"Perhaps he will see you as…a kindred spirit." – Dracula, the Musical
"Thank you for trying to warn me."
Mina sat curled up on the stone floor, a threadbare blanket held tight around her to keep out as much of the chill infusing the castle as she could. Her skin was dotted with bruises, and there was blood on various parts of her body, but she had grown used to that over the past several hours that she had remained there. In all those hours she and the man sitting on the other side of the room hadn't said a word to one another until she finally realized that she had something to say.
Renfield sat hunched up, his back bowed, coughing often. He was still uninjured, but they both knew that it was only a matter of time until the Count returned and punished Renfield for betraying him. At Mina's soft words he replied, his voice harsh, "It's not as if it did any good."
She stood then, and walked over to sit next to him, placing a hand on his arm gently. "But you tried. It was our own stupidity that made us not listen to you."
Renfield laughed slightly hysterically. "And now the Master is angry with us both and soon I'll…wish…I…was…dead." The last phrase he said in a singsong manner, and he ended the statement with more hysterical laughter that was close to sobbing.
"He's not my Master. And he doesn't have to be yours either. I'm sure the Professor and Jonathan and the others will come eventually, and then they will all apologize for not believing you when they should have." She was being optimistic, unrealistically so, she knew that, but it was all she could do.
Renfield's answer was to trace the pattern of bruises on her face with his eyes. His meaning was clear and unmistakable, and she lowered her eyes as he spoke, probably in shame. "You're just like all the others. And I'm just like all the others, except that they're all dead, which is what I'll be soon enough, I imagine." Suddenly, his tone was singsong again, "I'll be dead and you'll be made into a whore, we'll both be made into what all the others are."
She shook her head wildly, desperately. If she started believing him then she would surely succumb to the despair of endless moments like this, and that would be like falling down a deep, dark pit. It was a simple matter to walk around it, but once you fell in it was almost impossible to get out.
But he only smiled with the bitter smile of a resigned Cassandra. "You'll see. Just wait."
The Count takes less time with Renfield than he has with Mina. She counts eleven minutes from when Renfield disappears out of the single door in the room till when he is unceremoniously thrown back inside. He doesn't move from the position where he fell, either. He simply lies there, cringing like a kicked dog. It is a long time until she dares approach him.
"Mr. Renfield? Are you all right? He didn't hurt you too much, did he?"
The reply comes back in the form of a groan. "Just my arm…I think he pulled it straight out of the socket."
She stifles her gasp, instead asking, her voice as level as it can possibly be under the circumstances, "Will you let me see it?"
Renfield nods, and sits up. He seems to move reluctantly, as though there is always the initial assumption in life that the place where one is currently is always infinitely better than the place to where one is going. From this Mina has the impression that his entire life has been a downward spiral, and so he is reluctant to move forward, lest he fall even further. Despite this appearance of reluctance, however, he does sit up, and he rolls his sleeve all the way up to bare his right shoulder. This time, she really does gasp. His shoulder now seems to be a mass of skin and muscle and blood, and none of it is at all the way the way someone's shoulder is supposed to look.
The Count would kill Renfield, bit by bit, that much was obvious.
"Let me try to bandage that for you."
The words sound useless even to her own ears, but what else can she say?
He nods tiredly, and she looks around for some sort of fabric to use for bandages. The only possibility is the blanket. It's the only one the Count had given to them, and the room feels as cold as ice, but keeping Renfield from dying of blood loss is more important. And so she picks it up and, finding one of the many holes already existing, rips a strip off, starting there. Holding the strip of cloth as though it is some sort of treasure, she returns to where Renfield sits, leaning against the wall for support.
She isn't entirely sure of the right way to go about bandaging an injury of that sort, and the very prospect of beginning is intimidating, as it seems all too easy to make some trivial mistake that could damage the fragile tissues of his arm that were never meant to be outside of his body. But, after a few brief seconds of hesitation, she turns her attention to the mess of his shoulder, where dark blood is still trickling out sluggishly, the smell of it causing something unfamiliar and unwelcome in her to respond with the desire to lick it all off. She ignores that desire and, with as gentle fingers as she can manage, puts her hand around the area just below the major wound, trying to hold his arm steady.
