Tagged: Van Helsing



This week, Cliffhanger Fiction from Moonstone brings you the next terrifying chapter in a horrifying tale of  the Lord of Vampires himself written by the capable hands of Martin Powell!  If you’re interested in getting the whole collection this story of Dracula appears in, then follow the link at the end of the tale…

A Prequel to
Bram Stoker’s Novel
Martin Powell
Part Two
Van Helsing studied the uninvited visitor with a quick sweeping study.  Although peculiarly pale, and possessing fiercely probing eyes, the stranger seemed normal enough at first glance.  In fact, despite an undeniably commanding demeanor, the gentleman seemed quite congenial, even cultured in his manner.  Still, there was something oddly foreign about him that even the worldly Van Helsing couldn’t quite place.
“I have never heard of you before in my life, Count,” Van Helsing said curtly.  “Yet, you say that you know me.  If that is so, then you must realize that I am a man pressed for time with many other duties.  May I ask why you have disturbed my privacy this evening?”
Dracula took a single silent step forward, suddenly a prowling black-draped panther of a man, losing some of his amiable comportment.
“Physician, anthropologist, attorney, theologian, student of the occult, and master of a dozen different scientific disciplines…I am fully aware of your accomplishments and reputation, Doctor,” he spoke excellent English, though with a strange intonation as if unpracticed in speaking aloud.
“Indeed?” Van Helsing scowled.
“I know, for example, that many years ago as a curious student you investigated an infamously haunted monastery in Tibet.  Although your initial purpose was to scientifically disprove its supernatural reputation, you came away from that terrible place a very changed and enlightened man.  You had learned…too much.  Although kept largely secret from your learned brethren, your true life’s work is the scientific pursuit of the unnatural, the unearthly, of Life beyond Death.  It has become the engine that drives you.”
The scientist was stunned.
“How…do you know these things?  I never wrote of my Tibetan explorations.  Never spoke of them to a living soul.”
Count Dracula paused for a brief moment, a sinister smile on his sensual red lips.
“Rejoice, Dr. Van Helsing, your long search has ended,” he moved nearer, black cloak writhing.  “I am your obsession personified.”
The floor seemed to sway and the gaslight faded.  Van Helsing caught the edge of a chair to steady himself.  There was something about the stranger’s eyes, with their weird ruby illusion reflecting the firelight, which pierced and drained the doctor’s strength.  He felt suddenly drugged.
“I…I don’t understand,” the doctor found it difficult to speak as the Count continued to stare with his knowing, animal smile.
Dracula glided closer still, placing a sharp-nailed hand upon Van Helsing’s shoulder, inducing an involuntary shudder.
“Don’t you, Doctor?  Then, allow me to help clarify what you oddly fail to realize.  There is an old adage, I believe, very close to the heart of every scientific man,” the Count explained, indicating the large heavily framed mirror behind them.  “Behold—for in seeing there is believing.”
Van Helsing breathlessly gazed at his astonished reflection.  The Count’s hand had continued to grip the doctor’s coat.  He was fully aware of  the uncannily controlled, hideous strength contained in that white bloodless talon.
Yes, there was no doubt, Van Helsing still felt that dreadful grasp, and yet, somehow, unbelievably…Count Dracula’s own image was utterly absent in the glass!
The scientist’s blood pounded icily in his temples.  There was but one implausible explanation.
A single, weighted, alien word escaped Van Helsing’s learned lips.
“Van Helsing has betrayed me,” Renfield couldn’t remain still, stalking a visible trail across the rug.
Muttering and constantly crossing himself, he was persistently in motion, twitching and agitated like a beast in pain.  No less than three times during the past quarter hour Renfield stabbed a hated, frantic glance at the clock, and contemptuously shook his head.  He had grown leaner and wilder-eyed during the past several nights.
Monsignor Russell frowned for a long moment, finally forcing a kindly smile.
“Dr. Van Helsing said that we might not see him for a while,” the elder priest offered.  “His last telegram spoke of some great emergency, but he also prescribed that you remain safely here in the Rectory.  Above all, he accentuated that you should never lose hope.  He will find a way to help you, Mr. Renfield.”
“Ah, yes, of course.  ‘Hope Springs Eternal’…” Renfield growled, beneath clenched teeth.  “But Eternity scoffs back at us, Monsignor.  It mocks me with its empty promises.  Just as Van Helsing humiliates me by his negligence.”
