The Evil, Most Feared and Loathsome Count William

The Evil, Most Feared and Loathsome Count William sat in his room and looked up how to make poisons on the Internet. He’d found several promising websites, but he wasn’t sure where he was supposed to get some of the ingredients. He had no idea what nettle-juice was, for instance. He also wasn’t sure that the forums he was looking at were particularly serious. Wasn’t Lithium just the name of a Nirvana song?

William got up from his computer in disgust. How was he going to become a proper member of the Evil Squad if he couldn’t even figure out how to poison anyone?! The ad he’d gotten in the mail had specified that he needed to have certain skills and be able to prove his aptitude at them before he’d be accepted as a member. He’d e-mailed them and asked what he needed to learn, and they’d answered with a terse reply, telling him that if he didn’t know what things he needed to know in order to be evil, then he probably wasn’t suitable.

He’d already got himself a name, though, and he was determined to manage to get into that group. He was evil, he knew it. Nobody liked him at school – they called him Will the Weird, not as good a title as The Evil, Most Feared and Loathsome Count. His parents didn’t particularly like him – they’d yelled at him for over an hour when he’d painted his room black and they’d almost disconnected the Internet as punishment. Then he’d told them that if they did that, he’d need to find where his dad hid his porn magazines and since nobody wanted that, they should probably keep the connection.

He also knew that he was capable of being cruel, which was part of being evil, of course. He’d been horribly mean to his little sister ever since she was born, and even now that she was thirteen and was coming into her own, he still managed to make her cry a couple times a week by taunting her. He saw this as being proper behavior for a Loathsome Count.

William strode up and down his room, looking at the posters he’d hung on his walls. Some were of heavy metal bands, but he didn’t actually like the music – he just liked the pictures of mouths dripping blood or skeletons on battlefields and the like. The other posters were hand-drawn, featuring violent vampires and women lying dead across tombstones. These had been made for him by Hannah, his next-door neighbor, and the girl he loved more than the entire world put together.

She didn’t think much of him anymore. When they were both freshmen in high-school, she’d gone in for his whole black, death, plague and misery sort of outlook on life. She had, in her own words, “grown out of it” and even though she still wore black, dyed her hair purple and had rings going all the way up both ears, she considered his “being evil thing” to be stupid, childish and beneath her. When he’d pointed at her necklace, which had featured a fang the day they had this argument, she’d said “it’s just a necklace, William. It’s just what I like to wear. It’s fashion, get over it.”

But William hadn’t gotten over it. He hadn’t gotten over her, either. But he had to, and in order to do that, he had to join this Evil Squad so he’d have somewhere to siphon his frustration to. He had a feeling that they gave assignments and stuff once you joined. That could keep him busy. Being busy would be good.

Finally, William sat back down at the computer, and instead of looking up poisons, he logged onto his instant messenger program. He had two screen-names that he used. One was EvilWilliam, which he’d been using for years, even before he decided to join the Evil Squad. The other, the one he used now, was GoodGothKid. He’d created this one only a few months ago.

He saw, with a leap of his heart, that Hannah was online. She messaged him almost at once.

BlackRoses: Hey!

GoodGothKid: Hey :).

BlackRoses: I’m so glad you’re online. I really need someone to talk to.

GoodGothKid: I’m here for you, you know I’m always here for you.

And as Hannah told him about her day, William pretended to be a guy called Tom who lived a couple states over, who was goth but not evil, and who Hannah actually liked.

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Boots [Part III]

Part I

Part II

“Awesome?” Sandy asked. The boots did look good. They clung, made her knees look good, gave a few inches to her height – they looked incredible on her legs. But with the light blue dress… She thought to herself a bit. Came to a decision. She gave the red-haired woman a half smile.

“Almost awesome,” she said. “I’ll take them, though.”

The red-haired woman rung the boots up, but was puzzled. As the sweet girl left with her new boots in a big bag, she looked determined; her face was set, her mouth a hard line. The red-haired woman had expected the girl to be ecstatic with her new gear, to leave the store with a smile and a bounce in her step. She’d looked instead like someone who had made an important decision, and maybe not a welcome one. Well, she thought to herself, what do I know? Maybe that’s just how the girl shows she’s pleased. She turned to the TV screen, peered surreptitiously at the doorway to make sure no one was there, clicked a button on the remote and sat back happily.

Between shifts at the restaurant and the tutoring she did at the elementary-school, Sandy spent her little spare time that week working on her closet at home. She piled lots of things into a big box. She shoved the box into a corner and left it there. At the end of the week, Sandy looked at what was left in her closet, and frowned, worried. She’d have to go back to the store, she decided. She put her hair up, shoved a couple of black chopsticks through it, smeared some of her cheap new make-up on, donned her boots, and left her apartment.

