- by Mackenzie O'Rear
Edited by Brien Bigelow
Illustrations by Lucas Marra
Blake had no will when he died, believing he would one day become a true immortal. There were no true born heirs to his estate and small fortune, often pursuing fleeting liaisons with prostitutes, rather than anything lasting. The various banks had all tried to lay claim to it, hoping to fill their coffers with what fortune he had amassed in his lifetime. That is, until Sarah and Blake arrived in the middle of the night and claimed it all.
Few tried to protest her claim. After all, there was an unmistakable resemblance Sarah had not only shared with her father, but every Blake that came before her. Those that did try to challenge her found themselves quite intimidated by her entourage of strange characters. To this day, many of them would claim they simply forgot what they were doing after meeting one particularly pale fellow who had accompanied her.
Once everything was in order, Sarah was rarely seen in London, but those who did cross her path would all tell the same tale of how beautiful and full of life she had looked. Even the scar across her neck had faded into nothing more than a small mark, unnoticeable unless you already knew it was there, and if you asked her about it, she would smile at you and simply say it was a reminder of a different time.
The bag she used to carry so closely by her side became lighter as the years went on, until she stopped carrying it all together. No one noticed of course, mostly because they were all distracted by how youthful she looked, even after all the years that had passed. It was as if time itself had not wanted to touch her, stunned by the beautiful woman she had become.
Of course, that brought its own problems of suitors, who would try to hunt her down over time. There was word she was back in town, blowing in from all over the world, wherever her heart had taken her. She had no interests in them, though. She had her own life to lead now. It was hers, and she cherished it with every breath, every heartbeat, and every memory.
If one were to ask her friend, Lady De Marine, what had happened to Sarah, well, she would smile and simply tell the questioner to follow the wind or listen to the water. She had simply disappeared in the midst of a supposed vampire sighting, wherein the phantom in question had appeared in the midst of a party, breathed blue flames, and disappeared out the window. He led them on a chase all through London and when he seemed to have been gone for good, they returned to find Lady Sarah Blake had vanished.
Word traveled that if you wandered into the deserts of Egypt, on quiet nights when the moon was shining and the wind was low, you see a woman in a pale gold dress, wandering the desert and smiling. Some say if you were lucky, you’d see her in Paris, looking through the windows of the various shops or trying on a new dress. One noble who was visiting family in Ireland swore up and down that he had seen the fair maiden walking through the woods of a nearby forest, accompanied by a pack of large wolves, unafraid and even smiling in their presence.
She became a legend in her own right. A wandering spirit of magic and mystery the likes of which sailors would tell each other on lonely nights. Woman or ghost, or maybe something in between. Sarah Blake would go wherever she pleased until the end of time. Happy, content, and truly free.
No one in the village mourned the death of Jacob Jameson. He was found dead as a doornail, cowering in the corner of his home. His face was pale and twisted in fear, which the local physicians had used to determine the terrible man had died of fear. It was a minor talking point amongst the gossips of what could have scared such an angry, bitter person into an early grave, but it was quickly forgotten when his young son reappeared in town the next day.
The beloved son of the oldest family in the region had returned home to reclaim the land that had brought them such pride, and not a moment too soon. The poor boy’s daft father seemed to have lost his mind after his daughter had passed, thinking there was silver under the hills. Some even suspected her had married Finn’s mother for that very reason, and after he had disappeared, money exchanged hands, paperwork was signed, and men began to show up in droves, ready to burn the forest and begin digging into the hills.
Then Finn showed up and proved he had been the true heir to the land, and that was that. His father’s body was dumped unceremoniously into an unmarked grave, while his son took up residence in the small home he had been born in. That was when the peculiarities began to occur.
There had always been local legends surrounding the hamlet. Large wolves that would stalk the night and protect the villagers from all sorts of horrible people, like robbers and thieves. They were old stories, of course, only remembered by the oldest members of the village, who always seemed to be the fondest of Finn and his kin, not that anyone would make the connection. Especially after the stories began to resurface.
The wolves the people of the village had always known were out there suddenly seemed to be more prominent. What was even more bizarre was some said they saw them walking on their hind legs, just like any other person. The elders of the village would simply laugh and tell their children and their children’s children to ‘pay no attention to the faoladh’ and they were there to ‘protect them.’
