Once upon a time, the senior swim team at the 13th Street Y was big enough that they had trouble coordinating practices; inevitably, the lanes got too clogged and everything slowed down. When they were kids, Barry and Terry found that hilarious. They would sit in the lobby and watch the old people running into each other as they tried to swim laps, and they would laugh their impertinent little asses off.
Now, sixty-five years later (give or take half a decade), they didn’t find it so funny. And it didn’t matter anyway, because there were only five people on the senior swim team now: the two of them, Matilda (who was ninety-seven if she was a day, yet claimed to be only seventy), Mary-Jane and Marianne. Before Marianne joined the team, Barry and Terry referred to their teammates as M&M when the ladies couldn’t hear them…which was most of the time, since Matilda’s hearing aid batteries were constantly depleted, and Mary-Jane insisted that she didn’t need hearing aids yet, despite being completely deaf in one ear.
Still, it was a puny team, and the Senior Olympics were coming up in just a few months, and they couldn’t hope to qualify at this rate, let alone win. They desperately needed some fresh blood on the team.
So, when Marianne came to work practice one day gushing about the new man who just moved into the house across the street from her son, Barry and Terry were quickly excited. The man, Marianne insisted, was about seventy and strong as an ox. She also said he was the most handsome man she’d seen over sixty-five since Sean Connery, but they doubted the judges at the Senior Olympics cared about attractiveness.
After talking about it for a couple of days, Barry and Terry asked Marianne to bring them over to meet this man she was so enamored with, to see if he was interested in joining the swim team. Being glad of any excuse to talk to her crush, Marianne eagerly agreed to meet them the next day at her son’s house.
From there, they went across the street and knocked on the man’s door. Barry and Terry were surprised to see how pale and fragile the man looked; this guy was supposed to be strong as an ox? The old man smiled at Marianne and asked her—in a heavy Eastern European accent—who her friends were. After a round of introductions, the man—Drago von Cula—invited them inside, if they wished to come.
Obviously, they hadn’t come all this way to stand out on the stoop all day, so they followed him inside, and rather wished they hadn’t. It was cold as the tomb in his house, and every bit of furniture looked like he had inherited it from a cheesy old B-movie set of a haunted castle. The only pictures on his walls were paintings that looked like they dated to the 16th century.
Without offering them so much as a glass of water, Drago sat down on one of the stiff chairs in the living room, and his guests sat as well, Marianne in another chair, and Barry and Terry on the sofa, which was hard as a rock and immediately set their tailbones to aching. When Drago asked what brought them to see him, Marianne started a long and oozingly eager explanation of how much fun it was to be on the swim team and wouldn’t he like to join, because it would be ever so delightful to have him!
Drago listened passively, the same mild smile on his face that he had every time Marianne spoke. “I am afraid,” he said, “that I cannot swim, my dear. Such things were not done in my homeland.”
“Oh, but you could learn!” Marianne insisted, ignoring Barry and Terry as they tried to explain to her that he could never learn well enough in time for the Senior Olympics. She must have spent twenty minutes just expounding how wonderful the instructors were in the swim classes at the 13th Street Y.
“This Y of which you speak, it is on the 13th Street?” Drago asked. “Beyond the river?”
“Well, yes, it’s on the other side of the river from here, but what does that matter?”
“I am afraid I cannot cross the river.” He made a sign with his hand, probably trying to cross himself but lacking the fine motor skills. “There are spirits in those waters, you know.”
That made Marianne laugh and assure him that he was mistaken, but nothing she said (and no matter how long it took her to say it) was enough to convince him, and after a very long time, they were finally leaving again, having wasted the entire afternoon on the pointless visit. Barry and Terry promised themselves that they weren’t going to let Marianne’s whims waste any more of their time after that, and yet the very next day they found themselves at the nearby mall, helping her pick presents for her grandchildren, and eating very greasy, overpriced pizza in the food court.
“Look!” Marianne suddenly exclaimed, in the middle of a sentence about how cute her youngest granddaughter was. “Doesn’t that fellow look just like Drago?”
Following her pointing hand, Barry and Terry saw that the forty-something man did indeed look eerily like Drago. He was busily flirting with a couple of twenty-something girls, who seemed enchanted by him, despite that he was twice their age and dressed like he was going to the opera in Victorian London. Drago had been dressed rather like that, too…
After watching for a while, Barry and Terry wondered if they shouldn’t go over there and say something to the man. Not that they thought he was Drago (as Marianne seemed to think), but he had to be related to the old man, and—more importantly!—those co-eds were much too young for him, and he looked like he was planning on taking them both to bed with him, and that was just entirely inappropriate.
The man’s flirtation was suddenly cut off by the arrival of two burly men who shouted at him so loudly that even Barry and Terry had no trouble hearing them across the food court. They were evidently the boyfriends of the two co-eds, and didn’t appreciate an “old man” trying to horn in on their women. They dragged the Drago look-alike into the narrow, ill-lit hallway leading to the restrooms, while their girlfriends wept and moaned.
Marianne was on her feet and running after them before Barry and Terry could react. What in the world was she thinking?! An old woman couldn’t stop two massive ruffians in their twenties! Barry and Terry hurried after her, hoping that their sheer numbers would discourage the young men from trying to hurt them.
The hallway to the restrooms was empty, but there was a door open just a crack. The door was marked “Service Personnel Only” and led to an all-but-unlit corridor with access to the pipes and electrical grids. An unpleasant coppery smell permeated the dense, musty space beyond that door.
Marianne got out her phone and turned on its flashlight, spinning it around wildly. Barry and Terry noticed the pool of blood on the floor even before the light finally stopped on Drago as he stood over the prone body of one of the ruffians, holding the other’s limp body in his arms, lapping at blood that gushed from the younger man’s torn jugular. Marianne let out a brief shriek before fainting.