When Sandy walked into the shop this time, the red-haired woman was just switching on the tape of the horror film on the TV. She looked up from the remote, smiled a distant smile, and said “May I help you?”

“Don’t you recognize me?” Sandy was surprised. She had gotten the feeling that this woman was one of those who didn’t forget anything. Then she saw the red-haired woman’s jaw drop as she looked her over. My, my, the red-haired woman thought. Lookie here.

Sandy was attired head to toe in black. A knee-length black skirt, a black top that clung to her and showed off her white arms, a black band around her throat, and of course the boots. Her eyes were surrounded by thick black make-up, and her lips were tinted to a dark color as well. “Aw, Honey…” the red-haired woman breathed.

“I’m here for some clothes,” Sandy declared. “I don’t own enough black stuff to get me through a whole week, unless I do laundry at least twice.”

“But- I mean- Well, why?” The red-haired woman felt flustered. She had not seen this coming. “What’s wrong with what you used to wear? You know, those cute dresses you had on those times I saw you.” Frankly, the red-haired woman was disappointed. She’d thought she’d found someone who really got it. But no. Maybe not.

Sandy’s lip quivered just a bit as she answered. “Because,” she sighed. “I can’t pull off those boots without the whole- well, the whole look, you know.” Then she mumbled “Like you…”

The red-haired woman stared at Sandy. Then at the TV. Then at Sandy again. “You’re telling me you thought you needed the black clothes so you could wear the boots?”

“Yes.”

“Well, do you like black clothing?”

“Um,” Sandy looked shifty. “No. Not really. My mom always said it made me look pale as death. Which is kind of good for the look, I suppose…” Looking up, Sandy saw the red-haired woman giving her the warmest smile she’d ever received. There was compassion in that smile, appreciation and amusement as well, but most of all, kindness.

“Honey, let me show you something.” The red-haired woman flicked the remote at the TV. The image changed. From a screaming woman, it changed to Tara Banks and a line of girls in front of her, waiting to be judged. “That’s my favorite show.”

Sandy gaped. “America’s Best Top Model?!” She squeaked. “But… aren’t people like you too- too, I don’t know, too cool for that show?”

“That’s why I can’t have it on here. I beg my boyfriend to come and take over the evening shift here so that I can watch it at home, but two days a week he’s working another job and he can’t. So I make sure no one’s in the shop, and switch off the video. Until someone comes in, that is, and then I’ve got to turn the video back on real quick before anyone sees.”

“But then,” Sandy began. “Is it all a show? Are you just faking the whole thing? I mean, why do that?”

“Well, the fact that I wear black and I like big skull rings and spiky boots – all that’s just fashion. I like wearing this stuff. It makes me feel good and it makes me feel cool. I admit that. But sadly, I own this place and I don’t have enough business that I can afford to drop the image of the perfect gothic woman. Some of the clients really do care about all that nonsense – keeping the image, philosophizing about what it means, et cetera. So I hide my love of Tara Banks and too-skinny girls playing at being models and drama-queens.” The red-haired woman was speaking fast now, her words tumbling over each other in her enthusiasm. “But you, Honey, you came in here and had your own look! You just wanted to add to it! I’ve never seen a cooler outfit than that sweet little dress and the kick-ass boots. That’s what made it special, unique! I thought you didn’t care about the whole image bee-ess, and I was thrilled.”

Sandy had listened to the red-haired woman’s speech with amazement on her face at first, then acceptance, and then at the end, amazement again. When the woman finished, she felt silly. “What’s your name?” came out of her mouth without her expecting it.

“Sue,” said Sue. “Yours?”

“Sandy,” replied Sandy.

From that day onward, it was quite common to find a red-haired woman with black clothing visiting a small diner where a girl with a name tag reading “SANDY” greeted her with a squeal and a hug and good service. It was also quite common for a brown-haired girl wearing various pastel colored dresses and very dramatic boots to visit a small shop called “ROCKIN’-ROLL GEAR,” claiming every time that her cable at home didn’t work and begging the woman at the counter to turn on America’s Best Top Model for her. Every time someone asked, the woman at the counter would blame her friend for the show and would roll her eyes. They’d giggle about it afterwards.

Boots [Part II]

Part I

Sandy wasn’t sure what to say, so instead of responding, she looked around the shop. It was like she expected it would be. The shop was only sparsely lit, the clothing racks were mostly full of black garments, with the occasional shocking pink or electric blue peeking through. A television that was hung on the wall was showing an old horror film with the sound muted. Sandy gulped, eyes fixed on the fake blood spraying from a man’s stomach.

She tore her gaze away from the gruesome image, worked up her courage, and spoke.

“Um, can I see what boots you sell, please?”

“Sure thing,” the red-haired woman chirped. “Size seven-and-a-half?”

