah, whatever. It's just the setting, the place where people get shot; it's not like it's important to the story.

She ran down the hall into the kitchen. "Weapons, weapons, I need weapons," she muttered under her breath. Surely there must be something she could use... Behind her, she heard the sound of the vampire's footsteps coming down the hall. She whirled as Vlad looming in the doorway and seized the nearest thing to hand, a great silver candelabra. She hurled it overhand at the vampire's head...

ELAINE: The singular is candelabrum, not candelabra.

SAGAN: Right, right, whatever.

FLEETWOOD: Why would a vampire have a silver candelabra in his kitchen?

FRANK: Why would anyone have a silver candelabra in his kitchen?

ELAINE: Candelabrum.

SAGAN: Maybe it's a family heirloom or something.

ELAINE: Vampires have families?

...hurled the candelabrum at the vampire's head. It struck his temple with a dull, meaty thunk and the vampire staggered and collapsed.

FLEETWOOD: As if you could really knock out a vampire with a candelabra.

SAGAN: How do you know? Are you aware how heavy something like that would be? Trust me, if you hit anyone hard enough in the right place with a heavy metal object, they'll fall down. The nerves in the temple are--

ELAINE: Am I the only person in this room who couldn't write a reference work on inflicting severe bodily injury on people?

SAGAN: Yeah, I think you are.

FLEETWOOD: Think about it. Who's going to mess with us? You couldn't be safer than being in a room with the rest of us.

SAGAN: Does anyone remember where I was in this story?

FLEETWOOD: You just hit Vlad in the head with a candelabra--

ELAINE: ...brum...

FLEETWOOD: Candelabrum.

ELAINE: Are you going anywhere with this, by the way?

SAGAN: It's a round robin story. It's not supposed to be going anywhere.

ELAINE: In that case, it's succeeding admirably.

SAGAN: You want a turn?


Karen scrambled around the vampire's unmoving body and fled down the--


ELAINE: Sure. Karen D. Lockwood. Did any of you even notice that you hadn't given her a name? You even named the vampire, for crying out loud. But the woman's just a piece of meat, in spite of being theoretically the heroine of this piece.

FLEETWOOD: Don't forget her breasts are showing.

ELAINE: [sighs] Don't worry, I'll work it in somehow.

...and fled down the hall. Halfway to the end, she paused and looked back over her shoulder, at the vampire crumpled in the doorway. Slowly, she turned around and walked back down the hall. He still hadn't moved and remorse touched her heart. After all--

FLEETWOOD: Guys, we've let a chick loose on this piece. Expect touchy-feeliness.

SAGAN: Isn't this supposed to be a Halloween story? Blood? Gore? Terror?

FLEETWOOD: ...Cute singing animals?

SAGAN: Pastel bats, maybe?

...after all, he hadn't done anything to her. She'd invaded his home and attacked him without provocation--

FRANK: She had provocation! He's a vampire! How much more provocation do you need?

FLEETWOOD: Don't forget about the breasts.

ELAINE: You obviously haven't.

...without provocation, like a common criminal. This was no way for the last heiress to the Gernisavien fortune to behave...

FLEETWOOD: Okay, I give up, what is a proper way for the last heiress to the Gernisavien fortune to behave?

FRANK: What kind of a word is "Gernisavien"?

ELAINE: Come on, guys. Did I interrupt you when you were telling your parts?

ALL: Yes.

... for she knew her poor dead mother had not raised her to behave like a hoodlum. Laying the gun aside, she knelt beside Vlad and gently touched his face. "Are you all right?"

Vlad's eyes opened and he blinked at the sight of the lovely--

FLEETWOOD: ...half-naked...

ELAINE: All right, fine...

...lovely, half-naked young woman bending over him.

FRANK: Her guts had better be strewn all over this hallway in less than thirty seconds or I'm going to be sick.

He pulled himself shakily upright. Karen withdrew, reaching for the gun in fear--

FRANK: Finally she does something sensible!

SAGAN: ...although not very helpful, since she already knows it doesn't work on him...

