Hello, Dracula fans. I've been tossing this idea (and this chapter) around in my head for months, and I figured it was time to get it posted. I'm a fan of the concept of the movie, if not the way it was carried out, and I think a decent rewrite could do it much more justice. So, though this story starts out similar to the movie, it will divert quite quickly. Many of the characters (probably all the characters) are the same. I hope you enjoy, and please remember to leave reviews!
Mary Heller sank down to her knees beside her bed, picking up spilled prescription medicine. The bottle and the pills slipped through her fingers, and she fought tears and hysteria as she fumbled around the half dark bedroom, trying to get herself back under control. Finally she just slumped against the side of the bed and took her rosary off the nightstand.
"Holy Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ…"
Lucy, her roommate, half dressed and stumbling over her robe, tumbled into the room and stared at her.
"Mary! Holy shit, you scared me! Are you…" but her voice trailed off when her tired eyes took in the all-too-familiar tableau. Instead of muttering further invectives, Lucy sank to her knees and took her friend in her arms. "Come on, Mare, let's get you back into bed."
As was most often the case after Mary's night terrors, she was not in the mood to give any argument, although at any other time she would have had a few curses of her own to spout about being mothered in this fashion. As it was now, she allowed Lucy to tuck her in under the covers, and while Lucy fished under her bed for the lost pills and put the bottle back on her bedside table, she kept murmuring prayers to herself, counting on the beads of her silver-and-jet rosary. Tears leaked slowly out of her eyes as she replayed the scenes of her nightmare again and again in her mind.
"I'm going to get you some tea, all right?"
Mary nodded, and by the time Lucy came back with the soothing beverage, she was already asleep. Lucy sighed, left the cup on the nightstand, and made sure a nightlight was on in the hall before she left the room.
"Hello, this is Mary Heller, I need to schedule an appointment with Dr. Fuller for sleep analysis…yes, I'll hold."
Lucy, already dressed in cropped denim pants and her black "Virgin Records" t-shirt, was ready for work, and tapping her wristwatch in Mary's direction. Mary waved her off and tapped her pen against her teeth as she waited for the secretary to come back to her. Lucy smiled and poured herself a quick bowl of cereal, her blond ponytail bobbing as she moved from pantry to refrigerator to counter. She munched thoughtfully as Mary finished her conversation and hung up the phone.
"If you don't hurry, we're going to be late."
"I know, I know, I'll be changed in a minute."
Lucy considered her Cheerios as if searching for some divine sign, then decided to just go for it. "Mary, what do you think this is?"
There was a long moment of silence from the downstairs bedroom, after which Mary, looking painfully tired and wan, came into the kitchen and took a half-finished glass of milk from the refrigerator. She sat next to her roommate at the counter and nursed the glass for another long moment before replying.
"I don't know Lucy. Dr. Martin said I was sleep-deprived, the specialist she referred me to said I was borderline paranoid schizophrenic, and I don't know what this new one's going to come up with."
"Well, what do you think?"
"I think? You'd laugh at me."
"Please Mary, I won't. I'm just…getting really worried about you. You haven't had a good night's sleep in over two weeks, and every night, by your own admission, the nightmares get worse. And it's not as if your record was very good to begin with. You've had these nightmares for as long as I've known you, and even though you won't say, I know it's been for longer than that. You're tired all the time, you're pale, and you're not getting any better. Do you have any idea of what's wrong?"
Mary, at turns aggravated and sympathetic to her friend's concerns, finished the glass of milk and put it in the sink. She gripped the counter edge and didn't face Lucy as she answered.
"I think…my mother took me from place to place all throughout my childhood. We never stayed anywhere for more than two years, even when nothing was wrong. When she died, she told me…well, nothing too specific, but enough to make me uneasy, everywhere I've ever stayed."
She paused, and Lucy fought the urge to get up and force a faster confession. Mary shook her head, threw her shoulders back, turned around and smiled.
"We're going to be late, right? I'll tell you on the way."
Lucy tried to smile and put on her sneakers. "You infuriatingly mysterious Brit, you."
"Bloody impatient American."
"Yeah, yeah," Lucy put on her best southern drawl. "Let's get goin', gal."
The two girls stepped out into the thick, sultry New Orleans afternoon. The heat waves shimmered over the asphalt to the rhythm of the crickets shrilling in the marshes. As Lucy locked the door though, she noticed Mary shivering and chafing the bare skin of her arms, as though the icy chill that gripped her at night had not renounced its hold upon her. As they walked towards the Virgin outlet in downtown New Orleans, dodging tourists and teenage boys getting the jump on the night's booze, Mary continued her narrative, her cultured voice careful and cool in the darkening afternoon.
"My mother left my father when I was very young, and she never told me why, since to my knowledge she was never divorced before her death. She also never seemed to dislike or fear him, for any reason, but she was scared…no, terrified, of something. Something that she thought was coming for us, chasing after us. Somehow—and this I don't know for certain—this nameless follower was connected to my father. She didn't want me anywhere near him, and that always made me think that this…thing, was after me, personally. The only place she felt safe, or comfortable, was in the Church."
