Author: Fox in the Stars PM
A Castlevania story in a 1950s setting in which the Belmonts have become fairly typical Americans. Occurs about 150 years after my story En Medias, although En Medias is not a prerequisite for Remembrance. Please rr.Rated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural/Horror - Words: 8,733 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 1 - Published: 03-09-02 - Status: Complete - id: 648554
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
By Laura Gilkey
based on the Castlevania games by Konami
† † †
Ages ago, when the people lived in fear of vampires, an angel appeared to a poor peasant woman, and told her to go out and defend the people from the unholy creatures of darkness. Like Moses, she protested, saying that she had no money for a sword to fight with. The angel then blessed the whip that she used to drive animals, and told her that it would be her sacred weapon, and sent her on her quest.
Her name was Sonia Belmont.
Many ages have passed since then; many Belmonts came and went, but all who heard their name knew them as the greatest vampire hunters in the world.
But as the creations of man penetrated deeper into the earth and higher into the sky, vampires and their terrors were slowly forgotten, and with them, the Belmonts' power.
The year is now 1954, in Pennsylvania, USA.
† † †
Emily Roseann Belmont stood in front of the mirrored vanity, bending down to scrutinize her own image as she straightened the narrow tie at the neck of her shirtwaist blouse. A full brown skirt belted at the waist, the curls of her short, chocolate hair in place... Still, she'd always been tall, with a sturdy, unfeminine look. Even if she slaved all day---which she didn't---she wouldn't be pretty like her younger sister...
The doorbell sounded from downstairs, and she dashed to the door of her room. "That'll be my ride!" But she'd heard her mother call her sister's name by the time she reached the foot of the stairs.
Emily knew it wouldn't be much longer to wait, so she wandered into the living room where her father sat in the big recliner and her four-year-old brother, Marcus, lay on his belly on the floor, his head propped up on his hands toward the evening news on television.
A few moments later, her dainty teenaged sister came down the stairs.
"Delivery for you," her mother said.
Emily glanced up from the television, and the uniformed floral deliveryman held her attention.
"Leigh Ann Belmont? Here you are ma'am."
"Thank you!" Leigh Ann beamed as he handed her a bursting bouquet of red roses. "Jimmy must've sent them! Isn't it sweet of him?" She fished out the card. As she read it, her face fell, and she let the roses dangle at her side as carefully as she would handle a whisk broom. "I told this guy no! If he thinks he can buy a prom date..." With a scoff, she tossed the flowers aside.
Emily scrambled to her feet and managed to catch them out of midair. "Leigh Ann! Roses are still roses! You shouldn't just throw them around like that!"
"If you want them, take them!" Leigh Ann grumped, detouring to throw the card in the fireplace before bustling back up the stairs. "I'm apparently inheriting your dress, you can inherit my flowers."
"She isn't taking it very well, is she?" Emily said.
"We just can't afford an expensive dress right now," her mother said. "She'll have to learn to deal with it."
Emily nodded mutely and sat down. Her own Senior Prom six years ago had been a barely-remembered night of mostly-boredom, but she could see that it was important to her sister. She'd feel sorry for her if weren't for her sniping attitide. In her reverie, Emily toyed with her fingers among the velvety, ruby-red rose petals. A full dozen plush blossoms... Certainly she could find some use for them if Leigh Ann didn't want them.
The doorbell rang again, and Mrs. Belmont, who had barely had time to take a few steps away from it, turned back and opened it again to find a short, balding man in a brown suit.
"Hello, Mrs. Belmont. Is Emily ready?"
"I'm ready, Professor," she said, laying the roses carefully on the end-table before standing.
"Don't keep my daughter out too late, Ted," her father joked.
"I'll try, but it's not just the usual English crowd, we have some visiting Folklorists, so it could get a bit rowdy."
"Oh, hush!" Mrs. Belmont chided as Emily edged past her. "You have a good time, Emily."
"I will, Mom. Bye!"
With that, she and the professor crossed the stones in the walk and got into his car.
"Visiting folklorists? I thought it was a poetry reading," Emily asked as he started the engine.
"Last minute change of plans," the professor said, twisting his head to look as he backed out of the drive. "Someone I know from my studies in Europe showed up, and his specialty is folklore. He's one of the world's leading authorities on old European monster stories."
"So it's going to be a ghost story reading, instead?" Emily joked. "I never really liked that kind of thing."
"Mostly just discussion," the professor said, with a nervous laugh. "I hoped you'd still be interested. I told Vlad a good deal about what a good student you were, and he expressed a desire to meet you."
"Oh, yes," she said. "I bet he did, if my last name rang a bell for him. But I'm sure he'll make for interesting conversation, and if he wants to see me again, maybe he can help me get some scholarships for next year's 'Summer in Europe'."
"Yes, I imagine he'll help you," the Professor said.