“Yeah, how could you tell?” Sandy was so surprised at the lucky guess that she looked up into the red-haired woman’s face and met her eyes.

“I know about boots. ‘Cause of that, I know about feet. Anyway, I’m the same size, so I know what seven-and-a-half looks like,” she winked at Sandy, and disappeared into a back room.

A half hour later, Sandy had tried on three pairs of boots and hadn’t liked the look of any – either they had too many laces and complicated bits of string, or the buckles were too big or they didn’t cling right to her calves.

“Maybe I should just forget it,” she moaned.

“Oh, Honey, don’t think like that – we’ll find the perfect ones for you.” The red haired woman was packing the discarded boots back into their large boxes, folding the tops meticulously over the gigantic heels. Sandy cast a sideways look at the curtain that hid the store-front window from the interior of the shop. As the woman finished replacing the last pair of boots, she said shyly “What about the ones in the window? You know,” she paused, received an encouraging smile from the red-haired woman, continued. “The ones I was looking at last week.”

The red-haired woman smacked her forehead, an act which Sandy thought should have left marks there because of the amount of heavy and spiky silver rings were on the woman’s hand. “I should have brought those out first thing!” The woman exclaimed. She smiled apologetically and bustled out of sight into the back room again, yelling over her shoulder. “They’re an older model, you see, which is why I didn’t think of them straight off!”

Within a trice, she had Sandy’s feet in her lap, the boots from the window on and clasped. Sandy found herself lifted to her feet and steered towards a full length mirror at the back of the shop. She looked at herself- light blue dress, brown hair cut in a simple, good-girl style, arms and legs tanned from the sun, and there, at the bottom of the image in the mirror, the boots. They clung to her legs, the buckles glinting faintly in the feeble light, deadly and beautiful and cool.

“They look… I look…” Sandy was lost for words. The red-haired woman laughed a throaty, deep voiced laugh.

“The word you’re looking for is awesome,” she said.

Boots [Part I]

Boots, black and full of silver buckles, beckoned to Sandy from a store window containing a couple of corsets, a long velvet skirt, a collar with spikes on it and a jacket with so many artful rips in it that it didn’t look like it should be on sale. Unlike the other items in the window that rather alarmed Sandy, the boots seemed beautiful, like roses – tender and elegant but full of dangerous thorns.

Sandy realized she’d been staring at the store window for some time only when a red-haired woman appeared in the open doorway. She cocked one perfect eyebrow at the sight before her – Sandy, light brown hair tumbling in the wind, wearing a flowered white sundress and staring open-mouthed at the boots in the window.

“Need some help, Honey?” the red-haired woman asked. Sandy jerked out of her reverie. The wind died down just at that moment, and her bangs settled back on her forehead. She ducked her head, hiding behind her hair, shook her head “no” and walked away briskly. The red-haired woman ambled back into the shop, and knew that she’d be seeing that shy, flowery girl again soon.

All week long, Sandy thought about the boots. She tried not to, but couldn’t help it. She also thought about the red-haired woman a lot – there was something in that woman’s gaze, in her voice as she said “honey” so casually, that exuded a confidence that made Sandy profoundly envious.

It kept coming back to the boots, though. The red-haired woman had been wearing boots very like those in the window, Sandy remembered it well – the way the boots reached up all the way to her knees, with black and white striped pantyhose peeking above them. The boots, with their multiple-inch heels and the silver buckles along the sides, had made the red-haired woman’s legs look endless, beautiful and deadly. Sandy felt that if only she could have boots like that, everything would feel better.

By the end of two weeks, Sandy made up her mind. She collected her paycheck from the diner’s manager, changed out of her yellow waitress uniform and into one of her favorite pale blue dresses, walked to the bank to cash the check and then strode, with more confidence than she felt, right into the shop where she’d seen the boots.

The red-haired woman looked up from behind the counter, smiled, and said “Well, hello there, Honey. I had a feeling I’d be seeing you again.”

Israel Geek-Fest’ 2008

Oh, what a joy going to conventions is! On one side, there is a girl holding a big sign that says “OBJECTION” on it. On the other side are four or five hairy boys dressed all in black. In front of you is a girl with a ton of black make-up and a flouncy pink skirt. Behind you is a famous Polish fantasy writer. What could be better than being among your peers this way?
The iCon, as this fantasy/sci-fi festival is called, is a really great event that happens once a year here, in Tel Aviv. It is truly a geek fest, and it’s incredible. Last night, for instance, there were screenings of “Gamers”, which is a movie about role-playing college boys, and then “Zombie Strippers” which is exactly about that. Strippers who become zombies.
Tonight I am volunteering there, and although my schedule is super-full, there is something that feels really good about giving to this community, because I am truly an avid fantasy book fan and a lover of all that is animated or strange.