Haplessly Ever After

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

Willie tossed the emerald and diamond earrings into a snow bank and climbed into his truck, but he did not return to his philanthropic patrons at the Old House. The idea of spending the rest of his miserable, worthless life with those ghouls sucked out whatever joy was left in his soul. The despondent servant drove to the comforting surroundings of Eagle Hill Cemetery and soon found himself ensconced in the peaceful solitude of the secret room.

Libation in hand, the young man surveyed the room; the shadows returned his gaze approvingly.

"We need a party," he announced suddenly and proceeded to light all the candles. When the candleholders ran out, he stuck the remaining ones to the floor with melted wax until the small cell was aglow.

Willie opened the bottle of scotch and shuddered; it was going to taste like shit. All alcohol did after Dr. Hoffman hypnotized that time, but that didn't stop him from wanting it and forcing it down. He set out a china platter and dumped the contents of the first prescription bottle: Antidepressants, because no one wants to be depressed, so that seemed a good place to start—and there was a smiley face on the bottle. After that he would down the Valium (which was for his anxiety), the painkillers (no explanation needed), and finish up with the sleeping pills, so he could get a good night's rest. The best rest ever, with no bad dreams ever again. He mixed them all up on the plate and started to pop them like party peanuts.

Get help, Willie, that's what everyone said. Follow doctor's orders. Blue pills, red pills, yellow pills, dead pills.

His gaze fell upon the discarded book on the floor. Hamlet briefly regarded him from the cover then returned his attention to his friend's skull. Willie opened to a random page.

"To be or not to be—that's a stupid question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles and" (he held up two pills) "by opposing, end them." (and down the hatch).

Willie began to arrange the caplets in color patterns.

"To die, to sleep—perchance to dream: For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off to Buffalo for the last time, must give us pause."

Willie tossed the book across the room. "Man, you are a killjoy! Couldn't you ever write anythin' happy? This party sucks."

He began to sing, loudly and off-key. There was no one to complain. The impromptu medley began with Happy Birthday to Me, followed by a verse of Jingle Bells and London Bridge is Falling Down.

The ghost of Sarah Collins appeared beside him, tugging on his arm. "That's my favorite song…or it was."

"I know. I wanna invite you to my party. Where's Jason? I want him too." He hugged the little girl. "You guys are my friends."

"Does he have a favorite song?"

"Yeah, but he said not to—oh, what the fuck." He took another swig of scotch and began to sing softly, gently, melodically.

"There was a dusky Eurasian maid,
In old Karachi she plied her trade,
And in Calcutta, and in Madras,
And, by special request, up the Khyber Pass.

Black velvet was full of joy
For every Dublin sailor boy
She guaranteed to please
And the most that it costs you was five rupees."

"That's a pretty song. Will you teach it to me?" the child asked.

"He will not." Jason was in the room as well. "This place looks a storm blew through. And what in hell's blazes is around your throat? That is not how to tie a necktie."

"I dunno how, so I did a half-hitch knot. Now I can do this." He pulled the tie into a noose position.

"What are you on about?" His translucent companion removed the tie and stowed it in the boy's duffle.

"I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth. Wherefore really means why, ya know, not where. And mirth—"

"I know what it means. Do me a favor? Find somethin' else to read."

"Jason, what's that story about the stingy old Scrooge? There was the ghost of Christmas past," he toasted little Sarah, "Christmas Present," with a nod to Jason, and holding up a handful of pills, "And the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come."

The Irishman whispered into Sarah's ear and Willie watched distractedly as she evaporated. In recognition of the contrast, the young man held his own opaque hand to his face.

"Oh, that this too too solid flesh would melt."

Willie matter-of-factly removed his jacket and shirt, reached into his duffle and pulled out the straight-edge razor.

"You gave me this when I was 15. A hundred and one uses, ya said, remember?"

"Give me that," Jason reached for the razor but his companion pulled away. "Now what do ya think you're doin'?"

"We'll have fun again, just like old times. He stared at the blade. "Aw, Jason, I want the hurt to stop." His voice trailed off. "I wanna go someplace where there isn't any trouble. Do ya suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It's not a place ya can get to by a boat or with a train—"

"Stop talkin' nonsense. You're a young man yet, Willie. You have your whole life ahead of you."

"No, I'm old, too old to be a busboy." He waved the razor carelessly in the air. "Ha, they think they can boss me 'round and I haveta do everything they say, well, I'll show 'em."

"Really. You consider this a good way to assert yourself?" the Irishman looked incredulous.

“Hey, look at this."

Willie started to carve the skin on his inner arm. "This is the design of a stencil I did in the sewin' room on the second floor." Jason cried out in alarm but the young man just laughed. "Oh, calm down, I'm barely breakin' skin. Funny how I was always scared a' needles, when they don't make hardly any blood, and now look at all this."

Sarah located David at the Great House who alerted Cousin Barnabas. He flew to the cemetery as Julia telephoned the hospital, yelling furiously into the handset when informed that the town's only ambulance was being used to transport Mrs. Puckett to her daughter's holiday dinner.

The vampire found Willie unconscious and alone in the secret room, covered in blood and multicolored vomit. He gathered the boy into his arms and raced toward the gate and the sound of approaching sirens. Willie was then strapped onto the gurney and lifted into the vehicle. He came to as one medic lightly slapped his face. Another was applying pressure to the numerous cuts on his arms.

"Wake up, sir, you have to stay awake. Try to keep your eyes open."

Willie squinted into the man's face. "'S really bright. Smells bad in here."

"Yes, sir, it sure does."

"Who the hell're you?"

"I'm Paul and the lady keeping your blood from pouring out all over our ambulance is Emily."

"Aw, shit."

Paul radioed the emergency room, "CHER, we have a mid-twenties male with numerous lacerations to both arms who appears to be in hypovolemic shock. He also ingested and regurgitated an unknown quantity of alcohol and prescription medications." He spoke to Willie, "Do you know what pills you took, sir?"

"Red, y'low, bue…"

"I can give you a list." That was Dr. Hoffman. Willie turned his head to see Barnabas and Julia sitting on the passenger bench on the other side of the ambulance. She clutched the vampire's hand as, with the other, he tried to dab stains from his suit with a handkerchief. "He must have—taken them from my medical bag."

"Looks like they all came back up, but they'll pump your stomach anyway," Emily offered.

Dumb ass. Shoulda just jumped off the cliff like a normal person.

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