By Robert P. Ottone
Rabbi Herskovitz had been hosting the support group for things that went bump in the night for nearly
forty years. Over time, some faces left the group, but a few remained, steady and returning, week to week,
drinking the free coffee, donuts, kugel (the rabbi’s own recipe) and telling stories about their various
cultures, troubles and the difficulties facing their lives.
Herskovitz always looked forward to hearing the latest saga facing the vampire contingent, which had
begun to diminish in the mid-1980’s, at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, since the virus had a devastating
effect on the vampires, too. Around that time, the vampires began building blood banks, for obvious
reasons. They used these fronts to not only provide a service to those who needed blood transfusions, but
also to satisfy their own thirst. A vampire need only enter a bank owned by one of the various vampire
families and present a special card that, to normal human beings, looked like a blank white credit card, but
in reality, had text on it that was invisible to the human eye, but perfectly visible in bright purple coloring to
anyone who’s eyes were adjusted to the vampire spectrum.
In the 70’s, when Herskovitz assumed control of the group, replacing his mentor, Rabbi Fischman, there
was a resurgence in demonology and the practice of the dark arts. Demonic entities were never
Herskovitz’ favorite clientele in the group, mostly because they had a tendency to smell like sulfur, and the
basement they met in, week to week didn’t have any windows, but also because they seemed so arrogant.
One of the vampires, Gary, often noted that when a demon was in attendance, they always seemed to be
judging everyone in the group, looking down on them, because they were more ancient and obviously,
more “evil” than anyone in the group. Herskovitz didn’t think of anyone in the group therapy sessions as
“evil,” just that they needed to be heard, regardless of whatever they were up to.
The demons liked to show up disguised as little girls in white dresses, which Herskovitz thought was
The various figures in the group would talk about their week to week struggles, and Herskovitz would
listen, often offering advice in how one should try to center themselves more and to avoid minor
annoyances, which, as anyone knows, is easier said than done. The few werewolves remaining in town
often came in human form, and always missed the full moon sessions. Herskovitz encouraged them to join
the group while in their more feral forms, but understood that more often than not, the wolves had little to no
control over their actions when the full moon was out.
The ghosts were the most regular in the group, showing up to typically reflect on their lives as living
beings, and discussing how the living had no idea what was going on in the world, or how to handle
anything. Herskovitz listened to hundreds of stories about ghosts trying to communicate with the living, only
to be met with screams and confusion, and often the arrival of a priest to “cleanse” them of the house. The
ghosts took this as the ultimate offense, and often left their former domiciles under protest, the arrival of
the priest or holy figure signaling that the ghost truly didn’t “belong” there anymore.
Herskovitz met his wife at one of these therapy sessions. Kitty O’Doyle, who lived in Manhattan during
the days of the civil war, eventually finding herself killed during a bar fight at the dockside bar she waited
tables at when two union soldiers erupted into a fight. While Kitty was, in fact, a ghost, she had been
expelled from the bar she haunted when the new owners took it over in the 80’s and turned it into a lively
and colorful gay bar called The Pec Deck.
Kitty was and always will be beautiful. Herskovitz didn’t know if it would be frowned upon to ask out one
of his group attendees. While judaism meant that he was to go out into the world, find a wife and have
many children, Herskovitz hadn’t met the right woman, and yet, Kitty was sitting right in front of him. It was
Gary the vampire who encouraged him to ask her out, and when Kitty said yes, her eyes lit up, and
Herskovitz’ cheeks turned red. He didn’t know what ghosts wanted to do on dates, so they ended up going
for a walk. Kitty used most of her energy to make herself visible to others as they walked, otherwise, it
would’ve looked like Herskovitz was talking to himself, and at the end of the date, Kitty felt something she
hadn’t felt in over a hundred years - a connection.
They were married six months later, and while the aspect of having a bunch of children wouldn’t happen,
Herskovitz was happy. Kitty stopped coming to the group therapy sessions, since she found somewhere
to belong, and Herskovitz felt lucky, having the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen waiting for him at
home each night, making old school dishes for dinner and legitimately happy to see him. To call them a
cute couple would be an understatement.
The group therapy members often found solace in one-another, and often reflected on the sad state of
the world. The vampires, most of which had been in the United States since the 1800’s, observed political
and social changes with great scrutiny, whereas the demons only cared about the deplorable nature of
humanity. The ghosts just seemed annoyed at humans for missing the things spirits put more interest and
Over the years, a kaleidoscope of creatures and spirits discussed the changing world around them. All
mourned the world they found and left behind. Most felt like leaves in the wind, floating from one place and
time to another.
|About Robert P. Ottone
Robert P. Ottone is an
author, teacher, and cigar
enthusiast from East Islip,
New York. He delights in
the creepy. His first novel,
People, is available now.
|To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.