Once there was a tiny little vampire whose name was Mungo Cheswick. He was no bigger than a pickle. Mungo was terribly in love with film star Annabel Cartwright, former “Scream Queen” of many beloved horror films, and now a Serious Actress, who lived in San Francisco and sometimes Hollywood. This was not helpful, as Mungo lived in London and was not a film star. Also, Mungo was a thousand times smaller than Annabel, which made the pursuit of love somewhat troublesome.
Mungo thought carefully about how he could make Annabel Cartwright into his vampire bride. First, he had to get to “the Colonies,” which is how he still thought of the Americas. Mungo’s archaic nature was somewhat charming; he had certainly charmed his way into the graces of other ladies, mostly fairies and small elves, even a less-homely-than-usual gnome or two. They had all succumbed to his whispers and mosquito-like buzzing, which, as one of the fairies had said, tickled a bit, but was otherwise quite pleasant. Of course this didn’t last, as eventually Mungo would drain them dry and leave their desiccated corpses (now even smaller) in various gardens, under the shrubbery or in beds of perennials.
But what Mungo Cheswick, miniscule vampire, really wanted was a red-blooded American girl, an enormous (to him) actress. His mother had always warned him against taking human blood—it caused drunkenness, freewheeling and general bad behavior amongst tiny vampires. Mungo had been a good son and followed Mother’s edicts, until he’d spotted Annabel Cartwright on a film poster in Piccadilly Circus and was instantly smitten. Happily, Mother came afoul of a fly zapper by the kitchen door of a vicarage and Mungo was finally free to pursue his dream.
Getting to America did seem problematic. Mungo thought about stowing away on a boat, but he didn’t really take to the sea. His one excursion to Brighton for an evening cruise in a Barbie Party Cruise Ship™ resulted in terrible seasickness that was only alleviated by Mungo eating most of his guests, and then he couldn’t show his face in polite vampire society for fully six months.
Mungo then considered an aeroplane, but was worried that, being so tiny, he might get sucked into some sort of unpleasant intake valve and be irreparably smoodged. He could always burrow into a human’s pocket, but he was nervous that he might be tempted by the heady scent of blood from non-celebrity Homo sapiens and cave in to its lure, when he really wanted to save himself for Annabel.
Finally, he hit upon the perfect plan. He would post himself to America. Straight to Annabel herself! He’d still travel by air, but would be safe inside his little coffin, itself stuffed into a fat, padded envelope. Mungo would also take several ticks bloated with fairy blood to sustain him on his journey. He felt quite bursting with cleverness at this plan. None of the other little vampires in England had ventured as far as he was about to go. Now, he just needed to find a way to get his parcelled-self deposited into a post box, with “fragile” and “handle with care” written on the outside of the parcel.
After much thought and the bullying of a few brownies and dwarfs with nimble fingers, Mungo managed to have his wee coffin (with himself inside it) bundled into the bubble-lined envelope that was guaranteed to be light-proof by the photo supply shop he ordered it from. He even had a small witch he knew hex the postman into bringing the appropriate stickers and postage. Appropriately enough, the somewhat befuddled postman showed up with commemorative Christopher Lee stamps, which Mungo felt boded well for his upcoming venture into world travel and romance. Excitedly, Mungo settled himself and his blood-filled ticks in for the long journey to the New World.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned. Who could have known that Mungo didn’t travel well? His lurching journey to the post box in a dwarf-sack left him terribly seasick—worse even than on his ill-fated cruise—and he wasn’t able to have a single sip of supper that night. Even more unfortunately, the dwarfs, early risers all of them, had dumped him in the Royal Mail first thing in the morning…which meant that the entire weight of the day’s post rested right on top of Mungo’s coffin. As the letters piled up, the coffin creaked alarmingly, warped out of true at the joints, and then squished into a tiny trapezoid, Mungo and his ticks similarly flattened inside. It was most upsetting.
Mungo’s parcel finally arrived in California, croggled, mashed, and much the worse for wear. Mungo himself was not the jaunty little vampire he had once been. The only upside was that the envelope was indeed light-proof, as guaranteed, so poor Mungo did not suffer the indignity of bursting suddenly into flames after being touched by sunlight. Unfortunately, he still hadn’t reached his beloved, but had been redirected to the office of Annabel Cartwright’s agent, where all the star’s post was automatically sent.
