The International Monetary Bank of Transylvania

An entry into the weekly flash fiction contest at terribleminds.com. This week’s contest, 1000 words while also using three of the following; Cockroach, Fountain, Tax, Bottle, Box. Also, you must include vampires somehow.

“Welcome to the International Monetary Bank of Transylvania, Mr. Clemens.” Mathew Clemens accepted the handshake, the banker’s long fingers wrapping around his hand. It lasted just long enough to seem awkward, holding the banker’s dry, cold hand.”Please, have a seat.”

“Thank you.” Mathew managed, pulling out one the ornate, high-backed carved chairs and settling into it, shifting in a vain effort to get comfortable despite the lack of padding. The banker moved behind his desk, and then made a show of shuffling his papers. Mathew glanced around the office, taking in the ancient-looking wooden desk, the thick velvet curtains that blocked all traces of the setting sun and the numerous filing cabinets that filled the walls. A out-of-place looking Macbook sat humming on the desk, the pearl-white in sharp contrast to the dark tones of the rest of the room. At the front of the desk sat a name plate that read “Count Grigor Alistar.”

“Well, Mr. Clemens. What brings you here today?” Grigor’s voice had nary a hint of nastiness in it, but the man’s thin-lipped smile seemed calculating. It was certainly calculated to hide the fangs that Mathew knew lurked there.

“I’m hoping to get a loan.” Mathew told him. “I’d like to buy a house with my fiancée, Erin Campbell.”

“It is a good time to be buying into the housing market.” Grigor mused. “The price of housing is very low in many parts of the country.”

If you have money. Mathew thought. It used to be that the tax men and the bankers were just like Vampires, and not actually undead. Who would have thought, five years ago, that the solution to the American debt problems, the European bank crisis, the Greek financial collapse, even the unexpected Chinese economic slowdown, would have been Vampires? Apparently, they had been quietly investing for centuries, building up gigantic fortunes, buying real estate and controlling interests in corporations and companies. And then, one day, they’d seen an opportunity and decided to get involved openly.

It had been quite a shock to the world, when they had put out a press release announcing the formation of their International Monetary Bank, but they’d been willing to lend trillions to the United States and Europe and China at such low, long-term rates that it had solved all the short-term instability problems. Now economic growth was finally starting to look up, but the cost of servicing all that debt was still high, and unemployment was creeping up, thanks to government austerity.

And regardless of all that, Mathew Clemens just wanted to buy a house, so he’d come to the only people who still had money. The Vampires.

“Yes.” Mathew finally managed, realizing the banker was waiting for a reply. “It makes financial sense for us to stop paying rent and start building equity in a home.” To him, as long as there was no blood drinking involved, he had no real problem being there. It was just a little creepy.

“What do you do, Mr. Clemens?” The banker picked up a long, black fountain pen and pulled the tip off.

“I’m a software engineer. I work in program development.”

The pen scratched something down on a sheet of paper. “Can you estimate your income?”

“About fifty thousand a year.”

“How about your fiancé? Will she be named on the loan?” Mathew nodded, and the pen scratched again. “Her occupation?”

“She’s a fitness instructor. She makes about forty thousand a year.”

“That’s a very respectable income for a family at your age, Mr. Clemens. How about major debts? Car, credit card, anything else?” The pen tapped Grigor’s thin lips.

“I drive a used vehicle. Erin has a car loan of about $8,000 that she’s paying off. We both pay our credit cards. We have a few things we’ve financed, but nothing over $5,000.”

“Your financial responsibility is excellent for such a young couple. Many people I’ve seen carry far more debt.” Mathew nodded at the compliment as Grigor put his pen down and retrieved a metal water bottle, uncorked the nozzle, and took a long, leisurely drink. Mathew watched his adam’s apple bob before looking away. When he finished, Grigor wiped his mouth with a tissue, then stored the water bottle away. “Shall we go through your financial documents?”

“Yes. I brought everything you asked.” Standing, Mathew walked back to the office door where he’d left the box containing everything from his tax forms to his pay stubs to receipts for every major purchase for the last three years. Say what you would about the International Monetary Bank of Transylvania, they seemed determined to avoid taking on any sub-prime mortgages or toxic debt. When he picked up the box, something small and black scuttled away towards the wall. He hoped it wasn’t a cockroach.

Going through all the documents took nearly two hours. It was well after eight o’clock when Mathew finally glanced at his watch. “Well, Mr. Clemens, I think everything looks very positive.” Grigor finally told him. There is still some paperwork to do, but I think I can conditionally approve you.”

“Thank you!” Mathew shook the outstretched hand eagerly this time. He knew to read the small print, but he would have taken the loan from a werewolf if he’d had to, so long as it wasn’t more than two points above prime. He left the office humming tunelessly to himself, eager to get home so he could tell Erin the good news.

Ordnance QF 25-pdr on Carrier Valentine 25-pdr Mk 1

I found this week’s flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig was much easier to write than last week’s. It was also ten times shorter!

 

“Charlie, how does a tanky end up with a blister?” The American sergeant jerked his thumb at the boxy tracked vehicle.

“Actually, sir, I’m with the Royal Artillery. Our Bishop is a self-propelled gun.” Charles Bradford winced as he pulled his boot back on.

