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Tales of the wiggling cake.

w i g g l e c a k e
Community Member
Chapter Three
In which I make a reckless decision

Though I was tired, sleep did not come easily. Nagging doubts and frightening thoughts brought on by my close encounter with death tugged at the corners of my mind. Early in the morning, they brought in some poor bloke who, from what I overheard, had been in a scrape with a werewolf.I I tried not to think about how close I'd come to a very untimely end, and perhaps— I gulped at the thought— an unwanted new beginning.

Maybe it was a good thing, in a way. Sometimes you need a little jolt to remind you that you're stuck in reality-- to make you remember that you're human and to make you appreciate your remaining lifespan a little bit more. I would have happily settled for a close encounter with a passing car, however. It took me a long time to fall asleep, but when I slept, I slept hard. It was the kind of sleep where you don't even move or dream.

I didn't know what time it was when I woke again; the infirmary had no windows, and the clock on the wall hadn't moved the whole time I was there. Not knowing what time it is makes me mildly insane. Thankfully, Robin came bursting through the door with a precariously balanced breakfast tray.

"Good morning! I brought you some breakfast. You Brits like your eggs boiled, don't you? Look, toast!" Robin had a habit of not really waiting for you to respond. Words just came out rapid-fire, and then you were sort of on your own. But I did like my eggs boiled.

"Feeling better, hon? You sure look better."

"I'm all right," I said. "What time is it?"

Robin looked at the clock for a minute. When the second hand didn't move, she replied, ''Time that I put new batteries in that thing. It's about ten in the morning. There you go." She handed me the breakfast tray.

I ate like I hadn't eaten in years. It had been a while since my last meal. I had eaten a very light meal before heading to the airport. Robin's eyes widened.


''I wouldn't mind," I said, a little embarrassed. She just smiled.

"What brings you to Germany, anyway? I mean, really, what were you doing, falling asleep at a bus stop? Are you a tourist? Maybe some kind of wandering adventurer?"

"Oh, that, well see, I'm studying at the Berlin School of Economics, and well, I was a bit tired and lost and I sort of just sat down and, you know, fell asleep. Stupid, I know." I blushed and stammered and paused quite a bit, but she was patient with me. This was surprising, because most females just wander off at some point.

"Would anyone be worrying about you right now? I can get you a phone."

I thought for a moment.

"No," I said, "I'm pretty much alone here."

"Really? Your family wouldn't want to talk to you or anything?''

''Probably not,'' I admitted. She gave me that familiar sympathetic glance, but didn't press any further.

"Okay, seconds! I'll be right back." She went bounding out of the room. I wondered how so much energy could fit into someone so small.

I'd gotten used to the quiet of the infirmary, having heard nothing in the night but the soft hum of a fan somewhere, so I was startled when I heard a voice shouting from behind the mysterious door across the room.

"Ahhh, s**t! Robin!" The door flew open and a blonde woman in dirty blue coveralls stomped into the room. "Where the hell did the runt go, I'm bleeding! Dammit!"

I didn't know where Robin had gone (the magical food dimension, perhaps?) so I wasn't sure what to say. She looked me up and down, apparently decided I wasn't worth questioning further and stomped over to the sink to wash her hand, which had left a trail of blood from the door. I winced. She shot a glare at me.

"What's that look for? It's not your hand. Ugh, if this needs stitches I'm gonna be pissed..."

I was thankful when Robin re-entered the room with more breakfast. I had no idea what to say to this woman. I mean, how do you respond to that? "I'm sorry?"

"Here you go, Matt!" she handed me the tray with a big smile.

"Why do you spoil them?" the blonde woman groaned. "He's well enough by now to walk to the commons himself. Meanwhile, I am bleeding."

"What did you do, Sam?" Robin eyed the blood trail and followed it to "Sam's" hand.

"Sliced my hand trying to loosen a stuck bolt."

"Come on, let's get you fixed up." Robin ushered the much taller woman back through the door.

Alone again. People come and go so quickly, I thought.