A few minutes later he pulled the car in and parked in front of the classroom building, got out, and opened the lacquered wood doors for Emily to enter. The gathering was being held in a square corner classroom. Crackers, punch, and other snacks were arranged on the heavy desk usually reserved for a professor. Now the professors were milling about among the chairs and desks, chatting and snacking, along with graduate students and a few uncommonly devoted undergraduate English majors---like Emily. It seemed she'd been to a hundred of these.
But this one was different. The professor's European friend stood out immediately and unmistakeably, standing a head above everyone else in the crowd, with well-placed waves in his short, moon-white hair and a trimmed white beard and mustache. A black suit defined the angles of his massive shoulders.
The professor led her toward the man, and the crowd gathered around him parted to let them in. "Emily, I'd like to introduce you to Vladimir Florescu*. Vlad, this is Emily Belmont, my student whom I've told you so much about."
"Emily Belmont. A pleasure," Vlad said, with an accent so rich it would put Bela Lugosi to shame.
"The pleasure is mine, Professor," she said, shaking his hand, which was heavy and cold.
"I don't suppose you're related to the Belmont family...?" Vlad asked.
"I knew you were going to ask that, since Prof. Baker told me you specialized in folklore."
"Well, can you blame me?"
"No, especially since the answer is yes."
"What Belmont family do you mean, Prof. Florescu?" one of the grad students asked.
"Why, the Belmonts were only the most famous vampire hunters in history. Legends say that the founding matriarch of the family was given her charge by an angel, who blessed the whip she used to drive animals, and the Belmonts fought vampires with whips ever since, more powerful even than dhampir."
Vlad ignored the question. "Supposedly as late as 1800, the Belmonts were still fighting vampires. In the right hand at the right moment, the Belmont whip was said to burn with holy flame."
"Emily, why didn't you ever tell us?" a grad student jibed.
"I grew up with all of that. I just don't think about it anymore," she said.
"How do you forget about being able to create holy flames?" a professor asked.
"Oh, I'm sure that's just a figurative description," Emily said.
"But surely you grew up with tales of your ancestors' mythic exploits," Vlad said.
"My parents didn't tell the stories so much, but there were 'artifacts' of it all over. There were books about the supposed history of my family around," Emily said. "I had a period of reading them constantly when I was a teenager."
"Then surely you have a good story for us!" Vlad insisted. "Please, Miss Belmont, do tell one. I'd love to hear."
"Oh, all right, all right!" she conceded. The crowd assembled settled down into chairs, and she leaned against a desk, padded by her thick can-can and full skirt. "It might seem strange, because this one isn't all high adventure, but it was always one of my favorites. That's why I still remember it. That phase was a long time ago.
"Long ago, one of my ancestors was named Christopher Belmont. And in those days, it was said that Dracula---yes, the Count Dracula---appeared once every hundred years. Christopher came of age shortly before that was supposed to happen, and so he was trained for his entire life to fight the Count, but when the time came, nothing happened. Dracula didn't appear. Years went by---nothing. And as this was all happening, or not happening, Christopher was at the age when he should be married. But none of the girls in the town wanted to marry him, because they didn't think he could support them. I mean, a vampire hunter without a vampire, I suppose. But in any case, he couldn't find a wife.
"Then one day, a troupe of gypsies came to town, and Christopher went to the fortune teller. He told people he was asking when Dracula would come, but actually, he wanted to see how he might find a wife. The fortune teller saw that that was his trouble, so he decided to take whatever advice she gave him, and the old gypsy told him---let me see, how did it go? She told him 'I see that the rose is a sign of good fortune, for you and for your whole family. The right girl will come bearing a rose.'
"So Christopher stepped out of the tent, and lo and behold, there was one of the gypsy girls, selling roses. They were married the very next day, and thankfully were madly in love by the time he found out that she was the fortune-teller's own granddaughter."
Emily's audience chuckled.
"But the story goes that Christopher was so enamored of his wife and so happy at his good fortune, he insisted that every girl born into the Belmont family from that time on should have the word 'rose' somewhere in her name, and somehow it seems to have stuck."
"Yes, Emily Roseann," one of her student friends said.
"And my sister's Leigh Ann Rose."
"How interesting!" one of the professors remarked. "I suppose you're a bit of walking folklore, Emily."
"I don't like to think of being that old," she said with a laugh.
"So you say you have books at home, full of stories like this about your family?" Vlad asked.
"Do you suppose I could have a look at them while I'm here? Such an excellent opportunity for my research!"
Emily considered it. "Do you think that you and Prof. Baker could come tomorrow night? It's prom night for my sister, and my parents are chaperones. I could probably get them to take my brother along so we'd have the house to ourselves."
"Why do you need me along?" the professor asked.
"Well, Mom wouldn't be happy if I invited a strange man to the house---no offense---"
"None taken," Vlad agreed.
"---but she and Dad will trust it if you're along."
"That makes sense," Prof. Baker conceded.
"Now there's one other thing I want to ask you," Vlad said.
"The Belmonts interest me because... well... Within the specialty of European monster stories, my true specialty is tales of Dracula. I'm told your family had dealings with him on several occasions."