...but he made no move to harm her, only stared at her warily.

FRANK: Dammit.

FLEETWOOD: Wait a minute, bullets don't hurt him and
he's afraid of her?

"I'm sorry I attacked you," she said. "You startled me."

Vlad stared at her for a moment, and he said, "Excuse me, but you knocked on my door, didn't you?"

Karen bowed her head in shame. "Yes, I was seeking sanctuary from the storm, and I hoped that I'd found the home of a friendly farmer--"

SAGAN: ...living in a gothic castle, yeah, I know a lot of farmers that do that.

FLEETWOOD: Suddenly from behind her came a sepulchral Mooo....

"...or a movie star or something, a person who would be willing to help me."

Vlad pulled his scorched cloak about himself. "I would be more willing to help you, miss, if you'd been a little more civil!"

SAGAN: "Miss"? I can see "mortal," maybe, but "miss"?

FLEETWOOD: He sounds like a character out of a Jane Austen novel.

SAGAN: Pride and Perversion?

Karen folded her arms. "Look, I've given you my reasons. Please try to see it from my point of view: a young woman, traveling alone in the darkest part of the night."

FLEETWOOD: Except for the moon...

"...can you blame me for being frightened?"

Vlad's eyes took in her sodden hair, hanging in wet ropes over her shoulders, and her sadly tattered dress.

FLEETWOOD: I'll bet he did.

SAGAN: [as Karen] Keep your eyes to yourself, you slimeball!

"What are you running from?" he asked her. "Is someone chasing you?"

Karen looked over her shoulder. "Listen, let's close the door at least, all right? And get your head looked at. And I left my horse out there in the storm. The question-and-answer can wait until we get things straightened out around here."

SAGAN: [as Vlad]...which you screwed up in the first place, but let's forget about that...

FLEETWOOD: [to Elaine] In other words, you have no idea.

ELAINE: Hey, it's your silly plot, I'm just running with it.

SAGAN: I think it's somebody else's turn anyway.

ELAINE: Is it? I guess that means it's back to -- oh, God -- you, Fleetwood.


"Funny weather we're having these days," Vlad remarked as she led the way down the hall.

"Isn't it, though?" Karen stepped out onto the porch, and looked around. "Hey! Where'd the horse go?"

"Isn't it where you parked it?" Vlad called from inside.

"Dammit, Vlad, do you think I don't know my own horse?" Karen gestured behind her. The rain trickled down her mostly bare breasts, caused her tattered gown to cling to her rounded curves. "Do you see a horse out there?"

"Dracula's donuts, I think you're right," Vlad said. He peered around in the rain. "What did you tie it to?"

"Well, I didn't exactly tie it to anything," Karen admitted. "I sort of draped the reins over a bush."

"Great-aunt Morticia's blood pudding," Vlad swore. "You're not the sharpest stake in the box, are you, mortal? And what does that D in your name stand for, anyway? Dimwit? Dingbat? Never mind..." He squinted through the rain. "I think I hear hoofbeats, so your horse is not far."

"Mother Theresa!" the maiden swore, whirling in terror. "Those are not my mount's hooves! I told you, I'd know my horse anywhere! Another visitor is coming up the lane!"

Sure enough, another horse and rider appeared out of the rain-soaked gloom. The rider wore a dark cloak, wrapped about him or her until no features could be seen.

"Dammit, we wore the same outfit," Vlad grumbled. "Excuse me, I have to go change..."

Karen clutched his arm. "No, there's no time for that! Can't you see, the rider on the horse is..."

FRANK: Is what?

FLEETWOOD: Sorry, someone else's turn. Yours in fact.

FRANK: This just might be fun after all ... I'll shoot you all if you tell anyone I said that.

"...is Sammy the Slug, head of the Gambardelli crime family!"

Sammy pushed back the cloak, which Vlad now saw was actually a black trench coat. Leering at the two of them, Sammy whipped out a Rhys-Madsen repeating pulse rifle from under his coat.

Karen was trying to cling to Vlad, making it impossible for him to move. He slapped her across the face until the glazed look left her eyes and she stared back at him angrily. "What's a guy like that want with you, doll?" he demanded.

