If You Can't Eat 'Em
By: James Rumpel

Count Dracula scanned the table, looking at the collection of creatures and monsters in attendance.

"If everyone is here," he said, "we might as well get started. I'll count. One…ah…two…three…ah…three monsters…ah …"

"Stop it," shouted a blood-covered apparition floating above the chair adjacent to Dracula. "It was mildly funny the first time you did it, but now it's just annoying."

"Hmmm," grunted the count before finishing his tally in silence. "Thirteen. That's everyone. I officially call this meeting on the Fear Alliance Local 666 to order. Let the records show that the meeting began at exactly 11:50 PM on Thursday, October 12th, 2022. Everyone, please stand for the club pledge."

The assembled creatures stood and placed their hands or claws over the hearts or the general vicinity of where their hearts would be located if they had one. In something that vagally resembled unity, the creatures said, mumbled, or howled the pledge.

"I promise to do whatever I can to instill unmitigated fear into the minds and hearts of any and all normal human beings."

"Okay," said Dracula. "We'll next have the reading and ratification of the minutes from last meeting." He nodded toward a large zombie sitting across the table.

Slowly, the zombie stood. He reached for a notebook sitting in front of him but had to stop when his rotted thumb and index finger fell off of his right hand. Undeterred, the zombie picked up the notes with his left hand and began reading. "Urrrhhh braahh mrrrma …"

"This is going to take forever!" shouted Helga, the representative of the witches. "Whose idea was it to make him club secretary anyhow?"

The Imp Chief titter in delight, only managing to completely stifle his laughter when Frankenstein's Monster grabbed him by the nape of the neck.

"I motion that we accept the minutes as they are," announced the mad scientist, Doctor Evil.

"Second," shouted the ghost.

"Fine," said Dracula. "All in favor signify by saying something resembling 'Aye.'"

The assortment of growls and moans that followed made it obvious that the motion was passed.

Dracula continued, "Let the minutes show that …" He glanced at the Zombie Lord who was unsuccessfully attempting to reattach his thumb. "… Oh, never mind. Let's go to old business."

A green alien, with a small football-shaped head and eyes the size of a grapefruit, stood to address the table. "The only old business we had was finalizing the list of snack providers. The Creature from the Black Lagoon signed up for this month …"

"Oh no," interrupted the Demon Ruler, "all he ever brings is rotted fish."

"It's not that bad," said the ghost.

"That's easy for you to say," replied Doctor Evil, "you don't eat."

Soon other monsters joined the conversation.

"Well, the fish is better than what Frankenstein's Monster brings. He undercooks everything."

"That's because he's scared of fire."

"FIRE BAD!" yelled Frankenstein's Monster as it jumped to its feet, jostling the table as it did so. The table shook violently causing the goblet of red liquid in front of Dracula to spill onto his notes.

"Now look what you've done," screamed the vampire as he grabbed a nearby towel and began to wipe up the mess.

"Hey, let go of that. That's not a washcloth, that's mine." The Mummy pulled the bandage away from Dracula and began rewrapping it around his arm.

"This is ridiculous!" shouted Dracula. "Let's forget all these stupid meeting rules."

"Good," said the Imp, "I'm not big on rules."

Dracula went on, "We have a very important issue to discuss, a very important issue. To make things clear, I have asked Malcolm to crunch and few numbers and explain things." He gestured towards a mousy little man wearing a black overcoat and bowtie.

The man, who had been sitting quietly throughout the meeting stood and cleared his throat.

"Well, yes, you see, um. Lord Dracula asked me to collect and analyze data about what scares human beings. Um, the results are, um, rather surprising. It seems that none of us are in the top five. The things humans fear the most are gas prices, a virus, politicians, climate change, and random crime. We're doing a little better in Europe and the far east, but in the United States, we're falling far behind. If fact, the highest any of us are on the list are demons. They're right between losing social media arguments and forgetting a Netflix password."

The Demon Ruler jumped to his hooves. "That can't be right. We are pure evil. You have to check your numbers again."

The little man shrugged. "I, um, could check but I knowwww owwwwlll howllllll." Suddenly, the man's nose and mouth contorted into a long snout with razor-sharp fangs. His hands transformed into claws and his entire body became covered in thick, black fur.

