I sniffled in the cold moonlight; the last place I wanted to be was in a graveyard during late November digging up corpses for retrieval.
"Fascinating, simply fascinating, don't you agree, Katja?" Professor Raymond Taylor rhetorically asked.
"Nein," I responded negatively, pushing my large glasses further up my nose and then commencing to play with my braided hair.
"Come on. Be a good sport and help me lift this body onto the wagon. The organs here are nice and fresh!" Taylor smiled as he lifted the corpse by the head.
"How many do ve need?" I asked, German accent leaking into my speech. How I hated my culture, my parentage, and my country, for abandoning me to this psychopathic grave robber.
"There are still three more bodies from today and two more from yesterday, still buried. People die all the time, Katja, and there's money to be found from them!"
"Ja, there ist," I answered somberly, lifting up my end of the twice-my-height corpse. From a certain perspective it was kind of Professor Taylor to pay my parents for the services of a small, weak teenage girl as an assistant.
We loaded the body onto the wagon and then I was sent out to dig up another while my master examined the first for imperfections.
"Yewlery from corpses, how sick," I grumbled, sinking my shovel into a grave bearing the name "Rainer Mortos." The date was partially blocked out by wear and tear. I blew out a raspberry, "One grawe's as gut as another," I sneezed from the cold, not caring that the proper grave was merely a plot away.
"Hoppe hoppe Reiter
wenn er fällt, dann schreit er,
fällt er in den Teich,
find't ihn keiner gleich.
Hoppe hoppe Reiter
wenn er fällt, dann schreit er,
fällt er in den Graben,
fressen ihn die Raben.
Hoppe hoppe Reiter
wenn er fällt, dann schreit er,
fällt er in den Sumpf,
dann macht der Reiter... Plumps!" #
I sang, bored with the endless, tedious work and comforted by the childhood song. Finally the dull repetition ended as my shovel hit wood.
"Vork, vork, vork, does it ewer end?" I asked the child-sized box adorned with a carved cross and a set of unusual runes. "Mein meister von't be happy. You're too small," I told the coffin, sticking my shovel under the lid and prying it up.
"Hallo! Guten Abend! ##" I greeted the corpse, studying the pale little body with his black hair tied back into a ponytail, white, lifeless face perfectly etched with serenity, not a wrinkle on the child-sized suit.
"Time to come out, little von," I cooed, not expecting in my wildest dreams an answer.
"Hoppe hoppe Reiter? What's that mean?" the corpse asked.
"Aaaaaaaaaah! Satan Kind ###!" I yelled, backing away yelling, thoroughly freaked out by the body's sudden ability to talk.
"You're not being very helpful," the kid, Rainer as his tombstone said, sat up, red eyes narrowing on my form like a child looking at his mother when she had done something he is unfond of.
"I don't haff to answer your question!" I spat back.
"Oh yeah!" the corpse responded.
"Ja!" I stamped my foot down; I am sure I looked thoroughly flustered with my glasses sliding down my nose and my hair braid coming undone.
To my surprise the corpse whimpered and brought up his arms to cover his face as if I had flogged him or something. "Oh, get up," I ordered and was delighted to find the dead boy headed my command.
"Das ist toll," I remarked about the coolness of my own servant. Think about it, how ironic, me a servant and now I had my own! No more digging up graves or plucking eyes out of corpses. It was now his job. "Vat ist your name?" I asked my servant.
"My master, I am called Rainer Mortos," the boy bowed his head, looking very unhappy.
"Vat are you?" I asked Rainer.
The boy's pasty brow crinkled. "I don't know. What are you?"
"I'm a girl, you mistkopf," I explained, angrily swearing him out in my native tongue.
"See was that so hard? I'm a mistkopf, whatever that is," the boy sarcastically bellowed, rolling his eyes at me.
"Vhat? Are you mocking me?" I angrily asked the pale, dead boy, taking great satisfaction at being able to argue with someone on equal footing. However, I regretted my enjoyment a moment later when my master approached. "Hide!" I yelled at my charge, watching in amazement as the boy seemed to become one with his tombstone's shadow.
Professor Taylor angrily lifted his shovel and hit me in the back of the head with the butt end. "Keep it quiet!" he furiously whispered. "Do you want to attract the sheriff?" he asked me, to which I responded with a shake of my head. "Then be a good sport and let's . . . why is that coffin empty?" he asked me pointing at Rainer's empty wooden box.
"I found it that vay," I lied, not wishing to reveal my servant's existence.
Ever curious the old man knelt down and lifted the lid of the coffin, his hands visibly trembling as he read the writing engraved into it. "That's Latin! This isn't just a coffin, my dear; this is a vampire's resting place. Or rather was," he looked at the empty casket. "We have to get out of here," he grabbed me by the hand and started pulling me towards our wagon.
"Vat ist a wampire?" I asked, eager to know more about my servant's origins.
"Not now, you brat!" Professor Taylor scolded me, picking me up and hurling me into the back of the wagon.
I whimpered as he hopped onto the front and began leading the horses down the roadway. Unconsciously I stared out the back the entire time, eagerly looking for my vampire.
"I don't understand, Professor," I whined. "Vhat did those letters mean?"
