This is your warning! This book contains Count Dracula's memoirs. And as you would expect, there are plenty of hideous creatures in it—giant yetis, insidious werewolves, slimy fish monsters—maybe you shouldn't read it! You might learn things you didn't know about monsters before. Hair-raising things that make these monsters appear . . .friendly . . .even downright human. So, take my advice. Put the book down and move on before you get caught in its clutches. Sincerely, Van Helsing PS-But if you do read this book, you will be enchanted by the incredibly imaginative full-color illustrations through out, the fabulously appealing cover, and the original wit captured within.
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Translated by Rachel Ward
illustrated by Wiebke Rauers
Stamford, CT, USA
Copyright © 2021 by W1-Media Inc. for this edition
Text copyright © 2020 Coppenrath Verlag GmbH & Co. KG,
Hafenweg 30, 48155 Münster
Memento Monstrum first published in Germany
by Coppenrath Verlag GmbH & Co., 2020
First English-language edition published by W1-Media Inc./Arctis, 2021
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means,
electronoic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without
the prior permission of the publisher and copyright owner.
The Library of Congress Control Number is available.
English translation copyright © Rachel Ward, 2021
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher and copyright owner.
Goodbyes are so hard. And in all my 589 years, I’ve never known one as hard as today. I’ve come through countless wars unharmed and assorted natural disasters have failed to finish me off. I seem to be fireproof, however fierce the blaze, and I’ve even survived numerous assassination attempts from that sneaky Van Helsing. But I have grave doubts as to whether I’ll get through the next weekend in one piece. How on earth am I meant to manage this without her? Maybe one last pleading look from my bloodshot eyes will help?
Don’t go, Selena! I need you! I’m lost without you!
»Oh, Shnookums, don’t look at me like that,« she says. »You’re acting like it’s the end of the world. I’m only going away for two days.«
Only two days. It’s not only two days. Normally I’d be perfectly fine without her for two days. I’d spend any other two days lazing around, listening to old records at top volume or watching my favorite films while polishing off enough buckets of blood-orange ice cream to make me sick. But sadly, none of that will be possible over the next two days. Although I’ll be without my dear wife Selena, I won’t be alone. Because they’re here. For two whole days. Without a break. I still can’t believe it. Why is she doing this to me? Why is she just abandoning me with these … these monsters?
»Hee-hee,« giggles Aima. »I think Grandpa’s scared of you kids.«
Oh great. Now my own daughter is stabbing me in the back. But that should hardly come as a surprise, seeing as she was the one who brought all this down on me. She just had to go and give her mother a four hundredth birthday present of a spa break in Paris with an overday stay in the Catacombs. And to top it all off, she declares that I’m to look after these three punks the whole time. Without even asking me. And I’m not even allowed to lock them in the cellar because, according to Aima, that’s poor parenting.
»Is that true, Grandpa?« asks Globina, the littlest one – Beenie for short – looking at me wide-eyed. »Are you scared of us?«
»He so isn’t,« says Vira, her big sister. »Grandpa’s not scared of anything. Except sunlight.«
»And an excess of responsibility,« adds Selena. »Isn’t that right, Shnookums? You’re only worried because you’ve never been alone with three children before.«
No. It’s far worse than that. I’ve never been alone with even one child. Selena always took care of everything. I haven’t the least idea about children. I don’t know how you feed them. Or what you feed them. Or when they ought to brush their teeth, or for how long. Or when they should go to bed. All I know is that they absolutely mustn’t go out in the daytime.
But what if I take my eyes off one of them? Or all three? Children just keep getting up to mischief and don’t listen to adults. What if they open some outside door out of sheer curiosity? Then their mother would have nothing but a heap of ashes to embrace when she got back. And it would be my fault. That’s what I’m scared of.
