They love the dark and isolated places from which they can ambush their innocent victims. Cruel and consumed by evil drives they hunger to unleash their violence on the weak, the isolated, never caring about the damage they cause and the terror they spread. They lust for blood and destroy countless lives as they devote their existence to hurting others.
No, I’m not talking about vampires, but bullies. Bullies are the vampires of our society and schools, causing scars that never go away. I know because I was a bullied child. So I dedicate this tale of bullies and vampires to the brave victims, their families and friends, who, like Esme and her friends, find ways to fight against these venomous Crypt Creeps. Always remember, you are not alone.
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Thank you again to my sons, Josh, Keith and David, who have been amazingly helpful at editing and helping me prepare this book. Thanks to my former students who still inspire me to create wacky lessons for them, and to my great Children’s Authors Team, (CAT), that helps me ‘sharpen’ my work. And finally, but not ‘leastly’, to my wife, Linda, my little vampire fighter.
To all of you, I hope you enjoy this battle between the forces of evil and good.
Esme pulled away from her mother’s kiss. It felt icy-cold on her cheek. She felt as if she had just touched dead fish. Her eyes landed on her mother’s normally lustrous hazel eyes and saw they had turned black and hollow. She had seen eyes like these before…in her mirror only a few weeks ago. When she had almost become one of them.
“Esme? Why are you looking at me like that?” her mother asked in an emotionless voice.
“I’ll be back in a little while. I’m going over to a friend,” Esme replied, her mother’s rancid breath making her squirm.
“Must you go? I’m a bit hungry. I was thinking of having a little bite.” Her mother’s tongue ran over her teeth.
That’s what I’m afraid of, Esme thought, backing away even further from lips that now appeared to be throbbing on either side of her mother’s mouth. “Don’t you have a date tonight,” she asked, wondering how many of her mother’s dates after the divorce had been with living men. What a strange thought? Esme shivered.
“I want you to meet my new boyfriend. He’s a famous doctor.”
At the word, ‘doctor’, Esme froze. Could it be? Nah! And yet, Mom has that strange haunted look. She gazed at her mother’s face, twisted into a sinister white mask. A half smile looked thin and forced.
It can’t be! He wouldn’t dare! That creep! Not my mother! And yet it would explain a lot of what Esme had seen happening to her Mom these last few weeks. It would explain the vacant eyes that strayed into the darkness of night, the dented cheeks and rigid, skeletal, jaw bones. And oh yes, the long lashing tongue. Is she going out with a doctor or a lizard, Esme wondered, and laughed at how silly she was being. A lizard? But a lizard would be better than the vampire or his creepy friend.
“Esmeralda,” she heard the familiar, hypnotic, voice of the doctor echoing in her brain, but it turned out to be her mother, eyes nailed onto Esme’s throbbing throat. “Come closer, dear, sweet, pleasingly plump, Esmeralda,” her mother coaxed.
“I’ve got to go,” Esme said, shuffling away from the table.
Her mother was blocking the door.
Esme again shivered at the incredible iciness of her mother’s touch, the sallow tone of her complexion, the dullness of her eyes. She stared at her mother’s thin figure, even thinner than it had always been. Esme knew her worst fears, crazy fears, might not be so crazy.
“He’s a wonderful man, an amazing doctor,” her mother said, her eyes still fixed on Esme’s neck as if it was a chocolate covered cherry.
Esme felt another even worse spidery chill as her mother painted a description too close to her memory of the insane so-called ‘doctor’ who had almost turned her school into his very own vampire feeding ground. “Mom, does this doctor have thin white hair surrounding his mostly bald head,” she asked, afraid to hear the answer.
“Yes. He is so cute! He has the wispiest little hairs on his adorable, bald head. I could just hug him to death.”
Or vice versa, Esme thought, still praying she was wrong. “Does he have a roly-poly belly and a funny accent…like in the Dracula movies?”
“Why yes. He’s so funny when he says, “I vant to drink your blood.” It’s a little joke between us.” Her mother tried to smile, but couldn’t even fake it. “He looks like a beardless Santa Claus. Truly adorable. Chubby…like you, dear Esmeralda.”
Esme felt panic building insider her, but there was still hope. “Is his name Dr. Ghoulish?” She held her breath. There had to be a million doctors out there with wispy white hair and European accents. I can hope, can’t I, she thought, clutching at straws, praying it wasn’t the creep she had met in the crypt.
Her mother shook her head. “No, dear, not Ghoulish. No. That’s not at all right.”
