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  Author Mike X Welch

Prologue of The Vampire and the Dragon (PrOOF Vol. 1)

           

            Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

            A vampire walks into a slaughterhouse…

            I’ve been to this complex dozens of times before. It’s an amalgamation of several large buildings with some smaller offices at the front. I’m here to pick up the five gallons of livestock blood I’ll consume this month. I’m shown into the manager’s office and endure five minutes of banal chitchat typical when face to face with Morty. I avoid humans in general; partially because of the annoying ones like Morty, but also because I don’t like the temptation of slaughtering them and drinking their blood.

            The conversation is brought to a halt by the sound of something solid smacked against the relatively thin metal walls of the slaughterhouse.

            “What the hell was that?”

            Morty averts his eyes and answers “Nothin’. I dunno. Nothing.”

            What follows is a deep lowing which moves through bass registers well beyond even my hearing. Morty and I share a concerned look as his coffee cup vibrates off the desk and shatters on the concrete floor.

            “Cows?” Morty offers.

            I frown, but before I can call out the shifty and nebbish manager on his lie, the phone rings.

            Morty looks back and forth between the phone and I, his pinched face stricken.

            I sit back and cross my arms. Morty reluctantly answers the phone.

            I don’t let on, but I can hear their entire conversation. The squeaky-voiced secretary - who does her best to ignore me every time I come to the slaughterhouse - whines, “What was that?” her voice shrill. Morty winces. She prattles on for another dozen seconds before asking, “Do I need to call the Crow Corporation?”

            “No!” Morty answers a bit too quickly. “No, I’ll deal with it,” he asserts, hanging up while she continues to argue. He looks back to me, and I raise an eyebrow.

            “I’ll be right back,” Morty says cryptically, then hurries from around his desk and out into the hallway with a speed belying his belly paunch.

            I sit quietly in the now-empty office for a few minutes. When I hear the deep crying sound again, I feel compelled to track the source down. I can easily follow the panicked manager’s trail; the tang of flop sweat and lack of deodorant show me the way. After traversing several hallways and turning multiple corners, I come to a solid, grey painted wall. There’s a slight depression on the left, so I give that area a testing push. The wall moves inward. I lean into that part of the wall.

            Slowly – but silently – the false wall pivots enough to allow me through. There are orphaned strands of straw on the concrete floor. I pick up Morty’s scent again, but a different one immediately overpowers it. The normal smells of the slaughterhouse – livestock blood, shit and sweat -- are easy enough to filter out. This other scent is so alien, so exotic, that I have to bob my head around for a few moments to take it all in.

            I follow the combined scent-trails around a corner into a large room. It is nearly the size of a hangar. Three humans turn from their work on a massive, round, obsidian object surrounded by loose hay. One of them – Morty – disengages and starts walking briskly toward me. I find myself unable to look away from the black rock. Is it a meteorite? A coal deposit? Wait, is it stirring…breathing?  Morty’s mouth is moving as he comes toward me, but I don’t hear what he says, nor care about the many gestures his hands are making. I am marching toward him as well. When Morty comes close enough to block my line of sight, I put my hand fully on his face and absently force him out of my path. The last thing I see is the other two men turn from the black object, their mouths curled in anger. Then a blinding light comprised solely of pain is everything and everywhere.

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