I didn't have a book or my laptop with me, so I had quite a bit of thinking time to myself that afternoon. Robin was in and out, smiling at me every time she passed by. She was a very smiley person. I'm not really, so I felt awkward.

I wasn't exactly sure what to do, sitting there in the otherwise empty infirmary. I felt fine now, minus a couple of scrapes on my arms that hurt if I bumped them, not to mention the wound on my neck, but neither of those things were at all debilitating enough for me to just sit around in bed. I twiddled my thumbs.

"You look bored," Robin said finally. My thumbs stopped twiddling in an attempt to look less bored.

"Ah, well..."

She tossed a stack of magazines in my direction. Most of them were science-and-technology related. Science wasn't one of my strongest subjects in school, but I do like those kinds of magazines. The things they do these days! Someday we'll have cell phones so small that they fall into people's ears and get stuck.

"Thanks," I said.

"No problem, hon. Oh, someone's coming."

A whole group was coming, to be exact. The door swung open and a huge dog (unmistakably a German Shepherd) came running into the room, barking and circling Robin. The Captain followed shortly, leading a terrified, shaking woman wrapped in a blanket and a man with a very grim look on his face. Several other men in black uniforms followed them in.

"Freya!" The Captain snapped her fingers and pointed to a corner. The dog, who had been sniffing Robin's pockets, obediently walked to the corner. I got a better look at the woman wrapped in the blanket. She was soaking wet from head to toe and leaning against the man, who I assumed was her husband.

"Harper, find something dry for her to wear," the Captain said. Robin hurried out of the room. That was the last I heard in English. The rest of the conversation carried on in German and it went so fast, with people trying to talk all at once, that I didn't have time to process and translate a lot of it. I picked up that a child was missing and it had something to do with a monstrous beast. So, these were more of the unfortunate Other People.

"Silence!" said the Captain, and the frantic conversation died down. Robin slipped back into the room and closed the door quietly behind her.

"You will stay here with Harper," she said to the frightened couple, who clearly didn't want to stay but didn't have much of a choice. The Captain turned to the uniformed men. "We must leave immediately. If there are others in the park, they will be in danger. Clearing civilians out of the area will be our first priority, understood?"

"Yes, Captain!" came the response. She glanced over at me briefly, and I froze like a deer in the headlights. Thankfully, her gaze didn't linger for more than a second before she snapped her fingers to call her dog out of the corner. I repeat: I have never liked dogs much, especially really big ones. Freya here was pretty big. Thankfully, she was leaving with the Captain. The door closed.

The poor mother buried her face in her hands and started to cry. My stomach turned all the way over, both out of sympathy and general discomfort with the situation. As you've probably picked up, I don't exactly have the best social skills in the world, and I never know what to do in situations like this. I wasn't even directly involved-- Robin seemed to be handling things well with a box of tissues-- but I didn't even know what to do with my face or my hands. It seemed like it would be rude to just pick up a magazine and start reading while the people nearby face a terrible crisis.

That, and it's sort of hard to concentrate on reading anything when someone is letting out heart-wrenching sobs from the other side of the room.

I caught Robin's eye and we exchanged worried looks. She gave me an "I've got it, don't worry," sort of nod. I nodded back.

The next couple of hours were tense and uncomfortable, as if the walls themselves were holding their breath, waiting for news of the lost child. My stomach twisted itself into a number of complicated knots during this time. I spent most of it trying not to make eye contact with the troubled couple and yet not appear to be ignoring the situation.

The woman had run out of tears by the time we heard footsteps approaching again. Her husband appeared to be bracing himself to deal with terrible news. Robin wrung her hands. A click from the doorknob suddenly sounded about a hundred times louder than it otherwise would have. Oh, the woundrous things worry does to the mind. I can't speak for the others in the room at the time, and I was certainly the least connected to the whole event, but I was filled with dread and eagerness at the same time.

Freya came bounding in, barking and wagging and generally making a huge ruckus. The Captain followed with a little boy in her arms, who was wide-eyed and clearly trying very hard not to cry anymore. He couldn't have been more than five. The parents leapt from the bed they'd been sitting on and ran to embrace their child and the Captain. Freya circled them and pawed at their legs.

