Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Fred Saberhagen & James V. Heart

The young man put his shoulder to the old wood and tried again. It gave a little more.

When Harker strained his muscles to the limit, the barrier suddenly gave way—the door had not been locked, but only stuck—and he fell into the room beyond.

Slowly, brushing dust from hands and knees, he got to his feet. It was almost as if he had entered a new world entirely. Picking up his lamp from where he had set it down, he advanced slowly, holding the lamp high, moving through room after room.

Here, high, broad windows, protected by the sheer precipice below from any danger of enemy attack, admitted a flood of moonlight. This, Harker decided, must have been the portion of the castle that had been occupied by the ladies in bygone centuries. Somehow the furniture—and there was quite a bit of it—had more air of comfort. He thought a feminine touch was clearly detectable in the arrangement and the decoration.

The big windows were completely free of any drape or curtain, and the yellow moonlight, flooding in through diamond panes, enabled one to see even colors… The intruder’s lamp, which he now raised again, seemed to be of little effect in the brilliant, silent moonlight.

Slight, swift motion at the corner of his eye caught Harker’s attention—it was that of a long-legged spider scampering across the top of an old and beautiful vanity or dressing table, its mirror draped with what appeared to be a silken cloth.

The top of the antique dressing table was almost crowded with bottles and combs, brushes and powders. Harker stood beside it, touching one item after another on its top. He noticed that his fingers trembled. Yes, women had lived here… Almost it appeared to the intruder that they still did.

One perfume bottle in particular appeared so fragile and lovely in the half-magical illumination that Harker felt compelled to touch it again to make sure that it was real. Gently he lifted the small container from the dust in which it rested. Without thought his fingers found and pulled out the stopper, releasing a faint drop of delicious scent, which he could not identify, but which made his senses tingle. He thought he saw the droplet clearly for a moment, but then it seemed to vanish immediately into the air.

The air itself felt like it was pulsating around him. He put the perfume bottle down again.

Moving now with the feeling of having entered a dream, he turned away from the small table, to find himself confronted by silken hangings and piles of many pillows. What he had thought at first sight might be a divan was actually a large bed, which spread itself invitingly before him.

Dully Harker noticed, without giving the fact much thought, that his lamp had gone out, and he put it on the floor. His legs were suddenly very tired, and he sat down upon the edge of the bed to rest. Again a wave-not of dust, but of perfume—as before impossible to identify but delicious, entrancing, rose about him, even more subtly than before.

Truly, his arms and legs were weakened with fatigue, with the long strain of fear. Here in this chamber, on this bed, it seemed possible that fear could be forgotten. If only he could rest… the silks of the soft bed invited him to recline. They seemed to undulate, to fit themselves beneath his body and around it.

In the dreamlike state he had now entered, it came as no shock to Harker to discover that he was no longer alone. The beautiful tenants of these women’s quarters were with him now—and it seemed he had known for a long time that they must be.

Three of them, all young, all ladies by their dress and manner, though two were dark as Gypsies, with great dark piercing eyes that seemed almost red when contrasted with the pale yellow moon—he noted with interest, but with no terror as yet, that snakes moved in the hair of one. All three women had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips.

The third, the youngest as Harker supposed her to be, was fair as fair can be, with great wavy masses of golden hair, and eyes like pale sapphires.

And it seemed to the young man who was now lying on her bed—he knew it must be hers—that he had somehow in the past known this blond girl’s face, in connection with some dreamy fear, but at the moment he could not recollect how or where the meeting had occurred.

Though the moonlight fell from behind the women, their bodies seemed to throw no shadows on the floor. And now Harker could see quite plainly that the three of them were wearing very little more than moonlight, only moonlight and the faintest gossamer… The three whispered together, and then they laughed—such a silvery, musical laugh, but hard, as hard as metal, as though the sound never could have come through the softness of human lips. It struck the man’s ears like the intolerable, tingling sweetness of music made on the rims of wineglasses, played by a cunning hand.

The fair girl, looking straight at Harker now, shook her head coquettishly, and the others seemed to urge her on.

The voice of one of the dark women, she who seemed somehow a little older than the others, had the same quality of sound as their sweet laughter.

“Go on!” she urged the youngest. “You are first, and we shall follow.”

The younger brunette added her incitement: “He is young and strong, there will be kisses for us all.”

It seemed to Harker that it was quite impossible for him to move—it would be hopeless even to attempt the effort. He decided this, with satisfaction, as the fair girl, moving in utter and unnatural silence, came closer to him and knelt beside the couch. Then she bent over him until it seemed that he could smell and taste the unbearable sweetness of her breath, like honey with something quite different under it, the bitterness of the smell of blood.

Suddenly sharp fingernails were on his chest, his arms, his legs, biting his skin like insects, slitting his clothing like steel knives, catching in the fabric and peeling it away. He could do nothing, and he wanted to do nothing.

The blond girl arched her neck and licked her lips, and in the moonlight he could see her body, all of it, the last gossamer covering now gone, and the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red tongue as it lapped the sharp white teeth.

The blond hair came billowing over Harker’s face like a cloud of perfume as the girl bent down. He was aware now that sharp teeth were biting at the cord of his small silver crucifix—let the cross go, he thought, and there it went. And now the other women, too impatient after all to wait their turns, had come to join him on the bed, and their bodies pressed upon him, and their dark hair, snakes and all, was trailing everywhere over his exposed flesh. And still he could not move. Could not. And at the same time he was afraid even to breathe, to stir a finger, lest they should cease what they were doing. And now he could feel their lips, three pairs of lips, three tongues.

And now their teeth, so exquisitely sharp.

So sweet…

Out of nowhere, as it seemed, interruption came.

Somewhere nearby, very close at hand, the storm of fury was rushing on…

Harker groaned with a sharp sense of loss. Insupportable deprivation. His eyes snapped open involuntarily, just in time to see the count’s white hand, inhumanly hairy on the palm and inhumanly strong, clamp itself onto the slender neck of the fair woman.

The young man caught only a brief glimpse of her furious blue eyes before Dracula, with a fierce sweep of his arm, hurled her away across the room. Threw her bodily, as if she had been only a child, a doll.

“How dare you touch him?” The master’s voice was low, but the anger and the danger in it might have crumbled stone. “How dare you, when I have forbidden it? This man belongs to me!”

The youngest, lying in the moonlight where he had thrown her, lying in an awkward, almost insectlike pose, raised a face transformed with fury. “To you? You never loved. You never love!”

The other two women had distanced themselves from Harker now, and it seemed to him that all of them were clothed again. Still he lay in the exact position where they had left him. He felt himself possessed by a languorous, unnatural lethargy, and wondered if he might be dreaming. Again his eyes closed, without his willing it.

When Harker slitted open his lids and looked again, the three women had all crept close, submissively, to Dracula.

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Categories: Saberhagen, Fred