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Karen Essex

Dracula in Love

© 2010

For Olivia Fox, brave and bold.

Look for the magic.

You must become who you are.

FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE

Prologue

Everyone has a secret life. Perhaps yours is merely a gossamer web of thoughts and fantasies woven in the hidden furrows of your mind. Or furtive deeds performed on the sly or betrayals large and small that, if revealed, would change how you are perceived.

Unlike most people whose lives remain private, my story has been written by another, sold for money, and offered to the public for entertainment. The author of the fiction claims to be above reproach because his records are “exactly contemporary.” But these “records” are falsified documents, based on the lies of a cabal of murderers desperate to conceal their dark deeds.

The true story remains a secret-my secret-and with good reason. Reader, you are about to enter a world that exists simultaneous with your own. But be warned: in its realm, there are no rules, and there is certainly no neat formula to become-or to destroy-one who has risen above the human condition. That is wishful thinking. Despite what you have read in commercial fiction, in the supernatural world, science and religion are both ineffectual, and garlic, crosses, and holy water-no matter how many times it has been blessed and by whom-are equally useless and benign. The truth is deeper, darker, and stranger than you imagine. As Lord Byron wrote, “for truth is always strange; stranger than fiction: if it could be told, how much would novels gain by the exchange!” In the forthcoming pages, we shall see what is gained when truth is told.

At some risk to myself from mortals and immortals alike, I will now reveal to you what happened in that strange and seminal year of 1890, when I shed the cocoon of ordinary life, bursting through the membrane of prosaic earthly existence and into a world of preternatural magnificence. That is the world we learned as children to fear-the milieu of goblins, ghosts, spirits, and magic-when it is the tangible world that is rife with unimaginable horrors.

The truth is, we must fear monsters less and be warier of our own kind.

Mina Murray Harker, London, 1897

P. S. The astute reader will notice that I have employed herewith the same fictitious names used in the other tale, with the exception of Morris Quince, who in no way resembled the cowboy American stereotype Quincey P. Morris, and Dr. Von Helsinger, who was not a product of Amsterdam but of Germany, the world’s leader in psychiatry during our century.

Part One

LONDON

Chapter One

29 June 1890

In the beginning, there was the voice.

That was how it began on that first evening, with a masculine voice calling out to me in my sleep; a disembodied voice slithering into my dream, a voice of deep timbre and tones, of sensuous growls, and of low, hollow moans-a voice laden with promise and with love. It was as familiar to me as my own, and yet I knew not whether it came from inside my head, from outside me, or from somewhere not of this earth. Hushed like wind through a valley and smooth like velvet, it beckoned me, and I neither had, nor wanted, power against it. The voice was my master.

I have been looking for you, I said.

No, we have been looking for each other.

Then came hands, no, not exactly hands, but touch-the essence of touch, caressing my face, my neck, and my arms, making my skin tingle and awakening something long dormant inside me. Smooth lips gently kissed me and then pulled ever so slightly away. Come, Mina, the lips whispered, and I felt warm breath as the words came out. You called to me, did you not?

Eager to discover the owner of those lips, the giver of that touch, I moved into the darkness, unaware where I was, or where I was being led, or by whom. But I knew that when we were finally united, it would be a homecoming. I felt as if my body were wrapped in warm skins and lifted into the air. Drifting through darkness and toward the unknown, I was not exactly flying but safely held aloft as I floated through nothingness. Something like fur tickled me beneath my chin and all around my neck and back.

After what seemed like a timeless journey, my bare feet touched mossy ground. Excited and intensely alive, my body was unfamiliar to me, except my heart, which beat with a new ferocity. The rest of me was some tingling mass of energy as I ran toward the hands and the lips with their promises of touch, of kisses, and of love. I saw nothing but felt hands come out of the darkness again and begin to stroke my hair and caress me with great tenderness.

But as I surrendered to the touch and the sensation, the sumptuous fur that had enveloped me dropped away, and the hands on my body turned rough. Suddenly I was clothed not in fur but in something wet. I began to shiver violently. Frigid air blasted my face, replacing sweet warmth. The dampness around me seeped through to my skin, chilling me to the bone. Someone-or something; could it be an animal?-pulled my garment up above my knees. A hand-yes, it was unmistakably a hand but not the hand that had touched me before-a hand so cold that it must belong to the dead crept up my leg, pushed my thighs apart, and found the only warm spot left on my body. I gasped and tried to scream but choked on my own voice as the icy fingers reached that inviolate place.

“Getting you ready is all.” This voice was crass and mocking and not at all like the voice of devotion that had found me in my sleep.

I knew that I needed to resist, but I could not locate my limbs. I willed my legs to kick, my arms to rise, my fists to tighten, my muscles to gather their strength to fight this thing attacking me, but all the power in my body seemed to have disappeared. I wondered if I were dead and if this thing on top of me was the devil.

Yet I could not give up. Surely this mind that could think was still attached to a body. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing escaped, not even a vibration. I took a breath, and a foul, sour smell shot up into my nostrils making me gag but letting me know that I was still alive. A warm, wet drop fell upon my eye, as if someone had spit on me.

I opened my eyes. I was not dreaming. No, the creature on top of me, reeking of stale beer and dripping his saliva onto my face, was all too real. But where was I? Who was this man, pushing my legs apart with his knees, this fiend with a coarse, unshaven face and bulbous eyes so red that I expected them to start bleeding? He pulled his icy finger out of me, shocking me as much with the withdrawal as he had with the insertion, and began to fumble with the buttons on his trousers. I rolled back and forth on the wet grass trying to get away, but with his free hand he gathered my nightdress at the neck, choking me.

“Stay put or you will be sorry you were ever born,” he said.

I realized what was happening and I remember wondering what my fiancé would say when I told him-if I ever told him, if I lived to tell him-that I had been raped while wandering, insensible, in the middle of the night. In my mind, I saw Jonathan receive the news, his stricken face turning white, shying away from me in disgust. How could any man, even one as kind as Jonathan, look upon a woman the same way after this kind of shame? At that moment, I knew that I must free myself from my tormenter. My life, or more than my life-as I thought back in those more innocent days-was at stake.

I tried to scream, but the stranger’s fingers were at my throat. He undid the last button on his trousers, and his manhood shot into freedom, red, stiff, and ugly. He took his hand from my neck and put it over my mouth, but I bit hard at it, harder than I thought I was capable of, as if I had grown new teeth. Cursing me, he withdrew his hand.

“Now you are really going to get it,” he said, pulling my thighs apart. He stared and then looked at my face with his glowing red eyes. Mirth had replaced his anger and determination.

“What’s this? A devil’s mark?”

He meant the wine-colored birthmark on my inner thigh that rose in two points like angels’ wings. I tried to clench my legs together, but he was the stronger. “You’ll be a feisty one.”

I started kicking and flailing with all my strength until my surroundings were a blur. I saw nothing but flashes of the smug look on his ugly face against a dark sky. I tried to find my voice, because I had remembered reading that a woman’s best defense against an attacker was her shrill scream. At last and with persistent effort I felt a tremor rise inside my chest, snake through my throat, and find its way out of my mouth and into the cold night air.

“Get your filthy hands off me,” I yelled, and then I screamed again.

“Shut up, little whore.” The fiend hissed, raising his hand away from me to slap my face. I winced, my courage draining out of me like so much air as I shrank from him. But the blow did not come. Instead, I heard a heavy thud against my attacker’s back, and something picked him up from behind and pulled him off me. I saw the shock and terror on his face as he was swiftly lifted away from me and thrown like a heap of rubbish on the

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