"Constantly, to read the old stories," Emily said. "Sometimes I wonder if there even were any vampires besides him."
"Oh, there were---but because I have that viewpoint on it, there is a particular artifact that I am curious about."
"What is it?"
"A stone casket, perhaps three feet by seven feet."
Emily looked at him blankly for only a moment. "Oh, yes, I know the one. We have it in the basement. Dad told me that supposedly an ancestor promised to keep and protect it forever, but that's all I knew. I looked through all the old books, but couldn't find any clue as to where we got it or what's in it."
"Sounds like a coffin," an undergrad girl said with a shudder.
"Yes, it does look like one, on a pedestal..." Emily admitted, "but that didn't keep me and Leigh Ann from playing board games on it or using it as a refreshments table when we had sleepovers as kids."
The girl shuddered again as most of the room joined Emily in a laugh.
"Yeah, every now and then someone would point out around midnight how it looked like a coffin, and we girls would all stampede upstairs and huddle in fear for awhile..."
"It is a coffin," Vlad said.
A chill silence descended over the entire gathering, and Emily felt the smile fall from her face.
"As to why the Belmonts have it, I'm not certain. Perhaps no one believed the ancient vampire was capable of love, and thought he had some darker purpose... It is said that within that casket sleeps forever the one person on earth to whom Dracula wished no harm."
Several moments limped by in silence.
"It's locked shut. I've never heard of it ever being opened," Emily said at last.
"Thank goodness! Ew!" that girl exclaimed, with another shiver of disgust.
"Well, enough of that!" exclaimed the department chairman. "Prof. Florescu, let's have some ghost stories that don't involve anyone present."
"Of course, of course!" Vlad chuckled. "I wouldn't want to make Miss Belmont lose sleep. And plenty of time for that tomorrow night, anyway."
† † †
It was just after nine o'clock when Prof. Baker dropped Emily off in front of her house. Marcus was in bed, Leigh Ann ostensibly was, though more likely she was pacing her room fuming about wearing a six-year-old dress to her prom the next evening. Her mother and father sat at the kitchen table, sorting financial papers amid cups of hot tea.
"Welcome home, Emily. Have a good time?"
"Yeah, it was really interesting," she said with a weary voice. Maybe a little too interesting. The evening had left her tired, but not sleepy; she doubted that Leigh Ann was as filled with nervous, sleepless energy as she was.
"You ought to do something with those roses," her mother suggested, pointing to where they now lay on the kitchen table. "Leigh Ann threatened to throw them out every time she laid eyes on them, but I told her she gave them to you; you'd decide what to do with them."
"Oh, yeah, thanks," Emily said, picking up the bouquet. While she'd been away, she'd forgotten it almost entirely.
She paused, wandering about slowly, as if unable to find her way up to her room. She was lost in thought. The one person on earth to whom Dracula wished no harm... She wouldn't be able to sleep anyway...
"Are you all right, hon?" her mother asked.
"Oh, yeah, I just remembered, I have some studying I really need to do before tomorrow. With the party, I forgot it..."
"Can it wait until morning?"
"No, it really can't."
"Well, don't stay up too late, dear. Remember to get some rest."
"I will," she said. "I'll be in the basement, so I won't make noise and keep other people up."
"More like Leigh Ann's noise won't keep you up," her father remarked.
"Either way," Emily said. She climbed the stairs to her room, laying the roses on the vanity before she fetched her schoolbooks and changed into her nightgown, then descended to the basement.
The basement was a well-furnished space, with carpet on the floor and paint over the concrete walls. Only the bare-lightbulb fixtures and slightly colder air made it seem like a basement. An old sofa facing the far wall divided the long space in half; the near half was mostly storage and old toys, the far half lined with bookcases and there, in the middle of it, the stone coffin stood on its pedestal at table-height as though it were part of the architecture itself, its flat lid ringed with rusty ancient locks. She remembered when her grandmother had the carpet put in; the casket couldn't be moved, and the carpet had simply been cut and lay around it.
Emily dropped her school books on one end of the sofa and carefully got down the heavy, leather-bound volumes of Belmont history. Someone to whom Dracula wished no harm... A lover maybe? Who could it be? She leafed through the old tomes, looking for some clue, but could hardly touch down in the stories. Distraction held her away from them---from the presence of the casket. It was one thing to remark offhand that it looked like a coffin, and quite another to be told point blank that that was what it was, and---in however vague terms---who it was that "slept forever" within it.
When she gave up on the books, it was almost eleven, and even her parents were in bed. She stared at the cold, grey shape of the coffin. Someone to whom Dracula wished no harm... Someone whom even an evil creature of darkness had been said to love, laying here all these years, in plain sight and yet forgotten...
Emily set the books aside and quietly crept up the stairs to her room in the dark. The pale starlight coming in her window was enough to find the roses, and she picked them up and carried them back down to the basement.
She paused and stood before the stone casket for a moment, wondering which end of it was the head. Somehow she found herself turning toward the left-hand side, and lay the bouquet with the blossoms facing that way, just over where she imagined the chest would be. At worst, she didn't imagine roses at someone's feet would be a bad gesture, especially after so long...
