It has been only a week since the last time I laid eyes on the silver casket. Years of living here, decades even; and in my weaker state I fear I can only resist the draw of the vault for mere days.

Simon visited yesterday, a rare pleasure for me. He has come but twice in the past five years; but he is so busy with his family in England that I can forgive him. I just wish he'd contact me more often; I do miss his company.

It just gets so lonely here in my father's old building. Carfax Antiquities is centuries old, and the shadows are deep and dark when no one is here but me. My few customers and employees all leave before sunset; I suppose they are just as scared of the basement as I am, even if they have no idea what is kept down there. Perhaps it is some animal instinct that is left over from the stone-age days when man had to rely on gut instinct to tell him when something was dangerous.

Whatever the case, I recently took new precautions against theft or break-ins. My father's old designs were rather outdated in these days, so I used a combination of electronically controlled traps and old-fashioned pitfalls, as I am not ignorant of how easily computers can be thwarted.

These inanimate guards however cannot stop me, and I believe that I am my greatest weak spot. I loathe seeing myself in the room with that horrid coffin, staring at it, wondering if he is in there. Wishing I knew what he was thinking, if he could see me and know that I was still very much afraid of him. Too often I realize I stay down there for hours and my mind begins to play tricks on me. I believe I see a stream of blood dripping from the cross-shaped lock, or I see mist spilling out of the hermetically sealed sides. But then I blink and the images are gone, and I am chilled to the bone.

I am getting too old for this.

Mary put down her pen and sighed. She took off her thin reading glasses and set them down on the cover of her thick leather-bound journal. The pen was replaced in a cup full of writing utensils and she stood, her gray dress' wrinkles falling away as she moved across the room.

She stopped across from a large portrait of her father, Matthew Van Helsing. She let a small smirk escape her lips; she was almost as old now as he was when it was painted. The natural years had been kinder to her, however; her brown hair had only a few gray strands weaving through the curly mop, and her skin was still ruddy and healthy, if slightly worry-wrinkled. Her form was slender as it had always been, and her eyes still glowed with her jaded life.

Her father hadn't even been that lucky. Using the beast's blood had given him youth, but it had paled his skin, sunken his eyes and gave him a death's head likeness. The man was only in his "sixties" when he'd died, not counting the extra century he'd stolen from the demon. Mary was in her late fifties and looking much better.

"What did you plan to accomplish?" she asked quietly of her father's oil-painted stare. "Surely you never thought he could always be contained?"

Like every time she questioned the portrait, her father remained silent and left her to her own interpretation of his gaze.

Mary sighed again and blew out the gaslights. After moving to London, she'd fallen in love with the old-world charms and opted for them instead of the harsh electricity she'd taken for granted in New Orleans.

The hallway she walked along was cold and dark, but just as she touched the door to her chambers, she thought she felt a breath of warm air.

No. Do not turn around. Do not entertain the fancies and they will go away, she told herself, steeling herself and pushing the door open. She closed it quickly behind her, breathing easier when she saw her canopied bed across the room, the deep green drapes blowing in the heated air from the vents behind it.

She changed for bed, donning a long white bed gown and easing herself under the covers. She gave a quick prayer that she wouldn't have one of the nightmares that had come less and less over the years, and she closed her eyes.

The walls are lined with skulls. Candlelight plays over the wet walls. A rat squeals in the darkness below and scuttles off.

She moves on and comes to the final cross-barred door. Pulling a lever, the door pulls away and she slowly moves into the chamber within.

Mist hangs over the floor. The moonlight, coming from some unnamed source, gleams off the silver fixtures that line the casket. She moved closer and traces the lock, debating whether or not to turn it.

Open it

She looks up and gasps. He's crouching right next to her, on the other side of the coffin; reaching out and touching the back of her palm. He pushes slightly, urging her to unlock it. Mary, let me free. You can't deny your blood kin.

She tries to scream, but he places a finger over her lips, immediately silencing her. Why do you fight me? I could give you everything. Your life, your youth. Your love.

She feels a tear trace its was down her cheek. Simon…

What do you have to lose?

And he grabs her, pulling her over the coffin, close and kissing her deeply, passionately, and it feels like he's tearing her apart from the inside out…


Mary's eyes snapped open and she looked around. It was dark. And it was cold. No, damp. It was wet, and her bare toes were freezing.

She realized where she was with horror. The doorway standing between her and the inner chamber was right in front of her. She'd been sleepwalking and had almost gone inside!

She shook her head violently and winced. Damn that dream! She never had a variant in the forty years she'd been here. Always the same damned dream. She really should see a doctor.

Turning on her heels, she went back up the passage and closed the vault with an air of relish. That's right, you monster, she thought as she slammed the heavy metal door closed. I always come through in the end. You'll never get me in that room again.

And he wouldn't. She would lock herself in her room from then on out. She was convinced he was there, whole and waiting for her to slip up. But she wouldn't; not ever. Never again.