“That’s swell.” The American said. “Now get back into your tank. Messina awaits!” The sweltering, damp heat hit Charles like a lorry as he stood and stepped away from the ivy-covered wall. Sicily in July was a far cry from Bedfordshire.

“No rest for the wicked.” He told his crew mates as their engine roared.

Flash Fiction: The Torch

My entry for Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge “The Torch.” This one was quite a struggle. And sadly it is not at all based on Monty Python. You can see the image prompt at the link above.
The torch burned hot. Albert held it high as a beacon. He could feel the heat on his scalp as he cast it about, observing the crowd who had gathered on the sticky-hot prairie summer’s night. Farmers, smiths, militiamen, millers, housewives, even a few nobles had come, their colourful silk or well-tailored suits and fine hats contrasting with the simple cloth of the other folk visible in the torchlight.
It was a good crowd, he decided. He turned his gaze to the mountains in the west, where dusk still glowed. It was late and he expected no others.
“Friends!” Albert called to them, and they pushed a little closer. Emotion had brought them here, and his goal was to stroke it, stroke their curiosity, and stroke the fear that gripped their hearts. `We have come tonight… because of a warlock!”
The mutter that ran through the crowd was ugly. People crossed themselves. Those holding pitchforks raised them into the air like spears. But Albert couldn’t feel the anger. Pistols remained in their holsters. Rifles were still strapped to backs. Many had brought torches, but only a few were alight. The crowd wasn’t ready yet.
“We have feared this! We have seen the signs!” Albert turned his eyes on a man near the front of the crowd. His suit was earth-toned, and patched at the elbows and knees. Thick black stubble coated his cheeks. Albert had counted on this man being here. “Tell them, Frederick!”
He needed little prompting. “The warlock stole my wife!” his voice near breaking. “She walked off into the middle of the night! Left my bed, left our sons. She was tricked with magic, her heart enslaved. And when we found her… it had been cut out!” Albert nodded at the assertion, though he knew it wasn’t strictly true.
“Our animals!” Another man, his voice deep and rough, shouted from somewhere further into the crowd. “Dead dogs, cats, deer, pigs. We find them downstream of his house!” “There are strange lights at night. Evil lights!” A woman added, her voice shrill.
A hatless gentleman, his necktie askew and his shirt sweat-soaked, raised his voice from the front of the crowd. “My daughter. The warlock… he put a hex on my wife! So my daughter was born wrong. All twisted. She didn’t live.” He raised both his hands towards the sky, as if appealing to the heavens. “We must have justice!”
“Justice!” Albert repeated, and he whipped his torch back and forth. “We accuse Joshua of being a warlock, of having a pact with the Dark Lady. Does anyone speak in his defence?” The mood had grown uglier. More torches had been lit, and hands rested on pistol butts.
“Calm yourselves.” Someone pushed her way to the front of the crowd. Eventually, she emerged, a woman with a long ponytail, wearing a long coat. “This is madness.” Albert kept his face neutral, but he mentally cursed the arrival of the town’s doctor, Elizabella. She should have been seeing to the birth of Mrs. Crowly’s baby. Why was she here? The woman had been schooled in the east and many held her opinion in high regard. If she urged caution, the crowd might quiet.
“We have warlocks in the capital.” The doctor spoke in normal tones and the crowd quieted as it strained to hear her. “Charlatans and beggars, we give them our pity, and perhaps a few coins. Who has proof that Joshua has done any of these things you mention, let alone of having made a pact with the evil god?”
The crowd had calmed. Albert risked losing them. But he had another trick to play. “Alma? Are you here?”
The crowd parted around a gangly, brown-haired teenage girl as though she was a stone in a river. It took her a long moment to notice, and when she did she covered her face with her hands. “Tell them all what you told me.” She was his niece, a well-liked, church-going girl.
“Well… I saw mister Joshua.” When she didn’t elaborate, someone gave the girl a gentle push. “I saw him in the forest, dancing without any clothes in the night. And singing words I couldn’t understand… except for the Dark Lady’s name!”
Someone in the crowd gasped. In an instant, the ugly current was back, a racing, raging river of unthinking hate. Albert waved his torch, and it was joined by dozens more, pushing back at the darkness. Pistols and rifles had joined the pitchforks in the air. He could hear doctor Elizabella arguing for calm, but she was ignored. A decision has been made.
Of course, it wasn’t Joshua that Alma had seen at all, but that didn’t matter. “To Joshua’s home!” Someone yelled. “Burn it!”
From the fescue prairie to the north of town, Joshua’s home was just over a small hill, near to the river that rushed through low, furious rapids. It didn’t take the mob long to reach the river, and then it was only a few minutes to the simple log cabin with its little garden.
That was where they stood, crushing tomatoes beneath booted heels and grinding lettuce into the dirt, while men tossed torches. It took several tries to get one atop the roof, for no-one wanted to approach too close. The summer had been dry and the small cabin was soon alight, as fire danced between the logs. The roof fell in and fire stretched towards the diamond-dust sky. Joshua never emerged from the inferno, but Albert thought he heard a scream over the roar of the blaze.
The crowd remained until the building collapsed. The thick logs would burn for hours, but no-one could live in that heat and smoke. Their anger sated, the mob became a crowd again, and they broke away singly and in small groups.
Albert left before the crowd had shrunk too much. His work here was done. He would lie low for some time, for the people foolishly believed that they had solved their problem. But it was Albert who was the warlock.