Renfield spun, savagely tearing open the curtains to stare up at the moon.  Almost at once, his breathing slowed, his nervousness diffused.  Monsignor Russell had seen this effect before with Renfield.  Sometimes the moon alone seemed to be the only thing capable of calming him, if only for a moment.
 Renfield continued his reverie of the shimmering orb for several minutes, his lips moving without noise.
“Did you know, Monsignor,” he finally spoke low, trance-like.  “That the moon doesn’t possess any actual light of its own?  Moonlight is merely reflected sunlight…no matter what else we may choose to call it.”
The Monsignor didn’t recognize the subtle shift in Renfield’s voice.  The hysteria had dimmed, and something of the man’s former scholarly nature returned.  It was a welcomed, if sudden, change after many nights of wild proclamations and tremulous seizures.
“Why, that’s quite interesting, Mr. Renfield,” the old priest sounded relieved.  “I didn’t realize that you included astronomy among your other many areas of scientific expertise.”
The moonlight felt cold upon Renfield’s skin, raising gooseflesh along the hackles of his neck.  When he turned again to face the Monsignor, the icy light of madness glowed silver-blue upon his twisted face.
“Merely pointing out one of the innumerable ways that this world lies to us, Monsignor,” he said, lurching toward the old man.
“Mr. Renfield…what…what’re you doing?  Stop—stay back!  For the love of God—”
Monsignor Russell sought retreat, but the madman’s hands were already at his throat.  Renfield wanted to wrench and wring, but he released his grip once the old man ceased to struggle, letting him flop unconscious on the hard floor.
“I’m doing what your God will not,” Renfield flung on his cloak, emerging out into the blue moonlight.  “No matter the price, no matter what I must do…I am going to save my daughter.”
It was a little before when Adelaide’s demon awakened her, both boiling lungs erupting into her throat.  She coughed up a spasm of pink fluid, certain for many long minutes that she was drowning within herself.  Ever paler and trembling, she fought fiercely for breath.   Dr. Van Helsing’s crucifix offered only a cold weight upon her breast.
Adelaide fought the compulsion to call out for Sister Charles, knowing it could all be over much sooner this way.  Perhaps, at last, this was the end.  Death was only a door, all the priests had said.  She had been chained as a prisoner in its terrible threshold for much too long.
Concentrating persistently against the pain, Adelaide struggled hard to think of happy little memories as a small girl, and finally found a few.  Unlike her daydreams, desperately uttered prayers only seemed to sink impotently away into the ether.
Adelaide was more than half-dreaming of the briny, gull-fluttered air of Dover when she perceived a tiny cry.  There!  She heard it again, now fully awake.  Was it reality, she puzzled, not merely the pleasured caw of the seagulls of her girlhood?  There, again!  More like the cottony coo of a dove.  And it was real, was it not?  She had to know.
The cold floor bit Adelaide’s bare feet, her dressing gown remained at the end of the bed.  Both of her dancing hands traced the wall to the door, and with a weakened wrench she opened it.  Again, there were the stifled sobs, this time very near.  Adelaide’s practiced, sensitive fingers found a soft-tressed, quietly quavering child curled into a corner of the icy corridor.
“Poor thing!  Why, you’re only a little girl,” Adelaide gasped.  “Hush now, don’t be frightened.  What’s your name?”
There was a pause as the child gathered courage.  Looking up in the dim light she was comforted by Adelaide’s sweetness, though was puzzled that she didn’t quite look at her.
“Lucy…Lucy Westenra,” she sniffled prettily.  “I awoke and was lost.”
“It’s all right, dear.  I’m Adelaide Renfield, you’re not alone now.  Are you a patient here, Lucy?” she lightly touched the girl’s trembling cheek.
The girl nodded, but then sharply realized that Adelaide couldn’t see her.
“I was…walking in my sleep, Miss.  I do that a lot…during bad dreams.  That’s why I’m here,” Lucy admitted, her shoulders slumping.
“Sleepwalking is no reason for shame.”
Both turned to the low, cultivated voice behind them.  Little Lucy looked at the gentleman standing in the arched corridor, and she smiled.
Warily, Adelaide stood slowly upright, sensitive to the abrupt drop in temperature.  She tightly clasped the girl’s small hand.
“Your voice is unfamiliar, sir.  Are you the physician on duty?” she felt, for some reason, quite unexpectedly apprehensive.
There was much too long a pause.
“Not a doctor at all, are you?  I think you are a king,” Lucy offered, bravely stepping a bit forward.
A shorter pause.
“How cunning for one who has not yet begun her own lifetime,” he replied, amused.