"I knew there was a full moon tonight," said Dracula. "So, now you see our problem. We are no longer the greatest fears of the people. We need to come up with a way to regain our rightful place as the bearers of terror. Are there any suggestions?"

Suddenly, the door to the chamber flew open and a young human male stuck his head inside the room.

"Oh, sorry dudes. I didn't know anyone was down here. I'm looking for the wi-fi router. I can't get any kind of signal in this old hotel. Just trying to check Twitter."

Before any of the creatures could answer or attack, the human shrugged and shut the door.

"See what I mean," said Dracula. "We have to do something."

"We could eat them alllllll, howlll," suggested Malcolm/werewolf.

"But if they're all eaten, there won't be anyone to scare," explained the ghost.

Doctor Evil stood to address the group. "The problem is we are a second thought to them. They don't deal with us every day, but they are exposed to the things on Malcolm's list constantly."

"Grrrr Grrrr Grrrrr," said the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

"What did he say?" asked Dracula.

"He said, 'climate change is pretty scary,'" answered the witch.

"I could barely afford enough rocket fuel to get my UFO here tonight," added the alien.

"The streets aren't safe," continued Helga. "Just last night some punk with an AK47 tried to hold me up in a back alley. He's a toad now, but if I wasn't so quick with a spell, I could be sitting with the zombies tonight."

"I still think we should eat them," growled Malcolm.

"We can't eat them," said Dracula. "But if we can't eat them, maybe we can join them."

"Join the humans?" gasped the ghost.

"No, join the things the humans fear. We could piggyback on what they are already scaring them. We could make those things even more frightening to them."

The demon nodded, "Yes, I see what you mean. I have a number of oil company executives under contract. I could get them to raise oil and gas prices even further."

"Oh, of course," said Dr. Evil. "I bet I can come up with a new strain of infectious virus. Nothing that will kill them, but I bet I could force them into another year of quarantine."

"Let's not get too carried away."

Dracula nodded, "Yeah, Helga has a point. I mean there's evil and then there's just plain cruel. Keep the quarantine under six months."

"I can mess with the planet's O-zone and melt a few polar ice caps," interjected the alien. "I guess it's nothing that they aren't already doing but I can speed things up a little."

"Crime should be pretty easy," said Malcolm. "We could just put on masks and go out and do what we normally do."

"Grrrr Grrrrr Grrrrr."

"The Creature's got a point," reported Helga, "We don't need to wear masks. The humans usually dress up like us when they commit crimes."

The Imp Chief climbed on the table and began jumping around. "Oh, Oh. Let us imps take care of social media. A few well-timed deletions and some fake tweets and we'll drive those humans crazy."

"I guess that only leaves their fear of politicians. That shouldn't be too tough. I'll just run for president."

"I'm afraid that won't work, Drac," explained the ghost, "In order to run for president, you have to have been born in the United States of America. That's why I should run. I was, not only born here, I died here in the War of 1812. I'm a war hero."

Dracula shook his head. "But you're dead. How are you ever going to get elected?"

"Have you seen what he'd be running against? He could get elected by simply changing my name to None of the Above." The bandages that formed The Mummy's mouth curled upward at the corners. "Any of us could win with votes to burn."

"BURN BAD." Once again, Dracula's goblet went flying as Frankenstein's Monster shook the table.

"Okay, maybe not any of us but getting one of us elected won't be a problem. We'll have this country shaking in terror in no time."

"You're probably right, Mummy," continued Dracula after cleaning up the new mess. "But have you seen the politicians they've had lately? Whoever we get elected is going to have to be really bad to be scarier than what's already there."

"Well, I am a blood-covered, warmonger with antiquated ideas, a total disregard for life, and no real clue about how modern government works or current issues."

"I guess that'll do." Dracula looked around the table and smiled, flashing his fangs. "Okay. It's good that we now have a course of action. We'll meet back here in the basement of the Algonquin Hotel on the next Friday the thirteenth. I officially adjourn this …"

"Grrrr Booraaah woawl."

"What's he saying now?"

Helga looked at Dracula and shrugged. "He says that you have to slow down. He's still taking notes. He'd like you to repeat a few things."

"Like what?"

"Mowaaah luuugj wayol."

"Everything after 'Let's go to old business.'"

The Imp Chief fell off his chair, laughing.

The End

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