Thursday, August 11, 2016


The Anti-Enchantment Bureau is a formidable compound... an underground city deep beneath the Philadelphia Navy Yard. They say the passages run for  more than 4.6 miles and have quietly been growing since Federalist times. Some say the first incarnation goes back to the cellars under Isaac Toliver's Chandlery established soon after The Founding. Philadelphia was the first city ever established for universal religious liberty. Boston wanted only Puritans. Charleston went after Anglican grandees. Baltimore beckoned Catholics. And although other places loosened up a little later on, Philadelphia took all comers since the beginning... True, there was the shameful anti- Catholic pogrom (well, what else would you call it?) of 1844 and for a time 'country club' style bias was all the rage, but on paper, at least, the dream was the dream..... except where witches were concerned.... Thus the name --- The Anti-Enchantment Bureau. Local burgers met amidst the nautical fittings trading innuendo and hearsay.... One old woman, known for hosting weekly ladies' card parties lived to be one hundred, never losing one child or grandchild to accident or illness. Another man never lost a son in battle and was known to pass urine as strongly in his eighty first year as he had when twenty nine... Cases like those needed watching. Journals were kept. Kegs were emptied. Meat pies downed. A jolly good time was had by all. Were there ever any hangings, or other sorts of public entertainments?... No. You see, they came along too late. The New England witch scare had just ended... No more shattering the neck vertebrae of scrawny old widows, or locking innocent souls in dark, moldy, stone cubicles for life. Can you imagine what that did to the skin?.. No, really, can you picture it? The never ending itching drove some to gleefully smash their noggins against jagged walls till the blood ran down like syrup on pancakes. Oh, how the vermin rejoiced.

But this was Philadelphia, the first planned city since Ancient Rome, or possibly the large municipalities of the Aztecs. Reason ruled here, especially after Ben Franklin came to town. He took over The Anti-Enchantment Bureau and was actually the one who changed it from a 'society' to a 'bureau,' a term preferred by les philosophes de Francais... The randy genius always was something of a Francophile. Then he brought in another Benjamin... Benjamin Rush, a crusading physician and father of small pox inoculation in The United States. Later came Fulton, father of applied steam power. They enlarged and excavated the cellars under Isaac Toliver's Chandlery.... white washed the walls... laid flagstones on the pressed earth floors. The growth never stopped. Learned men from all walks of life were secretly brought into the brotherhood. They experimented with electricity, chemical reactions and harmonics via Doctor Franklin's favorite contraption, the armonica. That's how he's prolonged his life all along. It worked on some of the others too, but none reaped the benefits he did.

And he watched them die off one by one. Now, after almost three hundred and ten years, he was dying too. That's why he fooled the vampires. There was no strange, accidentally discovered intersecting universe. There was no 'Baby Philadelphia,' at least not where the vampires were concerned. He had them all caught and suspended in harmonic webs spun from the incredibly intricate chords and tones of the Grand Armonica, his steampunk, calliope based on a regimented, gradually increasing in diameter series of heavy, perfect crystal discs 'strung' on a long, thick copper alloy, horizontal pole. It filled an entire hall.

The discs, lubricated by black market whale oil supplied by the Yakuza, were spun by hand. What, you didn't think they operated outside Japan? Fine, think that if you want. Who cares? And via an infinite variety of sounds and vibrations he could stimulate every neuron of the human brain... most other mammalian and avian brains too. With careful manipulation gossamer structures began to appear... a web made from music. Jonathon, Sarah and the others hung suspended in it. Sometimes he moved them around, but they never woke up. Were they asleep?... No, but something more or less like it. Think of a permanent dream state and via the resistance  of their own cerebral tissue, Doctor Franklin could 'see' what they saw. Thus was 'Baby Philadelphia' born. He studied them. He read their every emotion and thought, for if he decided to make the 'change', the problem of impending death would be moot. But vampirism was a big step and he wanted to be sure.

Soon he'd have to make up his mind. His hands trembled now. One needs a deft touch to play the Grand Armonica and every false moved ripped holes in that carefully constructed world. 'Baby Philadelphia' was beginning to crumble. Little Bastid Annie thought she was growing a parasitic head and Conrad sported a full set of retractable cat claws. Every time she went out in the street Sarah was naked from the waist down. And Jonathon, already possessed of a Spanish accent that peeked through his Philadelphia veneer at times, was beginning to sound like Charo.

Luna, Franklin's already vampire, physician assistant, volunteered to take over the controls, but he wouldn't let her. It was like a personality thing with them. He didn't want to be a Luna style vampire and she knew it. The whole staff knew it too. But due to his condition they indulged him....

So no one said a word, as he messed up 'Baby Philadelphia' more and more. The four bare vampires suspended in the gossamer web began to fidget and mumble.

Luna  just bit her lip and made angry faces...

<more next time>


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