Mary's voice was shaking and full of hesitation. She also was incapable of meeting Lucy's eyes, which themselves had never left her face.
"Is that all you think?" Lucy couldn't help the simple question.
"I think…I think my family has a terrible secret. If she confessed it to anybody, she would have confessed it to the priest. But as often as I go to him, he will never tell me."
"Well, that's a confidentiality thing, right?"
"Yes. I know, and he's probably right not to tell me." Mary's voice sank to a murmur. "It doesn't make things, easier, though."
They walked in silence, past a few of the rowdiest bars, where frank interest was displayed in the both of them. Lucy couldn't help, despite her serious concerns, returning some of the smiles and waves. Mary walked right past them, making her all the more sought after. With her honey brown curls, defined features, and softly athletic curves, she made a striking beauty. Lucy often teased her for hiding at home, especially since she, a self-admitted dime-a-dozen curvy blond, was often lost in the crowd without Mary's companionship.
Lucy, usually a notorious flirt, was so far from being in the mood today that she even forgot to lecture Mary about being a prude. Mary disliked bars with a passion, usually because she did attract so much interest, and she often favored more…intelligent conversation than was usually to be found with the common sot. As such, on a typical Friday night, while Lucy went directly to the bars after work, Mary went home and read, studied, or chatted with her few friends online.
Reaching the store, they both dropped their bags off in the staff room and punched in, greeting their co-workers and parting ways for the evening. Mary usually circled about the upstairs, where the older CDs were stored by genre, while Lucy, who had a much more complete knowledge of current releases, worked on the lower level, either in customer service or in the stacks.
Mary took a push-cart of CDs to shelve and started her evening's work, still thinking morosely about the nightmares, her life, and her family.
She had had them, truth be told, her whole life. Always she was in darkness, complete darkness, and for a while she wouldn't even know she was dreaming. She would feel aimless, drifting, without thought or reason, in the endless dark. A crippling feeling of impotency would surround her, a weightiness, almost physical, which pressed against her from all angles. Suddenly, she would realize that there would be someone else, with her, in the dark. A man, she knew, almost as intuitively, for there were certainly no indications, either by light or by sound.
And then, the rage would hit. She didn't know if it came from her or from that mysterious man, but it would be blinding. She would raise her hands and beat them bruised and bloody against the roof of whatever enclosure she was in. At the same time, the feeling of suffocation would hit, and panic, utter panic would set in. Her feet would push at the end of the coffin—she knew it was a coffin—and she would feel the rage lending her strength. She would open her mouth to scream, to bite, to tear, to kill, and a terrible thirst would set in…
Usually the fear would wake her up. The idea of being possessed by emotions that were not any part of her was repugnant and terrifying. And then, there was the presence of that unknown man…
Mary took the CDs in hand and forced herself to put them on the shelves, mechanically and perfectly. Concentrating on making every row even, of alphabetizing albums by artist and by name, was a way of driving the presence out of her mind. In college and out, she had studied the theology of the Roman Catholic Church, mostly because the feeling of that man's presence, in her dreams and without, always reminded her strongly of demon possession. She always felt him with her…always felt that dreadful heaviness, that terrible and endless thirst.
She misplaced a CD on the shelf and it tumbled down to the floor, the clatter bringing her back to the world. She gasped and shivered, quickly bending down for the CD. The violent image on the cover made her feel sick. Sometimes she just hated…
Mary chuckled. What? Modern culture? Waking up? Falling asleep? Walking outside? Every step she took was chased, panicked, hunted, haunted…she wished she could just fight it, whatever it was! Mary's nature was to face down, to confront…a life led in the way her mother had led hers was incomprehensible. Mary resolved to go and visit her friend again after her work shift was over.
When the shift was over. Seven and—quick check of the watch—a half hours from now. Mary sighed and forcibly drove the images and emotions out of her mind, and concentrated on the CDs on the shelves. One after the other, the minutes ticked away.
Simon Sheppard was at once exhausted and elated. His two-week business trip to Scandinavia was finally over, and the warmer rains of Britain in late March were a welcome change from the ice that still gripped the northern regions of the world. He had made a few incredible finds, not the least of which he was on his way to show his employer. Besides which, he would finally see Solina again. Just thinking about her was enough to make his heart beat faster. All through that long and lonely trip, he had thought of her. Her soft brown hair, her brilliant eyes, her cool professionalism—so different from his impetuosity…there were a million and one reasons why he loved Solina.
"Good afternoon, Simon," she said to him, as he signed in with the security guard, "it's good to see you back safely." She handed him a roster of assignments, and turned to walk up the stairs to Van Helsing's office.
Of course, there was the catch, and the catch was, of course, that she didn't care one bit for him.