I couldn't help but smile to myself, seeing the family back in one piece at last-- all three of them exhausted, red-eyed, and a little dirty, but together. Captain Raskoph wasn't smiling, even though she was squashed in the middle of a four-way hug, but her face had softened to a more tranquil expression. She tousled the boy's hair a bit before handing him off to his parents.

"I found him in a tree. He was not bitten. The werewolf is dead, so it is safe to return. There is a driver waiting in the front hall that will make sure you get home safely."

The Captain showed them out the door and closed it behind her, leaning on the handle for a moment. Robin grinned.

"Another miracle, Saint Matilda?"

"I wish you would not say that." Captain Raskoph sighed. "That is the second werewolf found within city limits this week. They are moving in. Werewolves in the Tiergarten, Robin, it is insane."

"You serious? I guess preying on people out in the sticks isn't enough for 'em anymore." Robin bit her lip.

"And we are too short-handed to deal with it. More attacks like this, and the public will start to panic. Then you know what happens..."

"We take the blame."

Sympathy for Captain Raskoph was added to the cocktail of mixed emotions being forced down my throat for the past day. She left with a nod to Robin and completely ignored my existence. The tiny doctor (whose age I had failed to mentally pinpoint, even though I'd been trying all day) sat down on the bed next to mine and tried to smile again, but it didn't reach her eyes.

"Hi, hon. Listen, I'm going to bring us some dinner. I can take you home tomorrow morning. You don't look like you're gonna turn fangy on me or anything."

I nodded. I didn't have a lot to say. I was too busy trying to figure out how I was supposed to just return to my normal life and go about business as usual, knowing the things I had learned from my short time at the Order's headquarters.

Robin left to get dinner, the bounce gone from her step. I sat there on the edge of my bed and thought. All through dinner, I thought. What would I do? Probably be more cautious. Probably spook easier, too. I'd certainly avoid going out at night as much as I could.

As I was trying to fall asleep again, I kept thinking. Could I really just go back to my normal, everday life?

The truth was, I couldn't.

I was starting to scare myself a bit now. I couldn't go back? What, then? What's left? Join the Order? Fat chance the Captain would even let me in, seeing as she had plucked me from the jaws of death not a day before.

I tried to dismiss the crazy thought and go to sleep, but it wouldn't stop nagging at me. Didn't I owe Captain Raskoph my life? What good would I be doing following my old path, anyway? Here was an organization that truly did some good in the world, and they were clearly in need of more help. Here, I could give back instead of just taking.

"Oh, who do you think you're kidding, Matthias?" I mumbled to myself as I turned the pillow, trying to get to the cool side.

The next morning, Robin got me up early.

"Good morning! Ready to head out?" She was smiling, as usual, but it was a sad sort of smile. I shook my head, and her expression turned to one of bafflement.

"Actually, I'd like to go and see the Captain."

"What for?" she inquired.

"I think I owe her a thank-you," I said, "and I-- I want to join the Order."

Robin's jaw dropped.

babbling of the author-ish sort

Word count: 2407

Fun research problems: Um... hm. None that I can really think of for this chapter.

Favorite part: Sam's brief appearance, and Captain Raskoph's conversation with Robin about the werewolves.

Annoyances: I have come to a realization: I have way more female characters than male. Like way more. This annoys me for some reason. xD

This whole chapter was just... a b***h to write for no reason. Seriously. There are some emotions, especially from the parents, that I had trouble conveying.

Chapter Two
In which I meet the Captain

If I could just fall unconscious every time life started to get inconvenient, I'd do it.

When I next opened my eyes, the bus shelter was gone and the dim light of the streetlamp had been replaced by a familiar white glow. I've always sort of hated fluorescent lights, ever since a very long hospital stay as a child. At least, it felt long at the time. With only one book to read, the days felt like years.

I couldn't keep my eyes open for long. The lights were much too bright, and I didn't like the memories they brought back. I screwed my eyes shut as I finally began to feel the pain in my neck again and the ache in my back from Marlene's attacks. My limbs still felt heavy and useless.