Adelaide tilted her head, mystified.  True, the cultured masculine voice was unknown to her, but the stranger’s silent stately presence seemed to stir half-forgotten memories of her own untold dreams.  Was she dreaming now?  Who was this man?
“Count Dracula!”
Van Helsing clamoured before them, his boot heels creating a chorus of hollow echoes.
“Dr. Van Helsing?” Adelaide felt flushed, and suddenly warmer.
The scientist darted quick nervous glances at the odd trio in the arched hall.  Jaw muscles flexing, he glowered at the Count, then back to Adelaide.
“Miss Renfield…this child…what on earth—”
“Please, don’t be cross with me, Doctor,” Adelaide held Lucy close.  “This gentleman and I are merely escorting little Lucy back to her room.”
Again, Van Helsing studied both patients, then looking down at the pretty dark-eyed child he forced a smile.
“Allow me to accompany the both of you, my dear,” he gently clasped their elbows, again narrowing his eyes at Dracula.  “Meet me in the laboratory, as we had previously arranged, Count.  I will join you presently.”
Van Helsing could feel the vampire’s stare through the back of his collar.  He was careful not to return the gaze.  Adelaide found comfort in the doctor’s firm grip.  Little Lucy couldn’t help but glance back at the tall, black-clad figure behind them.
“Where is he from, Doctor?” Adelaide wanted to know.  “There is something so strong, yet also so sad in his voice.”
He frowned a long moment, then patted her hand.
“The Count is quite ill,” he offered.  “He has come here from a very great distance seeking a cure.”
“Then, why don’t you make him better?” Lucy scowled, snatching her hand away.
The doctor nodded seriously, his face reflected a steely inner strength.
“I will, my dear young lady.  As God is my witness.  I swear it.”
Something that wasn’t blood drew slowly from Dracula’s veins into the hypodermic syringe.  Repressing a shudder, Dr. Van Helsing forced himself to focus on the routine of his examination.  Count Dracula had stood in stilled silence for several hours, like the stopped hands of a clock.
Van Helsing’s highly trained concentration finally snapped, broken by the eerie atmosphere radiated by this macabre patient.
“I must insist upon punctuality, Count,” he warned, finally finding his nerve.  “We were to meet here at sunset.  Did you not agree upon your honour to place yourself in my hands, when I granted to help you?  You must never again be late for these appointments.  If I am to have any effect here, any at all, I must be master or I can do nothing.  Do you understand?”
Dracula remained motionless, at certain moments he seemed more shadow than man.
“I understand that you don’t trust me, Doctor.”
The scientist attempted to face the creature, but could not endure the piercing glare of the red eyes.
“I know what you are,” he said, flatly.
Returning to the laboratory work, Van Helsing handled the specimen with all the reverence of a religious artifact.  He had lost all perspective since his initial encounter with this most rare and unusual patient, disregarding many others.  How long had that been?  Days,  at least, surely.  Possibly more than a week, he couldn’t be certain.  He’d hardly eaten, or slept.  Blindly absorbed with each impossible fact he had discovered, the great scientist grew ever voracious for more knowledge.  The existence of Dracula had become both Van Helsing’s greatest passion and also, possibly, his most profound weakness.  He realized this painfully.  Still, he couldn’t stop now.
Meticulously smearing the vacuous fluid on a glass slide to scrutinize under the microscope, Van Helsing again audibly gasped peering into the eyepiece.
“Progress, Doctor?” the Count’s words were like low, distant thunder.
“It’s nothing less than miraculous,” Van Helsing shook his head in disbelief.  “You are without blood pressure.  No respiration, except when you speak.  There is no pupil contraction under the influence of bright lamp light.  And, I have never seen such anemic blood cells as these.  There is no life within you, yet the presence of decay is also extinct.”
          Van Helsing rose from the instruments and slowly, warily, circled Dracula as he would a savagely caged animal.
          “Dead and yet immune to Death.  You are truly not of this world, Count Dracula,” he admitted in whispered awe.
          The flickering gaslight played strangely upon the vampire, moving shadows into macabre shapes that exist only beyond the wall of sleep.  He remained in his ghostly silence.
          “You possess the physical strength of more than a dozen mortal men,” Van Helsing spun upon his heels, lecturing as if to further convince himself.  “There is something akin to mesmerism about you, as well.  Frequently I have found it difficult to see you, except in my direct line of vision.  I’ve also detected biological evidence indicating that you are indeed just as staggeringly, unimaginably ancient as you’ve attested.  Inexplicably, the elements of fog, wind, and storm seem enslaved by your mental command.  I am frankly astounded.  And yet, I also suspect that you possess even more supernatural prowess, which you have decisively kept secret from me.”
