Chapter 1 - Incoming

Spooky Owl was perched in his favourite spot, nestled on the sill of a huge stained glass window, at the back of the crypt he had come to think of as home. From up there he looked down at the bat where he stressed and flitted about in the cramped space.

“Have you tried concentrating really hard?” The owl asked.

“Of course I have, I’ve tried everything!”, the bat responded with a huge sigh as he came to rest on top of the tomb in the centre of the crypt. “Nothing seems to work”.

Suddenly there was a loud clank as a drain cover in the corner of the room flipped open, “What’s going on up ere?”, exclaimed Ragbone Rat as he emerged from down below, “I’m trying to sleep down here”.

“The bat is trying to turn back into his ’human’ form.” The owl gestures quotes as best he could with his wings as he spoke the word ‘human’.

“Oh no not this again!” the rat complained.

The bat glared at Spooky Owl, “You don’t have to say it like that! I know what you mean by ‘human’. It’s okay you can say it you know, really, I don’t mind. I mean, it’s not as if you are ‘exactly’* an owl anymore, is it?”

(*more winged gesturing.)

“Well, no, maybe not,” the owl replied, “but at least I was an owl, before I became… well… dead!”

“And I was a human before I became a va.. a vam... a vaaaamp….”

“Ha ha ha ha! He can’t even say it.” bellowed Ragbone Rat, “Ha ha, I’ll say it for you bats, VAMPIRE!!!”

The bat squirmed as if it was some kind of accusation. “Well you can talk all bones and rags that you are!”

It was true Ragbone Rat was the animated skeleton of the rat he had once been. Somehow he had been ‘brought back to life’ long after he had died and now, all that was left of him was his old bones. Still he had his pride and didn’t like showing them off too much. He wore an old piece of hessian rag as a kind of adjustable cloak that draped around him. It was held in place by an old sink chain around his neck bones and it ruffled up into a hood around his head, hiding the side and back of his skull. He looked to all intents and purposes like a cross between a miniature grim reaper and a tramp, but without the scythe.

Spooky Owl wasn’t just an owl either. When he had died he became a ghost and no one at the falconry on the castle’s grounds could see or hear him anymore. Eventually he found himself settling down in the graveyard that sat in the shadow of the huge castle. There he met Ragbone Rat and the two became friends. They set up home in the largest crypt in the cemetery. Spooky Owl up on his perch and Ragbone Rat down below in the drain. It was perfect.

One day a commotion came. Spooky owl was sitting outside on the branch of a large oak tree, whose roots had pushed up several of the graves from below the earth, wondering what the odd THUD noise he’d just heard in the distance was. This was the owl’s second favourite perching place, from here he could observed the whole of the cemetery and keep watch for any funny business. (You might be forgiven for thinking that not much could go on in a graveyard, but you would be surprised at the things that had happened since Spooky Owl and Ragbone Rat had been here.) Like on this day, when a bat had landed with a SPLAT on one of the knocked over gravestones, right in front of Spooky Owl.

“Oww!”, the face down bat complained as he peeled himself off the gravestone.

“I say,” inquired Spooky owl, he had a rather well spoken, posh but soft voice, “are you ok there?”

“Do I look OK?”, the bat replied sarcastically, as he turned to look up at who he was talking. To his surprise he saw a pale, slightly transparent owl, framed by a slightly yellow halo, that glowed around it. But more apparently more worrying was the fact that the owl spoke. He let out a surprised screech, “Ahhhhhh! a talking owl”.

“Yes, what’s wrong with that?” asked the owl, beaming a beady eye at him.

“Well, it’s just that, owls don’t tend to talk where I come from!”

“And bat’s don’t tend to talk where I come from.”

“Bat’s?”, the bat exclaimed, confused, “what do you mean?”

“You are, are you not, a bat?”, Spooky Owl raised one eyebrow inquiringly.

“Of course I’m not a bat!”, the bat protested, “I’m a man!”.

Just then Ragbone Rat hopped up onto the cemetery wall nearby. “I reckon that fall hit him pretty hard Spooks, he fell from all the way up there.” he pointed to a window, high up in the castle.

“I think you may be right”, the bat gasped looking about ready to pass out, “I must be seeing things, you’ve got no skin!”

“Well, we’ve all got our problems around here”, the rat laughed, “So come on let’s hear it, what makes you think you’re a man?”...

Anyway, that was weeks ago and I have gone off track a little so here we slide forward in time, back to where our story began.

“Ok, ok, settle down you two” squawked Spooky owl, “let see if we can help him out this time.” he turned and gazed at the bat, “so you are a vampire in bat form and you want to get back to your human form yes?”

“Yes, more than anything.” the bat agreed.

“So, what’s the last thing you can remember doing before you turned into a bat?”

“Well,” the bat began his story….

“I was up there, in the castle you see. My castle, I was Count erm….

“Count Erm?” Ragbone Rat interrupted with laughter but Spooky Owl cut him short with glare and a ssSSSSHHHHH!!!

