Anna was quite surprised when she found herself instantly transported to unfamiliar surroundings. Pleasant surroundings, true, but still unfamiliar. As she looked around the picturesque forest grotto that seemed quite a romantic setting in the bright moonlight, she concluded that things could be worse.
I still don't like this whole blind date thing... and I'm sure my husband wouldn't be thrilled about it, she thought. But this is a nice setting.
And so, Anna settled down on a conveniently placed bench and waited to see who would arrive to be her escort for the evening. What she didn't know was that she would be meeting with a succession of potential escorts. First up, a romantic figure from her past...the exotic dancer known as Ste--
*BOP!* (That is the sound of a narrator being hit over the head, readers.)
"Anna! What do you think you're doing? You can't interact with me! I'm the narrator. This breaks all the laws of storytelling."
"Don't give me that," Anna warned, in a dangerous tone. "It's bad enough I have to be put through this whole embarrassing story, but you aren't even bringing up... you know who. Besides, hardly any of the readers would get that joke."
"Okay, okay. Get back to your bench. The rest of the story will go more to your liking."
Anna returned to her bench, grumbling under her breath. "And he was not a 'romantic figure from my past.' Geez, what a moron."
As Anna took her seat, all her negative thoughts vanished when she saw that she was no longer alone in the grotto. (Well, technically, she wasn't alone in the first place because I'm here narrating, and now also trying to recover from being hit on the head, but that's besides the point.) Standing off to the side of the bench was a tall, dark, and in Anna's opinion quite handsome stranger.
"Ohmigod!" she exclaimed. "Pik Van Cleaf!"
"Anna, Anna, Anna," the professional killer said in a smooth, accented voice. "I believe I shall be your escort for the evening."
"You'd better believe it, buster!" she responded excitedly. However, as she rose and approached him, a disturbing thought entered her mind. "Umm... I thought you were seeing that female mercenary, Vaughn. Did you two break up?"
"Oh, don't worry about that, my dear. Tiff is off on business. What she doesn't know won't hurt her."
No, but if she finds out, I'm going to be more than hurt, Anna thought. "Er, well, I... I think I'm not feeling up to a date right now after all. Sorry."
Pik frowned, which made him look far more dangerous than any human being had a right to, but then he shrugged his shoulders. "Well, it's your birthday. Your decision. Your loss." Without a word of farewell, he turned and walked off.
Anna watched him go, feeling both relieved and regretful. "Oh, I wish there were more guys in the world that looked like him," she commented.
"Koontash dai a nihlio mi pharos," said a commanding voice behind Anna.
She whirled around to see....
"Oh... wow. Ask and ye shall receive." Anna smiled as she gazed adoringly at Imhotep. "Are you going to be my date?"
"Koontash dai a nihlio mi pharos."
From the look in Imhotep's eyes, Anna realized there would be a problem. He obviously wanted her only for her body... no, not that way. In fact, he wanted to sacrifice her and thereby bring back his beloved, deceased, Egyptian princess.
"Look, as much as I appreciate your enthusiasm," Anna said as she backed away from the imposing high priest, "I'm just not the kind of girl who goes for ritual sacrifice on the first date."
"Koontash dai a nihlio mi pharos!" Imhotep advanced on her.
Anna turned and ran as fast as she could. She wasn't sure how long she ran, but she came to a sudden stop when a friendly voice called out to her.
"What's your hurry?"
Looking around for the source of the voice, Anna saw...
"That's right, Anna. I'm here to be your escort for the evening."
Out of breath, Anna didn't try to run as the handsome vampire approached her. Truth be told, she might not have run even if she hadn't been out of breath. "T-that could be... fun," Anna admitted. "But are you just going to be my escort for the night? Or are you going to turn me into your vampire slave for all eternity?"
"You have a problem with that idea?"
She was saved from having to answer the question (a good thing, since she couldn't quite make up her mind on the matter) when Imhotep came upon the two of them, having finally caught up to Anna.
"Koontash dai a nihlio mi pharos!"
"Hey! You had your chance," Jerry replied as he bared his fangs. "She's mine now!"
The two undead monsters began to grapple with each other, each determined to claim Anna for their own.
Wow, they're fighting over me. While Anna did find a bit of perverse satisfaction in the situation, she decided it would be safer to be long gone before the fight concluded. Slipping away quietly, she made her way back to the bench in the grotto.
"Right, about time you got 'ere, Luv," a voice called out as she reached the bench once more.
Anna turned to see...