Karen's eyes filled with tears. "Oh, Vlad! He wants me to go back to the business, but I won't, I'm not that kind of girl, I'd rather die!"

Vlad eyed her neck thoughtfully. "Well, it would take you beyond reach of Sammy and his thugs..."

"That's not what I meant!" she screamed, beating on his chest with her little fists. "Do something useful or don't do anything at all!"

"Christ, you're annoying," Vlad snapped, and threw her at a startled Sammy, while he escaped into the castle.

FLEETWOOD: Hey, Vlad Fleetwood would never do something like that!

FRANK: Well, he just did. Deal with it.

SAGAN: My turn now, right?

A minute later the door burst open and Vlad rolled across the doorstep in a hail of bullets, a Dorberly semi-auto in each hand. Karen screamed and flung herself to the ground--

ELAINE: For Pete's sake, would you people quit making Karen such a whiny little wuss?

SAGAN: I guess you have a point there.

...then rolled to her feet and opened fire with her snub-nosed pistol. Together the two of them mowed down Sammy the Slug and a half-dozen mounted mobsters behind him. The smoking, bloody corpses of men and horses fell twitching to the wet grass.

FRANK: You killed Sammy the Slug!

FLEETWOOD: And the horses... bastard.

SAGAN: Deal with it.

"Are you all right?" Vlad asked, gripping Karen's elbow and hoisting her onto her feet.

Karen nodded. "Just a minute," she said, and, reaching down to her ankle, slipped a shiv out of a concealed sheath. Vlad took a step backwards, but Karen made no move towards him. She stuck the pistol through the waistband of her ragged dress and gripped her mass of sodden black hair firmly in her left hand. A few hacks of the razor-sharp knife severed it and she let the black tresses fall to the ground.

"Damn hair's been getting in my way for years," she snapped. "You can't imagine how frustrating it is, trying to shoot straight with all that crap in my eyes. Sammy wouldn't let me cut it because he was worried about what the customers would think. Well, screw you, Sammy!" She spit on his corpse.

ELAINE: This isn't quite what I had in mind.

SAGAN: You wanted her tough, right?

ELAINE: Yeah...

Vlad looked around. "Can we expect more company tonight?"

Karen nodded. "Sammy's brother, Big Luigi, won't take this insult to the family lying down. He's probably mobilizing a small army of gunmen even as we speak."

"Well..." Vlad braced one of the Dorberlys against the crook of his elbow while he reloaded the other one-handed. "Let's be ready for them, huh?"

"But we're so badly outnumbered," Karen protested.

Vlad grinned around a bullet clenched in his pointed fangs. "Kiddo, looks like we've got me and you... against, what, twenty or thirty of them, tops?"

"More like forty or fifty."

"Pretty even odds, I'd say." He slammed the magazines home and shouldered the weapons. "Let's hole up inside, on one of the top floors. We'll have a great view of the courtyard and can pick them off one at a time. The moonlight makes them easy targets."

The two of them hurried up one of the towers, stopping only to grab more weapons and ammo from a broom closet on the ground floor. The top room of the tower was still and bare in the moonlight. Karen went to the window and peered out. The rain had stopped, and a waiting hush hung in the air. In the silence she could hear hoofbeats, many hoofbeats, on the road below.

"Here they come," she whispered.

Vlad braced a sniper rifle in one of the tower's windows. "You take the machine gun and grab a few grenades. The entire outer perimeter of the grounds is heavily mined; you're incredibly lucky you didn't set one off, riding in like you did. They'll never even make it to the front gate."

SAGAN: Somebody else's turn. Elaine, I think it's yours?

ELAINE: You've got to be kidding...

FLEETWOOD: If you don't want it, we can skip back to me.

ELAINE: Battle scene! Right! Let me visualize it for a moment... ah...

Karen stared out the window at the courtyard, listening to the approaching hoofbeats. Suddenly she threw her gun aside. Vlad looked at her in astonishment.

