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by Ryder W. Miller

Zelth looked out over the books that surrounded him. It had been a long day and things would never be the same. It had been a grand time. He was at the book store on a typical tuesday when they had come in. He was minding his business as usual when the customer made a stir. There were two of them, a man and a woman. They were taller than him because he was hunched over. He often had to use a ladder to get him to the top shelves, but they didn't need the ladder. The man just picked up the book from the top shelf and gave it to the woman who was probably his wife.

She looked at it and began to scream.

"This is about me! How could they know!"

Zelth tried to hide behind a book shelf in case she decided to throw it at anyone. Luckily there were only a few others that were in the store. They also looked shocked and not sure how to proceed. Zelth wanted to hide. He was not always like that. In the past he was a terror himself, but now he was older. Smarter, but not quite so fearsome. He was crueler, but he needed to be shrewd to get away with it.

"Why are you blaming me," said the man back to the livid woman.

"Who had the right?"

Zelth decided he needed to do something about this. He was angry now and he hoped that it would work. He stepped out from behind the bookshelf that he sort of was cowering behind and interrupted them.

"Sorry to bother you but you are disturbing the other customers."

The woman gave him an angry look.

"Who the hell do you think you are to sell such crap?"

"Are you calling my books crap?"

"What if I am?"

"Why you will have to leave. How dare you come into my bookstore and call my books crap!"

She just looked at him now. She glowed with a fiery look in her eye.

"Keep your distance," Zelth said.

"Calm down will you," said the man who was likely the husband.

"I need help now. I will give a discount. Charleson come and help me."

The lady dropped the book on the floor and gave her companion an angry look.

"I can't believe you made me walk in here?"

"It was the only place where you could find it."

"I think you should buy it. It may be useful someday? We are have a sale today for forgiving customers," said Zelth.

"A sale. I guess I over reacted. You men are allowed to get angry. Why am I not allowed to get angry? How much off?" she said.

Zelth held up his fingers and then quickly closed his hands.

"Ten percent," he said.

He now decided to give this woman a closer look. She was laughing in a devilish kind of way. He looked closely at her teeth and noticed her canines. The man also looked unusually thin and oddly yellowish. He was the one who took the money out of his pocket. She had calmed down, but she was still annoyed.

Zelth tried to lighten the mood. There were also the other customers in the bookstore that he did not know what to do with yet.

"You don't get this everyday. You can't pay for this kind of drama."

The couple looked annoyed, but he man began to smirk slightly.

"We are the only one's who only sell these type of things anymore."

Zelth took the cash and procured the change.

"Can we go?" said the woman.

"Yes lets," said the man, but he was annoyed at the woman instead of Zelth who noticed that the door was closed a little more loudly that he was used to.

He decided to now really laugh about it, but he did have to say something to the other customers who had to be revived out of their temporary stupor. They still seemed a little shocked.

"Why you could have went to the circus instead, but you would have had to pay money for this. You got this for free here at Macabre's Rare Books.

Zelth got busy with the customers showing then around.

"Why here are the books about vampires in this section. This section is about Mummies, but they don't call them that anymore. This was back before Zombies got so famous...."

It had been a long day already. Now Zelth looked at his reflection in the store window. He would like to have been taller, but then he might have be too tall to kiss the missus at the house. The business was not doing very well, but they were getting by. It had been a hell of an achievement. Opening a specialty store here in the big city. It drew all the strange sorts. There were a lot of walker byes who also could be brought into the fold.

For now he was just happy collecting and sharing these stories. When he was a kid he wanted to be a vampire. Why he could stay up all night, turn into a bat, and they sure did seem to always have women interested in them. When they were disturbed they could get all kinds of angry. Vampires were Zelth's favorite. They seemed to have so much more class than a lot of the other crazy creatures out there.

Blood turned out to be very nutritious. There was much less digestion involved. It was an acquired taste. It usually came warm, but some specifically liked the cold blooded. Drinking blood could be like drinking mulled wine, but actually more salty than sweet. Yum Yum Yum. It is what vampires craved for, but Zelth was not sure why nobody seemed to have made some money off of it. Why in the corner and food stores today there were all sort of new drinks. There was stronger alcoholic beverages. There were new vitamin drinks. There were also a large assortment of energy drinks.

