How we think the fight will go
The cabin was splendidly appointed and the ship was quiet, but Tarzan lay in bed wide awake all the same. Something had been bothering him ever since he’d set foot on the ocean liner in London, and now that the commotion of departure had totally subsided – about halfway to Algiers – he was no longer able to convince himself that his growing sense of alarm could be attributed to mere seasickness, or simple concern for Jane’s health, which had continued to deteriorate since they left port. It was, he now realized, the same tingle he used to get occasionally during hunting trips in the jungle whenever something else – something larger – began hunting him.
But that is madness, he thought, allowing himself to be rocked to sleep in the cradle of the ocean. There is nothing on this ship larger than a rat, except perhaps a spoiled lap dog. He knew he must remain strong for Jane; he nodded off listening to her shallow breathing and indecipherable mutterings, which at times seemed to contain both sides of a conversation.
In his dream, he was crouched on the longest limb of the tallest tree, scanning the underbrush for signs of big game, every nerve attuned to the sounds of the jungle beneath him. THUD. Something large was approaching. THUD. THUD. The tree branch shook beneath him, and he struggled to keep his grip. What could be that large, he wondered. Something very … old. THUD.
THUD. Awakening, he nearly toppled from his perch: In his sleep, Tarzan had climbed up onto a rafter-beam in the highest corner of the cabin, unconsciously keeping watch over Jane the way he used to in the early days. The ship heaved to and fro, and a high-pitched whistle emanated through the porthole – a sudden storm must have blown up. Surely the change in atmospheric pressure was the source of his strange unease? He was still unused to these rapid shifts in the weather. Why, already a pallid mist had seeped into their cabin, drawing across Jane’s body and their bed like a sparkling veil.
The moisture must have been cool indeed, for she began to tremble fitfully, clenching the bedclothes tightly in her fists. However, instead of pulling them up to her chin, Tarzan observed, she pulled them away from her body. Then the skin at her throat drew taut and seemed to dimple as if prodded by unseen fangs. Her eyes flew open but saw nothing, her mouth drew into a circle but made no sound, and in an instant blood streamed from twin punctures just beneath her jawbone – blood that ran nowhere, lapped up by the mist before it could stain her pillowcase.
At the sight of blood, Tarzan had sprung from his perch instinctively. Faster than the blink of an eye, he gathered Jane up in his arms and leapt toward the door, but to his horror it seemed to be locked from the outside.
As he stood there cursing and struggling with the latch, he was relieved to feel Jane stirring against him, slipping out of his grasp to stand on her own. Relieved, that is, until he looked down and saw the blue veins standing out on her closed eyelids, her feet dangling several inches above the floor.
The body was ripped from his arms and hurled across the room by unseen forces. With a cry of fury and astonishment, Tarzan leapt upward into the rafters, scanning the tiny room for an attacker. The mist had thickened, and it was hard to be sure what might reside in the shadows. Involuntarily he began to recall tales from his childhood among the apes, legends of blood-sucking jungle spirits that kidnapped babies and left no footprints. No, he thought. I must be dreaming. This can’t be real.
As if answering his demand for a rational answer, there was a scuttling noise from below. Through the dissipating mist, Tarzan watched as several small dark shapes whisked across the floor. Rats? He began to lower himself from the rafter-beam, eager to be at Jane’s side, when he noticed more rats swarming from under the bed. More and more and more of them, until the floor was alive with them and Tarzan’s nostrils stung with their peculiar musk. In a panic, he began to beat on the heavy wooden ceiling overhead, putting the full force of his lungs into his cries for help. The rats now covered the bed and Jane’s body in a roiling, twitching mass, and with nowhere to go but up, they began climbing the walls. Was it possible for the entire room to be filled with rats? Surely nothing he’d witnessed in the last few minutes was possible.
As the carpet of writhing bodies rose higher and higher under his feet, Tarzan began to beat at his own face and claw at his own flesh, determined to wake from what could only be a horrifying nightmare. He cried out in every language that he knew, begging someone to rouse him. And there was a reply, finally: As the rats closed in around him, their hairless tails lashing his bare skin, Tarzan heard laughter, deep and sonorous and utterly pitiless.
The next evening there were a number of bawdy jokes in the scullery at the expense of that handsome young couple who were so intent on each other that they’d skipped several meals, even ignoring provisional baskets that were left by the door as a courtesy. It was only a matter of time, guffawed the cook, before they’d have to replenish their strength.
In the meantime, the door remained locked from the inside.
Predicted Winner: Count Dracula
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON Friday, March 15th, 2013, AT 5 PM, EST
Dracula is a character from Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Tarzan is a character from Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Cage Match fans: We are looking forward to hearing your responses! If possible, please abstain from including potential spoilers about the books in your comments (and if you need spoilers to make your case, start your comments with: “SPOILER ALERT!”