"Welcome back, Matt," said a female voice I didn't recognize. I wasn't expecting to hear English, especially not in an American accent. "Lights too bright?"

"Yes," I tried to say, but my throat was dry, so it came out as more of a squeak. I felt someone putting a pair of glasses onto my face.

"Sit up, hon." A pair of warm hands coaxed me off the pillow and put a cup into my hands. I opened my eyes cautiously and found the room to be pleasantly dimmer thanks to the sunglasses (which probably looked ridiculous-- I always look ridiculous in sunglasses). The cup was full of something red, though, and I faltered, my heart leaping in my chest. Bitten in the neck. Offered something red to drink. See where I'm going with this?

"It's fruit juice," she said, oblivious to my terror. "Have a drink. You'll feel better, trust me."

I breathed a sigh of relief and took a sip of the sweet, refreshing drink, then looked over at the source of the voice for the first time. The first thing I noticed was that she was quite short, probably not more than five feet tall. Her short red hair stood out brilliantly, even through the tint of my glasses. It wasn't often that I met another redhead. Her round face and rosy cheeks gave her the appearence of a twelve-year-old girl.

"Where exactly am I?" I asked, glad my voice was finally functioning properly again.

"You're at the Order of Michael's Berlin headquarters. Specifically, you're in the infirmary. The Captain found you and brought you here. It's two in the morning. I'm Robin, by the way. Robin Harper. Don't call me Doctor Harper, though, it sounds naggy."

My question had brought forth a flood of information from her mouth, almost none of it intelligible to me at the time. Everything she said prompted another question. Order of Michael? Captain? Naggy?

Too tired to ask a lot of questions, I settled for squinting at her a bit and saying, "What?"

"Still a little groggy, I see." She patted me on the back. "It'll wear off."

I decided it was time to ask a much harder question.

"So I'm not... I mean, I'm not going to turn into a..." I couldn't say it. The "v" got stuck on its way to my lips and all the other letters crashed into each other and fell back down my throat. She must have picked up on what I meant, though.

"A vampire? No, hon, you're gonna be just fine. That was a pretty mild bite. It's the venom that'll really get you. I gave you antivenom, of course. "

I almost felt irritated as she nonchalantly dismissed the most terrifying three minutes of my life as mild.

"Worst you should feel is kinda sleepy and nauseated," she said. "Oh, and a little light-sensitive, but we've got that covered. I'll have to keep you here at least twenty-four hours, though. Regulations, ya know. By the way, the Captain brought your stuff." She gestured to the grocery bag, which now looked as if it had been through several wars. My passport and lanyard sat on top of the squashed loaf of bread. I now knew how Robin had learned my name.

"I'm gonna go let the Captain know you're all right. She was worried. Finish your juice and have a rest, kay? I'll be back." She scampered out of the room, leaving my head full of questions and my eyes free to study my surroundings.

Nearly everything in the infirmary was white, save for the soft blue blankets over the beds, and a strange emblem painted on the far wall. The emblem consisted of a gold cross with a larger red cross shape behind it, on a blue shield. Below the shield there was a pair of crossed leafy branches. The words on the shield read:


I knew it was Latin, but I could only figure out the first word-- "God."

I heard footsteps approaching the door again, and turned in time to see Robin re-enter.

The Captain, I assumed, was the tall, black-clad woman that strode into the room . She walked with heavy steps, her arms folded behind her back. Long brown hair trailed behind her in a braid that was tied with a blood-red ribbon. The ribbon stood out quite a bit from the rest of her clothing, which was nothing but black. Black trench coat, black pants, black boots, black everything. Anything that wasn't fabric-- buttons, buckles, and the like-- was silver and polished to a blinding shine. In a way, she reminded me of a very grim Christmas tree as she came to a stop at the foot of my bed.

She sat down rather casually, a sudden change from her almost military march from the door, and leaned toward me. My personal bubble popped and I started to feel uncomfortable.

"Matthias Beringer. You arrived in Germany yesterday, am I correct?"

