Never in my most far-out dreams did I ever expect to be a foreign exchange student spending my summer term abroad in Transylvania. My generation, the Millennials’, concept of vampires had been shaped by the “Twilight” series of books and movies and the HBO series, “True Blood.” My expectation in accepting the placement was to meet up with a cute vampire and hope to fall in love with him — or at least be glamoured by him.
The first thing that surprised me was that Transylvania has both Uber and Lyft. From the airport, I had the Uber driver stop at the supermarket/convenience store to pick up incidentals. When I saw that the only gum on the rack was garlic-flavored my fluttering senses began to tingle. Next was shampoo and conditioner. Checking out the ingredients, as my mom taught me to always do, I noticed that every brand of shampoo and conditioner had garlic as an ingredient. My senses tingled again. Each product found on my list had garlic as a universal ingredient. Even the washcloths I chose were woven with garlic plant fibers! My fluttering became a flapping, which made me think of bats. Oh boy, what had I gotten myself into!?
At the checkout lane, I noticed the clerk was wearing a garlic pendant. On the decorative shelf above the double-sliding entrance/exit doors was a woodlands-themed scene, featuring a stuffed raccoon. The raccoon was sporting a full-garlic necklace. So even the non-humans were at risk of the bite of the vampire. This was not boding well. I wondered if it was too late to turn back. Back at the car, I looked at my phone for flights out of Transylvania (TVA) and saw that the next one wasn’t for three days. I booked the flight as the Uber driver headed to the university, which was where I would be staying, in one of their dorm rooms.
In the online pdf brochure, I learned that Transylvania University (TU) was the former castle of…. you guessed it, Count Dracula of the Dracula Family, who had been the uninterrupted feudal landholders in the area since the year 1,100. In 1950, when Professor Van Helsing, afterwards the first Professor at TU, drove Count Dracula from the castle to whereabouts unknown, the village agreed that turning the House of Horrors into a learning institution was the best use for it.
The Uber car crawled along a now narrow cobblestone lane through a misty forest. As dusk fell, the driver became nervous and picked up the speed, which was hair-raising around the winding path. At last, we came upon open ground and began our ascent to what was only a dark shrouded silhouette in the mist. Uber Man gunned it and we slipped and slid, fish-tailing it along the ascending spiral until we reached the front door. Wolves’ howls accompanied the slamming of the door and trunk. The driver wheeled around and was gone in the blink of an eye. He didn’t even wait for a tip!
Lugging my bags to the front door, then inside, I rang a brass bell sitting on the table and signed into the guest book. I noticed in the guest book the last sign-in was a month ago. My flapping fluttering became all-out afib. Looking up from the book, I was startled to see a very tall, extraordinarily pale woman, all in black. I’d never heard her approach and so jumped.
She laughed, and her voice was the most beguiling sound I’d ever heard. Her eyes had the deepest shade of green — a sparkling emerald green — that I’d ever seen. My lizard brain screamed danger, but it wasn’t the first time lizard brain had been ignored.
The woman spoke and said, “Welcome, Miss Jones. I’m Countess Dracula, recently returned from an extended trip abroad. The village council was unanimous in its appointment of me as the new foreign exchange student program director. The dorm rooms are in the basement. Let’s get you situated and freshened up before dinner. Please follow me.”