She thought she should go back upstairs, but somehow she couldn't tear herself away from the casket. Somehow it seemed different---some sort of warmth or vibration... She put the thought aside, imagining that it was only the evening's revelation about its nature.
She settled back down on the couch, opening up the old books again.
† † †
Emily felt herself being held in strong, cold arms.
**"In all this time, you can't imagine the comfort, the joy it has brought me to know that somewhere, you were alive," a voice said.
She looked up. Sounds and sensations streaked by, and she let them flow past her unnoticed so that she could look up and see who it was, cradling her. It was someone she had never seen. Long white hair, dressed in black... When she was able to get past the clothing and hair at last to the face, it looked like Prof. Florescu, but somehow knowledge was in her, not hers, but inside her skin, knowing who this was. This was Dracula. "To know that you were alive"... The one person to whom Dracula wished no harm... Me? But that very knowledge made her pull away from him, animated by the same thing that knew who he was, and it felt something inside also, was holding in something dark and painful...
"You... How could you do such a thing!?" Dracula roared. "Why!?"
"Why?" This other's words sprang from her mouth, out from that bottom layer, that well of seemingly endless suffering. "Because of you! Because of your cursed blood in my veins! How could I live, always hiding, always fighting to protect the people I loved from myself and my thirst for blood?? That is my legacy from you! That I'm a monster that was never meant to live!"
"I gave you life! And power that humans only dream of! You always were so ingrateful... Do you think this is the kind of life your mother would have wanted for you?" Dracula said. Unexpectedly, he took almost a pleading tone. "Why do you chase after your human half when all they give you is scorn and hatred? Give them the same and then you can be happy, don't you see? If you hold onto them, they'll only hurt you.
"I'll teach you to forget them. We'll do away with the claim they have on you."
For a moment she didn't understand, then that bottom layer of pain exploded into a sunburst of terror. She heard herself scream as his vampire-teeth closed in on her throat. "NO! ---FATHER!"
"Wha!" She sat bolt upright amid protests from the springs of the old sofa.
Her father started back from her. "Em? What happened!?"
"Oh," she rubbed sleepiness out of her eyes. She couldn't remember falling asleep, and didn't feel a bit rested, but the morning light angled in through the short windows high in the basement walls. "I was having a nightmare..."
"Looks that way. You need to get up and get ready for class."
She looked up at the clock---9 AM. Her father was right about having to get up, and she pushed herself up off the sofa. She left the old family histories laying about---plenty of time to put them away in the evening before the company came---picked up her class books, and dragged herself toward her room to get dressed.
† † †
"Are you all right, Emily?" Prof. Baker asked as the rest of his Literature students filed out of the classroom.
"Hm? Oh, yes. I didn't sleep very well last night."
"Vlad's vampire stories keep you awake?"
Emily nodded. "And I had the strangest dream... and Prof. Florescu was in it, except that he was Count Dracula..."
Prof. Baker laughed. "I know he can give you the chills, but that's going a little far."
"It was just how it happened in the dream," Emily said. That dream had been with her all day. "Your cursed blood in my veins"... "Father"? "You know a lot of his stories, right, Professor?"
"I suppose so."
"Do you know if Dracula was supposed to have a daughter?"
"Well, can't say Vlad's told me if that's the case," he said. "Stoker wrote a short story---actually an unpublished chapter from the novel, I'm told---called 'Dracula's Daughter,' but the fact is it didn't have much to do with Dracula having a daughter at all.*** Why do you ask?"
"That's who I was... Never mind, it was probably just a weird dream. Don't want to know what Freud would say about it."
"I doubt any of us want to know that," Prof. Baker agreed.
"But I can ask Prof. Florescu about it. The two of you will be over this evening?"
"Then I'll see you then," Emily said, rising to leave.
"Looking forward to it," the professor agreed.
† † †
Leigh Ann rushed to Emily as she came in the door, sporting a stylish strapless evening dress. "Emily, look! Isn't it beautiful!?"
"Oh, yes, it's very nice!" Emily agreed. "Did Mom and Dad decide to go ahead and get it for you?"
"I got Jimmy to give me some money for it, and Mom and Dad could handle the rest. It's too bad you have the professors over tonight, you could see me dance in it."
"I am sorry to miss that."
"You could dance with me," Marcus said, toddling up to her. Their mother had managed to get him into his church clothes for the occasion.
"Well, I guess I can, so Em can see me," Leigh Ann agreed, and bent over to take a few turns around the living room with her little brother.
"It's a beautiful dress," Emily said, as her father appeared over her shoulder and snapped a photo of them dancing.
"Dad!" Leigh Ann protested.
"As Chaperones, we should try to get there early, so we'd better get going," Mrs. Belmont called from the kitchen, shortly before she emerged with a large baking dish covered in tinfoil. "Is everyone ready?"
"I'm ready," her husband said. "Come on, Marcus."