"This is insane," she whispered, and then more loudly, "Insane! How many people have died so far? How many more will die? It's got to end here!"

"You mean you're going back?" Vlad asked, stunned. "After coming so far and fighting so hard for your freedom? Don't do this to yourself, Karen!"

SAGAN: When did he learn her name?

FLEETWOOD: I think she used his a few paragraphs ago. Maybe they knew each other in a past life.

SAGAN: [as Vlad] Oh, Karen...! [as Karen] Oh, Vlad...!

"No," Karen whispered, bowing her head and clenching her fingers on the windowsill. "I can't go back to that life. But I can't let men go on dying because of me. I can't be responsible for all this death."

FLEETWOOD: I hope this means she's going to fling herself from the tower.

"What are you planning?" Vlad asked.

Karen looked over at him. Her eyes shone with determination in the moonlight. "I'm going to go talk to them."


FRANK: Although it could be interesting, if she gets shot from forty different angles.

"You can't," Vlad protested. "You'll be killed!"

Karen raised her head high. "Maybe. But I would rather die a thousand deaths than live this life of shame any longer."

SAGAN: I thought the life of shame was what she was running away from.

FLEETWOOD: I hate to break it to her, but one death is really all it takes, especially a sufficiently painful one.

Karen left her weapons behind and started the long descent from the tower. Outside, she could hear the hoofbeats growing louder, and an occasional muffled explosion as another of the horses stepped in one of the land mines that Vlad had scattered carelessly across the landscape. At each explosion, Karen shuddered, thinking, Another life senselessly snuffed out, all because of me!

"Karen!" Vlad cried, swooping down the stairs after her.

"Don't speak to me! You can't change my mind." She looked over her shoulder at him. "You are a creature of death, Vlad. As decent a person as you may be, you were still created to kill. You could not possibly understand why I'm doing this."

Vlad hesitated on the step above her, and bowed his head. "Perhaps you're right."

FLEETWOOD: What? You were complaining about the way we wrote Karen, but what the hell have you done to Vlad?

SAGAN: He should just bite her now, quickly, before she can do anything else stupid.

FLEETWOOD: Is it my turn yet?


Trailed by Vlad, Karen crossed the foyer and flung the doors wide. She drew a deep breath, inhaling the perfume of the --

FLEETWOOD: Graveyard.

FRANK: Ruptured intestines of the corpses.

... night air. The world had been washed clean by the rain, it seemed, and all possibilities were open to her. Karen stared up at the moon as shapes began to move in the darkness beyond the gates.

FLEETWOOD: My turn yet? Huh?

ELAINE: Oh, all right. Fine, if you want it so badly. But I know you're going to completely ruin Karen again.

The dark shapes moved and Karen waited, half-crouched, her bosom heaving with anticipation. From the shadows came a sound... the sound of a rifle being cocked.

Karen stepped out into the moonlight, a clear target from all sides. "Listen to me!" she cried, her clear young voice ringing through the night. The wind whipped her cropped hair about her head. "It doesn't have to be this way! We can have peace in our lifetime! Hell's bells, we can have peace in the next ten minutes if you want it! Can't we all just get alon--"

Her words were drowned out by a sudden racket of gunfire. It went on for only a few seconds, but when the smoke cleared, Karen lay crumpled and bloody on the doorstep.


ELAINE: Dammit! I knew you were going to do that! I knew it!

FLEETWOOD: You deserved it for what you did to Vlad.

ELAINE: But I didn't kill him!

FLEETWOOD: Don't worry, I'm not done yet.

Vlad hissed angrily between his teeth, withdrawing into the shadows. Bullets could not hurt him (something which he had occasionally forgotten in the last few minutes, it seemed), but they were damned inconvenient, especially when vital parts of him got blown into hard-to-reach locations. He changed into a small bat and clung to the doorframe, watching.

He expected to see Big Luigi's boys come out of the shadows, but instead of gleaming black stallions, the horses that lurched from the darkness beyond the gates were more ragged than Karen's new hairdo. In fact, bits of them kept falling off. Even from here, his sharp bat eyes could see the dull gleam of bone in the rotten flesh. And he could smell them... a stink like the stench of the grave itself. The riders were worse than the horses. All that was holding them together, it seemed, was the shattered remains of their rusted armor.