"Spike! Are you another of my potential dates?" Anna asked.
The vampire laughed. "You ask me, I'm the only one of these blokes who 'as potential."
Surprisingly, (well, not that surprisingly) Anna ran to Spike and put her arms around him. "Let's go, loverboy."
Spike was somewhat taken aback. "I didn't think you'd be so--"
"Enthusiastic?" Anna interrupted. "Believe me, you're the perfect date. You're evil, you're witty...."
Spike smiled at the compliments until Anna concluded.
"...and you have that anti-violence chip implanted in you, so you can't hurt me."
Spike's smile fell. "You 'ad to bring that up." He moved away from Anna.
"I can't go out with a bird that I can't scare. You're aren't the least bit afraid. You know I can't kill people anymore, just other vampires and monsters."
"Sorry," Spike said, the disappointment in his tone matched Anna's. "It's the principle of the matter. Damn. Now I'm depressed. I'll need to go out and kill a demon or something to get me mind off it."
As Spike walked away, Anna called out to him. "Well, if you're going to do that, kill Angel for me would you? I can't stand that brooding jerk."
Spike turned back with a smile. "I'll make that my birthday gift to you."
"And if you happen to run into Giles," Anna added. "Could you send him here to be my date?"
"I thought you only liked villains, Luv."
Anna smiled and pulled a chocolate bar from her purse. "This is some of the cursed candy Xander was selling a while back. I've been saving it in case I meet Giles. A bite of this and I can turn him back to 'Ripper' for a good long time." She sighed as she imagined the librarian (turned suitably evil) as her date for the evening...
Spike nodded in appreciation of the plan. "Right then, I'll see what I can do for you."
The vampire left, and Anna waited to see who would show up next. She didn't have to wait long.
"Hello Anna," the Goblin-King said. "I have an offer to make to you."
"Now hold on, Jareth. I know your offers come with all sorts of hidden strings."
"Anna, dear, you wound me," he replied in a gentle tone. "I simply want to be your date for the evening, and then I want the chance to worship you for the rest of your life."
"Absolutely, my dear. All you have to do is say you'll be my slave forever. Now is that so much to ask?"
Once again, Anna had a hard time deciding the exact answer she wanted to give, but was saved from the decision when a familiar figure approached.
"Ahem," Jareth said with annoyance in his tone. "This is my time to try to woo Anna."
"And Anna is a Wizards and Warriors list member," Dirk replied. "Therefore, I have priority over all her other villain fixations. Now away with you." The Blackpool prince took his monocle in hand and shot a beam of energy that caused Jareth to vanish.
"So... you will be my date for the evening?" Anna asked, her tone a bit downcast.
Dirk was surprised. "You sound disappointed."
"Well, please don't take this the wrong way, but my crush on you started when I was just a girl. My tastes have matured since then." Suddenly, Anna realized she was telling the unvarnished truth to a homicidal villain. "Uh, not that you aren't very attractive and all. I mean that... please don't kill me."
As it happened, Dirk was not thinking about killing at the moment. He was stunned by Anna's words. "B-but, I'm Dirk Blackpool. THE Dirk Blackpool. All women worship me. Read some of the posts in your list archives."
"Yes, you have quite a following," Anna said in a reassuring tone. "My tastes have just changed over the years. That's all."
Dirk was silent a moment. He seemed to lack his usual confidence. Finally he spoke. "Would you... uh... like to... touch my hair?"
Anna's eyes widened. "W-what did you say?"
"I said would you like to touch my hair? You know... run your fingers through it?" The tall prince stooped over to give Anna the opportunity.
"I-it would be okay?" Anna asked as she started to feel unusually warm.
Anna then did reach out a nervous hand and take hold of a lock of the prince's hair. "Oh my," she said as she started to feel faint.
Dirk smiled. "I thought that might work. Now, what were you saying about your tastes changing?"
"Nothing," Anna sighed as she took hold of the prince's offered arm. "Nothing at all."
And so, Anna had an exquisite birthday dinner with Prince Dirk Blackpool. She had a wonderful time until late in the evening when he decided to read some of his poetry to her. Running from his castle as fast as she could, she eventually found refuge in a male strippers club. To her delight, she found that it was amateur night and all the other gentlemen that she had turned down earlier in the evening were taking a turn on the stage.
All in all. An excellent birthday.
Happy Birthday, Anna!
And I bet you were worried at the end when you ended up at a strip club that there would be another mention of Ste-- *BOP!*