Leigh Ann checked through her handbag with a rattle of cosmetic cases before saying "Ready!"
Emily's mother stopped as the rest of the family filed out the door with a round of "Bye, Emily!"s. "Now there are sandwich makings in the fridge," her mother said, "and iced tea, so don't let your guests go hungry."
"I won't, Mom."
"We should be back around ten or so, but don't wait up."
"Take care of yourself while we're gone, all right?"
"I will, Mom," Emily answered, crossing to the door and holding it open for her.
"Bye, honey!" she said on the way out.
"Bye, Mom." She waved as the car pulled out of the drive into the rosy evening, and the fading sound of its tires on the gravel left the house very quiet.
I'd better go straighten up those books, Emily thought, and went down the stairs to the basement again. To her mild surprise, the bouquet hadn't faded at all, but was still bursting with velvet as it lay on the tomb. Surely the professors would understand the sentiment of placing it there. She hoped that Vlad wouldn't want to move it. With some effort, she turned to the books laying around, and picked them up and put them back in order on the shelf. One lay open, where she had apparently fallen asleep in the midst of reading it, and she took a moment to look at it before putting it away.
"'There, Maria encountered Alucard, the selfsame Alucard who had aided Trevor Belmont centuries before, and who was the son of Dracula, and she told him of Richter's disappearance." Alucard, Dracula, she took a moment to appreciate the wordplay, remembering the thrill when she had caught onto it at age nine. Dracula's son, how could I forget? And I could've been dreaming I was a man. She remembered without looking it up that the stories of Richter Belmont and his sister-in-law Maria Renard came from the late 18th century, and long hair had been in fashion for men at that time. Thinking of it now, the dream-voice sounded deep and masculine. But that couldn't be it, could it? Alucard was famous for fighting Dracula, so surely he couldn't be the one 'to whom Dracula meant no harm.' Maybe his mother... She stopped herself. It isn't possible at all. There couldn't be any such person, to show up once and then again hundreds of years later. No such person as Dracula, either---not a vampire, anyway. The real question is who they could've been really...
She stared at the coffin again. I want to know who you are. Her heart skipped a beat. She didn't see anything move, but somehow there was a feeling, as if something had rustled in response. She carefully set the book aside, still open, and dared to lay a hand on the casket lid, just below the bouquet. The stone was warm to the touch.
She gave a startled cry at the sound of the doorbell before coming to herself and scrambling up the stairs. As she came to the door, she glanced at the grandfather clock in the living room---it read 5: 30. She hadn't been expecting the professors for another half-hour.
But nonetheless it was Prof. Baker at the door, his car idling in the driveway behind him.
"Professor. You're early."
"I do apologize for that, Emily," he said. "Turns out Vlad needs me to pick him up, and I thought you'd like to come along."
"All right. Just give me a moment," she said, retreating back into the house. She got her purse and keys and left, locking the door behind her and following the professor to his car.
"You remember my question earlier, about Dracula having children?" she asked as he pulled out.
"I was looking through the family histories. They do mention him having a son. I wonder if that might be who's supposedly in the casket."
"I think that's what Vlad wants to find out," Prof. Baker said.
"So you did know about him, then."
"Um, now that you mention it, I do remember hearing about him. The story goes that being half-human and half-vampire, caught between light and darkness that way..." He eased the car to a pause at a stop sign before turning onto the main road. "The story goes that it drove him mad."
"I'd never heard that before," Emily said. "I have stories of him helping my ancestors, fighting to protect people from Dracula."
"Everyone has their own stories, I suppose," he said. "That's the nature of folklore."
"I guess that's true," Emily said, looking out the car window. It suddenly struck her that, although several cars passed by them on this road, it was surrounded by trees and grassy ditches; going over the turns in her mind, they'd gone in the opposite direction of the University and the hotels downtown. "Where's Prof. Florescu staying?" she asked. "Are you sure we're going the right way?"
As she turned to look at him, Prof. Baker's knuckles were white on the wheel. "I'm very sorry about this," he said, in a strained, hollowed-out tone.
She took a moment to convince herself that it was just a wrong turn. "It's no trouble, we can just turn in the next driveway and---"
"Emily," he interrupted. "I wouldn't do this if I had any choice about it. I at least want you to know that."
"What are you---" She stopped short with a cry of shock as the professor jerked the steering wheel, wrenching the car into the left lane. "What are you doing! Get us back over!!" He gripped the wheel, his eyes squeezed shut.
Emily grabbed him, trying to shake him awake, and suddenly she was nearly blinded as the headlights of another car exploded over the crest of a hill just in front of them; its horn immediately started blaring. It began to swerve to her right but not enough---she got hold of the wheel and yanked it toward her, not thinking that she was matching the other car's dodge---
Headlights streaked across the windshield before a thunderous impact flung Emily against her seatbelt. All sense of direction was thrown away as she was flung about in a moment of smashing-glass, screaming-rubber confusion before another impact jarred her as the car came to rest, sloping down from her. She could just make out the crumpled hood through the webwork-shatter of the windshield, and when she looked beside her and down, the professor rested still against the steering wheel and the puddle of broken glass that was the driver's side window.