SAGAN: What century are we in again?

They were coming, crossing the courtyard, and for every zombie that disintegrated in the brilliant flash of a land mine, four more followed. Vlad fluttered to a higher vantage point. He doubted if they could kill him, but they could make his life extremely unpleasant. All he could do was watch as two of the riders lurched down from their mounts and lifted Karen's bloody body.

ELAINE: Shelley, I may never speak to you again.

Vlad's small, furry body trembled in fury as the zombies bore Karen's body away, but there was nothing he could do. He could only watch, shaking with rage at their impudence.

ELAINE: Well, at least he seems to care for her.

"No!" Vlad squeaked in impotent rage. "Bastards! Come back with my dinner!"

ELAINE: Very funny, Shelley. Very funny.

FLEETWOOD: Looks like it's your turn again, Frank.

"Oh well," Vlad thought, as the zombies disappeared with Karen's body. "Easy come, easy go. What else is there to eat around here?"

He fluttered down to the basement of the castle, where Igor was puttering around with spare body parts.

SAGAN: Wait a minute. Aren't we mixing up vampires and Frankenstein here?

FRANK: Are you telling this or am I?

Meanwhile, Karen's body lay upon an altar not too far from the castle, surrounded by a crowd of silent zombies. Among them were Sammy and his boys, newly resurrected. All bowed their heads -- or in the case of the more rotten ones, lowered their heads carefully -- as their dark master walked to the head of the altar and raised a knife above Karen's still form. He lowered --

ELAINE: I never heard of resurrecting a zombie like this. This is more of a sacrif--


ELAINE: Okay, Frank, put the gun away. I'm shutting up and listening. Shutting up now.

...lowered the knife and sank it up to the hilt in her chest. With inhuman strength, he carved through bone, sinew and muscle, and plunged his hand into the still-warm body cavity. His fingers wrapped around her heart. He drew it forth with a sucking pop, and held it aloft.

Karen's eyes opened, blank and dead.

FLEETWOOD: Damn, man, you're good at this Cthulhu-type stuff.

FRANK: Thanks.

For a moment the thing that had once been Karen Dweezil Lockwood--

FLEETWOOD: Hey, she does have a middle name!

ELAINE: That is not her middle name.

...lay staring up into the dark sky.

"Rise," her master commanded. In his hand, the heart pulsed once, oozing foul-looking black blood across his gloved hand.

Karen sat up in one clumsy movement. Dark, clotted blood oozed from the hole in her chest. In her master's hand, the heart settled into a slow, steady pulsing. At his command she lurched from the slab and took her place with the other living dead.

"Now," her master said quietly. "We begin our conquest of the living world this very night. We shall begin by..."

FRANK: Sagan, your turn?

SAGAN: Thanks, man.

"...by conquering the castle of the vampire Vlad Fleetwood!"

FLEETWOOD: They're starting the conquest of the living by killing a vampire? See if I turn this over to you again, Sagan.

ELAINE: That doesn't make sense.

FRANK: As if any of this makes any sense.

The zombies knew that only Vlad stood in their way -- Vlad, self-proclaimed slayer of the undead, who had turned on his own kind with his trademark assault weapons. If they attempted to attack humanity, Vlad would fight until no zombie remained standing. Vlad, unlike a human, could not be easily killed, and because of this they feared him.

But there were ways to kill even the undead, and the zombie master knew them all.

ELAINE: Let's face it, only the most severely retarded don't know how to kill a vampire.

FLEETWOOD: But don't overestimate the brain capacity of the average inhabitant of this story.

ELAINE: Hey, one of them is you, you know!

FRANK: Touché.

FLEETWOOD: Don't encourage her, dammit.

The zombies marched on the castle, knowing that scant hours remained until they must return to their graves at daylight. The setting moon revealed a circle of death around the castle.