She spoke English, but with a heavy accent, and she mangled my name, which came out of her mouth as "Ma-tee-ahs." Anyone else, I probably would have politely corrected, but at this moment in time I didn't feel inclined. I nodded slowly.

She took the sunglasses off of my face, folded them, and slipped them into a pocket, never breaking eye contact. I got the full effect of her icy blue-grey gaze, which seemed to be looking right through my head at the wall behind me.

"Wandering the streets of an unfamiliar city alone, with no companions, no map? Sleeping in a bus stop? What were you doing?" Her voice rose with every breath.

"Captain Raskoph," Robin squeaked, clearly mortified that the conversation had taken this direction. "He's--"

The Captain ignored her and delivered a mach-speed slap to the right side of my face. I think I might have heard a small sonic boom, possibly caused by my brain bouncing off the inside of my skull. The whole bed jolted as the Captain stood, the deadly hand clenching into a fist. I reached up stupidly to touch my stinging face.

"You could have been killed, idiot! Or worse, worse than killed, you could have been turned into a vampire! You are lucky to be alive and human!"

"Matilda!" Robin protested, much to my relief. The Captain halted. The little doctor's hands balled into fists. "Really, there's no need for this! You're totally out of control, Captain! Just let him rest... I know why you do this, but--"

The Captain held up her hand, and the room was silent again. She turned her icy gaze to the floor.

"I am sorry."

With that, she left the infirmary swiftly and quietly, her steps much lighter than before.

I turned to Robin, rubbing the sore cheek. She sighed and shook her head.

“You’ll have to excuse the Captain, she’s a bit—“

“Daft?” I offered.

"—eccentric," she finished. "Her heart's in the right place, it's just, er…"

Robin trailed off, but I finished her sentence in my head. Her mind isn't.

"Anyway, she saved your life. You're a pretty lucky guy, getting attacked right down the street from HQ. After she killed the vampire, she called for a cleanup crew and just carried you back here."

Killed the vampire. So Marlene is dead now. I didn't know what to think of that. I recalled the desperate expression on her face before she bit me, and got a bitter taste in my mouth. Somehow I felt like maybe she didn't deserve it. I hoped that she was resting in peace, wherever she was. On the other hand, it felt strange to sympathize with an attacker, and I knew now that those dark stains I'd seen on her nightgown were probably the blood of some other poor sap. How many others had she attacked? How many had she killed?

I'd heard of vampire attacks happening before, of course. It was one of those terrible catastrophes that happens to other people, like getting robbed or having your house go up in flames. I came to the startling realization that, to someone else, I was "other people."

"You all right there?" Robin tilted her head at me. I was reminded again of the pre-bloodsucking, inquisitive Marlene, and winced.

"Fine. Just a bit nauseated," I lied.

"Not surprising. Get some rest, all right? We'll have a chat in the morning. If you need anything, you can knock on that door over there."

I nodded and sank back into the pillows, which, may I add, were wondrously soft.

"Wait!" I blurted, just as she was about to close the door behind her. My voice came out louder than I had meant for it to, so I turned a bit red. "What's the Order of Michael?"

"Ah!" Robin's face switched from an oh-God-what's-wrong expression to a proud grin. She stood up as straight and tall as she could, which really wasn't that tall. "We are an international organization dedicated to protecting the public from supernatural threats."


I suppose there really wasn't much more to say about that.

babbling of the author-ish sort

Word count: 1553

Fun research problems: I don't know exactly why vampire venom would make you light-sensitive, I just liked the idea because I like tormenting Matthias and it produced amusing mental images. It's hard to actually research this because vampires don't exist.

I'm still iffy about my usage of the "Deo, patria, amicis" part of the Order's crest. I spent some time digging around for Latin phrases I could use because everyone knows that LATIN MAKES THINGS LOOK COOL. It means "To God, Country, and Friends," and that pretty much sums up the Order and the founder's attitude toward it, so... *shrug*.

Favorite part: Captain Raskoph taking the sunglasses off Matthias' face. The image amuses me. Also, Matthias mistaking the fruit juice for blood.

Annoyances: The Captain initially comes off as a little crazier than I wanted, thanks to the slap. But I can't imagine her NOT doing it, and writing it was amusing...