Finn, who had always been a small and sickly little thing, had changed quite a bit from his time abroad. He was healthy and strong, with wild hair and a grin some would have even called wolfish. If he had been well-liked by the village before, now he was loved beyond all belief. He would go all round, helping wherever he was needed, for years to come.
One day, an old woman emerged from the forest, but wise people would go on to say she was a Phooka., a trickster spirit, with red eyes and a pale face that danced with her into the village. When the elders saw old Neasa, they laughed and chided her for not letting them know she was alive. Slowly but surely, more of Finn’s family, long forgotten to time, began to resurface, seemingly prodded by Finn.
No one questioned they didn't seem to age, or when they disappeared into the night, the wolves would howl and sing more vibrantly and loudly than ever. Legend and myth didn’t matter so much anymore. The wolves had returned to Ireland with Finn, and everything was well.
Gregory sat alone in their study. His study. He hated thinking of the large estate as only belonging to him. In reality, it was his wife, Corrine who had decorated the place with all manner of odds and ends they had gathered in their tours around the world. Priceless treasures that would have made any collector in London salivate just looking at them. He would have traded it all away if he could have seen Corrine again.
He had given her body over to that Marlowe fellow, who had promised there was a chance she could be brought back. No matter how mad it sounded, he had to try. A day later, he was told the procedure had failed. The remains had been buried, and she was well and truly gone. To Gregory, it felt as though he had lost the love of his life all over again. It was a pain too much to bear.
Turning to drink had become his only option in his mind. He spent most days in a stupor, going into the wine cellar and grabbing whatever bottle was in reach. It didn’t even matter what year it was if it tasted good. He would uncork it and down it without a second thought for a glass. It never got rid of the pain, but it numbed it just enough for him to still be alive.
When the wine ran dry, he turned to harder alcohol. He’d drink whisky, bourbon and whatever else could get the job done. Gregory would buy more once his bottle ran out. He would begin to look forward to inevitably passing out, dreading the next morning, when he would again be conscious to remember the face of his dead wife.
Gregory looked out the large window from his chair, to the city Corrine had loved so much, a tumbler of amber liquid in his hand. He didn’t know if it was whisky, rum, or bourbon. Desperately, he wished it were poison.
He caught his own reflexion staring back at him from the window and sighed. If Corrine could see him now, she would have berated him for being so unkempt. His hair had grown long into a tangled mess, and his beard was more akin to a thicket than hair. His eyes had a sunken-in, tired look. The clothes he wore were several days old, and he was sure the smell had been awful but he just didn't care anymore.
Turning round, he saw the pistol saw on the table. Sinister and silver, yet so inviting. He lost count of how many times he had held it up to his own skull, his finger on the trigger. One little squeeze, and it would all be over, and he could see her again. But then he would think of her face. The smile she had, so warm and bright and inviting. Even in the dark, the stars seemed l dim compared to her visage.
Shame would wash over, him and he would put the pistol down, never putting it away. The urge grew harder every day to resist, to finally follow through. It hurt so much, looking round the room, being reminded of his beloved. Memories rushed through him as he downed his drink, his throat now immune from the burn.
Sitting down in his chair facing the window, he poured himself a drink and began to weep. He tried to have another drink, but found himself unable to summon the strength to bring it to his lips, opting instead to throw it at the wall with a crash. He didn’t care if any of the servants heard, as they were probably used to it by now.
His eyes fell upon the pistol once more, and the urge overcame him. He reached for it, almost lovingly bringing to his temple. He cocked the hammer and took one final look at the city of London.
‘I’m coming, my love,’ he said. He closed his eyes, and was about to squeeze the trigger, when the gun was taken from him. He looked up to see a man with a wide grin staring back at him, twirling the pistol around his fingers.
‘Are you the devil, coming to take me?’ Gregory asked. Though it was hardly possible, the stranger’s smile grew wider.
‘Only one way to find out,’ he said, and disappeared through the open door. Gregory stood and gave chase through the lavish mansion. Room after room, he would catch sight of the demon’s coattails disappearing behind another doorway. Up and up he went, until he stood before a particular door and stopped. He could feel the pain and anguish emanating from the room he had shared with his beloved, having not set foot into it since her death.