Thank goodness! Esme breathed a sigh of relief. Her worst fear had been erased. It wasn’t him. It wasn’t the ruthless king of the vampires, the maniacal blood-sucker who had pretended to be a diet doctor to hide his evil scheme to turn the students in her school into anorexic mush, too-weak-to-fight against him. So many were fooled into becoming his always ready source of fresh, young, blood. They had sacrificed their souls to be thin and popular, she thought, still not believing how far she had gone to be just like them. Those days are over…or are they? Can I ever be sure?
Her mother said softly, “No, dear, Esmeralda, not Ghoulish. You pronounce it like ‘gosh’. Like gosh, he’s wonderful!”
“Gosh?” The chill Esme felt racing up her back was like the touch of Dr. Ghoulash’s six inch long fingernails. Ghoulash rhymes with gosh!
”Oh gosh no,” Esme groaned. “Not again! The Crypt Creeps are back!”
“Dr. Ghoulash? Mom, please say it isn’t so?” Esme’s hand was gripping the top of the kitchen chair tightly, wishing it was the mad doctor’s stubby neck. “Are you sure it was Ghoulash…like rhymes with ‘gosh’?” Esme asked, her mind refusing to believe this could be happening again.
“Yes, dear, his name is Dr. Ghoulash. He is the most marvelous man, a true genius. His diet will make even you lose weight. Look! It’s working wonders for me.” Mrs. Jones twirled around, as if modeling a fancy dress, but her movements were clumsy. She seemed barely able to complete the pirouette without teetering. When she faced Esme again, her eyes were black pits. “You should start seeing him, Esme. You’ve been putting on all that ugly fat again.”
“I’ve lost a lot of weight, Ma,” Esme said, backing steadily toward the door.
“Oh, but my doctor has a miracle cure,” Esme’s mother said.
“I’ll be right back,” Esme said, her eyes watching for any sudden move as she inched her fingers to the door knob. “I’ve an idea, Ma. Why don’t you stay home tonight? Watch a good movie? Nosh on some chocolate bars? Mmm! You love chocolate.”
“Not any more, Esme, my plump little morsel. I have other cravings now.” Esme’s mother stared at her daughter’s neck and inched forward.
Esme had seen that look on Alexa, Pam and Latisha, the three sinister girls who had made her life miserable with their bullying. “Mom? Mom? MOM! Snap out of it!”
“Esme?” It was as if her mother was seeing her daughter for the first time that evening. “What happened? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Mom, are you alright? Are you back?” Esme looked deep into the bony face. She saw what was left of her mother, her once lustrous red hair, now black and stringy. Her once full lips, now thin, upper lips pulsing rapidly. “Mom, you need help.”
“Esme? Yes, please help me?”
Esme reached for her mother’s hand, but stopped when her mother added with a cruel sneer, “I am so hungry…and you are so juicy.”
Esme wanted to dash out the door. She wanted to run away from this creature that resembled her mother, but was on the edge of becoming something else. Esme knew what it was. She had almost become such a creature herself when she had fallen under the control of the fiendish Dr. Ghoulash. “Mom, concentrate! You can fight it!”
Her mother’s hand reached out and tightened on Esme’s wrist.
“Mom, let go! You’re hurting me!”
Her mother’s eyes cleared again. “Esme, I need help. Help me? I don’t know how long I can hold out. It comes and goes.” Her eyes gazed pitifully into Esme’s face. “Esme, you won’t tell? Promise me, you won’t tell anyone? They’ll put me away…I’ll be lost forever.”
The fear in her mother’s voice bit into Esme’s heart. She thought she saw a flicker of her mother in the pleading eyes. “No, mother, I won’t tell.” Esme knew she was lying, but who could she tell that would be able to help them before it was too late? If it wasn’t too late already?
Her mother sagged into a kitchen chair. “I feel so tired, Esme…tired and thirsty…always very thirsty.”
“Stay here, Ma. I’ll be back soon.”
“I need my Dr. Ghoulash,” her mother said. “He can help. He always helps.”
“Just stay here,” Esme repeated, and eyes watching for any sign her mother might spring into an attack, she inched toward the door. “Please, stay right here? Promise me?”
“You’ll find him for me,” her mother asked.
“I’ll find help.” Esme closed the door carefully. She was afraid if she slammed it the noise would alarm her mother and she would not let her leave. She locked it with her key, praying her mother wouldn’t be able to get out. She had thought of staying to be sure her mother didn’t leave, but knew if the ‘vampire’ fever was raging, there would be no way to stop her. A thirteen year old girl’s strength is no match for the strength of whatever her mother would become once her soul, was lost. Esme relived in recurring nightmares the horrible acts she had almost committed with her surprising strength as she had almost become a…crypt creep!
