Dracula the Undead
an extract from the novel
by Freda Warrington
Mina Harker's Journal
5 November. All is quiet at last. I am exhausted but I must record what has happened, painful as it is.
Last night, an hour after I had gone to bed and still lay awake, I thought I heard sounds of disturbance from another room - Van Helsing's or Jonathan's, for it was a man's voice I could hear. It was hard to discern. It sounded as if he were arguing with himself, a sort of low growling punctuated by the occasional shout, and thumps as if the furniture were being violently moved about. It was unspeakably chilling to hear these sounds, so faint I was not sure if I imagined them. I got up, put on a dressing-gown and went along the corridor.
The sound was coming from Van Helsing's room; I met Jonathan, approaching from the other direction. 'Perhaps he is ill,' I said. I was glad to see my husband, despite the barrier that has fallen between us.
Jonathan knocked but there was no answer. The sounds from inside the room were now distinct. Van Helsing was groaning, uttering staccato barks of pain, and there were muffled thumps as if he were throwing himself around the room. Urgently Jonathan tried the door, but found it locked. He knocked briskly, calling out, 'Professor, what's wrong? Let us in!'
At once the door shook, as if Van Helsing had thrown himself against it. He shouted gruffly, 'No! You cannot come in! Leave me, for your own safety!'
My sense of foreboding transfixed me. I took a step back, but Jonathan didn't hesitate. He flung his shoulder to the door and the lock gave. The door burst inwards. Van Helsing, in his white night-robe, was standing a few feet away; his bed was in disarray, his reading table overturned and books scattered everywhere. The wall mirror lay broken on the carpet. But this was nothing to the chaos of his expression. His pale hair was on end, his face savage and wild, and his eyes so bloodshot the whites were near scarlet.
'Professor, what has happened?' said Jonathan.
He started forward, but Van Helsing put out his hands, saying in a tortured, cracked tone, 'No, no, Jonathan, keep away! Take your wife away, don't come near, I beg you!'
I saw that he had a big knife in his right hand; the very bowie knife, I believe, that Quincey Morris used to slay Dracula. We both stood still a moment; I could find no power to speak or move. As we watched, Van Helsing, breathing fast and hard, turned the knife and began to force it towards his own left wrist. Sweat streamed down his high forehead.
Ignoring his warnings, Jonathan rushed to him. He tried to seize the arm that wielded the knife, crying, 'No! What the devil are you -'
Van Helsing's eyes blazed red and his lips drew back. Never did I dream that good wise face should show such savagery - but I never dreamed it of Jonathan, either. I cried out but neither man heeded me. Then Van Helsing turned the knife from himself and began to lash out at Jonathan instead. My husband put his arms up to defend himself. The blade came stabbing viciously at him and I held my breath as Van Helsing drove him around the room, slashing at him, his expression hideous.
'Fools!' he cried. 'Now you see that I have power over each one of you, and I have all eternity to torment you to your graves and beyond!'
He slashed the arms of Jonathan's nightshirt to rags. Red blood oozed through. Jonathan fell back on the bed, his arms across his face. He was crying out in agony. A great crimson weight of blood was gathering in his sleeve, dripping through the material on to the bed-linen. With a sob I rushed to him. Van Helsing, meanwhile, stumbled against the side of the bed and stopped, appearing to struggle violently within himself.
He gasped. He spoke strangled words of Dutch, which I could not discern. His face flickered - almost physically changed - between his own physiognomy and another that was evil but horribly familiar to me. He lifted the knife, turned it towards himself and to my astonishment began to force the point two-handed towards his own diaphragm. His struggle was terrible to witness. I wanted to stop him but could not move. His mouth was wide open and his red eyes held mine all the time, making me feel somehow embarrassed - exposed - almost violated, as if an appalling intimacy were passing between us.
The blade indented the folds of his nightshirt. A spreading stain of blood appeared. I shrank back, cradling Jonathan against me, because I was sure Van Helsing meant to kill himself - but as soon as he drew blood, he uttered a terrible cry and fell heavily on to the bed beside us. The knife clattered away. Van Helsing lay gasping and shuddering.
I cannot say how long we remained there; a few minutes only, though it seemed a frozen, ghastly tableau at the time. Then Van Helsing sat up and put his head in his large hands. He was weeping. 'My friends, it is worse, far worse than I could imagine. Your minds did not deceive you. Even dead, the vampire has a spirit that reaches through time to wreak vengeance. What are we to do?'
Some time later, after I had bound up both men's wounds and we had taken some wine to fortify ourselves, Van Helsing told us what had happened.
'I undressed for bed, then sat at the table to study my books. I was not sleepy so I intended to work into the early hours. But as I read I begin to feel strange; the lamp seems dim and I cannot focus on the words. I have a hallucination that the inside of my skull is a great, dark room, and that a voice is whispering in the darkness. I feel a fluttering like bats' wings, soft and intrusive, most unpleasant, but I cannot shake it off. And then I feel... I cannot describe it. I feel him come into this room, which is also my mind.'
'Dracula?' I asked. He nodded. 'Are you sure?'
'I know that malevolent will all too well!' Van Helsing said hoarsely. 'It could be no other. There is only one like him, with such an evil, primitive, arrogant spirit. He possessed me. I was still myself and yet I knew I was him -'
'Yes,' Jonathan put in. 'That's how it was with me!'
'Our two spirits immediately begin to war against each other. I fight to drive him out. He laughs at me. "Now you know the extent of my power," he says. "It is limitless. I can do worse than haunt you; I can control you. If I can order your actions, strongest of my enemies, how easily then can I possess those around you! Your good comrades, your sweet women-folk I can make do anything. And you will never know where I am or who to trust!"' Van Helsing slumped. 'Well, I fight him with all my might. I must have seemed a madman, reeling around the room, shouting to myself - for the damage I cause, please forgive me - but I could not make him leave. Then it seemed to me that the only way to force him out was to harm my own body. I got the knife from among my belongings and that was when Jonathan entered. I begged you to stay away, knowing Dracula would try to harm you. He wanted to kill you, my friend!'
Shuddering, I leaned my head against my husband's. Van Helsing went on, 'I cannot begin to express my horror at what I was forced to do. I cannot ask you to forgive me. At last I knew that the only way to make him stop was to kill myself, to stake my own heart. That is what I tried to do. But the moment I pierced the skin, Dracula fled my body.' He was quiet for a moment, then groaned. 'Mijn God, how are we to fight this? To banish him physically from the house was one thing - but to keep him from our very minds -! Must we destroy ourselves to destroy him?'
To see Van Helsing brought so low distressed me unutterably. I did my best to comfort and cheer the men, and they rallied, but my heart was not in it.
Jonathan's right arm is very badly injured. The knife has severed some nerves and tendons in his forearm, and he can barely move the hand. Van Helsing said it is possible the damage may never heal. He wept with remorse for having inflicted the injury, but Jonathan spoke stoically though he was white with shock. 'It was not you who did this, Professor. It was he, our enemy, Dracula.'
How extraordinary that Elena and Quincey should have slept through it! But what a mercy that they did!
© Freda Warrington 1997
Dracula the Undead is published in UK paperback by Penguin, October 31 1997.
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