FLEETWOOD: Vlad, feasting on human body parts in the basement, remained blissfully unaware of this development.

Several of the zombies carried torches. The flickering light cast their grotesque features into strange and frightening shapes.

"You'll never take me alive!" Vlad screamed from the topmost tower of the castle, and a burst of gunfire shattered the rotten flesh of several zombies.

The leader stepped out to the front of the group.

"There are too many of us!" he called. "You can't kill us all!"

"Watch me!" and cackling with maniacal glee, Vlad took out one zombie after another.

SAGAN: Elaine?

ELAINE: Why do you always hand it to me in the middle of battle scenes?

FLEETWOOD: Good question, man. You know what she does with them.

ELAINE: Oh, is that so? I can do senseless violence as well as the next person.

SAGAN: Really?

FLEETWOOD: We'd like to see you try.

FRANK: The world can always use more senseless violence.

"Eeeyahhhhh!!!" Vlad shrieked, as his bullets plowed into fragile zombie flesh and one by one the undead disintegrated before his primal, testosterone-laced fury.

SAGAN: Not bad. You need more high-powered weapons, though.

FLEETWOOD: And more gore.

ELAINE: Oh, do shut up.

"Stop!" the master of the zombies cried desperately, raising his arms above his head. "I never meant it to go this far!"

SAGAN: Exactly how much farther than destroying the human race can you go?

FLEETWOOD: Knew she'd wuss out.

ELAINE: Oh, really?

"Die, damn you, die!" Vlad cried, and mowed him down with a blast of machine-gun fire.

In mere moments, the castle grounds were a scene of still and silent carnage. The only movement was the occasional distant fireball as a fleeing zombie -- desperately lurching away, its deadened sense of self-preservation dimly overcoming its desire to obey -- stumbled upon a land mine.

"So," Vlad said, grinning down upon them grimly, "shall end the lives, or unlives, of all those who seek to destroy Vlad Fleetwood, slayer of the undead!"

Suddenly something moved in the pile of zombie parts. Vlad stared, at first uncomprehending, as something twitched and crawled out from under the quivering hunks of dead zombie flesh.

FLEETWOOD: Uh-oh, here it comes, the warm fuzzies...

Slowly, haltingly, Karen's blood-matted --

SAGAN: ...but remarkably intact...

...corpse crawled from the carnage. She stumbled to her feet and stood staring up at Vlad.

"Karen," Vlad whispered.

FLEETWOOD: Oh, come on! She's exchanged, what, five words with him so far? It's not like they were high school sweethearts or somethin'.

Karen's lips moved and shaped the word, "Why?"

SAGAN: Because you're an evil zombie intent on the utter destruction of the human race, that's why.

A shudder passed through Vlad. For a long moment he merely stood staring down at Karen, unmoving.

FLEETWOOD: I think it's my turn now.

ELAINE: Oh, I don't think so.

FLEETWOOD: Come on, you can't hog the glory. Let somebody else take a turn.

ELAINE: I can just guess what you're going to do to poor Karen now.

FLEETWOOD: I might surprise you.

ELAINE: Oh, all right. Go ahead and kill her. See if I care

Vlad and Karen stood in the moonlight. Their eyes locked... the softly glowing red eyes of the vampire, the blank stare of the zombie.

SAGAN: ...just two young lovers separated by circumstances beyond their control.

Then Vlad moved -- swiftly, decisively -- towards the pile of grenades by his left foot. He picked up the nearest and pulled the pin.

ELAINE: See? See?

The grenade arced through the moonlit night. The Karen-zombie didn't try to run. She stood still and the grenade bounced off her head.

Vlad winced sympathetically and then looked away as a burst of sound and noise disturbed the calm under the moon.

ELAINE: Goodbye, Karen. Rest in peace.

FRANK: Nobody cared when the zombie master got killed.

As the flames and noise died away, Vlad looked down and was shocked to see Karen still standing there.

A laugh began in what remained of her throat.

Vlad picked up the nearest machine gun and emptied a belt into her chest. When he released the trigger and the dust settled, he was stunned to see that Karen still stood, intact.