Did you notice? The Captain accidentally stole the sunglasses. xD

w i g g l e c a k e
Community Member

w i g g l e c a k e
Community Member
Chapter One
In which I am a helpless twit.

My name is Matthias Beringer.

I don’t expect you to remember that, and to be honest, I’d be amazed if you did. I’ve never really been the memorable sort.

Even my own family (not my immediate family, granted) used to forget my name. Christmas would roll around and the cards would start arriving, and usually, to avoid confusion, I was “Matt,” but there was always at least one card where I was “Matthew.” (Thanks, Grandma.) To the aunt and uncle on my mum’s side, I was “Red,” because I have red hair.

I grew up in Manchester, England, in a lavish manor with a rose garden in the front yard and velvet curtains in the windows. It was an old but well-kept estate which had been in the family for a couple of generations. Our family business, Beringer Inns, raked in the money that allowed us to live in such splendor.

I wasn’t close to anyone in my family; not even Mum and Dad, who hardly seemed to know each other. They never had much time for me—Dad was always busy with work, and Mum’s grudging house party schedule kept her hands tied. The household staff looked after me, for the most part. I had tutors to teach me, and the family library to keep me company.

Telling people about my family life often elicits sympathetic looks and words of comfort, but isolation didn’t bother me, at least not during my childhood. I was never lonely, and I certainly had no shortage of clothes or food or any other necessities. When I got to secondary school, I found that I in fact preferred this thing others called “loneliness.” When I turned eleven, my father decided to send me to a private all-boys’ school so I could develop actual social skills, something you don’t really just pick up after years of being all by your lonesome without anyone your age around. As a result, I spent most of my free time reading by myself. Teachers pried and prodded and asked if I was lonely or needed to see a counselor, to which I would reply, “Why do you ask?”

Conversation was an awkward, uncomfortable thing, and avoiding it seemed only natural. I kept to myself, and I liked it that way.

Unfortunately, we all have to grow up someday, which is why I found myself where I was, sitting at the Manchester Airport.

My flight was an hour late, and it wasn’t doing wonders for my blood pressure. I hate planes. They make me terribly anxious, and I always, always, always get airsick. I hadn’t slept at all beforehand. Maybe, I thought, I’ll be so exhausted I’ll pass out on the plane. Or they’ll find a mechanical pencil in my bag and mistake it for a bomb. That would make my day. Thankfully, the flight wasn’t going to be very long.

I was on my way to Berlin, Germany. It’s family tradition for us to study at the Berlin School Of Economics, and besides that, we have strong German roots on my dad’s side. My destiny from birth was to attend this school, take over as the CEO of Beringer Inns, and continue working so that my parents could live out their lives comfortably. Presumably, I was also expected to become fat and bald and have a bad comb-over. Like father, like son?

It wasn’t by any means what I truly wanted, but I hadn’t the faintest idea what I did want, besides possibly a girlfriend (in the game of internal rock-paper-scissors, hormones beat reclusiveness) and a quiet place to read books. Career interests? I had none. No ambition, no direction, and no excuse not to simply follow the path that my family had laid out for me, likely before I was even concieved.

At least, no excuse for the time being.

When my plane landed in Berlin, I was disoriented, sleep-deprived, and nauseated. I managed to drag my single piece of luggage—a rolling suitcase with some clothes and a few of my favorite books—to a bus stop. I mentally ran through my to-do list for the day; find the university campus, find my flat, buy groceries and soap, sleep.

It all seemed like so much work (sleeping aside), and besides, my stomach didn’t want food. Nevertheless, I pressed on.

Accomplishing the first task was easy—it’s hard to miss a university. I didn’t hang around long. It was, after all, still August. My dad expected me to take the extra time to “familiarize myself” with my new surroundings, not to mention remember how to speak German. I’d been learning and practicing all my life, but there is something that even the most excellent and expensive language tutors cannot provide— immersion. Accomplishing the second task was a bit harder, as I read the address wrong at first and spent an hour walking in circles, utterly baffled.