Barry and Terry caught her and carried her out of the corridor before Drago could let go of the body in his own arms. They kicked the door shut behind them and heard a satisfying snick as it locked.
Once they were back in the food court, worried people came over to help them with Marianne, giving them a sense of security. No matter what Drago was—and they didn’t doubt now that the man really was Drago—he wouldn’t do anything to them while there were so many witnesses, surely! Barry and Terry enlisted a few of the concerned young people to help them get Marianne—now awake but still terrified—back to their car so they could take her home.
Rather than take her back to her son’s house, where she had been staying since her husband died, they took her back to their own place, which was safely across the river, where Drago couldn’t get at her. There they had a strategy meeting, but all they could really say was that Drago was some sort of horrible monster, and that they were terrified of what he was going to do to them now that they knew.
They were still moaning over their lamentable fate when someone came to the door. The person on the other side was an attractive, pale woman with long, straight blonde hair. Combined with her furry black cape (despite the heat of the day!) and hat, she looked like something that had escaped from a cartoon. And she insisted on being given permission to come inside.
“Our informants suggest you’ve had a run in with him,” the woman said, taking a seat on the sofa. “In the food court.”
“You mean Drago?” Marianne asked, her voice shaking.
“That’s what he’s calling himself at the moment, yes.” She smiled, revealing alarmingly pointed teeth. “You might know him better by his original name: Dracula.”
“Were our informants wrong?” The woman tilted her head to one side. “They said you interrupted him mid-feed.”
The word and the image it conjured up churned Barry’s and Terry’s stomachs. But they couldn’t deny it. Didn’t even try. They did ask just who this woman was and why she knew so much. And, for that matter, who her informants were.
“The rats have a very strong information network in this—and every other—city,” the woman told him, checking her nails as she did so, as if it was the most insignificant of statements. “As to myself…well, you may call me Mircalla. I am a senior member of the Sisterhood of Blood, led by our most honored Countess, Elizabeth Bathory.”
“You…what?” Marianne asked, her voice trembling.
“Yes, we’re vampires, too,” Mircalla said, smiling and revealing her fangs again. “There are more of us than you think. And now you’ve become caught up in our…feud.”
“Dracula and his hangers-on are the eternal enemies of the countess. We have been at war since…well, for much longer than my mere three hundred years.”
“What—what do you want in America? Are you going to…to turn us all into…vampires…?”
“That would be a terrible waste of food,” Mircalla laughed. “We merely seek to survive. Left to our own devices, the majority of us are not a threat to humans. We exist symbiotically: what would harm the humans would harm us, just as surely as what harms a cow or a chicken harms humans by its effect on their food supply. And unlike humans, we can feed from the same being for a lifetime without any lasting harm, if we are cautious and understanding. That is what we in the Sisterhood do.” She coughed. “Usually. Sometimes the countess…well, there have been lapses.” She shook her head. “What matters is that the Sisterhood of Blood, like most of the vampire clans, seek only peaceful coexistence with the humans. Dracula’s vile horde, on the other hand, seek dominance, devastation and control. That is why we—”
Mircalla was interrupted by the telephone ringing. Like most of their friends, Barry and Terry still had a landline, and it was this that rang. When they answered, an unsettlingly familiar voice asked to speak to Marianne. They put it on speaker rather than hand over the receiver.
“Who is it?” Marianne asked, her voice trembling.
“You dropped your cellular phone,” Drago—no, Dracula—said on the other end of the line. “Most careless of you, my dear.”
“How…how did you…?”
“Your son gave me the numbers of all your little friends.”
Marianne turned white as a ghost and started trembling at the revelation that he had been speaking to her son, putting him and her grandchildren at risk.
“Perhaps you’d like to give it back to her,” Mircalla said, with a warm laugh. “Why don’t you bring it by?”
A gasp on the other end of the line. “Carmilla?! You vile traitor!”
“I have never betrayed my countess.”
There was silence, then the line went dead. After chewing on her lip for a moment, Mircalla—Carmilla?—suggested that they go to Marianne’s son’s house to see what was going on, promising that one of the Sisterhood would be there before they could arrive, in order to protect them—and Marianne’s family—if Dracula was still there.
By the time Barry and Terry could drive Marianne there, there was no sign of Dracula, or any vampire of the Sisterhood of Blood. All they found was Marianne’s cell phone abandoned on the front porch of the house, while inside Mary-Jane and Matilda were having tea with Marianne’s daughter-in-law.
Since Mircalla was gone when Barry and Terry returned home, they decided to write the whole thing off as a bizarre reaction to their new medication, and vowed never to speak of the matter again.
Yeah, the ending was sudden and rather, um, too easy. Anyway, the prompt was…
Character: A senior citizen swim team
Plot: navigates the secret world of modern vampires.
Notes: Can you cast my two creepy uncles as the leads? They really need this.
Writing Barry and Terry as, essentially, one character with one POV and no dialog was my way of adding the instruction on the “Notes” card, in that you can take it to mean that originally there was just one old man instead of two. That was sort of a bad draw, in that ideally for the actual game, you’d want to get that “Notes” card for something like the last one I got, where the lead is supposed to be a “young Naval officer”; it worked too smoothly in this case, since the character card already specified old people.
Anyway, so that rounded out my NotNaNo experience, giving me 2,226 words today, for a grand total of 55,838. A puny score compared to some of my past years (once I had a total of over 200k and three novellas completed, but that was when I had no other drains on my time and no health problems interfering), but still moderately decent. I suppose.