Traveler: Storyteller Tales: The Upper Floor

            The room, an upstairs sitting room was comfortable enough apart from the locked door.  They were quiet for a good five minutes while each was lost in his or her own thoughts.  Glen thought, Greta Gruber, what a name!  He got the impression that she and her mother did not get along well, sort of like Glen and his mother.  And David, he looked to be pacing the room trying to find a way out or a weapon if he could.  The silence was interrupted when they heard shuffling in the bedroom next door followed by a bang on the wall as if whatever was there wanted to get at them.

            “Carl.”  David named the occupant of the bedroom.

            “Vampire.”  Glen had another name for the beast.

            “Don’t be silly.”  Greta spoke to Glen.  Vampire was not a word she wanted to think about, much less hear.

            “There are no such things,” David added.

            Glen looked up at the man.  “They have made one.  Carl is dead and gone.  Demons have taken the flesh.  As long as the heart pumps and the brain functions, they can appear normal enough.  They can even use the synapses and neural pathways to pretend to be the person, drawing on a lifetime of memories of family and friends and relationships.   They can heal the body from almost any wound, but they avoid the sun because it triggers the flesh to decay.  That’s why they sleep days and walk the night.”

            “And the blood?”

            “The body is dead, remember?  The digestive system is generally useless and they cannot create new blood cells very well if at all.  They need the blood like we do, to carry oxygen and keep the heart and brain alive and keep the flesh from decay and keep the muscles functioning.”

            “How old are you?”  David asked.

            “Nine,” Glen answered honestly enough.

            “What, are you in some special genius school?”

            Glen shook his head.  “Greta – my Greta studied these things and Lady Alice knows all about it, and there are others.”  He looked up at the two of them.  “We have to do something about the vampire first.  I know there can’t be Nazis again back in power, but if the vampire escapes, Vienna will soon be filled with zombie vampires.”

            There was another spell of pounding on the wall and some of the plaster in that old wall fell to the floor.  David looked but said nothing.  Greta said what was on her heart.

            “You’re frightening me.”

            Glen nodded.  “I’m terrified.  I hate witches.”  Greta frowned before she knelt down to give Glen a hug.  Another few minutes of silence followed before Greta screamed.  There was a serpent in the room.  It was much too big to have slithered under the door and no one could guess how it got there, but it was bobbing and weaving and shooting out its tongue as if testing the air in search of its prey.

            “Behind me.”  David stepped up and Greta eagerly complied, but he had to grab Glen by the arm to drag him back.  David had no doubts who the snake was looking for.  The snake dropped to the ground and ignored David.  It slithered to another part of the room where it stopped, lifted its head and began to bob and weave once more.

            “David.”  Glen whispered, though there was no reason to suppose the snake could hear or understand him.  David turned his head to see Glen struggling with a sword that was too big for him to lift.  “Lady Alice said you might need this.”

            “Glen.”  Greta took her eyes off the snake long enough to exclaim her surprise.  “Where did you get that?”  David picked it up and shook his head.

            “I’m no knight.  I’m Jewish, remember?”

            “Lady Alice sent it,” Glen answered Greta.  “From Avalon – the netherworld, I suppose.”  Even as Glen spoke, the snake made a lunge for him.  David brought the sword down, and it must have been a lucky blow because the snake’s head was severed in mid-lunge.  Greta and Glen screamed and the pounding on the wall began in earnest.

            Still, the snake was not dead.  The head and neck appeared to be searching for each other in order to reconnect.  As David looked at the sword and wondered about his lucky blow, Glen stopped screaming long enough to tug on Greta’s sleeve.

            “Make it disappear.  You have to delete it.  Hurry, before it gets fixed and starts hunting again.  Greta!”

            Greta looked at Glen and took a breath before she nodded.  She concentrated and Glen saw her magic come out in a mud colored stream.  It covered the snake, both parts, but while the snake flickered like a bad holograph, it did not go out.  Greta concentrated and began to sweat.  Glen leapt forward when the snake looked ready to find its other half.  He had a long knife in his hand and he managed to pin the snake head to the floor. 

            “Keep trying.”  He yelled even as David yanked him back to safety.

            The snake flickered again and finally vanished, and Greta had to sit from the strain.  She spoke when she caught her breath.  “Mother could not have done that.  Madam Esmerelda must be a very powerful sorceress.”

            “Hey!”  David yelled that time because the knife vanished from the floor where it was stuck fast.  He turned on Glen.  “Who exactly are you?”  He eyed the sword in his hand.  “Don’t give me that American tourist bit.”

            The pounding on the wall to the next room stopped and everyone paused to look.  The wall was badly cracked, but not broken.  Then the door opened and one of the gunmen with the swastika lapel pin came in.  “Young man, your family is here.  Come unt see them.” 

            Glen took and squeezed David’s and Greta’s hands.  “For later, no time for tradition” he said before he let go of both hands and ran to the door.  As soon as he was out the door, David and Greta both looked back at the cracked wall, but there was only silence from the other room.

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