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

Almost too late he became aware that the voices of the Szgany had suddenly grown louder. Hastily the intruder sprang up and pressed himself back into a recess of the wall. A moment later several Gypsies came in through the main entrance of the chapel, to lift and bear out with them, grunting, one more of the coffins.

As soon as they were gone again Harker emerged from hiding. For the moment the need for knowledge was even stronger than the urge to escape.

Approaching the coffin that stood a little apart from the others, Harker seized and wrenched off the lid, which was still unfastened. Gazing at the revealed contents, he froze in fright and horror.

Dracula, garbed in an ornate robe of golden and bejeweled fabric, was looking back at him.

It took Harker a long, nightmarish moment to realize that the eyes of the man in the box, though they were turned in his direction, did not see him, or at any rate were not really focused upon him.

No doubt, though, that it was the count himself who lay face up inside the coffin of the dark mold, as an ordinary man might recline upon some soft and pleasant bed.

Recovering moment by moment, breath by breath, from the initial shock of the discovery, Harker realized that Dracula must be either dead or asleep—he felt unable to say which, for the count’s open eyes were without either the alertness of life or the glassiness of death. The cheeks seemed to retain the warmth of life through all their pallor; the lips were red, and bore stains of what appeared to be fresh blood, which had trickled from the corners of the mouth. Even the deep, burning eyes seemed set among swollen flesh, for the lids and pouches underneath were bloated. But there was no sign of movement, no reaction to the rude uncovering.

Breathing quickly now, in little moaning gasps of fear and loathing, Harker bent closer, forcing himself to examine his find carefully. Indeed, it seemed to Harker that the whole awful creature was simply gorged with blood—like a filthy leech, exhausted with his repletion.

Making a great effort of will, Harker bent still further over the man—the thing in the shape of a man—lying in the box of earth, and tried, in vain, to discover any sign of life. His hand on Dracula’s chest could find no pulse, no breath, no beating of the heart.

In a moment Harker had nerved himself to search the ornate robe for pockets, hoping to discover keys—but without success. Looking closely into the dead eyes, Harker saw in them, unfocused though they were and unconscious of the intruder’s presence, such a look of hate that the young man recoiled instinctively.

Even as he stepped back fear began to transform into anger.

This, this was the being he, Harker, was helping to transfer to London, where, perhaps, for centuries to come he might, among the teeming millions, satiate his lust for blood and create a new and ever-widening circle of semidemons to batten on the helpless…

To London, where innocent, trusting Mina lived…

Reeling back from the open coffin, sobbing and moaning in his suddenly energized rage and fear, Harker grabbed up one of the shovels that stood handy, and was about the swing the metal edge with all his power against that pale, unliving face.

But at that moment the eyes abruptly altered in the undead face; the gaze of the count fell upon the one who threatened him, and seemed to rob the young man of his full strength.

The shovel dropped from Harker’s hands to clatter on the broken pavement. Staggering back, he came up against the half-ruined mausoleum wall of individual burial vaults. Immediately he was caught at, pinched, by something—no, by several things—pale rootlike things that were attached to this wall, growing from it… They grew out from the wall, and they caught at Harker’s clothing; first one snag and then another.

Without comprehension he stared down at the fingers of a small, white hand that clutched his trouser leg.

In a shock of horror the young man realized that he had once more fallen into the seductive grasp of the three vampire women.

Now he could hear and recognize their sleepy, murmuring voices. Their six pale, bare arms were reaching out through the broken ends of their respective sepulchers to hold him. Their small fingers and their sharp nails were grasping drowsily, weakly, at his clothing, at his body.

Quite clearly he could hear and know the sweet tones of the youngest bride, murmuring seductively from within the vault.

“Don’t leave usss—you want usss tonight—”

The laughter of the three brides tinkled.

He knew that he need only waver in his hard purpose for a moment, and all the wicked delight he had experienced upon that soft moonlit bed would once again be his…

Groaning incoherently, making a tremendous effort, Harker tore himself free. Now running for freedom almost blindly, avoiding the main entrance of the chapel where the Gypsies toiled, he sought the dim fading daylight visible from another direction, low down on a broken wall.

Squeezing his body through the narrow aperture, Harker ran, and fell, and crawled, and ran again.

And now, at last, he reached a place where there were no more stone walls, and he could feel clean rain upon his face. And where the only laughter to be heard was human. Crazy laughter, but quite human.

The laughter kept on and on. It stopped at last only because he needed all his breath to run.


Some weeks later, on a sultry day in early August, Renfield, the former lawyer in the firm of Hawkins and Thompkins, was growing increasingly uneasy in his cell in the asylum at Purfleet. Today even the cultivation of his many lives, his pets, the insects and arachnids and birds that he usually found completely fascinating, had ceased to hold the patient’s interest.

All during the early hours of the warm afternoon Renfield had been riveted to the barred window of his cell, watching the sky, making no response to doctors or attendants who looked in on him, or to the occasional calls and outcries of his fellow inmates.

Just now the summer air in the vicinity of Purfleet was heavy and quiet, but the former solicitor could sense—just how Renfield was able to sense such things he could not have explained—that a mighty storm was approaching from the Channel. In his mind’s eye he could perceive the gray clouds, their masses tinged with sunburst at the far edge, hanging over the gray sea. The fringe of the ocean came tumbling in over the shallows and the sandy flats with a roar, muffled in the sea mists drifting inland. The horizon out there was lost in a gray mist, all was vastness, the clouds were piled like giant rocks, and over the sea hung a murmuring like some presage of doom. Dark indistinguishable figures, sometimes half-shrouded in the mist, moved on the beaches.

What was stranger, much stranger, than the fact of the onrushing tempest, was that the tremendous storm was controlled. In Renfield’s perception, it was as if Nature herself were being manipulated by a single, powerful hand. It was a hand whose identity the madman was sure he could recognize, that of the very Master whose coming Renfield had so long and eagerly awaited.

Naturally enough the oncoming tempest was driving ships racing before its winds. That in itself was only to be expected. But—

One ship in particular, a foreign sailing vessel, loomed up clearly in Renfield’s perception. There was something very special about this craft; something in its cargo, yes, that was it—a kind of miracle all crated in the hold…

But he dared not even think much about that now.

Today the heavy air held glorious secrets, secrets that for the time being must be kept…

Even after the passage of weeks, Renfield’s bones still ached from the beating he had received at the hands of the attendants who had been trying to protect Dr. Seward from him. Poor Dr. Seward; he wasn’t really Renfield’s enemy.

No… there was really no benefit to be derived from strangling Dr. Seward.

The storm was coming. Closer now.

Renfield’s arms and legs moved stiffly as at last he retreated from the window. It was high time, he thought, that he reviewed his cultivation of small lives in all the corners of his cell. Small indeed, but when properly accumulated, they could still be important.

Crouching on the floor, he murmured to his flies and spiders: “Gather ’round, my pets; the Master of all life will soon be at hand.”

Thomas Bilder, senior keeper at the London Zoological Gardens adjoining Regent’s Park, and a resident, with his wife, of one of the small cottages behind the elephant house, was proud to have in his charge the whole collection of wolves and jackals and hyenas.

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Categories: Saberhagen, Fred