”No I mustn’t think of that! Not ever!” Esme ran through the streets, fighting the urge to cry. She knew once she got to her best friend, Viola’s house, she would break her promise to her mother. She would be willing to break every rule she had always believed in to free her mother from the vampire’s evil control. She swore she would use any trick or weapon she could find to fight and defeat the evil blood-sucker, and free her mother from his powerful clutches.
“How could I have been so wrong about anyone,” she asked, remembering how she had first thought Dr. Ghoulash, (rhymes with ‘gosh’), was so wonderful, a genius who had actually discovered a way to make a fat, seventh grade, girl, lose weight, almost instantly. “Of course, I’d jump at a chance like that,” she mused, shuddering at how she weighed nearly two hundred pounds before blackmailing her bullies into letting her join the Midnight Diet Club.
Esme was almost down to one hundred fifty pounds now, but it was so much harder without the Doctor’s sinister diet. “I was almost beautiful.”
“You were almost a vampire,” her conscience reminded her.
Esme sighed. The all too real image of three, tall, slender girls, Alexa, Latisha and Pam, the bullies that had tormented her mercilessly, flashed across her brain. “I was one of ‘them’.”
To be thin again? It was still tempting. It was so tempting she had to fight it all the time. Even weeks later, Esme found it was difficult to fight the desire to have a perfect body, to be accepted, popular, no matter the risk…no matter the awful price.
As confident as she was becoming, with the help of Viola, Esme still envied the three girls, who had been her heartless enemies. Alexa, the leader, with her model’s body, and snotty look-down-at-your-nose, cruelty. How that girl had tormented her, teased her, hounded her, pushed her around. She, more than any other, had driven Esme to desperate actions.
And what Alexa didn’t do her brutal side-kick, Latisha, would complete with cruel joy. Latisha, black and sinewy, was like a panther. She was a knife with a brutal and violent nature that would make a wild tiger proud. She was the trio’s enforcer, always eager to enjoy the pain of others. I hated her, Esme thought, always fearful Latisha might show up again.
Esme suspected the blood-lust held Latisha in its tight grip more than the others. She had seen it in Latisha’s wild eyes. The picture of those savage eyes appeared in her nightmares frequently, flashbacks to that horrifying time in the crypt. She knew Latisha would not have hesitated in tearing her to pieces if Alexa, or Dr. Ghoulash, gave the order.
Alexa and Latisha had been solid, impenetrable, walls of hate, which is why Esme had focused on the third member of the sinister sisterhood, Pam. Smaller, less slender, weasel-like Pam, was the newest member of the ‘club’. She was ‘the weak link’. She was also the only one of the three who had remained in school after the confrontation in the cemetery. Alexa and Latisha vanished after that showdown, their homes put up for sale. Nobody knew where they were. Esme was just relieved they were gone and the bullying was over at last.
“To think I wanted to be one of those creeps.” Esme sighed, dismayed at how her envy of the ‘three ghouls’, as Vi called them, had blinded her to their true nature. “How close I came.” The worst part? Esme knew if she didn’t have Vi, to help her fight the ever-present gnawing temptation, she might still someday be turned…but turned into what?
Esme remembered Alan warning, “They’re all vampires.”
At the time she didn’t believe him. They never said what they were…what Ghoulash was. But what else could he have been? If it looks like a vampire, talks like a vampire, reeks like a vampire… seeks blood like a vampire….
Esme was distracted by her swirling thoughts, her memories of what she had almost become. She didn’t notice she made a wrong turn. She was no longer running. She was tired, still recovering from her battle with the devilish Doctor and his fiendish crew. “And how about that ghoul of ghouls, Ignor,” she said aloud, still not realizing she was going the wrong way.
Esme saw the giant’s gaunt face flash before her like a huge neon sign. What is he? He isn’t a vampire…what kind of creep is he?
Esme stopped walking, staring at the darkening sky where she thought she had seen the monster’s face again. “It isn’t real. It isn’t. Won’t these nightmares ever stop?”
“Not as long as your mother is in danger,” a voice reminded her.
Esme wished she could turn around, go home, and forget everything, but knew she couldn’t, not as long as her Mom needed her. “Where the heck is Viola’s house? I should be there by now?”
WHAT IS DR. GHOULASH'S INSANE PLOT? CAN ESME DEFEAT HIM AND HIS BODYGUARD, IGNOR AMOS? WHAT IS THE SECRET TO FIGHTING BULLIES?
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