Confession time; I love Dracula and vampires in general (excepting of course for their most recent, sparkly iteration). It all started when I was five years old and I read a graphic novel adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic novel really late at night. My young mind had the beejesus scared out of it, but like some sort of masochist to my own fears, I've had a fascination with the undead ever since. I think I now have about twenty books on vampires scattered abount my bookshelves (and that's not counting the various sourcebooks for Vampire:The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem).
So, when Chuck Wendig put up his flash fiction challenge of the week based on the concept of an uninvited guest, something long dormant in the back of mind clicked into place, and thus was born this monstrosity. The title is a reference to the short story "Dracula's Guest" which was originally supposed to be included as a chapter in Dracula but was later edited out, and packaged and sold as a sort of 19th century teaser for the book. For the story I tried to come at the classic story from a different angle while at the same time staying true to the original, including keeping to its Victorian era propensity for purple prose.
Please to enjoy!
A sudden chill rose to the executor’s skin as he heard the cacophonous howl of the night storm raging outside his study. The sheer violence of it was completely unknown to him living as he had these past ten years in the remote New England countryside. A sensation of intense disquiet gripped him for he swore that he could hear the distinct sound of a wolf howling somewhere nearby in the tempest winds and getting ever closer. After a moment he dismissed it as some dread conjuration of his mind, long overworked from facilitating the acquisition of several local properties for a mysterious foreign client.
The client was a curious and mysterious gentleman, from his description a noble from the most archaic realms of Europe. The client was preparing to move to the area and corresponded his demands to the executor via telegram. He’d had much difficulty in accommodating the man’s strange demands of celerity in the matter, but was dutifully motivated by the large amounts of money the client promised upon its completion. It was also undertaken as a point of personal pride. His family had a long tradition of managing the estates of others, and even though he was far away from the family residence in England he still strove to practice that august legacy on the other side of the Atlantic.
His nerves calmed by work, he was about to retire for the night when there came a sudden pounding at the door. The thumping, so fierce that it nearly rivaled the storm in its violence. Startled, the executor quickly made his way to the front door and, gathering up his courage, slowly opened it. There, standing in the rain and wind, was a tall man, clean shaven, with an unusual pallor that made his skin appear as white or light grey. His long black hair seemed to flow out from his hat like water and its length was nearly to his waist. Curiously enough the man’s clothes and person seemed dry, as if he were entirely unaffected by the tempest around him.
“Mr. Harker?”the man asked, his tone uncertain. His foreign accent had a strange lilt to it, and the executor could rightly say that he had never heard its ken before. “Mister David Harker?”
“Yes, I am he,”the executor replied.
“Permit my curt introduction. I am your client, the Count Radu. Please excuse the lateness of my visit, but I have just recently arrived and wish to speak to you on the nature of my new estates.”
The executor tried hard to concentrate but he was finding it difficult. The count’s dark brown, almost black, eyes seemed to bore into him and he found that if he looked to long into them they produced an odd, hypnotic effect.
“At this hour, Count? Surely it can wait until tomorrow,”Harker said, his mind slowed by gross fatigue and the count’s intense gaze.
“Please, it is of grave importance that it be seen to this night, Mr. Harker,”the Count insisted. “May I come in?”
Almost despite himself the executor welcomed the count into his home and led him to his study where he did his best to make him more comfortable. The count followed, his movements conducted with a grace that belied his tall stature. Each step he took had the unthinking ease of an athlete or a dancer but at the same time contained an unsettling, predatory quality. The executor couldn’t help but be reminded of the deadly prowess of a great cat echoed in the count’s every gesture and stride. He dismissed the unease that his guest provoked and poured himself a glass of wine. He offered one to the count as well, though he refused it.
“Though I have not dined tonight I am afraid I am not fond of wine,” he replied.
The executor set about tending to the fire, ostensibly to make his unexpected guest feel more comfortable but in actuality to distract himself from the count's odd mannerisms. There was a long pause that was at last broken by the executor.
“You will no doubt be pleased to hear that the acquisitions are proceeding quite quickly and should be completed by the end of the month,”he said.
The count nodded. “Good,” was all he said on the matter, then added. “The northern most estate, the manor, I have heard that it was the spot of an execution ... a hanging. Is this true?”
“It is true,”the executor said but quickly added as an explanation. “But that was some time ago, back when the area was known as Salem. A girl was hanged there, accused of witchcraft, though I must add that there’s been no other morbid activity there since. And I’ve heard no tales of the condemned’s spirit coming back to haunt it.”
If the count understood the executor’s jest he showed no sign of finding it funny.
“And, in this area do you still hang witches?”the count asked.
The executor swallowed, shocked that his client would think that his new home could be so barbaric.
“No, no of course not. I’m afraid that no one in America truly believes in witches in this day and age and if they did suspicion and superstition alone is not cause enough to execute them.”
The count sighed. “Another sad indication of the weakness of the modern era. I am finding that the more changes that are made in the world, and the more progress in the cause of civilization, the less value is given to tradition and those old ways that have guided us for so long.”
The executor decided that silence was the best recourse to the count’s ramblings.
“Soon enough our old ways will be no more, swept aside by advances and the tenacity of men of science. What will happen when the day comes that the new values overtake the old, and men can no longer decide for themselves which violations must be responded to in kind. When will be the time that men no longer believe that blood spilled must be paid in kind? Tell me Mr. David Harker, do you have any family?”
The executor was stunned for a moment at the count’s sudden shift of topic and it took him a few moments to collect himself before he finally respond.
“Yes, I have a brother, though we’ve not spoken for nearly a decade. I’ve heard that he’s recently married, and that he and his wife are expecting their first child.”
The count stared at him in a way that the executor imagined a wolf stares down its prey.
“I too had a brother once, though he was taken from me quite recently. Like yourself, I was not close to him, had not seen him for a very long time. It would be best said that I hated him,”the count said, his voice almost given over to an unexplained anger before just as inexplicably growing calm. “But still, the old ways of honor must be observed.”
He shivered, though it somehow seemed like a forced motion. “I feel a chill. Do you think that you could turn around and add more wood to the fire?”
David nodded and set about the task, although some dark recess of his mind defied to turn his back to him. He did not hear the silent strides of Count Radu and too late felt the count’s strong hands grip themselves on his shoulders, keeping him in place no matter how hard he struggled.
“We are both slave to the old ways, you and I,”the count whispered in his ear, and David smelt the awful stench of blood upon the man's breath. He felt a sudden sharp pain in his neck and then a dreadful dizziness overtook him as a darkness blacker than the night rose up to swallow him whole.
Like this story? Why not check out The Thornwood Plot.