Something made a noise behind the door, like a giggle, which infuriated him. Was the spectre mocking him? Stepping into such a sacred place was blasphemous to him. Gregory grabbed the handle and threw the door open, only to be met with a familiar smile he had thought had been gone forever. Corrine stood before him, silhouetted against the window like an angel from heaven.
She was smiling. It wasn’t berating or disappointed. It was a look she had given him many times that had said: ‘Silly. What do you think you’re doing?’
‘Hello, Gregory,’ she said. ‘I’ve missed you.’ Her own eyes began to tear up, as Gregory stared in awe at her.
‘I’m dead,’ he said. ‘I actually did it.’ She placed her right hand onto his cheek, and he could feel its warmth.
‘I’m real,’ she said. ‘You were lied to. I wanted to come to you. To tell you-!’ Before she could finish, Gregory kissed her, embracing her. The world seemed to dissolve away, as they held one another, crying together in the darkness. He pulled away and looked at her, taking her all in before taking her hands. He looked down to see they were mismatched, and she pulled away.
‘I’m a little different now,’ she said, afraid. ‘It’s like this all over.’ She gestured towards her left hand. ‘I don’t…’ He took her hand in his and held it tight. He looked deep into her eyes and smiled for the first time in months. Without a word, they embraced once more. It didn’t matter if she had died or was made up of new parts. They were together and that was all that mattered. They sat like that for the entire night, until the sun rose on a new day and a new chance.
The world was shocked to find she was alive, and they enjoyed quite a bit of fame for it. They would go on to lead their lives, helping others with Corrine’s new perspective. Something Gregory was more than happy to do. They were together now, and they always would be.
Many years later…
The author typed away furiously on his latest manuscript. He had been working on the story for nearly a decade, and thought it was finally time to be told. He had written articles under a pseudonym a long time ago by a particular Doctor Marlowe.
London was in a panic, afraid of the vampire Stoker had masterfully woven into a monster to truly be afraid of. Marlowe would send him letters with tidbits of information and he would adapt it into a true masterwork of horror and suspense, and now was the time to resurrect it.
It had been a thought in the back of his mind so long, and since he hadn’t heard a word from the good Doctor in a long time, he would use them all in his grand work, changing the names, of course. He was nearing the end of it all, where the group had chased the dreaded vampire count into the abbey, and were preparing to put a stake into him, when something caught his eye.
Standing as though he had always been there was a tall, thin man with pale skin. He wore a top hat that covered his eyes, though the author could think he was being stared at from underneath it.
‘Evening, sir,’ said the man. ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you.’ He extended his hand, which the author took. He immediately felt a chill run down his spine, as the man’s hand was icy cold, like a corpse that had been buried in the ground for years.
‘Who are you?’ asked the author, in shock. ‘How did you get in here?’
‘Harrow,’ said the man. ‘Vincent Harrow.’ He stared into the author’s face, as if he were waiting for a particular reaction, one that never came.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Stoker. ‘Should I know that name?’ Vincent hid a smile.
‘No,’ he said. ‘I suppose you wouldn’t., though you did invite me to your lovely home a long time ago.’ There was something hypnotic about Vincent’s eyes that made Stoker immediately want to do whatever he said. ‘Forgive me. Sometimes I forget about that.’ Upon hearing those words, the author snapped out of his trance.
‘Forget about what?’ he asked., trying desperately to place the face before him.
‘Nothing important,’ said Vincent. ‘You may be wondering what a stranger like me is doing calling upon you in the dead of night. It has to do with your.-'
‘My book?’ said the author, before it dawned on him. ‘My book! Of course. You must have heard I am working on quite the thrilling tale. Come this way.’ He led Vincent into his study, and showed him the stack of paper of the nearly completed novel. ‘I assume you’re a publisher.’
‘Something like that,’ said Vincent, thumbing through the loose papers. Stoker had not even seen him pick it up, and he seemed to be reading it extremely quickly.
‘Can I get you anything?’ asked the author. ‘Tea? Maybe a glass of wine.?’ Vincent looked up at him, amused.