"The Latin text adorning the coffin were holy words barring the undead beast inside and binding it to its releaser's will," Taylor explained. "There are few people like us in the world, Katja. Can you think of another kind of person who would be searching graves?"
"Some von looking for the Wampire," I suggested, feeling a chill run up my spine.
"Indeed, and what would you do if you had a vampire, Katja?" Taylor said, turning his gray eyes on me.
I gulped, feeling a bead of sweat roll down my cheek despite the persisting feeling of cold. "I vould train it to be my guardian," I said, quite satisfied with my own proposal.
"Ha! No imagination! There are much better things one could do with such a powerful servant. That is why you shall always be the servant, Katja." The professor cackled, keeping up his snickering all the way home.
Professor Taylor went inside and lit the front porch's candle, leaving me to drag the bodies into the cellar where my master conducted his experiments.
I was quite startled when I came back up for another corpse and saw Rainer sitting on top of the pile, hair now dirty, clothes wrinkled, as well as blood staining his pale face.
"Vhere haff you been?" I demanded, the glossy scarlet liquid staining his lips unnerving me more than I cared to admit.
"Feeding," he explained matter of factly, hopping down to my level. I backpedaled away from him. "I caught a funny creature and thought it would taste good," Rainer elaborated, pulling a chipmunk from his pocket.
I shuddered slightly, though I tried not to let my new "friend" see my discomfort. "Help me move these downstairs," I commanded.
"As you wish," he replied, grabbing two corpses at once and easily carrying them below and laying them on their respective harvesting tables.
When the job was done I left Rainer in a dark corner where he could rest in relative peace. Once upstairs I stumbled across my master adding grains of saltpeter to a silver capsule.
"Blessed gunpowder, forty-five caliber, silver coated bullet," he explained. "For the vampire," he elaborated, loading the bullet amongst five identical ones in his jade handled revolver.
I nodded, not fully comprehending his meaning.
"This will only take a moment," he reassured me, walking away towards the cellar.
"Vhat? Mesiter! Vhere are you going?" I yelled, running after the professor, trying to figure out how he knew about Rainer.
"I saw your little friend following us home, eavesdropping in on our conversation. This is for our own good, Katja," he tried to explain.
"A vampire is little more than an—", he paused as he reached the cellar doors, kicking them in, leveling the gun and yelling, "Abomination!" Rainer's sleepy eyes opened and he dived out of the way just as the enchanted bullet left the pistol's barrel, crashing into the corner, sending sparks everywhere.
My vampire snarled, displaying glittering red fangs at his opponent. Taylor merely cocked the pistol in response.
"Professor, don't!" I yelled, horrified as another shot rang out, this time catching Rainer in the leg. "He has done nothing to hurt you!" I cried out.
"Katja, I did not take you in for your ideas. The deal struck with your family was physical labor only. So stop trying to think," he aimed at the wounded beast, firing his third bullet and swearing in frustration as Rainer leapt upwards, flinging himself towards the armed scientist.
Taylor pulled the hammer back and fired, catching Rainer in the right breast, sending the vampire to the ground. "See, was that so hard?" he asked me, pulling forth a wooden stake and approaching Rainer, ready to finish the job.
I looked between the two and struggled for a time, unable to decide whom to help out, the unprotected vampire or my master. I then recalled the wagon conversation between Taylor and myself. He had laughed at the very idea of a guardian, of trying to turn something inherently evil into something good and pure.
"Don't touch him," I calmly spoke, for the first time in my life knowing the course I must take.
"What did you say?" Taylor asked me, fingering the green handle on his gun.
"You vill not be harming him," I said, feeling defenseless before those horrid gray eyes.
"You only damn yourself,: he said, raising up the gun and pulled the trigger.
I gasped, shutting my eyes, hearing the shot whiz above me. When I opened them again, I found Rainer firmly attached to Taylor's ankle, gnawing ravenously on it. The professor took the pistol and shot his remaining blessed round into the beast's hide, blowing a large hole that the vampire promptly ignored. Frustrated and in pain, Taylor took the stake and prepared to stab down.
I found myself charging at that instant, tossing out my arm in hopes of holding back my stronger master. The stake hit my arm and went all the way through, wooden tip dripping blood. I cried out, biting my lip in pain, but at least the stake was not covered in Rainer's blood.
The child-sized vampire released his hold, standing as tall as he could and then feinting a lunge at the professor, sending the unarmed man stumbling backwards, falling and hitting his head on the corner of a table.
Silence rang through the cellar. I looked to my companion. "Ve'we got to get out of here," I said, "tonight!" The vampire nodded, willing to heed my words. "I vill go get some food and some bandages. Are you going to be ok?" I asked, amazed by how quickly Rainer's wounds were healing.
"I will be fine, master," he responded.
"Nein, call me Katja," I insisted.
"Ok, Kat-yah," he stumbled on the German name.
I smiled and started moving towards the exit.
"Katja," Rainer called out. I turned around to look at him. "Thank you for being my guardian."
"Bitte, und thank you for being mine."
# Bumpety bump, rider, ## Good Evening
if he falls, then he cries out ### Child of Satan
should he fall into the pond,
no one will find him soon.
Bumpety bump, rider...
should he fall into the ditch,
then the ravens will eat him.
Should he fall into the swamp,
then the rider goes... splash! ("Drop" child)