"Professor!?" she screamed, shaking his shoulder to no response. "Wouldn't do this unless I had to"!? What's going on? Why he came... To get me away from my house!
Scrambling for places to brace her feet, she unsnapped the seatbelt and struggled free of it, pushed the door open and climbed out onto the shoulder of the road. The car had spun around facing backward and lay on its side in the ditch.
The occupants of the other car were already out of their vehicle and shouted to her. "Are you okay!? What happened!? What were you doing!?" But her mind was full of that dream again, full of being held by Vlad/Dracula with a mind inside her screaming Let me go! Let me go! She set off at a sprint back up the road toward her house, praying to God that they wouldn't chase her...
† † †
The last threads of sunlight clung to her heels as she threw herself against the door of the house, terror-stricken for one moment believing she had lost the house-key in the wreck, but her keys were there in her pocket, and her trembling fingers fumbled through every one of them before finding the one to the front door. The low light and shaking fear made it a struggle to get the key into the lock and open the door, and when it was done she threw herself inside, slammed it with her whole body, and locked all the bolts behind her, her heart dragging against them as if only when each lock was in place could it make another beat.
What'll I do? What'll I do!? She stared at the living room window, the waning red-gold sunlight trapped in the lace curtains. She had no idea why, but she clung to those slivers of light like floating timbers in a shipwreck, like a last, desperate chance at life.
At last knowing something to do, she darted into the kitchen and snatched the phone. The list of emergency numbers was magnetted to the refridgerator just above it, but her fingers tangled in the phone dial took an eternity to get through the number to the police. Once it was dialed she stepped back, stretching the cord past the edge of the kitchen doorway to cling once again to the window. Night blue was closing in on the sunset glow...
"Hello, police department."
"Help me!" she screamed into the phone. "Please, send help! There's been a car wreck and something's going to happen!"
"Calm down, Ma'am. What's happening, where are you?"
"I'm at my house." She struggled with her own address. "481 Brandywine Drive. Somebody's coming!"
"We'll send someone right away."
"Hurry! It's getting dark!" She strained toward the evening light. The drapes were now entirely blue, resting against the darkened window.
"Ma'am, what's your name? Are you---"
Dragged off the counter by the taut cord, the phone hit the floor with a crash that knocked Emily off her feet, screaming. She scrambled over to it on her hands and knees. The plastic casing and the dial were broken. "Hello!?" she cried into the reciever. "Hello!?" Only a broken static answered her.
She dropped the useless phone and found a wall to pull herself up against. It was the corner of the stairwell leading down to the basement. The casket... 'NO! -FATHER!'
Unthinking, Emily turned toward the sound and found herself looking at the front door. With another click, she saw the deadbolt switch turn, unlock itself, without the slightest sound of a key...
She ran down the stairs clumsy with fear. The heel of her left shoe caught the edge of a step, throwing her against the basement door, which she wrenched open and slammed behind her, only groping with the lightswitch by utter necessity. After even that brief moment of darkness, the light burned her eyes, and she staggered backward from the door. Her left shoe was gone, and that ankle cried out in pain as she stepped on it. She braced a hand on the wall and reached for the other shoe, hurriedly ripping it off as the doorknob turned.
At the first sight of black cloth and white she hurled the shoe, which bounced ineffectually off the wall beside "Vladimir Florescu" as he came into view. The white hair and cold face now seemed even more like the Dracula of her dream, and looking at him was like basking in a glow of dark, stifling cold. She retreated from him toward the far end of the room, toward a warm, radiating hum that she could feel at her back.
"Emily?" he said, mimicking concern. "What's happened? Professor Baker---"
"Stop it!" she screamed at him. "I know who you are!"
"Get away from me, vampire!" Her heels hit the stone casket, and she stumbled to a half-seat against it.
"Despite the blood between us," he said, very calmly, "my business is not with you, Emily Belmont. Step away from that box and you may yet live to tell about it."
She braced her hands on the casket; the stone was fairly shaking under her palms. That same presence that had moved through her dream, full of pain and fear, she could feel its---his---presence beneath her. "No! Stay away from him!"
"You know who he is, too, I see. Why keep me from my own child?"
"He doesn't want to go with you!"
Dracula's eyes narrowed, with a hint of red glow. "And you presume to know this?"
"Go away! Leave us alone!!"
He raised a death-pale hand, the nails now long and pointed. Suddenly Emily felt, laced around the warm vibration of the casket, strands of that cold still energy, seizing the casket lid from its own natural animation and shaking it violently. The ancient locks rattled. She whipped her head around at a report like a gunshot as one of them yeilded, then another and another, the stone quaking in larger and larger leaps until with an enormous BOOM it was flung across the room, taking Emily with it.
The surface she hit yeilded in an arc, and amid the crash of the stone in the storage beyond her, she swung down onto the floor and landed with a jarring bang of the sofa's solid frame and springs.