»Uh, well,« I say, »what if I don’t pay attention for a moment and they die?«
»Oh, Bunnikins, we’ve been through all this already.« Selena picks up her suitcase. »What can possibly go wrong? We’re vampires. We’re hard to kill. You just have to put them to bed in their coffins in good time before sunrise; I’ve got everything ready in the nursery crypt. There are alarm clocks all over the house so you won’t forget. And there’s enough blood substitute in the fridge to last a whole week, so none of you will starve either.«
»All the same,« I sigh, »why can’t Cassidy look after them?«
A perfectly reasonable question, don’t you agree? A father’s responsibilities come before a grandpa’s. Grandpas don’t even have any responsibilities – that’s the nicest thing about being one. But that doesn’t work out when their mother is in Paris, and goodness knows where the father is. But Aima just had to go and fall in love with a vampire activist who’s constantly flitting off around the world fighting for the survival of our kind.
»Dad’s on some island,« says Beenie. »He’s at a supposium.«
»It’s a symposium,« Vira corrects her.
»And he’s not on some island, he’s in Ireland, sweetie,« Aima says, turning to me. »The Vampirist Society is holding a conference in Dublin on the subject of effective sunblock. But I told you that on the phone last week, Dad.«
Did she? I don’t remember. That’s been happening to me a lot lately. The night before last, I wanted to stretch my brittle wings and take a little scenic flight over the mountains, and I clean forgot my pants. Luckily nobody saw me!
»Your father’s been a little absentminded recently,« says Selena. »He’s coming up on six hundred, after all.«
»I am not!« I retort. »That’s a good eleven years away! And I’m in just as good shape as a two-hundred-year-old. At least.«
»Well then, looking after three children for two days will be child’s play for you, won’t it?« says Selena, winking at me.
»Rhesus will help you,« says Aima. »He’s a big boy now. Aren’t you, Rhesus?«
My grandson doesn’t reply. Because he wasn’t even listening. Because he’s constantly staring at his cell phone and tapping on it.
»Rhesus,« his mother persists. »Did you hear me? You’ll help – Grandpa to look after your sisters. Right?«
»Ha-ha, good one, Mom!« laughs Vira. »The only way that idiot would look after us would be if we popped up in his game! And then he’d probably shoot us by accident!«
»You’re the idiot,« Rhesus says without looking up from his phone. »Do you have Wi-Fi here? I need to download more silver bullets right now, or I’ll never get all these stupid werewolves.«
»Why are the werewolves all stupid?« asks Beenie. »Didn’t they listen at school?«
»No idea,« mutters Rhesus. »They’re our enemies and enemies are stupid. So I gun them all down.«
»Can’t you even stop that silly game for one minute?« groans Aima. »If you carry on like that, your brains will leak out of your ears. Put your phone away. Right now. I mean it!«
»But, Mom, I nearly got to the next level!« says Rhesus.
»Right now, I said!« Aima snaps. »You can carry on later. But only if Grandpa says you may. And Grandpa’s no great fan of those things. So, put it away now!«
»Okay, okay, I’m stopping,« mutters Rhesus, slipping the cell phone into his pocket.
»Very good,« says Aima. »And now, come here and give me a big goodbye hug, my sweet little flittermice.«
The girls fling themselves at their mother’s neck and kiss her cheeks, but when it comes to Rhesus, Aima has to pull him to her to help things along.
»Be good,« she says. »Just two sleeps and I’ll be back.«
»That’s right,« Selena grins, giving me a squeeze too. »Just two sleeps and I’ll be back, my Shnookums.«
»Very funny,« I mutter.
»You’ll survive,« she says, kissing me. »And so will the children.«
Yes, we probably will. I just still don’t know how.
The children and I follow Aima and Selena outside and wave them off until they’ve vanished out of sight into the night sky. Then I’m alone with my grandchildren.
»What shall we do now?« I ask. »Have you had breakfast this evening?«
»Yes,« Vira says. »Mom made us blood-sausage sandwiches, special for the journey.«
»But I’m still hungry,« says Beenie. »Can I have a lollipop?«
»A lollipop won’t stop your being hungry,« I say with a chuckle. »It’s just something to snack on.«
»Then I want something to snack on.« Beenie makes big eyes at me. »A lollipop!«
»Okay then,« I say. »Blood suckers it is. Which are your favorites?«
»Group B!« she answers. »They’re the tastiest!«
»True.« I nod. »I like those ones best too. Does anyone else want one?«
»An A for me, please,« says Vira. »Bs are too sweet for my taste.«
»Rhesus?« I look at the eldest.