          At that the Count smiled, slightly.
          “I confess it,” the doctor continued, wearily defeated one second, fervently vibrant the next. “This unprecedented investigation has given ponderous weight to my own ignorant arrogance.  Obviously, we scientists are fools—understanding very little of the true world and we have, all of us, long believed in many wrong things.  Now, however, I begin to see the light.  I am admittedly…very much in your debt, Count Dracula.”
          Van Helsing offered a brief, formal bow to the vampire.
          “You have learned enough, then?” Dracula glided forward, his expression and inflection suddenly more human.
          The room itself seethed with tension.  Dr. Van Helsing pondered the question thoughtfully.  There was still so much he didn’t understand.
          “Before I answer,” he rubbed his chin,  “there is something more I must know.  I’m afraid that it’s a philosophical query, rather than a physiological one.  Yet I sorely need to understand before we continue forward.”
          The Count nodded, pensively.
          “Ask your question.”
          Van Helsing drew in an excited breath.
“Why should an immortal being,” the scientist began, “himself not subject to the established laws of nature or society, wish to become…human again, even if such a thing was essentially possible?”
          Dracula moved closer, his flowing cloak a living part of the room’s gloom.
          “I would think that was obvious to a theologian brilliant as yourself, Doctor.  You see before you a semblance of a man who has roamed the world for centuries, seeking the ruin of souls, feeding upon Christian blood,” the Count said, hollowly.  “My long-past human life seems now little more to me now than a dimming dream.  Suffice to say that certain secrets must forever remain my own, however,  I have indeed succeeded in surviving my own grave and have buried many, many enemies…but now the wars of old are over.”
          Van Helsing started to speak, but Dracula raised a commanding hand and continued.
“Make no mistake, I fully acknowledge that I am a monster,” the vampire stated.  “And, as such, I am aware of much more, besides.  What you take on mere blind religious faith,  is unrelenting reality to me.  The soldier that I am has long accepted the inescapable inevitability that I will one day be destroyed, most likely by a learned man of knowledge such as yourself.  Much more than any mortal man, I know that literal Hell is waiting for me.”
The chamber resounded a moment, the vampire’s pronouncement ringing in the stone walls, although the words had not been of great volume.  Dracula remained impassive and proud, seeming now even taller, a magnificent devil in black.
“Yes…yes, I see.  I believe I am dimly beginning to understand,” Van Helsing nodded.  “You hope for redemption, Count Dracula.”
Rising autumn wind scratched a tree branch across the window pane with a scuttling cackle, pouring through a crack with a low lonely howl.  The lights dimmed, the fire dying in the hearth.  Palpable evil smothered the chamber.
“I seek only Escape,” the creature corrected.
The scientist lurched backwards, feeling the dampness of the grave from the Count’s whispered hiss.  He wanted to flee, to dash wildly into the London back-alleys, losing himself to madness.  Then shaking his head sorrowfully, he ached with a sudden pity.  A monster, a daemon stood before him, truly.  Yet, the doctor’s own faith taught that no soul was lost which also sought mercy, whatever its stains of sin.  No one was past hope or beyond forgiveness.  Van Helsing could not do less than follow that testament.
“I know not how this terrible curse came to you, Count,” he began, softly.  “Only you know the full degree of your own liability for the many, many terrible things you’ve done.  I will not—I cannot judge you.  We physicians are blessed, sometimes we are permitted by Providence to heal those who are sick in body or even in mind.  However, your disease is a malignancy of the spirit, quite outside the realm of my meager influence.  It is not in my power to help you.”
Livid rage twisted the Count’s waxen face, only to gnarl into a mask of such anguished passion as Van Helsing had never before witnessed.  He found himself clasping Dracula’s shoulder, in an unconscious effort of comfort.
“Do not despair,” he said softly.  “True, my poor methods are limited in these matters, but there is another scientist, a colleague, whose own metaphysical experiments have shown great promise.”
Dracula’s eyes flashed.
“Bring him to me.”
Van Helsing gestured slowly, speaking low as one would to calm a wild animal.
“Never fear, I have already sent a telegram, and today I received a response,” he explained.  “He will arrive tomorrow evening.  We are very fortunate, indeed, to have such a mighty brain on our side.  In all of London there is no scientific adventurer more brilliant than Dr. Henry Jekyll.”