Though she has tried to be as gentle as possible, Renfield winces anyway. It is a brief wince, though, and not a scream or howl of pain, and so she puts the makeshift bandage around the wound as best she can with only one hand. She can't tie it with only one hand, though, and so she lets go of his arm and ties it, her hands shaking with the effort to keep them so gentle. Then she moves back a bit, examining her work.
He moves a bit too, though it seemed to take him enormous effort to even shift positions. But from his stooped shoulders, his untidy hair falling over his voice, his voice, weak but existent, comes, "Thank you."
She smiles, just a bit. It's all that is safe to do. "You're welcome." She pauses, only a second. "It was the least I could do."
He nods again, more to signal that he has heard her words than to actually show agreement. And, after that, he simply lies down on the stone floor, curling up with his injured arm at an odd, awkward angle, and goes to sleep.
After a second of watching him and his rasping breathing, she does the same on the other side of the room. There is nothing more to do, after all.
When she next awakes, she doesn't feel at all inclined to move. And so she doesn't. The most she does is to draw her legs in closer to her chest for warmth, and, after doing that, doesn't move, even when she hears footsteps and knows somehow, with a feeling of dread, that they must be the Count's.
She hears scrambling behind her, and knows it's Renfield, probably getting to his knees before the man he still considers to be his Master. But surely the Count must be ignoring poor injured Renfield then (thank God for that, thank God), because his footsteps grow nearer and nearer to Mina, and then she hears the sound of him kneeling beside where she lies there, still unmoving, and feels the faint brush of his skin and clothing against hers as he does so. She barely has time to shudder, though, before she feels his cold hand encircle her neck and herself being pulled up to her knees by this grip.
His hand tightens as he looks at her in a way that might be appraising, and she nearly chokes, believing for a second that he will kill her just like this, strangling her as he holds her on her knees before him. But he doesn't. He laughs, and loosens his grip, just enough for her to breathe, and moves the location of his fingers slightly, baring her neck. She realizes a second before he lowers his head to her neck what he's about to do, and she wishes that Renfield would do something, anything, but knows at the same time that it's unfair to expect such things of him, of him who the Count has harmed and bent to his will so much that he has nearly broken. But she doesn't think about that anymore, because his teeth sink into her neck and she wants to scream, but his words from that night, the final night, come back to her – "You may as well be quiet; it is not the first time, nor the second that your veins have appeased my thirst" – and she slips into unconsciousness silently.
"Mrs. Harker? Mina?"
She wakes up to someone shaking her, using only one arm. She startles, terrified of something, she's not sure what, but it is only Renfield. Harmless Renfield, who, though he made everyone around him so uncomfortable that they locked him up as a dangerous madman, would never really hurt anyone. He's not the Count. That is made all too clear by the worried look in his eyes, as if he was truly concerned for her, lying unconscious on the cold stone floor. Seeing that she is now awake, he seems to become slightly more ashamed of his concern, and says, stuttering slightly, "I was worried…he drank so much from you…he might have killed you like that…killed you just like that…he's done that before, I've seen it…just as if you were a little fly or a rat, he could have killed you…"
In order to stop this deluge of confusing statements she attempts to reassure him as to her well-being, "I'm all right…just quite exhausted, and weak."
He nods, and seems calmer, but there is still worry in his eyes. "The Master left food for you…you should eat it, you need nourishment after losing so much blood. And if he comes again…"
She nods, understanding his meaning, and tries to push herself into a sitting position, but fails. The Count really did take too much of her blood. Renfield rushes to help her, propping her up against the wall awkwardly with his one good arm. "I'll help you eat, don't worry," he says, his voice as gentle as she's ever heard it.
