Amy walked up the hill from school towards the castle where she lived, basket of blood oranges under her arm. As she climbed, blue skies surrendered to dark clouds. Birds were chased away by bats. The people who crossed her path took on a meaner appearance, and their fashion became decidedly dour. Fewer tees, more sweeping capes hiding starched shirts.

It had been this embarrassing for as long as she could remember. How to bring boys home from school when the locals of her end of the community seemed so intent on being off-putting to strangers? When even the wildlife conspired to intimidate and confuse?

Not forgetting the Count, of course. When Amy heaved open the castle door and slipped inside, a large man with extremely round and shiny features floating towards her with pale face beaming. His general aesthetic of dinner suit with red trim was spoiled by his ridiculous front teeth. They were so large that they prevented his bottom lip from ever fully concealing them, and gave him the bearing of a happy, fat rabbit. Whichever genes had corrupted to keep his canine teeth small by comparison were presumably huddling in one corner of his nuclei constantly giggling to themselves.

“Gooth afdernooon, chilt,” he spat, saliva gleefully ejecting itself through the gap between his leporine incisors. “How voss schoool?”

“Fine,” grumped Amy as she handed him a blood orange from her basket.

“Ah,” he grinned. “Suckulent.”


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