Come back next week for the next spine tingling terrifying chapter of this horrific tale.  Want more Moonstone Vampires?  Then go to http://moonstonebooks.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=427 and purchase VAMPIRES-DRACULA AND THE UNDEAD LEGIONS today!



This week, Cliffhanger Fiction from Moonstone takes a different turn into the pulpiness of HORROR!  And who better to do this with than the Lord of Vampires himself in the capable hands of Martin Powell!  If you’re interested in getting the whole collection this story of Dracula appears in, then follow the link at the end of the tale…

A Prequel to
Bram Stoker’s Novel
Martin Powell
          The night fog glided in like a dimly glowing ghost, brushing wetly across the weathered window sill.  A soft grey drizzle droned through the empty branches scratching against the single pane as the cottage girl hummed a sweet sigh alone in her bed.
Outside, the darkness was waiting to get in.
Through dreamy half-closed lids the girl’s eyes dilated slowly, engorged with the night, sleepily shuddering in her intimate invitation.  The small room grew suddenly colder, despite the crisply crackling hearth.  Without a sound, except for the thunder in her veins, a looming black presence filled the bedchamber eclipsing the firelight.
She drew down the bedclothes languidly, breathless in her anticipation.  A pale luminescent face separated itself from the mist as if it had been a part of it, the feral nostrils pulsing with the girl’s moistened fragrance.  Shining eyes the color of polished pennies smoldered in the shadows of hollow sockets.  The creature bowed and poured its long black form across the bed, caressing the heaving hips and panting bosom of the girl like a carnally weighted shadow.  They both wanted this.
Her delicate features winced only slightly at the sight of the sharp white teeth between livid lips the colour of bruised wine.  Shuddering against the chill of the gaping mouth fastening upon her naked throat, the girl tightly curled her toes against the gentle hurt.
Hours passed and the dark thing remained with the girl, nursing at the slope of her whitening neck until she was gone.  Drawing upon now hollowed veins the creature remained fixed, unsatisfied, with the life it had stolen.  No matter how beautiful, how bountiful the woman, it was never enough.
Only the crow of the impending dawn slaked the passion of the daemon’s thirst.  The black shroud of its cloak melted and leathered into scalloped wings swimming the shadows in the sky, returning to the oppressive castle upon the jagged mountain.
Alone, within the great stone sarcophagus deep beneath the ancient battlements, Count Dracula’s eyes stared wide in his unholy sleep, bloodily bloated with his spent lust. The terrible face lined with fear, knowing the horror of Purgatory which claimed his monstrous soul during the seeming eternity of the daylight hours.
There was an escape from Hell, Dracula knew.  His great brain burned with the brilliance of his inspired scheme.  Soon his perennial fiery tortures would cease forever.  Even in the throes of agony the ancient vampire’s cruel lips fixed upon a triumphant, leering smile.  This much the Count was certain, more than anything else…
Time was on his side.
The locomotive emerged through the icy London fog with a pungent hissing halt of oily steam.  Monsignor Russell’s weathered bulldog of a face brightened immediately upon spotting an energetic wide-shouldered, reddish-haired man of forty departing the train.  The passenger’s fierce blue-grey eyes darted about, straining to see through the clinging mist.
“Abraham!” the Monsignor heartily waved him down, “Abraham Van Helsing!”
The two men vigorously shook hands.
“It’s so good to see you again, Leslie,” the severity instantly left Van Helsing’s eyes, although they remained as piercing as ever.  “What has it been…nine years, isn’t it?  As a physician and as your friend, I must say that you’re not looking very well.  I suspect you sent for me just in time.”
Monsignor Russell hailed a cab, taking his companion by the elbow and clamored inside its relative warmth.
“I didn’t bring you from Amsterdam to discuss my health, Abraham.”
Van Helsing nodded and fondly tapped his friend’s shoulder.
“Quite right,” he affirmed.  “Your cable was very sparse.  I need to know more about this man before I can arrive at a possible prognosis.”
The elderly Monsignor’s face grew graver still.
“He’s staying at the Rectory.  Says he doesn’t feel safe anywhere else.  I dare not admit him to Saint Bart’s, they would deem him insane and have him put away.  Still, as I said in my telegram, I’m convinced his malady is more of the spirit than of the mind.”
The suspended fog softly muffled the clatter of the hooves upon the cobblestones, and the streetlamps skulked by the cab windows looking unreal.  Van Helsing sat in silence admiring the eerie beauty of the common London street, made most extraordinary by the elemental pallet surrounding them.
“Is he still having the nightmares?” he asked at last.