Boxes of old toys and brownstone dishes collapsed in on her, and she struggled her way out from under them with a broken ring of pottery and plastic. She dragged her head above the surface of it to a view of the casket-lid, still dangling the broken catches of the locks and resting amid the jumbled wreckage of shelves and boxes, which lay as a broken sea of debris between her and it.
The bouquet of roses rested on an upturned box, sliding off slowly, theatening to disappear into that sea. Emily threw herself forward and snatched it, collapsing into the debris with a crash. She struggled to back out of it and get to her feet, and at last got hold of an upward-jutting arm of the sofa and pulled herself up to look around.
Dracula stood with his back to her, focussed entirely on the casket, which she still didn't have a vantage point to see inside. He dipped his hands down toward it, making a sound so incongruous to the moment that Emily took some time to identify it as singing, low soft notes.
He wasn't looking at her; it wasn't her he wanted. She could probably just leave, back up the basement stairs, and he would just let her go...
But she couldn't forget the dream. She couldn't forget that well of pain that turned to terror at Dracula's touch. Whoever it was, they were helpless now. Her literal mind caught at her back. They were dead. After all this time, they had to be dead. Why risk yourself to protect a corpse? But even a corpse... To abandon anyone to what they had felt through her...
Blindly she dashed forward, forgetting the lack of a weapon, and swung the roses hard against Dracula's broad, black-clothed back. It was nothing more than a sharp rustle of the bouquet-paper, a slight catch of the thorns in the fabric, but it was enough that he turned on her, towering above her larger than he could possibly have been when he came down the stairs.
His eyes flashed red, and his vampire-fangs were clearly visible as he spoke. "Get away from here," he growled.
"You get away from here!" she shouted. "Get out of my house and leave him alone!"
"You cannot stop me. Leave here if you want to live."
"NO!" Her cries had changed. Before, her screaming "no" had meant "no don't touch me," "no don't come any closer." Now she was shouting "no I won't let you do this."
"So be it. Feel lucky I gave you an option."
Suddenly his right hand was flying at her, the nails sharp and black. Without thinking, she caught her free hand against his wrist, pushing to the side as it streaked by her, and swinging down again...
As if drenched in liquid gold, the roses streaked color through the air as they hit Dracula's shoulder and raked across his chest, and he jumped back from their touch.
"No! It's impossible!"
Emily pressed the strength she had against him, without a moment's pause. "LEAVE US ALONE!" she screamed, hurling the roses with the full arc of her arm.
They hit his chest in an explosion of gold-white light that sent Emily staggering back, and she sheilded her eyes and struggled to stand under the blazing flame and the unearthly howl of his screaming. Amid the blinding light she could just make out his suddenly-illuminated figure, the rose-stems curled by the heat entangling him as he tried in vain to struggle free of them...
It was too much, and she dodged into the shaded lea of the stone casket and huddled there, waiting for peace. By the time Dracula's screams faded into silence, and the Holy Flame into the light of the bare incandescent bulb, she had no idea how long it had been. Cautiously, she crawled around the corner of the casket's pedestal, looking around.
The carpeted floor was littered with roses and the finishing fern leaves and baby's breath, but there was no evidence, either of Dracula or of a flame. She couldn't imagine where he would have gone, she hadn't heard him leave, but the cold she felt was only basement air. His deathly presence was gone, and on the deep level of her that recognized this she felt safe.
She let herself fall to a seat and looked up at the lip of the casket. She'd have to stand up, and then she'd see what was inside it. "It is a coffin." She still clung to the knowledge that people don't live for hundreds of years. It had to be a corpse, hundreds of years old. A skeleton really, something ghastly beyond imagining... But she had to get up...
With a deep breath and trembling legs, she grasped the corner of the stone and pulled herself up, above the edge of the casket, steeling herself for whatever she might face within it...
The now-familiar scent of fresh roses sent her head spinning with shock. White ones---the casket was brimming with them, surrounding a figure dressed in black, down to black gloves on the hands clasped over his chest as if in death, and yet the face---the face Emily had seen from the other side in her dream---although pale, was not the frozen-still face of a corpse. His lips were rosy, and even in the milky-pale skin she could see a hint of life in contrast with the snowy white hair that framed his face and flowed down around his shoulders.
Her heart pounded in terrified fascination, more intense than any grisly sight could have aroused, and she stepped toward the head of the coffin---the left side as she'd thought---with carefully silent steps. Leaning over the prone figure, she thought she could see his chest moving and hear his breath, slow and rhythmic as in sleep, but it was so slight she could tell herself she was imagining it.
For a long moment, she could only stare at this surreal dream-image. At last, she reached a trembling hand toward the pulse point in his throat. The whole substance of the world seemed to draw in upon her hand, the air becoming thicker and more tense, her hand pushing through it more and more slowly as it came closer to touching his skin...
In the instant of contact, he drew a sudden inspiration of breath which rang like a gunshot in the still quiet. Silver-blue eyes snapped open and caught hers.