The bat continued “....yes well, I um, can’t quite remember what my name was but I was lord of the castle. I remember being particularly excited at having found a book on transmutation in the library.”

“Transmu-what?”, the rat interrupted again.

Spooky owl was getting quite annoyed now, “Are you going to keep interrupting the story?”.

“I don’t know what a transmu-thinga-mation is, do I?”

“It’s ok,” said the bat, “I wouldn’t expect a rat to understand anyway. It’s do with shape shifting, or changing from one form into another. In this case from a human form into a bat form. Chapter one was how to turn into human form and I was already human, I was so excited to give it a go so I skipped straight to chapter two, to the first animal, the bat, after reading how to do it, I just went ahead and gave it a try. Would you believe it, it worked? I was so excited, I could fly, I flapped around the room for a while and then once I had the hang of it, I swooped off out of the open window, out over the trees and across the fields, it was amazing! I felt so free and liberated, I flew around for what seemed like hours. But then there was a dark shadow, I felt that something was chasing me, even hunting me down. Scared for my life I whizzed back to castle as fast as I could heading straight towards the open window, except it wasn’t open anymore, it has somehow closed, perhaps in the wind? By the time I realised, it was too late, I couldn’t slow down and SLAM!!

Now Ragbone Rat laughed as harshly, “That’s when I saw him, I thought he was chasing me as he swooped over up ahead. I ran as fast as my little bones would carry me, back towards the graveyard. Then as he flew up toward the light of the castle window instead of at me, I watch as he approached and smacked straight into the glass, then he tumbled and twisted and twirled and went SPLAT onto the gravestone in front of you Spooks”.

“It’s not funny!” complained the bat, “It still hurts you know?”

“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!” Spooky Owl grumbled as he shook his head from side to side holding his wing to his forehead.

“What is it?” asked Ragbone Rat.

He glared at the bat with accusing eyes, “You skipped the first chapter?”

“Yes, why?” replied the bat.

“The chapter about how to turn into a human?”

“Yes, well, I was already human!”

“HA HA HA!!!” Ragbone Rat could hardly contain himself, “But you’re not a human now are you?”

“Oh! I see.” The bat slumped down onto the coverstone. “I’ve been rather stupid, haven’t I?”

“I’d say!”, laughed the rat.

“Oh dear!” Spooky Owl said again. “I think you are going to have to face facts. You may well be stuck as a bat forever!”

Here is one of those moments where I’d like the story to break for the next chapter to create one of those....


...moments, but we’re not really far enough into the story yet so maybe consider this a little break, like the screen went dim for a moment on a TV show and then it cuts back to a close up of the bat screaming….

“Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I can’t be stuck like this forever! There must be a way.”

“What’s so bad about being a bat anyway?” asked Ragbone Rat.

It was a fair question, there were far worse things bat could think of than being a bat. Some of the things he could think of were…

A Wasp - what could be worse than being unable to resist buzzing around near sweet smelling things, when people were constantly frightened of you stinging them so they always ran away, or worse still tried to swat you?

A raincloud - Getting blown around all day, not knowing where you’ll be from one day to the next,constantly annoying everyone and everywhere you go when you make everyone wet and miserable.

A Chicken - A bird that can’t fly and it seems that everyone wants to eat you or your eggs.

A football - because everyone kicks you!

All of these and many more were all far worse thing the bat could think of than being a bat, but he desperately wanted to get back home and back to his usual self. So he couldn’t help it when the words popped out as he blurted, “I just can’t stand the thought of being a flying piece of vermin for the rest of... well forever!”

“What’s wrong with vermin?” Ragbone Rat protested.

“Nothing!”, Spooky owl quickly cut in, “Stop this squabbling the pair of you, I can’t stand it. Look the only way I can see that you have any chance of getting back to your human form is to get into that castle and get that book, but you aren’t going to get anywhere until you calm down, stop panicking and overreacting to everything and accept that you are a vampire. A cunning, clever, crafty, devious, sneaky vampire. Even if you are stuck in a bat’s body, you are still a vampire and you are still all of this those things, right?”

“Right”, replied the bat, somewhat dubious, “except that, I was never really any of those thing before. I’m actually not very good at being a vaaa... vaaam... vaaaampire, which is why I was trying to learn to change forms, at least then I’d be good at something. It’s useless, I’ve been trying to find a way back in for weeks. All the doors and windows are shut tight, it’s a castle, built to keep people out, there’s no way in!” Defeated the bat collapsed back against the head of stone representation of the tombs inhabitant, that laid peacefully on top of the coverstone amongst the kerfuffle.

Ragbone Rat suddenly felt a bit sorry for the poor bat and more than a little guilty for laughing and making fun of him. He jumped up onto the coverstone of the tomb and laid a bony hand on the bat’s shoulder. “Come on, VB.” he said, “it’s not all that bad. I know another way into the castle.”