The Monsignor’s frown saddened and deepened.
“Worse.  Now he’s hearing voices.”
At the Rectory, he paced the hardwood floors like a caged animal.  A large middle-aged man with wild eyes, mumbling Latin incantations beneath his breath, while continuously crossing himself with madly twitching fingers.  Some great, nameless fear seemed to quicken and swell within him like a living thing.  Incessantly, he darted glances of dread at the dimming light behind the stained glass windows.  Daylight was fading.
The Monsignor and Van Helsing had hardly stepped foot into the door before the man crumpled to his knees in front of them.
“Why did you leave me? Night is falling and I was alone!” he gasped, his eyes wilder than before.”
“Calm yourself, sir,” Monsignor Russell scolded gently.  “I brought a man whom I believe can help you.  This is Dr. Van Helsing from the Continent.”
The quivering wild man shot Van Helsing a venomous glare.
“There’s nothing wrong with me that your pills can cure,” he spat out contemptuously.
Van Helsing’s eyes hardened, then brimmed with pity.  His strong, intelligent face lifted in a soothing smile.
“I am more than merely that kind of doctor and I am confident that I can help you, my poor friend,” Van Helsing offered his sun-bronzed muscular hand.  “Please tell me your troubles, Mister–?”
The man immediately lost much of his wildness, the glazed eyes slowly softening into brimming tears.  With a trembling gesture he clasped Van Helsing’s hand.
“Renfield,” he murmured low.  “Roderick Matthias Renfield.  Forgive me, Doctor.  If you can truly save me, then I am your obedient servant.”
Transylvania, the Land of Phantoms.
Nightfall swallowed the Carpathian valley, letting loose all its moving, hunting shadows.  Pale things, dead by day, crawled forth, shrouded in grave-dirt as howling bristling horrors lurched through the haunted forests.
Looming over all with trident spires of diabolical majesty was Castle Dracula, whose unholy foundations were old when Eden was new.  No one spoke of the dreadful place.  No one went there.
Except a man with nothing more to lose.
“All is prepared for you, my Master,” the peasant bowed within the gloom of the courtyard, cold sweat blurring his vision.  “The Vesta sails in two days.  The crew has been bribed as you directed.  Your…cargo is already onboard, bound for London.  The one you seek is there.”
Count Dracula stood at the top of the time-worn stairs, unmoving.  Only his smoldering eyes seemed alive on the grim, waxen face.  For a long moment there was a terrible stillness, as if the world had stopped.  Then, abruptly, the Count glided down, his boots soundless upon the cold stone of the steps.
“Master…?” the peasant dared to follow.  “My…my daughters…my girls…you promised to release them if I served you…”
Dracula paused, the moonlight turning his long shadow into something unnamable.  He nodded slightly toward a darkened crevice in the ancient stone, and then, inexplicably, his imposing figure shimmered into nothingness.  It was as if Dracula had become the Night itself.
The peasant drew in a shuddered breath, turning slowly, following the icy prickles running down his spine.  Six glowering eyes burned at him from the shadows of the edifice, followed by three emerging figures resembling young women.  Their low, savage laughter was almost musical in the stillness of the castle.  Flesh, pale and bloodless, took form over their ghostliness like the guttural drip of a melting candle.  Voluptuous lips, purpled from famine, curled back over their glinting animal teeth.
The peasant screamed only once, as fiends who were once his daughters fed deeply and lustfully from their own flesh and blood.
“I’ve actually heard of you, Doctor,” Renfield sat uncomfortably, repetitively glancing at the great ticking clock in the Monsignor’s book-lined study.
Van Helsing listened intently through his stethoscope, nearly finished with Renfield’s physical examination.
“Ah, your heart is rapid, but strong.  A good sign,” the doctor amiably nodded.  “Please follow my finger with your eyes, Mr. Renfield.  Now then…how is it that you know me?”
Renfield’s face brightened suddenly, making him appear rather younger and more intelligent.
“You’ve been published, sir,” he beamed.  “I’m quite a voracious reader, especially upon scientific matters.  In fact, I am something of an amateur entomologist, the species Psychodidae being a particular specialty of interest.”
Peering deeply into his patient eyes, Van Helsing smiled quite satisfied.
“Of course, the common moth fly.  They can be quite a nuisance, can they not?” he gave Renfield a gentle, comforting pat on the knee.  “Now then, you’re vision and reflexes are normal.  In fact, except for being somewhat malnourished, overall your health is quite excellent.”