Emily threw herself back from Alucard, screaming, with such sudden terror that it sent her spilling across the floor.
† † †
The energy of the dance music was still flowing through Leigh Ann's body, and she shivered joyously in the front passenger seat of the car, with her father at the wheel and her mother cradling her sleeping brother in the back seat. Even the disappointment of having to go home couldn't reign in the happiness of the evening.
"Wait, what's this?" her father said.
"What is it Dad?" she asked, looking up to their street bathed in the alternating red and blue lights of police cars. "That's not our house, is it?"
Her mother leaned forward to look over the front seat, and no one spoke a word as they came close enough to see that it was their house, their lawn now scattered with police cars and an ambulance.
Mr. Belmont made a hasty park and leaped out of the car and dashed to the first officer he could find. Leigh Ann numbly dragged her full skirt out of the car door. Her mother huddled with Marcus in the backseat, and had made no signs to move as Leigh Ann pushed the door shut and floated in a daze toward the house.
"What happened here?" her father was demanding of the officer.
"We're not sure. About five forty-five we got an urgent call from this house saying someone was coming---"
"My daughter was here then. She was having a teacher from the University---"
"Professor Theodore Baker. Died tonight in a car accident not a mile from here. Your daughter was in the wreck---"
"Oh, my God..."
"But she got out and ran back here and called us. There's been some damage inside the house, but we don't know..."
Leigh Ann shut the the front door on his words and heard voices downstairs.
"Come on. Right this way ma'am."
She saw the kitchen phone laying broken on the floor before she turned and let herself down the stairs. The basement door was open, and as she passed through it, she saw the storage area smashed to bits, the sofa overturned, and three white-coated perimedics pulling Emily up by her elbows from the floor as she trembled and sobbed.
"Where are you taking my sister?" Leigh Ann asked, catching their attention.
One of the men left the others to take Leigh Ann aside as they carefully led Emily away. "She's been in a car accident and seems to have experienced severe trauma. For her health, we need to take her to the hospital for observation. Excuse me."
Emily and the perimedics had gotten past her, and the third man caught up to them to help her up the stairs.
Leigh Ann wandered to the end of the room where her sister had been laying. The floor was littered with red roses in front of the tipped-back sofa, and just past that, that stone box stood there, cold and solid and locked-shut like always. It really was just the right shape to be a coffin...
A single red rose lay along the length of its lid, off center, with the blossom facing to the left. As if it were an offering at a tomb, lay over someone's chest...
Leigh Ann took one slow step back, feeling a chill and silent revulsion from the idea of death, borne on this lifelong fixture of her own house. With a shiver, she turned and ran for the basement stairs, toward her parents.
† † †
After her heroic battle with Dracula, after fighting bravely to protect Alucard and indeed the world from his evil, Emily Roseann Belmont spent several years in mental institutions, where she learned well to tell her doctors and herself that there was no such thing as vampires.
But not even in the old glory days of Trevor or Simon was the Belmonts' power sufficient to end the threat of Dracula for all time. Now as then, he will return.
And still, in that stone casket sleeps the one person whom Dracula loves, the one person on earth to whom he means no harm, though that intention fails again and again.
† † † End † † †
*Radu Florescu is a co-author of the book "In Search of Dracula," just to tell you where I got the name.
**A lot of this comes from a scene in En Medias, which I also have posted here on FF.net; just click on my member profile and look for it.
***This is all true; the story is also known as "Dracula's Guest." It's in the public domain now, so you can read it (as well as the full novel "Dracula") online in Literature.org's Bram Stoker section (http://www.literature.org/authors/stoker-bram/).
I've had this story in my head for quite some time. Originally I wanted to do it as a dojinshi, but while I do aspire do working in comics, I've also finally had to admit that the medium is a good way for me to kill projects right now. So I finally just wrote this story to get it on paper one way or the other, and I'm really quite happy with how it turned out. The original plan kept it percolating for I think a good amount of time, and also provided the character designs for Emily and Leigh Ann that you can see on my website as of 4/1/2002.
Also as a note, I have been in the "Belmont House" of this story; I based it on my middle-school best friend's house, where I slept over regularly in my youth (she didn't have a coffin in her basement, tho, much less one with Alucard in it. ^_~). For a broader connection with this, one of the things I'm really pleased with reading over this story is that I think I managed to create a really rich setting. I also think that horror (like humor) is a lot in juxtapositions, and that the horror element of the story works better, having gone to great pains to construct a normal, happy, domestic setting for Dracula to then trash.
Horror is one thing I never imagined that I'd be able to pull off, but I think I did this time, at least to some extent. In some cases, my sense of what would be "scary" actually turned up unexpected takes on things. I had considered having Emily's call to the police jammed or cut off by supernatural means, but decided that her accidentally pulling the phone off the counter was actually scarier. Even more strange, this story contains some rare humanizing flashes for Dracula, but they certainly don't keep him from being "Eek and Evil!", and in fact I don't think he would be as frightening if he was just a complete evil bastard throughout.
But maybe that's just me.