By Chris McAuley
6 Hours Before the Death of Dracula
The train moved quickly towards to Galatz, a port town on the serene Danube River. The party who occupied one of the carriages were in a deep discussion. The topic of their conversation was not familiar to the ticket inspector who approached them to check the details of their passage. He was used to hearing a mention or two regarding various business dealings, often in varying European languages. He halted slightly as he was sure that he had made out the word ‘vampire’ as the strains of accented English reached his ears.
Professor Van Helsing stared intently at the Harker's, he had attempted to moderate his tone, they had been put through hell recently. However, he was ‘hot on the heels’ of the vile creature that had been the cause of much of the misery in his adult life. Through Dracula and his creatures, he had lost his wife and son. He had watched as these living corpses made a mockery of God and aped the appearance of man. In him burned a passion which could not be contained.
“You must allow me to reach into your mind Madame Mina, the connection which Dracula made can be utilized to a great advantage. We could catch him if we knew by which method he is now travelling, whether by land or sea.”
Mina’s hand instinctively reached upwards to her neck where a burgundy scarf sought to hide recent wounds. As her finger tips touched the fabric, her mind went to a place filled with shame. She had been used by a foul creature, his rank breath had burned her nostrils and his touch had reminder her of the things that crawled below the earth. He had placed his rotting mouth to her neck and drank of her blood. As he did so he made disgustingly wet sucking noises and his coal-fire eyes never left hers. When he had his fill, he had cut himself and forced her to partake of him, a mixture of cold flesh, pus and blood forced themselves down her throat and into her stomach.
The shame, as it often did when forced to recollect this event, turned to anger. In a voice which contained barely controlled rage she answered Van Helsing.
“Sir, I shall do all that I can to aid in the capture of this monster. I never wish another to be defiled by him again like dear Lucy was or like I am”.
Over the course of the following evenings, Van Helsing placed Mina into a deep trance. At her insistence, her husband, Jonathan was not to be present. Her mind connected with the tormentor of her soul and once again she felt herself slip under his control. In this state she was able to relay the information required to plan a route which would intercept him before he reached the sanctuary of his castle.
These moments began to alter her mood and her appearance both Holmwood and Quincey had fears that this information was coming at the cost of Mina’s soul. On the last night of their journey, Mina awoke. She thought that she heard the howling of wolves at her window. Remembering the last entry in Lucy’s diary, she grew fearful and left her carriage. She sought the restaurant car to obtain some coffee. She walked along the carpeted floor of the train, she felt faint and her bare feet seemed to guide her away from her intended destination and towards Van Helsing’s room instead.
When morning came, it was discovered that the wooden stakes which had been crafted with the intention of destroying Dracula, were missing.
Two Weeks Later
The deed was done but at a terrible cost. Dracula was removed forever from existence. Quincey had paid the ultimate price for this victory. It had been decided that the brave Texan would be buried at the spot where he had done the greatest service to mankind. After a brief ceremony, Van Helsing led the exhausted group away to begin the long journey home, to London.
On board the Damascus, a steam liner which Holmwood had procured from the Port of Constana. Mina began to feel quite ill, for days she would regularly vomit over the side of the ship. A migraine which felt like claw like nails raking across the inside of her skull began to manifest. After a fever driven dream containing talking serpents and biblical gardens, she consulted Van Helsing.
“Professor, are you quite sure that Dracula’s influence has left me? Old feelings are surfacing and dreams of decadence are once again plaguing my mind.”
Van Helsing raised Mina’s dark fringe and examined her forehead. With a tutting noise he exclaimed.
“My dear girl, you have been touched by the very devil himself. This, along with several days arduous travel in desert-like heat and grief borne of a good friend’s death. I believe the most reasonable exclamation is emotional exhaustion.”
He frowned, knitting his bushy eyebrows together.
“The mark where the consecrated host touched your brow is gone. You are back in a state of God’s grace. You are clean Madam Mina, unblemished by the dead creature’s touch.”
This exchange, which was meant to reassure her, did not. Mina’s sense of unease continued into the voyage.
Jonathan found her awake, with eyes wide, staring at the cabin’s walls. Her mouth moving but no sound issuing from her lips. At times Holmwood would see Mina, in her night dress moving on the upper deck, he had been enjoying a midnight cigar and called out to her. She would never turn her head or make acknowledgement of his presence, she would simply walk further into the night air and gathering mist.
On the penultimate evening of their voyage home, Van Helsing took the party of friends to the upper deck. There they all toasted the memory of the fallen Quincey with fine wine and Cognac. Holmwood regaled the group with his early adventures with Quincey in Haiti and Seward recounted his first meeting with the Texan. Laughter and sadness were exchanged and as the glasses eventually emptied intermixed into a melancholy.
In the midst of this, no one noticed Mina slip from her chair and begin to move to the portside railing. If they had, they would have been concerned with her halting step and the cat-like nature of her eyes. Her pupils had taken on a deep orange aspect. Reaching the railing, she looked towards the East, the direction of where the ship had begun its voyage.
Towards Quincey's grave.
An image manifested in her mind, a cruel face with blood red lips twisted in laughter.
A mouth which contained sharp pointed teeth.
The corners of Mina’s mouth upturned slightly and an unnatural guttural tone emerged from her throat as she said.
“He has returned again.”
[Art by ZukaneRain]
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