In a forgotten graveyard of churning fog and mist, a rickety, old jalopy
chugged up a steep, narrow road. A young boy, sitting in the back seat, was tossed
from side to side as the wheels hit deep ruts. He wore a long black coat that touched
the floor and his wavy hair curled around his pointy ears. Two sharp fangs protruded
over his lower lip. The boy is a vampire and his name is Upir.
Upir contented himself with studying the driver, who was an odd sort. He
was covered with dark reddish fur. His chauffeur’s outfit was three sizes too small
causing his belly to hang out. A jaunty cap rested on his pointed head. Most
fascinating to Upir were the driver’s four arms: two of which were occupied with
steering, a third fiddled with the light switch and the last simply hung out the
window tapping the door.
Upir’s interest faded as the drive grew longer and longer. He wiped a
spot clean on the window and pressed his face against it. He barely blinked as he
watched rows and rows of slanted gravestones pass by. Suddenly, the car jolted to
a stop smashing the young vampire’s face into the window. “Hey!” Upir screamed at
The driver turned around. His craggy face was only a shadow in the dim light.
His voice was raspy. “This is where you get out,” he said uncaring.
Through his window Upir saw a large cluster of sycamore trees. “But there’s
nothing here,” he said as a bolt of lightning illuminated a building hidden in the
The driver pointed a finger on each of his four hands. “There, in the trees,”
Upir nervously rubbed one of his shiny fangs. “That’s the camp? Are you
sure?” The driver didn’t answer. He got out of the car and went around to the back.
Upir saw his huge suitcase fly through the air and land in a muddy puddle at
the side of the road. He rolled down the window. “Hey, be careful with that!” he
yelled. Before he could utter another word, one of the driver’s arms opened the
door while another hairy limb grabbed Upir plucking him from the car and setting
him down beside the suitcase. The driver got back in the car and gunned the
accelerator. The old vehicle spun around nearly running over Upir’s foot.
“Watch what you’re doing!” Upir shouted as the car drove out of the graveyard.
With his vampire strength, Upir lifted the humongous suitcase like it weighed
nothing, headed toward the building, and stepped inside the circle of trees. A huge
stone structure towered before him, its blocks gray and blackened with age. Upir’s
eyes widened. Four gigantic columns framed the door where two granite
angels stood on either side. Gargoyle statues guarded the entrance, their ruby eyes
glowing in the dark night.
Upir’s ears stiffened as his enhanced hearing picked up rustling noises above
the treetops. He turned abruptly. Two witches, one young and one old, flew among
the trees. He watched them land several yards behind him. The young witch jumped
off her broomstick, grabbed her bag, and walked slowly toward him.
“Witches,” he thought, “What are they doing here?” Ignoring her, he turned
and proceeded to the gate. Upir held his breath as he read the words etched into
the granite. NEEWOLLAH
“Doesn’t look like any training camp I’ve ever seen,” he whispered to himself.
From behind him a quiet voice said, “Looks like a mausoleum to me.”
Upir whipped around to see a girl in a black, pointy hat. Her eyes were a
striking purplish blue. She lowered her gaze. “I’m sorry if I scared you.”
“Na,” he said pointing at the gargoyles. “They already took care of that.”
“Yeah,” the young witch said. “They are pretty scary.”
“I’m Upir,” the vampire said sticking out his hand reluctantly.
The witch hesitated before shaking it. “I’m Isabelle,” she replied.
“So, you’re a witch,” Upir said hesitantly.
Isabelle nodded. She adjusted the black velvet bag that hung at her waist.
Without thinking, Upir blurted, “But this is Monster Training Camp. A witch
isn’t a monster.”
Isabelle’s eyes filled with tears. She brushed past the rude vampire and
walked briskly toward the door.
Upir swallowed, wishing he could take back his words. He started to explain
when fierce growls interrupted him. The two gargoyles turned their heads and
snarled. Streams of light flashed from their eyes illuminating the kids in a blood
Isabelle ran back to Upir and grabbed his arm. “They’re alive!” she screamed.
A grinding noise caught Upir’s attention; he turned to see the angels rotating.