"Thank you," she whispers, smiling a bit, and Renfield scurries over slightly to where a tray sits on the floor, a bowl of something and a glass of something else neatly arranged beside a spoon and napkin. Renfield picks up the spoon, holding it as a child might, and lowers it into the bowl, then carries it to her carefully, his eyes focused on it, though he spills a few drops of the soup he carries before he reaches her.
"Open your mouth," he says, and somehow, it's not a command coming from him. She opens her mouth, and it is filled with a spicy, surprisingly good soup, laced with so many unfamiliar flavors that she can't pick out the ingredients. She swallows.
Renfield reaches in the bowl for another spoonful, and the operation is repeated. Each bite of the soup seems to strengthen her, to the point where she knows that she can feed herself, but Renfield insists on helping her. She finishes the soup in a surprisingly short amount of time, and Renfield peers into the glass. "It's wine. Do you want it?"
She shakes her head. "It's probably not a good idea, right now, at least. You can have it, though, if you like."
Renfield makes a face. "I don't drink wine." Then he turns his attention away from Mina and begins to scour the floor with his eyes, looking for something. Finally, he seems to find it. It takes a second for Mina to realize what he is looking so carefully at, but then she notices a small ant crawling along the floor. In a swift, sudden movement, Renfield grabs it between two fingers and pops it in his mouth, licking his fingers afterwards. "Not as good as flies or spiders," he says to Mina, "but better than nothing."
Mina nods absentmindedly, disturbed in some vague way by that display, but it makes her aware of her own need for blood, which, she suddenly realizes, is terribly strong. It disgusts her, far, far more than Renfield eating a thousand ants.
As though voicing her own thoughts, Renfield says, almost to himself, "I hope the Master comes and gives me some of His blood. He hasn't given it to me in a long time." Suddenly, he looks at Mina. "You'll need it too, you know. And probably worse than I do. I've only had a few drops of His blood to bind me to Him, but you've had a lot of it."
She has no reply to that, and does nothing but lower her eyes to the floor and shudder slightly, as much as she dares to. If she lets herself fully give into the remembrance of that awful night, the Count's blood in her mouth, Jonathan lying asleep beside her, she will surely be forever lost.
For a long time, they are silent. In fact, they are silent for what must be hours as the hunger within each of them grows stronger and stronger, and they avoid looking at one another, for fear that they might look to the other for a source of blood. Finally the door (the single door, the only door in the room, the door which is always locked) opens, and the Count enters. Mina draws back instinctively, a hand going to her neck where she, with a sudden feeling of nausea, feels two bite marks.
Renfield, however, does quite the opposite of Mina's instinctive reaction, and begins to crawl towards the Count, like some dog desperate for affection. "Master…if you would give me just one drop of your precious blood…just one drop, it's all I ask…just one drop…"
The Count looks down at Renfield, cowering before him, and says, disdain cold in his voice, "I will give you what you ask for, despite your earlier disobedience."
Renfield grabs at the hem of the Count's cloak, which the Count quickly pulls away from him, lifting his palm and, using a fingernail (Mina shudders in memory again), opens a shallow cut there. Blood drips down over his fingers, and the Count gives his hand to Renfield, who laps the blood up eagerly, though not for more than a few seconds, for the cut heals in that time, and Renfield gets little blood from it.
Over this time, Mina finds herself standing, the scent of even that little blood permeating the air and making the need within her ever more painfully strong. Done with Renfield, the Count looks up and meets her eyes. His are filled with some sort of amusement and triumph, one that she doesn't want to understand. "Beg me for it, Mina," he says, his eyes not leaving hers for one second, "You need my blood. Beg me for it."
Somehow, Mina never thought that she would be presented with this choice, and it horrifies her. She looks at the Count, triumphant, and at Renfield, his lips bloody, who looks at her imploring. If Renfield can endure this, than so can she.
And so she makes her decision.
As though she is a marionette whose strings have just been cut, she falls to her knees before him, the crash of her knees on the stone floor making a sickening sound that echoes in the silent room. She lowers her head so that all she can see is the stone, and the Count's boots. "Count – my Lord…Master, whatever it is you want me to call you now…please, please give me…" She cannot continue, every word a betrayal that sticks in her throat.