Again, Renfield stabbed a look at the clock.  His face grimaced for an instant, as if in sudden pain, then smiled sadly at the physician.
“So, Doctor,” he flushed in shame, “you’re telling me that this is all in my mind?”
Van Helsing rinsed his hands in a water basin, and blotted them with a clean towel.  He regarded the question silently, and seriously, for a moment and then smiled again.  There was something calming, something comforting in his manner.  He had an inner strength about him and Renfield clearly and gratefully felt it.
“I notice that the clock worries you, does it not?  Why is that, pray tell?” it was peculiar how Van Helsing’s Dutch accent sometimes grew more pronounced when he was concentrating.
          “The night…” Renfield started, then sadly shook his head.
          “Ah, then.  It is the coming of night that you fear, Mr. Renfield,” Van Helsing offered at last.  “Is that not so?”
Renfield nodded, reluctantly.
“You say you suffer from lucid nightmares,” the doctor continued, “which I also have experienced from time to time.  They can be, I know, very terrifying.  However, there is something much more than merely bad dreams tormenting you.  You’ve complained that something is following you, devouring your very thoughts.  You feel weakened and empowered at the same time.  You don’t trust your own mind.  All this started, you tell me, when your only daughter became tragically stricken with consumption.  Now you feel something has, how again did you say it?  ‘Invaded your soul’, you said.  You feel as if someone, or something, is looking out through your own eyes.  Spying on the rest of us. Yes?”
Renfield’s haunted eyes glazed with tears.
“Am I…am I quite insane, Doctor?” he managed, at last.
Van Helsing frowned, narrowing his eyes.  The sudden hush in the room was jarring. 
“You’ll find that I differ considerably from my esteemed colleagues, sir.  I believe a metaphysical explanation may be in order, something along the lines of clairvoyance or precognition,” Van Helsing turned grimly to Renfield, his strong, bronzed face grown a bit grey.  “In all truth it is even possible that you may be possessed.”
“I refuse to believe in such rot,” Renfield flushed, defensively.
“These things, and more, exist in this world as few others would ever begin to suspect.  I have spent my lifetime, such as it is, in pursuit of these obscure truths about the world.  I have journeyed far and wide, seeing things with my own eyes that defy intelligent explanation.  To those ends, I have, myself, become convinced of the reality of the unearthly and the unnamable.  The Supernatural will not go away simply because we disapprove, or even disbelieve in it, Mr. Renfield.”
Van Helsing paused a moment, then clasped Renfield by the shoulder.
“Tell me about these voices.”
Renfield peered at the clock, stood and took to pacing.  He hesitated for a full minute, then Van Helsing’s patient smile brought out his trust.
“Only one voice!” he, at last, stated desperately.  “Something dark, terrible…it’s knows all my secrets.  God help me, Dr. Van Helsing…it promises that after my daughter dies— she will live forever!”
“You needn’t be so shy about it, Dr. Van Helsing…I know that I’m dying.”
Miss Adelaide Renfield smiled with blind, beautiful eyes.  Though weak, her voice had retained a bit of the music it must have possessed before her illness.  She scarcely moved in her hospital bed, but her faded pallor still bloomed with some of its delicate sweetness.  Although she could not see him, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing couldn’t take his own saddened eyes off of her.
“I am so sorry, my dear young Miss,” he managed, pressing her forehead with his palm.  She was burning up.
Adelaide smiled again.  It was both uplifting, and heartbreaking, that smile.
“There’s nothing for you to feel sorry for, Doctor,” she gave his sinewy wrist a whispered squeeze.  “Death is a natural thing.  I find it almost comforting now.  I only wish my poor father was not so direly affected.  I know he feels guilty for not visiting me.  He shouldn’t.  I understand.  When my mother died, it nearly killed him.”
Van Helsing studied her shining grey-green eyes which, despite their sightlessness, warmed with an inner light.
“How long have you been blind?” he presented his comforting, professional tone.  The girl very visibly responded to its quiet strength.
“Almost since birth,” Adelaide’s pale lips curled in a bit of humor.  “I had scarlet fever as a baby.  You’d think there could be nothing more wrong with me, wouldn’t you?”
Van Helsing lightly stroked her hair, which fell so very dark and silken about her shoulders, with spun threads of blued sapphires.
“What I think,” he said after a long moment, “is that you are a very brave young lady.”
Van Helsing continued speaking with quiet, paternal patience as he answered the girl’s grim questions considering her consumptive illness.  He held nothing back, telling her everything of what to expect.  She never flinched, not even at the worst of it.  Afterwards, they passed a peaceful silence for a number of minutes.  Then, for the first time, Van Helsing saw a fretful frown crease her supple brow.