"Shit!" said Vlad.

"You think you can kill me," said the Karen zombie. "But I am my master's finest creation."

"Your master is dead!" Vlad yelled.

"Very true," Karen replied. The gun barrage had stripped away the last remnants of her dress --

ELAINE: Shelley, so help me, if you don't quit going on about her breasts, Frank is not the only person in this room who carries weapons...

...so she was naked, but fortunately Vlad was too stunned to pay attention to her girlishly rounded and curvaceous figure.

ELAINE: Shelley!

FLEETWOOD: What? I just said he didn't notice it.

ELAINE: You worry me sometimes.

FRANK: He worries us all.

...anyway, Vlad called down to her, "What do you mean, your master's finest creation?"

Karen smiled, showing a row of fine white teeth.

"As long as my heart is intact, I cannot be killed," she said, and then quickly covered her mouth with one small zombie hand: "Oops. Forget I just said that."

"Your heart?" Vlad repeated. "Where is your heart?"

"As if I would tell you!" Karen retorted defiantly.

Vlad stared down at the hole in her chest, and he thought and thought: if I were a flesh-eating zombie intent on destroying all mankind, where would I keep my heart? Just when he thought it was hopeless, an idea occurred to him. The perfect place to hide such an important thing, he concluded, was...

FLEETWOOD: Frankie? Your shot. See if you can wrap this thing up.

FRANK: No promises.

...was in a shoebox, hidden under her lingerie.

FLEETWOOD: Oh, really? Where do you keep the lingerie again, Frank?

FRANK: As if I'd tell you.

So Vlad leapt into the air, transforming halfway up into his bat-form again. He streaked away against the moon, knowing that his time was short. Already the sky had begun to lighten with the first flush of dawn.

SAGAN: Shoot, looks like we're about to have a Vlad-kebab. Shame really.

Vlad followed the tracks of Karen's horse backward through the wood. And in this he was lucky, for soon he came upon her horse.

ELAINE: Apparently her horse walks backward. Lucky for Vlad.

FRANK: Shut up. I'm trying to concentrate here.

Vlad circled and landed on the saddle. The horse shifted position nervously. And then Vlad realized his mistake: the heart was not in Karen's house at all, for she couldn't possibly have had time to get back to her lingerie drawer at Sammy's before sunrise. No, the heart was concealed in one of the horse's saddlebags! The odor of blood was clear.

FLEETWOOD: Exactly why she put it there, or when she had the chance, is a mystery to all of us.

SAGAN: At least it means the end of this mess will come that much sooner. We should all be grateful.

Vlad realized then that he was running out of time. The sun would rise any minute. He didn't have time to take the heart and destroy it. In fact, he didn't have time to get back to the castle. Then he realized the answer, the final answer.

ELAINE: Uh oh.

Vlad sank his tiny batclaws into the saddle and hung on for dear life. As the sun began to rise, he raised his little bat face toward it, and for the first time in all his many centuries, he watched the rising sun, and it was good.

A pillar of fire rose above the forest and then died down, along with the horse's dying scream. Not far away, the last surviving zombie gasped, clutched the hole in her chest theatrically, and collapsed.

ELAINE: Poor horse. What a way to go.

FLEETWOOD: It wasn't that great for Vlad, either.

SAGAN: Damn, you actually saved the world. I wasn't expecting anybody to survive.

FRANK: Anonymous kills are never that much fun. Face-to-face is so much more satisfying.

SAGAN: I knew there had to be a good reason.

ELAINE: What time is it?

FLEETWOOD: Somewhere around midnight.

ELAINE: Hey, it's Halloween, then. Give or take a few minutes. Happy Halloween, everybody.

FLEETWOOD: Ditto, kid.

FRANK: Anyone feel like going out for a drink? I don't have to be back at work for another couple of hours.

FLEETWOOD: Thought you were day shift.

FRANK: Business picks up on Halloween. Like Christmas.

ELAINE: How festive.

FLEETWOOD: I'm always up for a drink.

FRANK: We know you are.

[Exit all.]

:: back to fiction ::