The Count's hands tangle in Mina's hair painfully, cruelly, and she knows that, having begun this, he will not let her stop it. "Yes? What is it?"
"Your blood…" she says, wincing, "please, give me your blood…please…"
Though Mina doesn't look up, she's certain that the Count is smiling. She has no idea what expression is on Renfield's face. The hand is removed from her hair, and, after a few seconds, a bleeding wrist is brought to her lips. She barely remembers to open her mouth, but, when she does, she finds herself swallowing his blood eagerly, though it sickens her with memory.
He pulls his wrist away after a time which is both too long and too short. He says something to Renfield, something that she doesn't listen to, and then he leaves them both there.
Mina puts her hands up to her face and finds herself sobbing uncontrollably, blood covering her fingers. When Renfield goes to sit next to her, she hardly notices until his clumsy fingers are pulling her hands away from her face, twining his fingers with hers gently. They don't look at one another, or speak, but her fingers curl around him in a silent response to his gesture.
Many hours later, the Count leaves them another tray of food, again, mostly for Mina, because Renfield seems intent on eating nothing but insects. This time, in consists of white bread, chicken prepared in some way that is unfamiliar to her (she is reminded of Jonathan's journal entries about the food he ate while in Romania, and the thought of dear Jonathan overpowers her for a brief instant), and a glass of dark wine. Her appetite destroyed by the taste of the Count's blood in her mouth, she picks up the wine glass instead.
But when she takes a sip from it, she finds herself choking on the taste of cold, stagnant blood. Looking more closely at the wine glass, Mina sees that what she assumed to be thick, dark wine is actually blood.
The coughing catches Renfield's attention, and he turns to see her with fresh blood on her lips and the wineglass in her hand. He, however, is more used to the sight of blood than she is, and doesn't for one instant mistake the blood for wine. Mina tries to smile at him, but fails. "Do you want it?"
Renfield shakes his head. "Blood's no use when it's cold. It's revolting, and does not good. You need it fresh, from a creature still living or newly dead," He pauses, and his voice becomes quieter. "The Master must be taunting you. He does that often."
Mina looks at the wineglass in her hand and, in a sudden movement, throws it at the stone wall. It shatters, and blood splatters over the wall. "Damn him." She says, her voice cold with anger.
Renfield smiles in a long-forgotten way, and whispers, echoing her, "Damn him."
Two nights later, the Count came to take Mina away, and didn't bring her back for hours, hours that Renfield spent biting his fingernails incessantly, wondering if, at that moment, the Count was draining the last mortality out of Mina, destroying everything left of her.
But she was brought back, this time without additional bruises, but with her dress mostly unlaced, and a fire in her eyes that Renfield could not understand but found entrancing anyway. Immediately upon her entrance, she walked briskly to where Renfield stood and, wrapping her arms around him, kissed him.
Her nose filled with the oddly distinctive scent of ladybugs as they kissed, desperation making neither of them want to let go of one another. It seemed to them both that, as long as they kissed, everything would be all right, for that one brief moment.
No more than ten minutes after that desperate, breathless kiss is over, Mina will be brought away again, and this time, she won't return. The two of them will live separate and unendurable lives of imprisonment for months. Renfield will be beaten periodically, and will survive on long ants and a few droplets of the Count's blood. Mina, who will have become a vampire, will live among the Count's brides, indistinguishable from the rest of them.
Eventually, the Count will decide to get rid of Renfield. He will leave him to his brides, a treat to the women who live off the blood of children when the Count can be bothered to feed them.
Mina will rush forward before the others, knowing that they will prolong his death for an infinity, making it into a torment. She, at least, will be merciful.
Mina will reach him, and push him down on the floor, though he will not resist. The scent of ladybugs will overpower her just as she sinks her fangs into his neck, and, for one moment, they will both be safe, content.
That moment will last an eternity.