He’s engrossed in his phone again and doesn’t respond to my question.
»Rhesus?« I persist. »Do you want a lollipop too?«
»What? Er … yes, please,« he mumbles absently. »B, please.«
»So that’ll be two Bs and an A for you guys. And a B for me,« I note. »Now I’ve just got to find out where Grandma’s hidden the lollipops. She doesn’t want me to snack so much, says it’s bad for my hemoglobin levels. And that I need to watch my flight weight. As if one little lollipop will weigh me down that much! But don’t worry, I know almost all her hiding places now. I’ll come and find you in the library. Do you know the way?«
»Of course,« Vira replies. »It’s my favorite place here in the castle. There are loads of super great books there.«
»But I can’t read,« sighs Beenie.
»Don’t worry,« says Vira. »I’ll read you something.«
»Yay!« Beenie cheers. »I love stories!«
»I know you do.« Vira smiles back.
»Rhesus, go with your sisters, please,« I say. »I’d like you all to stay together. The castle is so big, even I still get lost here sometimes.«
»Okay,« says Rhesus, wandering off upstairs without looking up from his phone.
When he gets to the half-landing, he stumbles over the first step and only just catches hold of the banisters in time to stop himself from falling.
»Rats,« he says. »Now that stupid werewolf got away from me!«
I set off on the long walk down to the kitchen. Selena is quite right when she says, as she often does, that this castle really is far too big for us. And too old. And too expensive. The winter heating bills alone are so high that, last year, Selena had to take on a flying job delivering overnight parcels for a courier service. And that’s despite the fact that we’ve only used the west wing since the day the roof over the east wing fell in on us while we were drinking tea. We were lucky: it was just before sunrise – only five minutes later and we’d both have sizzled.
I’m sure it would be wiser to sell the castle, but I can’t bring myself to do it – I’m too fond of the old place.
Having reached the kitchen, I hunt systematically through Selena’s usual candy-hiding places, and strike it lucky in the false bottom to the silverware drawer. Aha, here we are: everything a greedy heart could desire – cookies, chocolate, blood-gummy bears, and lollipops. I load a little of everything onto a large plate, open the fridge, and note, once again, that I really do have the best wife in the world. Selena has made us a special jug of blood-orange iced tea too. I head off again with a full tray of goodies.
When I arrive in the library, I nearly drop the tray in shock. The lower halves of my bookcases are almost entirely empty. There are books all over the floor, and sitting in the middle of them are the two girls, piling them up around themselves.
»What … what on earth are you doing?« I ask in horror.
»It’s great, isn’t it, Grandpa?« says Vira. »I’ve always wanted to build a house out of books. And you’ve got so many.«
»Yes, a book house!« says Beenie. »And I get my own room!«
I look at Rhesus, who is sitting on the sofa, playing on his phone.
»I told them to ask you first,« he says without looking up. »But they never listen to me.«
»We’ll put everything away later, Grandpa,« promises Vira.
»Yes,« Beenie says. »I remembered ’specially where every book came from.«
»Well, I’ll believe that when I see it.« I put the tray on the floor between the girls. »Help yourselves! But please be careful not to get the books sticky.«
I nab two lollipops for myself from the tray and sit on the couch next to Rhesus.
»Here,« I say, holding one of them out to him. »You wanted a B, didn’t you?«
»Yes, thanks.« Rhesus takes it with his free hand, continuing to operate his cell phone with the other.
»Mmm, delicious, aren’t they?« I ask, but get only an absent nod in response. »How long does one of these games last then?«
»And you have to kill werewolves?«
»Have you ever met a werewolf in person?«
He shakes his head.
I turn to the girls. They’ve almost finished their book house.
»It needs a roof,« I remark. »Otherwise it’s not a proper house.«
»We could use a board for the roof,« says Vira. »Or some bigger books.«
»There are loads up there.« Beenie points to the top shelf of one of the bookcases. »But we can’t get to them. Can you help us, Grandpa? We can’t fly yet, remember.«
It’s true. Vampire children don’t learn to fly until they’re twelve. I still remember teaching Aima, at the big window on the top floor of the west wing. It seems like just yesterday, but it was over fifty years ago now.