But no blood. Why one had to go out and hunt it on their own. There was V8 which was might nutritious, but it was not quite the same. Maybe in foreign countries one could grow people for their blood? Maybe the American Red Cross was willing to get rid of some blood? Wouldn't it be great if someone put together an encyclopedia about blood? The vampires would certainly love it. There were not a lot of those kind visiting the store. Usually they had to wait until it was dark. They did seem to have friends who would pick up a book for them.

Zelth did not know what to do. He could not really specialize in those type of books because there was not enough street traffic who would really appreciate them. But maybe they were getting their books somewhere else. It was quite a dilemma. If he supplied them would the come? There were all sorts of vampires these day, but they usually kept to themselves. In the past they were just these crazy guys who lived alone in some castle or estate somewhere. They wished to be left a alone and by the looks of them, them being so slim, it seemed clear that they did not eat very much.

Now being a vampire was so in. He tried to stock the classics, but people came in asking for the movie tie-ins. He liked the movies just as much as any other "guy" but people were losing touch with the past. Now teenagers wanted to be teenage vampires. There were also the gender benders who only really wanted blood from the opposite sex. Young girls didn't want to feel vulnerable anymore. They wanted super powers like the men. Then there were the people who didn't want to hang around with anyone who was under 150 years old. Those old vamps sure seemed to have perspective. They also lived in some of the coolest towns. They could go out an fly and carry someone home to be devoured. Yummy. Yummy. Yummy.

Someone said life was a long tune and they wanted to listen too it. But somehow the old age didn't result in anything artistic. Zelth figured being a vampire was artistic in a way. Certainly they were inspiring, maybe more now than ever. But now there were all these teenagers involved. It was nice that they were interested in tradition, but they did not know what exactly to look for. It was hard to steer them away from the crap.

Zelth tried not to sell crap. He realized that there were newer authors who tried to say things, but they needed to be grounded in reality. They needed to have roots. Maybe that is why the vampires were so good about sleeping on dirt in the coffins? Maybe they got power from the soil? Somehow he could not get his mind off vampires. That is part of the reason why he stayed with the store so long. People needed to know these stories. They needed to know what was going on.

They were not likely to find out these stories on the television news. The movies they made about the Macabre was also a bunch of crap. They did not seem to know the mythology. They did not seem to know the old stories. There was a tradition dammit, but he could not be obvious about it. Not everybody could know.

Take Frankenstein for instance. There was one failed experiment. Who would have guessed that it would end so horribly. But then again he could still be out there. The body was never found. The North Pole, was it the North Pole, where he went to? Actually it didn't matter because it was such a big place. Nobody would find him there. Certainly they were not interested in going and taking a look again. It was too cold.

Creating a living thing from human scraps and corpses, now that was a science fiction story. Who would have imagined such a thing would be possible? Since then there has been so many other cases and citings. Why everybody has heard of Frankenstein or has read stories about his ilk. Actually the achievement was wondrous, but many would say it was horrible. Imagine knocking someone off and there they were again ready to get revenge. Zelth had seen far more that his fair share of these stories, but he had only once met up with the monster himself.

Actually he was kind of a duffuss, but he longed to be smarter and came in to buy a book. He wanted the classic by Mary Shelley of course, but Zelth had persuaded him to acquire many more. There he was in the shop, not exactly one of a kind, but quite the marvel nonetheless. They weren't all called Frankenstein. They were not all named Frankenstein after some revolutionary scientist before his time. Most people were scared of their loved one returning, but now it was possible to bring them back.

Talk about smelly, but there was something erotic about looking at all the scars and cuts. Zelth had the chance to date a "Miss Frankenstein" once. He had read about her in a trade magazine, but he turned out to be too shy to take the first step. Odds were slim that she would let him see her unclothed body. There weren't magazines or art devoted to such subjects. But think about it. Here could be a significant other who may have some real tales to tell about the great beyond. They had crossed over and been returned. But the process may have drained their minds of their memories of the afterlife.