With a screech, the door moved spilling light from inside the stone walls. “The door,
the door’s opening!” Upir yelled! He glanced up at the gargoyles, pulled Isabelle and
screamed, “Come on, run!”
They ran up the marble steps, past the growling statues and through the
doorway, nearly colliding with a shadowy figure in the passageway. He was bent
over with the weight of an enormous hump; his face drooped like a basset hound.
One eye was brown and dull, while the other, a bulging eye that never closed stared
back at them.
Isabelle’s grip tightened on Upir’s arm. Patting her hand he tried to reassure
her, but then, the creature spoke.
“This way,” he said, his words gurgling with saliva. He grabbed their
belongings and shuffled off in a lurching gait leading the children down winding
steps into the black. Gargoyle torches lighted their next steps as they headed into
the unknown. The unfriendly light danced along the stone walls. As they descended,
the stairs coiled deeper and deeper into the blackness.
“Yuck!” Isabelle squealed, her eyes staring at the floor.
“What?” Upir looked down. Huge black insects with hard shells and
spindly legs darted across his shoe. He stumbled, nearly falling before
grabbing onto the stone wall.
The hunchback looked at his hump and emitted a hair-raising giggle.
“Just beetles,” he coughed.
Upir and Isabelle followed the hunchback down the last set of stairs
that ended at a wide hallway with intersecting passageways. The dancing
flames illuminated several filthy rats as they scurried past, their long,
hairless tails swishing on the ground. On the high ceiling, large furry
spiders dangled from wispy webs. Upir felt Isabelle move closer to him.
Isabelle tapped Upir’s shoulder and pointed. Inside an open
chamber to their left huddled a group of centaur statues. Their braided hair
flowed down their strong and nimble bodies. Isabelle whispered, “They look
like they’re having a meeting.”
Hearing the unfamiliar voice, one of the statues turned. His stony eyes
stared at the witch. He trotted toward her; the rest of the statues
followed. Their faces were angry and their hooves clacked on the stone floor.
The lead centaur stuck his head into the hall and yelled, “Stay out of here! This
is none of your business!” He turned and kicked the door with his hoof. It shut
with a bang.
Isabelle backed away, her voice trembling. “Everything here is alive.”
“Yeah, I noticed that,” Upir said pulling her away from the door. “Let’s go.”
When the kids finally caught up to the hunchback, he was pacing the hallway,
impatient with their curiosity. In the wall behind him were rows and rows of drawers
each bearing a gold plate engraved in ancient writing.
“What are those?” Upir asked.
Throwing his hands in the air, the hunchback shook his head and spoke to his
hump. “Why does Hugo always get stuck babysitting the worthless ones?” Turning
abruptly toward the kids he said, “Those are the remains of the monsters of old.”
Isabelle inhaled sharply. “The original Council of Thirteen!” With a finger, she
traced over the lettering of the one nearest to her.
Upir stepped closer and peered at the small inscriptions. Once again, he
voiced his thoughts aloud. “So this is where my family crest comes from.”
Isabelle dropped her hand and stared at Upir. “Are you related to one of the
original Council members?” she asked.
Upir winced. He didn’t want anyone to know his royal bloodline because it
always changed things. People wanted to be his friend, or sometimes his enemy, just
because of his last name. “Valet Tepes Amarande was my great-great-great grandfather,”
Isabelle’s mouth hung open for a second, “That means your grandfather is
Valet Amarande, Head of the Council of 13?”
“Must be nice,” Isabelle said as she stepped behind the hunchback. “We’d
“Wait, Isabelle.” Upir reached out to grab her and then stopped himself. “It
doesn’t mean anything. You can’t pick your relatives, right?” He forced a smile.
Her forehead creased and she turned away. “That’s for sure.”
They didn’t speak anymore as they followed the hunchback down a hallway.
He stopped in front of a heavy door and handed Upir his suitcase and a sheet of
paper. “Here’s your schedule and your room. Only half an hour until lights out,” the
ugly creature grumbled.
“Thanks,” Upir said. He turned to say something to Isabelle but she had
already disappeared around the corner with the hunchback. Upir put his hand on the
knob just as someone called out.
“Hey, you!” A noisy group of monster kids headed his way.
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"Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become." -C.S. Lewis