»I can’t fly in here either, I’m afraid,« I admit. »For the last few years, I’ve needed a breath of wind or I can’t get off the ground. But we’ll manage it somehow.«
At least I hope so. Hmm, the ladder’s in the storeroom in the kitchen, but I’m too lazy for that right now. So I take a chair and push it up to the shelves.
»That’s not tall enough,« says Vira, and I’m afraid she’s right – however much I stretch, I’m still too far away.
»You’ll have to put the chair on the table, Grandpa,« says Beenie.
The girls help me to push the table to the bookcase and set the chair on top of it. I climb up, feeling pretty wobbly. I stretch out one leg to help me balance and reach up with my arm. When I get hold of one of the books between my thumb and index finger, I pull on it hard. It moves slightly. I pull harder. Suddenly there’s a jerk, the shelf tips forward a little, and the book shoots toward me, along with all the others from the top row.
»Watch out below!« I shout, holding my hands protectively over my head. »Bookvalanche!«
The girls hastily jump under the table while the books hail down around them.
»Are you okay?« I ask once the crashing has stopped.
»Yes,« says Vira. »Are you?«
»I think so,« I say, climbing down cautiously.
I take a deep breath. It’s been just me and the children for barely half an hour, and I’ve already almost buried two of them under a mountain of books.
Vira crawls out from under the table.
»That was funny,« she says. »Can we do that again later?«
»Ah, I’d rather not,« I say. »Where’s my little Beenie?«
»A book almost landed on my head,« comes a voice from under the table. »There are lots of pictures in it.«
Vira and I pull the table away from Beenie.
She is sitting cross-legged on the floor, flicking through … my old photo album! I’ve been looking for that for decades! No wonder I didn’t find it. I would never have thought of looking up on the top shelf.
»Grandpa, who’s that next to you?« she asks, pointing at one of the photos.
»Looks like the Yeti,« says Vira.
»Baloney,« mutters Rhesus from the sofa. »There’s no such thing. The Yeti’s just a story.«
»Oh yes?« I say. »So how come I have a photo with both of us together?«
»Photoshop,« he says drily.
»Oh boy.« Vira rolls her eyes. »The photo’s an antique. They didn’t have Photoshop in those days. They didn’t even have computers back then, you idiot.«
»You’re the idiot,« snaps her brother. »You can work on photos to make them look old.«
»But this one smells old too,« says Beenie. »Like Grandpa.«
»The photo is old,« says Vira. »And definitely not photoshopped. I can see that from here.«
»Let me see,« says Rhesus.
Beenie stands up and hands him the album. I sit beside him and she climbs into my lap.
»Scooch over, idiot,« says Vira. She gives her brother a little shove.
»He’s really the Yeti?« Rhesus eyes the photo skeptically.
»No,« I answer, »she’s the Yeti.«
»The Yeti’s a girl?« Vira asks in disbelief.
»That’s right,« I answer. »But hardly anyone knows that.«
»She looks nice,« says Beenie.
»Yes, that’s what I thought back then,« I say. »Very nice.«
»Hee-hee,« Rhesus giggles. »Grandpa had a crush on the Yeti.«
»On Ms. Yeti,« Vira corrects him. »Is that true, Grandpa?«
»No, I didn’t,« I answer. »It’s … complicated.«
»Tell us!« Beenie demands.
»Yes, tell us the story,« says Vira. »What was it with you and the Yeti?«
»Do you really want to know?« I ask. »I don’t want to bore you with lots of ancient stories.«
»I like old stories,« says Beenie. »I like my old grandpa too. The only old things I don’t like are old cookies. They always get so hard.«
»Stop keeping us in suspense, Grandpa,« says Rhesus, putting his cell phone down. »We want to know everything.«
Oh, so suddenly I’m more exciting than dead werewolves. Then it’s decided.
»Okay, fine,« I begin. »Then I’ll tell you …«
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