The Night I Sold Books to Dracula
by Cheryl Zaidan
Dracula came into my bookstore once.
It had been a perfectly miserable day and nightfall seemed to descend quickly, possibly due to the dark clouds overhead. I was thinking of closing up an hour early to trade the gloom for a warm fireplace and a cup of tea when I heard three solid knocks against the heavy oak of the front door.
“We’re open,” I said, none too loudly. I was hoping whoever it was couldn’t hear me and would go away. But the knocking began again and before I could react, the door blew open violently. Rather irritated, I ran to the open door but saw no one. Then I heard a voice.
“Invite me in,” it said.
“Come in,” I said to the wind as I opened up the door wider. A dark shape pushed past me and the door slammed shut after it entered. I turned to see who it was.
It was a man, nearly 7 feet tall and swathed in a cloak of a color darker than black. His skin was pale and slightly gray, the eyes red and suspicious. His hair was shoulder-length and was the same color as his cloak. There was no doubt in my mind as to who he could be.
The man turned and his eyes looked over the store. “Perfectly charming,” he said in a voice that would put a Shakespearean actor to shame.
I had many options. I could have screamed, run away or pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I did none of these. Instead, I curtseyed, unsure of how to address him and made a mental note to see if our occult section had any books on vampire etiquette. Dracula didn’t respond but walked past me, his cloak swaying in a wind that seemed to only affect him.
“Is there anything I can help you with?” I inquired. I had started to sweat and my glasses were slipping down my nose. “Most of our books are used, but occasionally we sell new ones from independent authors.”
He said nothing so I moved back behind the counter silently counting the steps to the door. I could make it in six, but he could probably eat me in two, so I figured my best bet was to stay put. As frightened as I was, it was still entertaining watching Dracula walk casually around the shelves, stopping here and there to pick up a book or mutter something to himself. I expected him to go to Classics, Horror or perhaps even the Mystery section but to my surprise, he seemed more interested in Self-Help.
Curiosity overtook me and I warily made my way over to him. He was holding a book called “Learn to Suck Less” and chuckling softly.
“What silly creatures you humans are,” he said under his breath. His fangs glinted in the dim light. “Please tell me what this means.” He started to read aloud...
When you become your authentic self, you’ll reach a state of nirvana higher than any drug can give you and the golden ring of happiness that you strive constantly to obtain will be within your grasp. The first step is admitting to yourself that you are indeed perfect as you are.
“Such rubbish,” he scoffed as he put the book back on the shelf.
“Well some people like it,” I replied defensively. I owned that book.
“Idiots.” He snarled slightly.
“Well, what are you looking for?”
“What do you think, Sarah?” I shuddered. I hadn’t told him my name yet.
“No need for it.”
“Lived through it.”
He raised one dark brow slightly. “I know not of this. Lead the way.”
I did as I was instructed. We looked through quite a few books. Ironically, the teen vampire series held zero appeal to him, nor did the werewolves. He seemed to enjoy the wizards, especially one book I never read named Davy Titan and The Lock of Haraste, which featured a youth on the cover raising a wand towards a giant.
“Such daring!” he exclaimed. “I do enjoy brave children.”
“Of the night?” I asked.
Dracula bared his fangs. I shut up immediately, grabbed the book and added it to the small pile he had accumulated. He eventually decided upon 6 or 7 books and we brought them to the counter.
“Cash or charge?” I asked.
Dracula reached into his cloak and proffered a gold coin. I paused, unsure of its value but then I remembered the tale of the merchants. As the story went, the real Vlad the Impaler once had 40 merchants impaled upon sticks because they had offended him. I didn’t know if that tale was true, but I didn’t want to become a human shish kabob, so I took the coin in my palm rather hesitantly. By the look Dracula gave me, it appeared that he understood my predicament.
“You may bite it if you wish, it is from my coffers. I assure you it is real.”
I bit it. I couldn’t tell if it was real, but at least it wasn’t chocolate. Dracula was smiling slightly.
“I don’t have change,” I stammered.
“Not necessary,” he waved one clawed hand dismissively in my direction.
I bagged the books and walked him to the door, hoping I could lock it and sneak out the back to avoid any further disruptions that evening. As he left, I reached to shake his hand, but he grabbed it rather delicately and raised it to his lips. I giggled, not because I found it romantic, but because his goatee tickled a bit.
I’m lying. It took my breath away.
He never returned, which was fine because although his visit had been a high point in my otherwise boring life, I didn’t want to tempt fate, or rather have fate tempt me. And for a while, all was calm.
That is, until the Wolf Man came in looking for a job.