May 26

1897 — Publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

 

“You’re one of the predators, aren’t you?  Please don’t hurt me.”

It’s just after dark, and you’ve been hurrying through the abandoned city clutching a canvas bag full of scavenged provisions. There’s medicine in there, too, that could help your daughter.  Until now, your main fear had been that you’d run into another scavenger, and be forced to surrender some or all of your items.

Now, you worry you’ll have to surrender something a bit more permanent.

A thick mist swirls around the stranger who blocks your path.  Such clouds of dust and ash are common in the burnt-out city, but you get a strange impression that the mist comes from the stranger himself, rather than from wind-swept debris.

You know who, or what, he is.

Unlike the movies, or in Stoker’s novel, the stranger isn’t dressed in an elegant tuxedo and cape, standing tall and powerful.  Instead, rags hang from his hunched body.

He doesn’t speak with a foreign accent. He doesn’t speak at all.

“I’m just trying to get home to my family,” you say.

An appeal to compassion, unfortunately doesn’t seem to work.  Perhaps it never does.

The mist continues to swirl.  The cloud creates a kind of aura around the stranger’s body, a strange fog over his face pierced by the flash of bright red eyes.

You’re ready with another plea, consider offering the contents of your canvas bag as a kind of toll to let you pass unharmed.  But the eyes have frozen you in place. You’re unable to speak.

The stranger’s arms move to disperse the mist.  Pale hands push aside the hanging folds of his torn shirt, revealing an ash-gray chest with a pinkish scar down the middle.  A sharp fingernail follows the scar, digging a deep red line above the sternum.  The stranger’s skin seems as loose and threadbare as his torn shirt.

And you’re moving now, against your will, walking through mist and into the embrace of those arms, the touch of those pale hands pushing your face against that horrible shredded chest, turning your head so your mouth presses into the fresh wound, a bitter clotted taste of rotten meat and spoiled milk.

The encounter is much worse than you feared.  This vampire is not a predator, but a recruiter.

As you drink, you dread the crossing from one way of life into another.

 

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Author’s Note:  for another vampire tale, consider “The Dungeon of Count Verlock,” a tie-in to my novel Life in a Haunted House:

    

…To read the full Count Verlock story online for free on my website, click here…

…If you’d prefer an eBook version for only 99 cents, click the cover above to visit Amazon