My flat was nice; blindingly white and clean from floor to ceiling, and the plumbing worked well. My parents had already paid someone else to furnish the place for me. I was filled, for the first time that day, with unmeasureable glee as I realized I would be living here completely, gloriously alone. However, the fridge and the soap dish were both empty, and there could be no rest until both these problems were remedied. I set off down the street once again, carefully taking in landmarks. My sense of direction is not great, but I have a good memory.

This turned out to be rather unfortunate, as there are parts of the six or so hours that followed that I would, to this day, rather forget.

I was incredibly lucky to find a small shop on a corner, just a ten-minute walk from my flat, that sold absolutely everything I needed. Besides my comfortable, wonderfully lonely new residence, it was the only other thing that went right that day.

Woe to the fool that keeps his keys on a lanyard. The idea is that the lanyard helps you keep track of the keys. In truth, you are practically asking the universe to smite you, especially if you twirl it around your finger like an idiot instead of just leaving it around your neck.

I tripped, and whatever I tripped over gave a loud yelp. My grocery bag hit the ground first—I followed shortly, crushing innocent vegetables and bread under my weight. My lanyard flew from my hand and slid, stopping dangerously close to a storm drain. I groaned.

I had tripped over a dog. I don’t know what kind it was, but it was puny, and clearly a stray. The scruffy little thing started sniffing around in my grocery bag.

“Stop that,” I said. The dog gave me a blank look. I waved my hands at it. “Shoo! Go on, get out of here!”

I’ve never really liked dogs that much, so even the admittedly cute head-tilting that followed didn’t get to me. It gave up on me and padded calmly over to my lanyard instead, and after a moment of sniffing, clamped its jaws around the strap.

“Put that down!” I said, failing to realize that the stray probably didn’t know any English commands, or any commands at all, for that matter. The dog was shaking the lanyard in its teeth like a chew toy. I staggered to my feet, only managing to grasp the handle on my shopping bag after a few tries. I brandished the paper bag threateningly.

“Bugger off!”

And it did—with the lanyard still in its mouth. I stood there for a moment, dumbfounded, before breaking into a run.

Two legs have a terrible disadvantage compared to four, even if the four legs in question are much shorter. I thought my gangliness would give me an advantage, but after three blocks I wasn’t gaining on the runt at all.

I dodged my way past strangers; the dog scampered between their legs. I had to stop at crossings, but the fearless little beast didn’t see the need. At one point I thought I’d lost track of it, but I turned into an alley just in time to see the dog bounding around a corner, the keys jingling behind like sleigh bells.

I must have looked like an idiot, dashing through the streets after the pint-sized thief, occasionally bumping into people and dodging doors as they opened into my path.

I was relieved when we came to a dead-end alley. At that point, I had run out of breath and unused expletives. The dog dropped the lanyard on the ground and looked up at me expectantly.

“Bad dog,” I wheezed, snatching the soggy thing up from the ground. It was frayed and slimy, but I put it around my neck anyway, as a symbol of my victory. The dog just thumped its stubby tail happily against the pavement.

I stood there for a moment, trying to catch my breath, and realized I hadn’t been keeping track of landmarks. My shopping bag slipped out of my hand. The dog saw this as an invitation and stuck its nose in to root around.

Surely, I hadn’t gone far. I grabbed the bag once again (the dog whined) and marched back out of the alley. I looked down the street to my right, then to my left, and saw nothing I recognized. Stay calm, Matthias. Stay calm, you couldn’t have run more than four blocks. Five? Ten?

After a moment’s hesitation, I started to walk in what I thought was the right direction, which, of course, it wasn’t. My new “friend” decided to tag along, much to my annoyance. Every so often I would stop and turn around.

“Shoo!” I’d say, waving my arms.

Adorable head tilt,” it would reply, an oblivious expression on its furry face.

Repeat ad nauseum.

I had walked for at at least half an hour before I looked at a bus stop—probably the third or fourth one I’d passed—and suddenly felt incredibly stupid. I knew what bus route could get me back to my flat. Stupid, stupid, stupid Matthias.