"It's nice to see you too, Solina." He said, following her up the stairs, heaving his bags along with. "Listen, are you free tonight? I thought we might go to a pub, or something…" Solina turned to face him, eyes impassive, "It's been ages since I've had decent food."
Her lips quirked. "I'm sorry, Simon. I'm not free, tonight."
Something about the delay between the last two words made Simon feel that she'd been about to say 'not free…at all' but he was used to that. She never encouraged him, but nor did she discourage him, and he couldn't help trying.
"Another time, then…maybe."
She smiled again (what passed for a smile, anyway) and motioned towards the door of their employer. "I know he's anxious to see you. I'll see you tomorrow, Simon."
"Right," he said, and she turned away before he could add anything else, heading to her office at the end of the hallway. "See you."
Matthew Van Helsing rose from the chair behind his desk and embraced Simon before the younger man was halfway across the room. Simon felt the warmth of homecoming in the older man's countenance…this was the only place that Simon had ever really felt at home. Raised by less than able parents, Simon Sheppard had made a real mess of his life before Matthew had found him pouring over archaeological research books in Juvenile Detention. After that, his life had turned around, with Matthew helping him through college and then giving him a job. As far as Simon was concerned, Matthew Van Helsing was his father.
After the warmth of greeting was over, they got down to business. Simon gave Matthew his sketch and notebooks, as well as the report of the stuff that was on its way, through slow ground shipping. However, there was one item that Simon had brought back personally, something that he'd never come across before. Unfortunately, that had meant he'd had to take the train, what with airline restrictions of weaponry, but that was worth it.
The heavy crossbow, he concluded, had been meant to fire shafts of metal, not wood. His original guess had been iron, but to what purpose, he could hardly guess.
"I've translated the markings…they're old Church Slavic, if you can believe it. All fear He who walks under the crown of Eternal Night, is my closest guess."
Van Helsing, holding the crossbow, shook his head. "It's not 'crown', impeccable as the rest of your translation is. It's 'halo'…you see the corruption of the character here obscured the marking…the two words are remarkably similar."
Simon leaned closer. "You're right. Well, I guess this one needs a little more clean-up work than I thought, but we can have it ready for market in a few weeks."
"No," Van Helsing's voice was abrupt. "No, this one I will keep."
"But that's the best of the lot!" Simon cried, "We could make a cool…"
"I know what it would bring," he interrupted smoothly. "But we already turn a tidy profit. Therefore, I may keep what I wish. This is an interesting find; I do not believe it was meant to fire iron, but silver."
Simon laughed. "Thinking of taking up the mantle of your forbear, eh?"
Helsing scoffed. "You know how much I dislike that talk, Simon! Goodness knows why Stoker decided to put my poor grandfather into his book, but I assure you I am not anxious to take up that responsibility! But the inscription is historically interesting. I will do the restoration work on this myself. And now, boy, I think it's time for you to go home."
Simon shrugged. It was more than it was worth to argue with the man. "I am knackered. I'll see you tomorrow, Matthew."
Simon smiled when he heard Helsing's distracted 'goodnight'. He didn't doubt the old man would have the thing cleaned and prepped by tomorrow morning. He was slightly disappointed that they wouldn't sell it, though. It would make a good addition to a museum. But Matthew was right…he kept precious little of the material they gathered, and he deserved whatever caught his fancy.
He did keep an interesting collection. One was an early repeating revolver with bullets of silver, another was a cross with a dagger at its base, and (his personal favorite) was a hollow crucifix obviously meant to hold holy water.
Matthew might not want to admit it, but he had a serious obsession with his family history, in all its mythological aspects. Simon chuckled. The old coot was just too stubborn to admit it!
In the darkness, he felt the familiar thirst, the familiar lust. He felt them, walking above him, careless of him, alone in the crypt. Helsing…Abraham Van Helsing. His throat was dry and he felt his fangs lengthen. How he longed to sink them into the bastard's throat! He'd take back all the blood that had been stolen from him, the blood that even now was taken slowly from his veins by the leeches.
What a glorious moment that would be! One bite, one quick snap, would give him all the life he'd been denied…all the time that he'd spent, in impotent fury, trapped in this grave.
It would set him closer to one other thing as well…the life he'd sensed coming into the world, growing older…the one he could see when he closed his eyes and sent his spirit wandering to seek those of his blood (so precious few, now!). Mary. Mary, Mary, Mary…her blood sang her name. From across the world, he could feel her, taste her, feel her spirit.
The dryness in his throat became torturous. His fangs longed to bite deep into her, as well, but not to empty her of life, and leave her dry and dead like her thrice-damned father. He wanted to drain her, have every taste of her living blood, and then give her back his own.
He thought of that almost as often as he thought of murdering her father.
He was immortal, and with immortality came patience.
Someday…and he felt, with preternatural awareness, that it would be someday soon, he would be free.