Coming back from the dead was so in fashion now. There were the vampires who could not die. There were the "Frankensteins" who could be recreated and given life again. There were also the mummies and zombies.

There was something about decay that has always gotten people's interest. The mummies, some international jet setters, were rotting corpses, but they could have a mission of sorts. The Zombies were not very different, but they tended to be an offended lot. The living dead could be on a pilgrimage or vendetta. There were all these stories that did not make the new. There were also the fantastical movies and television shows, but Zelth had seen some of these kinds before. One had to watch out not to offend. There could be whole armies now of mutant undead creatures on the war path. Think about all those seeking retribution.

There was something about death that we did not want to be so permanent. There was something about realism that was not quite comprehensive enough. There were all kinds of experiences that were available that could not be mainstream enough. Not everybody could or should know these things. The world was filled with magic and wonder. There were prayers that could be answered. There was premonition. There were dreams fulfilled. There were nightmares that could be avoided.

So why was it so hard to believe that something would come back from the dead? One needed to be sure not to disturb the resting dead in certain parts. They sure liked to give some their commupance. Most however did not believe such tales and would keep away from funeral parlors and cemeteries. Graveyards were also to be avoided.

One time this guy brought a boombox out to a grave site. Most people were too shy to tell him not the play the music. Why it was not something that belonged in such parts, but music had a power over people. One could not resist such music, but that fella was never heard from again. The boombox was later found destroyed near his ript apart body. Who would deny that classical music was more appropriate for the funeral industry.

Some came back to haunt people just as ghosts or spirits. They were less grimy in a lot of ways. People had seen apparitions and visions of the dead returning in all sorts of places. Zelth loved such stories. Hell, some just refused to move on, but left their bodies nonetheless. They had wrongs to right. They sort to avenge. But some also wished help. Not all wanted to haunt, but there was something about death that most people didn't realize was not so permanent.

There was this secret world here that Zelth had a great deal of knowledge about. It was his mission to save such stories. He helped collect them. Zelth himself was not quite human. He was a gimp of sorts. He was not always recognized as such because he wore a hat. Usually he was not at the store or at least did not serve the customers. He had Charles for that.

Charleson had a big smile and some problems associating with people. He could not be a recluse at the store. He would often grow angry for no reason. Some thought he was a psycho. Zelth could not admit how many problems he had solved. Zelth figured that it was a good business practice to have a psycho at the shop. It came along with the type of business he was trying to run.

Zelth did not really go in for the maniacs and murders like some others. There was not yet a long tradition of them. Where they came from was not clear. Maybe it was those damn radio waves interfering with one's genetics and one's brains. Some people were interested in such tales. But he did not think it should be a victim sport. If someone was supernatural that was okay with him. That was understandable. Tales about alter ego's could be complicated.

Zelth preferred tales about werewolves which were technically different. Here there were creatures who could change form in the full moonlight. What a spectacle to observe. These were really wild and strange creatures. They were interested in expanding their ranks and all they usually had to do was bite. They did not even need to reproduce in the same way everybody else had to. Many of them were very righteous men who got carried away one night a month. I guess that was their opportunity to call people stupid or something. It was a good thing that most people did not know that they were real. But that is why he collected such tales. He would say these are "Our Tales" when such would visit the bookstore.

There were other such stories that others had not heard about, but they were only a book away.

The day was done and what a day it had been. Why there was drama and commerce. New people at the store who would return. There was one interchange at the end of the day that Zelth would remember for a long time.

A squeeky sounding woman asked "Do you sell any Non Fiction?"

Charleson replied "Why it is all Non Fiction."

She shuddered knowingly and left with the books she had already purchased.

Copyright Ryder W. Miller 2011

Ryder W. Miller is the editor of From Narnia to a Space Odyssey, and co-writer of San Francisco: A Natural History. He has published stories at MythCircle and the Lost Souls website.

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