I staggered into the bus stop shelter and sat down on the bench much harder than I meant to. My legs informed me, by way of aching, that I was damn lucky I’d found this bus stop when I did or they would have dumped me on a corner somewhere.

And then it was night.

I awoke suddenly and violently, startling the dog, who had fallen asleep curled up at my feet. My feet ached, and so did my neck, since I had slumped against the glass wall of the bus shelter as I slept. I stretched a bit, and winced. It took me a moment to notice the presence of a young lady next to me on the bench. I jumped a second time, into the corner, and peered at her from behind my ratty grocery bag.

She was a pretty little thing, from what I could see in the dim light of a distant streetlamp. I guessed she was about sixteen or seventeen. Wispy, white-blonde hair framed a smooth porcelain face. She smiled.

“Hi! Is this your dog?” She reached down to pet the dog, eliciting a very unexpected and vicious snarl before it took off into the night with its tail between its legs. She turned to me with a forlorn expression, but I was breathing a sigh of relief— the furry bandit was no longer my problem. Unfortunately, I had acquired a new problem.

“I’m Marlene!” she said cheerfully, having seemingly forgotten the dog already. She held out a hand to me, and her sleeve flopped comically over it. I noticed she was wearing what appeared to be a nightgown. There were dark stains on it, but I couldn’t tell what they were. Her hand was stone-cold, and I drew back prematurely, feeling a bit like she had tried to suck the warmth out of my own hand. She didn’t seem to notice my blunder.

“I’m Matthias,” I said. She tilted her head at me like a little bird and smiled again.

“Do you like my nightgown?” She had spotted me looking at it. “My mother made it. It’s my favorite.”

I saw her bare, dirty feet as she scooted toward me, and began to get the feeling that Marlene wasn’t really all there. Her slightly singsong manner of speech and blank black eyes raised my suspicions.

“It’s very nice,’’ I said. “Marlene, where is your mother? Do you know?’’

She shook her head.

“I haven’t seen her for a long time. I miss her. And I’m hungry.”

That was the final nail in the coffin; something was wrong here. I wondered if I could get her to the police or a hospital or somewhere else safer than the street.

“Listen, Marlene—“ I eyed a pay phone next to us. “I’m going to call someone that might help you find your mother, all right?”

“I’m hungry,” she whispered, as I reached for the phone. I stopped. Her cheery demeanor had turned inside out in a flash— now she was trembling, curling herself into a ball, tucking her head behind her knees as if she had a terrible headache. I was at a loss. I touched her arm gently in a gesture I hoped would come across as comforting.

She grabbed my hand so tightly, I thought that if I tried to struggle she might break it. Then, with incredible strength belied by her delicate frame, she slammed me against the glass wall and sank her teeth into my neck. I let out a strangled cry. We both slid to the ground, struggling against each other. She overpowered me easily with a slap to the face that bloodied my nose. I tried to call for help, but my voice wasn’t working, and the rest of me was quickly becoming weak and numb. I couldn’t even keep my eyes open after a minute’s worth of fruitless straining. When I think of it now, it reminds me of the kind of nightmares where your limbs turn to jelly, and you’re too floppy to run from whatever horror is approaching.

I didn’t know what it was at the time, of course, but the last thing I heard was a gunshot.

babbling of the author-ish sort

Word count: 2449

Fun research problems: Why am I writing about a city I've never been to? I must be insane. But I guess it's not like I'm writing about anything terribly out-of-the-ordinary that wouldn't be there (sans vampires).
I actually did look at Google Maps to see how far it was from the airport to the main university campus. >___>

Favorite part: Matthias chasing the dog. xD PFFFT HAHAHA OWNEDDDDDD.

Annoyances: I haven't written in forever, so naturally I feel like I'm doing an overall terrible job. I probably am. xD Also, writing about the dog was annoying in a way because I didn't assign it a gender and felt awkward doing so. I guess I could have just said "he" (as people tend to do when an animal's gender is unknown) but... but... but... D:

Also I hope this chapter doesn't come off as a just whole lot of whining from Matthias. He's an innocent victim of author torment, that's all!

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