At All Costs

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Allison hurried down the street of an unfamiliar neighborhood, avoiding eye contact with anyone she passed. She was pretty sure they were all vampires. She wouldn’t have come near here if it wasn’t for her Uncle Tyrone. Every year, it was his avuncular habit to send her a box of chocolates for her birthday, but this year, she instead received a bizarre notebook filled with unreadable formulas. Minutes after she opened it, her uncle called and told her to grab it and get out of her dorm. She “wasn’t safe there,” he told her. “Oh, and bring a spice shaker full of garlic salt,” he said. That had been hours ago. Since then, she had gotten absolutely lost following the sporadic instructions Tyrone sent via text. Finally, the place her uncle had called the “safe house” was in sight. She was safe.

“Hand over the notebook,” a man said suddenly.

Allison didn’t know where this man had come from, but she didn’t care. She pulled the top off her garlic powder shaker and flung it at him, as Uncle Tyrone had instructed her. The man began convulsing violently, to the point that he dropped to his knees and was unable to follow. Did that confirm her vampire theory, or was that man simple allergic to garlic? Either way, she took off at a run until she reached the steps of her uncle’s safe house. The door flung open. Tyrone ushered her inside and quickly locked the door with at least a dozen dead bolts. He then led Allison into a large, cozy room with enough books to make a tree cry. They sat next to the warm fireplace.

“This is a horrible time for an adventure,” Allison said. “I’ve missed two classes today, and I need to study for my midterms. What is this about?”

“I’ve uncovered the secrets of alchemy,” he told her proudly.

“Good for you,” Allison said. “What does that have to do with me? Why did you send me that book?”

“Oh, that was my assistant’s fault,” Tyrone explained. “I gave him two packages to send, but he mixed up the labels. You got my notebook, and Lord Greysun ended up with a box of chocolates. Lord Greysun hates chocolate.”

“Not that I care, but who is Lord Greysun?”

“He was my patron, until this morning. He got the chocolates and assumed I was double-crossing him. Now he’s hunting for me and the book. No worries though. I expected this to happen sooner or later. I was prepared. We can hole up in my safe house for months, maybe years.”

That didn’t sound healthy for her grades, much less her social life.

“So, you had a misunderstanding,” Allison said. “Why don’t you just call him up and explain the mistake? Let him have the notebook and maybe he’ll stop trying to kill you.”

“We can’t do that,” Tyrone said gravely. “Up until this morning, I was ready to give it to him too, but I’ve learned a few things since then. I’ve known he was a vampire, but I didn’t know he was the king of the vampires. He’s got big, horrible plans and my notebook is just what he needs to see them realized. If he got ahold of it, he could raise an army of unkillable vampires and enslave humanity.” He paused and looked Allison in the eye. “It is vital that Lord Greysun does not get this notebook! We must keep it from him at all costs.”

Allison stared into the fire for a minute before speaking.

“At all costs?” she repeated.

“Yes. Allowing him to get this notebook would be the worst thing that could happen in all of human history.”

Allison shrugged her shoulders and tossed the notebook into the fire.

Uncle Tyrone jumped up and tried to snatch the book out of the flames, but pulled his hand out and cursed. He tried again, and cursed again.

“Why did you do that?” he demanded.

“I just saved the world,” she said. “Could you give me a ride back to campus? I’m supposed to meet my study group in a half hour.”

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