But here, after his terrible journey, Mungo finally had a piece of luck. The day after he was deposited at Stephen Bram & Associates, Annabel herself came to the office, and, on a whim, swept all the post they’d been saving to answer on her behalf into a bag, saying, “I need to be more in touch with my fans,” and then swanned down to her waiting limousine.
Mungo’s second piece of luck in the Colonies happened right in Annabel’s kitchen—she decided to open her post at night. When she withdrew the squashed coffin from the padded envelope, she dropped it onto the coffee table, thinking it was just another piece of horrible homemade “art” sent by some demented movie-lover. She went back to her third gin and tonic and sighed. But then she saw something move.
Mungo, still somewhat flattened, crawled out of the remains of his wooden coffin. Annabel took one look at him and shrieked, dropping her drink.
And there, because all good things come in threes, Mungo had his third piece of fortune. Annabel’s glass smashed on the tile floor, and pieces flew up, cutting her bare legs. The scent of her blood was more than poor starving Mungo could resist.
He gathered the last of his strength and latched onto Annabel’s calf. She shrieked again and tried to shake him off, but he clung tighter than even one of his ticks would have. Annabel gathered breath to shriek again—she wasn’t the “Scream Queen” in those early films for nothing, after all—but she realized all of a sudden that whatever was happening on her leg felt quite pleasant.
She looked down, and saw—what on earth was it?—it looked like a tiny person in a cape sucking the blood from a cut on her leg.
Mungo stopped drinking for a moment and looked up. “Hullo,” he said. “I’m Mungo Cheswick. And I love you.”
Annabel vowed then and there to quit drinking. Tomorrow.
“Uh…hello.” She noticed that where Mungo had been sucking her leg, the cut had almost entirely healed over. And…she couldn’t be sure, but didn’t her skin look creamier? Mungo moved onto another cut, and began licking the blood from there. The sensation felt even better to Annabel. “Ooooh,” she said.
By the end of half an hour, all of Annabel’s cuts had been licked to healing, and she was pretty sure that most of her varicose veins had disappeared. Not that she would have admitted to having varicose veins to anyone.
Annabel made herself another gin and tonic while Mungo explained his tremendous passion for her after seeing her film poster in Piccadilly Circus. Annabel couldn’t help but feel flattered, even if her gentleman caller was no bigger than a pickle. She wondered how things could work to her advantage. And then Hollywood’s “Scream Queen” thought faster than she’d ever thought in her life. Which usually wouldn’t be saying much, but when it came to her own beauty, Annabel Cartwright was practically Mensa-level.
Maybe she’d get Mungo to use his tongue on her face? He might be the best cure for wrinkles she’d ever found. And that dreadful unicorn tramp stamp she’d gotten in her late teens! Annabel had never felt confident in laser removal or plastic surgery—she shuddered at the thought of the awful scars and mangled facial messes she’d seen on some of her contemporaries. No one was going to film her in soft focus! She’d get Mungo to take care of the tattoo, those little lines around her eyes and mouth—everything. And if she had to give up some of her own blood, so what? Actually, given how good that awful Meryl Streep had been looking lately, she wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Miss I-Can-Do-Any-Accent-in-the-World didn’t have her own tiny little vampire at her beck and call.
Annabel and Mungo settled down to a mutually beneficial existence. He’d nibble on her neck or her cheek, or, if he was feeling really frisky, on the curve of her breasts. He never left any marks, and Annabel’s skin grew simply remarkable. Mungo sucked the terrible unicorn tattoo right out of her skin. Everyone commented on how she looked twenty years younger, and other actresses muttered about how she must have found a really great plastic surgeon. Annabel just smiled smugly.
Everything was going swimmingly until the inevitable happened. Annabel asked Mungo to “turn” her, make her into a vampire like him, so she could be immortal and (somewhat) young forever.
“If only I had met you earlier,” Annabel sighed. “But it’s not too late. I still have my looks, and I look better than ever after your attentions, Mungo!”