‘No thank you,’ he said. ‘I never drink wine. This is quite the story you have hear.’
‘Thank you,’ said the author with pride. ‘I had to research quite a bit to get the details right.’ Vincent laughed.
‘I don’t recall vampires having an aversion to religion,’ he said. ‘And this thing about the stake through the heart, where did that come from?’ Vincent stared at the author, which began to unnerve him. He started to think the young man before him resembled a predator that had just cornered his prey. He swallowed hard.
‘I’m sorry, Mr. Harrow,’ he said. ‘But which publishing company did you say you were with?’
‘I didn’t,’ replied Vincent, He set down the manuscript and took a step towards Stoker.
‘Then how do we know one another?’
‘We were introduced once, at a party at Lady Blake’s house,’ said Vincent. ‘Right round the time she disappeared.’
‘Yes,’ replied the author. ‘That…strange man who vanished…the vampire…he had introduced us. I still have nightmares about that night.’ Vincent laughed.
‘Yes,’ he chided. ‘Jack would have found it amusing to hear. people thought he was the vampire.’ That’s when he saw it. The author kept a liquor cabinet close to his workstation, and it was in the glass he saw his reflexion, and only his reflexion.
‘You…’ whispered the author, his heart leaping from his chest into his throat as he suddenly remembered the face. A young man working at the asylum, whom he once invited to talk about literature. ‘I remember you now.’ Vincent smiled, revealing a pair of very sharp- looking fangs.
‘I was your Renfield,’ said Vincent. ‘But now, I am your Dracula.’ The author backed up, until he was flat against the wall.
‘What do you want?’ he asked.
‘My wife and I were in the country to visit a friend,’ said Vincent, matter-of-factly, ‘when I heard about this little project of yours. You were the one that wrote those articles about me all those years ago, weren’t you?’
‘It was that Doctor Marlowe,’ said the author, who began to sweat. ‘He paid me. Said it would make me famous.’ Vincent smiled at Marlowe’s name, like he was remembering a particularly good memory.
‘Paid well, it seems,’ he said, looking round the author’s estate. ‘I’d say well earned.’
‘I won’t publish the book,’ whimpered the author. That’s why you’re here, correct? To stop me?’ Vincent laughed, which sent a chill down the author’s spine.
‘On the contrary,’ said Vincent. ‘I have no intention of stopping you. If anything, I wished to give you my blessing.’
‘B-b-blessing?’ stammered the author, confused. ‘What do you mean? Everyone will know about you after this?’
‘It’s only a book,’ said Vincent. ‘A work of fiction. When people read it, they will let us fade into myth and legend, where we would prefer to be.’
‘Us?’ said the author. ‘Are there more of you?’
‘Not quite, if you're asking about vampires,’ said Vincent. ‘But have no worries. We don’t hunt people like you.’
‘What kind of people do you hunt?’ asked the author, curiously. Vincent smiled again, letting his fans glisten in the candlelight.
‘There are many monsters in the world,’ said Vincent. ‘Not all of them hide in the dark or have fangs. Some walk round in broad daylight and convince you they’re human. Now you’ll excuse me, I believe it is time to take my leave.’ Vincent gave a low bow, before placing his top hat back onto his head. He turned back to Stoker.
‘Keep up the good work, the author,’ he said. ‘And have a good evening…Mr. Stoker.”’And with that, Vincent vanished into mists that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Stoker was left there, stunned, until he chuckled to himself. He had been struck with inspiration and began to write once more.
‘I never drink wine,’ he muttered to himself as he wrote out the words on the page. ‘That’s a fantastic line.’ He began to write away, long into the night, ready to tell the tale of the vampire for a new generation. He would teach them all there were things that lurked in the darkness. Things that drank the blood of the living and could turn into bats and wolves. And as Vincent had said, they would fade into myth and legend, where they belonged in peace. Monsters in a world of humans, and yet more human than most.
The sun sets and the night rises. Immortals from all walks of life roam the Earth, hidden in plain sight, wanting only one thing: to live and love just as we do, hidden in the darkness.
Presented by Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company
Victorian Nightmares 2018
All Rights Reserved