“Doctor…I’m fearful for my father,” she whispered at last.  “When Monsignor Russell comes to give me Holy Communion, I feel he is trying to protect me from something.  Is my father ill?”
Van Helsing took her hand, warming the chilled fingers.
“What makes you ask that?”
She stared passed his shoulder at nothingness and her eyes slightly rounded.
“I…I’ve been having dreams.  I suppose you could call them nightmares.  In my sleep, I sense something following him.  Something wild and vicious, like a thing from the jungle.  It…wants something from him.  Something terrible.”
Dr. Van Helsing leaned forward a bit.  Her voice was getting tired and fainter with every fitful breath.  The sudden shift of anxiety alarmed him.
“Sometimes a dream is just that, my dear Miss,” he gave her wrist a gentle pat, keeping her father’s similar malady to himself.
Adelaide’s eye grew wider, more pronounced in their catlike glimmer.
“But—sometimes, Dr. Van Helsing…sometimes my dreams come true.”
“Oh?  In what form does this happen?”
She took a slow, hurtful breath.  Van Helsing much too easily noticed the fluid rattle from her chest.
 “Last night…I dreamt of a sea vessel.  A rank, creaking ship pushed by evil winds toward our shores.  There was a hideous stillness on board.  Hushed voices of the crew stammered in horror.  The Devil was on that ship.”
 “Ah, yes.  You heard the grim news about the unfortunate Vesta, which docked late last night with its crew of madmen.”
The girl winced, painfully swallowed, and then coughed a bit of blood into her hand.
Van Helsing was glad the girl couldn’t see his sudden apprehension.  Her slight consumptive hemorrhage quieted and he spoke soothingly to her.  Just the sound of his voice seemed to take away much of the pain.
“Sister Charles reads the morning papers to me,” Adelaide finally managed, nearly recovered from the spasm.
Solemnly, Van Helsing reached into an inner pocket of his coat.
“I have just the cure for these nightmares,” he withdrew a small silver crucifix and draped its thin golden chain around her neck.  “This was blessed by his Holiness in Rome himself.  Never take it off.”
Adelaide’s unmoving eyes gained more brightness as they moistened.
“I must leave you, my dear,” Van Helsing lightly caressed her flushing cheek, renewing its warmth.  “However, I will return again tomorrow, to be charmed by you all over again.”
The girl’s questing fingers caught at his sleeve.
“Doctor,” she asked with an expression like a child, “is it still daylight?”
“Yes, Miss.  It’s late afternoon.  A beautiful day.”
Her face lifted again in a girlish smile.
“Could you open the curtains, please?  Although I’ve never seen it, I can still remember the sun on my face.  It always felt friendly.”
Left to herself, Adelaide Renfield was softly smiling, privately treasuring her own wild imaginings of what colour might be like.
Van Helsing arrived at his room at the Northumberland Hotel some hours after sunset.  He had walked long and thoughtfully through the rattling, humming London streets pondering the events of the past few days.  As the long shadows cast themselves across the cobblestones, a chill of dread crawled over his skin.  Somehow the great city was different.  Tainted, he believed.  Something unnatural had mixed itself into its thundering swirl and rush of life.
Twice, Van Helsing felt certain he’d heard a voice softly speak his name.  Two times he turned, and no one was there.  For the first time in his observant life, the eminent scientist took intimate notice—and was unnerved by—the darting shadows of the moths fluttering around the streetlamps.
He felt colder than he should as he turned the key and stepped into his rented flat.
He was not alone.
The chamber was well-lighted, but somehow Van Helsing needed to strain his eyes in order to fully take in his unknown visitor.  He observed the towering figure of a man all in black, without a single speck of colour about him anywhere.  Motionless as an obelisk, only the figure’s unblinking eyes looked alive.
Finally, the bruised lips curved and spoke.
“Dr. Abraham Van Helsing…the great scientist, whose name we know even in the wilds of Transylvania.  I have crossed land and sea to make your acquaintance.  Only in you may I find salvation.”
Van Helsing took an uneasy step forward, toward the invader.
“How did you get in here?” he demanded.  “Who are you?”
White wolfish teeth smiled.
“I am Count Dracula.”
Come back next week for the next spine tingling terrifying chapter of this horrific tale.  Want more Moonstone Vampires?  Then go to http://moonstonebooks.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=427 and purchase VAMPIRES-DRACULA AND THE UNDEAD LEGIONS today!