Mungo, in response, gently nibbled on her earlobe. Annabel giggled.
“So…when do you think you can ‘turn’ me?” she asked. Annabel had seen this sort of thing as part of the plots of many horror movies, some of which she had starred in, and of course on that sexy vampire series on HBO.
“I’m not sure I can do it, darling,” buzzed Mungo in her ear. “You’re so big and I’m so small. I’d have to drain you entirely, and then give you some of my blood…I don’t think I have enough.”
“I’m not that big! Well…maybe we can start with a few drops at a time? Please?”
Mungo could deny Annabel nothing. That very night when he drank some of her blood, he gave her three drops of his own. Annabel woke the next morning feeling better than she ever had in her life, better even than when she was still a little girl and full of gumption. She looked thoughtfully over at the kitchen cupboard where Mungo’s coffin was hidden for the day.
If this keeps up, I’ll be a hundred before I get enough tiny vampire blood to turn me, thought Annabel. And God knows how I’ll look by then.
The next night, Annabel begged Mungo to drink as much of her blood as he could, just as an experiment. Mungo sipped at the vein in her elbow for a good hour and a half, until his belly was distended and he staggered woozily to her knee, where he collapsed in a stupor.
Quick as anything, before Mungo could fly away or come to his senses, Annabel snatched him up, popped him in her mouth and bit his head off.
Then she swallowed the rest of him (mostly) whole and belched in a genteel fashion.
Now I’ll really be immortal, Annabel thought. Would she miss Mungo? Well, certainly, but she’d soon get over that—once she was an even bigger star. She toasted herself with a gin and tonic.
Things did not go exactly as planned. Annabel couldn’t sleep for the terrible stomach-ache she got. It was as if her guts were literally turning inside out. Even when she stuck her finger down her throat, in hope of expelling the tiny little vampire, it didn’t help. The only thing that came up was a bit of his cape.
After a dreadful night, Annabel fell into a fitful sleep in the early hours of the morning. When she woke, the clock showed it was almost noon. But her stomach had finally settled down. In fact, she felt quite marvellous!
She got out of bed and was on her way to the bathroom when she almost fell onto her face—her pajama pants were loose and she’d tripped over the legs.
“I’m getting thinner,” she whispered in ecstasy as she staggered back to her feet. Mungo’s body and blood were working even greater miracles than she’d expected. She lifted her pant legs and ran to look in the bathroom mirror.
Annabel could barely see over the bathroom counter. She shrieked in horror. It wasn’t possible…was it?
Yes, it was. Annabel was shrinking.
She grabbed the powder-puff stool from her dressing table and stood on it to look in the mirror. Annabel looked like a three-foot–tall miniature version of herself. Even as she watched, she grew smaller. As she shrank, she leapt for the edge of the dressing table—and found she could fly. She hovered over the dressing table and managed to land back in front of the mirror. Her face was very pale.
As Annabel opened her mouth to scream her last scream as a Scream Queen, she saw that she had grown fangs, too. Eating Mungo whole had worked. She was, in fact, “turning”—into a tiny little vampire. No bigger than a pickle. And not even a very large pickle.
The news was full of the headlines—“Former Scream Queen Annabel Cartwright Disappears!” and “Hollywood Horror Show: Annabel’s Gone!” and “Vanishing Actress Mystery Puzzles Police.”
Annabel’s mansion eventually became known as the “Cartwright Mystery House” and was bought at auction by another film star, then quickly sold and resold several times. There were rumours of strange noises, bedbug infestations, perhaps a haunting? No one ever stayed in the house for long, and its mystique increased.
Finally, the place was bought by a real estate mogul, who would sometimes hint to his guests at drunken parties that he knew the real secret behind Annabel’s disappearance. He didn’t. But he did eventually put his home on the market, just like everyone else, after numerous complaints from his family—they all had very peculiar dreams involving something nibbling on them in the middle of the night, which no amount of fumigation seemed to help, so it was probably psychosomatic. The mogul’s children eventually developed anemia, but everyone was sure this was unrelated. The kids did say they could hear a strange buzzing near their ears just before falling asleep. Sometimes it sounded just like shrieky little words.
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