Dark Night

Dark Night

Change is inevitable. Only a fool would try to fight it.

This was the conclusion at which Dracula had arrived. He’d long ago lost track of his age in years, but was certain he was nearing a 1,000 – at least that’s how it felt. And Dracula had seen a lot of change in that millennium.

Dracula was there during the Dark Ages of Europe, feasting on the peasants without remorse. It was easy to justify his killing in those days because so much of the population preferred death to life. If not for Dracula’s tender bite – a quick and near-painless drain of the precious fluid that grants us life – it would have been the plague, or pneumonia, or marauding warlords that brought death’s release to those poor, wretched beings.

Certainly, the act of birthing a child in that time took far more lives than Dracula ever could, and it was doubly cruel in that it brought new life into the cold, unforgiving world. Dracula’s murder, at least, came with a modicum of mercy.

He was there for the renaissance, as well. It’s true that in this time Dracula was responsible for robbing humanity of more than a few of its greatest minds. The taste of an intellectual, a poet, a philosopher, or even a surgeon brought him an unparalleled satisfaction. Sadly, it was a short-lived phase, all things considered.

By the 19th century Dracula had lost his taste for even the most refined fare. He relocated to the United States, lured by the dual promises of a new challenge and a change in scenery. But by then, he’d seen so much change in the world that feelings of despondence had already taken root – whether he was aware of it or not.

Watching the world’s greatest monarchies rise to soaring heights, only to come crashing down under the tow of democracy forced Dracula to contemplate his own purpose in a way he never had before. Meanwhile, technological advances like electricity, the telegraph, and the automobile, gave simple people powers that rivaled his own, making him feel obsolete.

They erected street lights that kept him from sneaking up on his prey. They used an elaborate system of wires to communicate his potential presence in given areas. And they made quick passage out to the more remote regions of the country to track him.

More and more, the supernatural abilities that had once given him so much pride and set him so far above humanity made him feel useless and antiquated. As many of the world’s farmers turned to factory work, as many of the great hunters ran out of game to hunt, and as many of the world’s great explorers ran out of new land to trek, Dracula had seen his time come and go. He had as much place in the 20th century as Blackbeard or Billy the Kid.

By 1950, popular culture made him more of a joke than a boogeyman. Kids dressed in his garb and bad actors mocked his accent. The memory of World War II was still fresh in everyone’s mind, and even Dracula had to admit that Hitler was guilty of crimes against humanity that made Vlad the Impaler look absolutely amateur.

As the 20th century drew to a close, Dracula finally got access to the Internet, and was forced to admit to the cable representative who installed it that he had no idea how to use it. The cable man rolled his eyes and patiently walked him through the process. As the man was leaving, Dracula beckoned him from his van once more to help him rid an error message that had popped up on his screen.

The man obliged and as soon as he’d turned to leave a second time Dracula bit his neck and drank his blood.

Something was wrong, though. It brought him no satisfaction. He felt just as empty as he had when he woke up that morning – as he had the weeks, months, years, no, decades before.

He dropped the lifeless corpse of the Comcast technician and staggered back into his dark, dusty mansion – a dilapidated gothic-style Victorian home, which had once been located in a treacherous and remote region of the Pacific Northwest, but was now in plain view of Route 5.

Looking in the mirror that cold, lonely night, Dracula could not see his own reflection, but his outdated clothing stared him right back in his face.

“My God, is that a cape?” he asked himself out loud. “And am I honestly the last person on earth who goes by the title Count?”

Dracula had hit bottom. He was overcome with self-loathing. He slept in his coffin for weeks, even months, at a time. His already pale skin reached the ghostly white translucence of Casper. His narrow, effeminate frame grew even more sickly and gaunt.  He tried to cry, but couldn’t.

Then, after years of depression had beaten him down, Dracula decided it was time for a new approach. Rather than live off of humanity like a barnacle on a whale, he would join it. He would seek out a new purpose, perhaps even companionship.

Determined to commit to the most dramatic of all possible lifestyle changes, he used his recently installed high-speed modem to find a dentist. Then, early in the morning on a cloudy, overcast day, he put on a trench coat, hat, and sunglasses. He grabbed an umbrella, pulled up his collar, took a deep breath, and made the trip to the office of one Dr. Larry Finklestein. It was he who had the privilege of removing Dracula’s fangs and replacing them with two run-of-the-mill, composite incizers.

Dracula, the Lord of Darkness, returned home feeling thoroughly emasculated. But he knew that was the price of fresh start. He got a job as a nighttime porter at a hospital. There, he would sneak into the blood bank at night and pilfer bags of the precious fluid. Sometimes he’d poke them with a straw and suck them down like a Capri Sun, other times he would pour them into a goblet like Box of Wine. It never felt quite right, but at least it felt different. At least it felt somewhat human.

Then, one night, as Dracula mopped the floors of Skagit Valley Hospital, he overheard some nurses discussing a newly admitted patient.

“Sarah,” one said. “She’s only 15.”

“My God,” said another. “Does anyone know why she did it?”

“No, she won’t talk to anyone.”

Dracula pressed on with his mop and bucket.  That is, until he reached room 305, where the chart by the door read “Sarah Lynn Taylor.” He was curious so he went inside.

The room was dimly lit but he could make out the girl’s jet black hair. Her face was pale like his, but her high cheekbones were stroked with a bit of rose coloring. She wore the requisite gown and her forearms were wrapped in bandages.

He marveled at her. She looked so remarkably like him, at once pale and dark. Her heart monitor, by emitting a slow, perfunctory noise, confirmed she was living, but to the naked eye she looked to be dead. Indeed, she, like Dracula, was the living embodiment of death itself.

Suddenly, Dracula heard some activity in the hall and he rushed immediately back to his bucket and mop. Some doctors passed by without noticing him and he went about his standard business for the rest of the night – ensuring that the hospital was in no condition short of pristine.

When he returned home and settled down with his nightly bag of blood, he felt different than he did most nights. He thought back to that young girl in room 305 and he felt extraordinary. He couldn’t place his cold, pointy finger on it, but something was different. And as the sun came up, he retired to his coffin eager to greet the next night.

Dracula woke from his slumber the following evening and reported to work at 10:00pm sharp. He made quick work of the first two floors of the hospital and casually happened by the front desk to see if there was any word on the young patient in 305. There was none.

He waited until around 2:30am and then made his way to the third floor. He put up the pretense a little while longer and then quickly ducked into Sarah’s room. She looked a little healthier but still thin and very pale. Dracula watched her for a minute or two. Then he inched closer to her bed. Then closer, and even closer, until he almost brushed the side rail. His heart beat a little faster. And soon without even thinking about it, he took his cold jagged finger and slowly brushed some hair from her face.

Her eyes opened – halfway at first, then extremely wide. Dracula startled and jumped back. And with that leap backwards the menacing corpse-like countenance that moments ago hovered inches above Sarah’s face became a shadowy figure backlit against the light from the hallway.

Sarah opened her mouth as if to scream but no sound came out. Her jaw flapped up and down loosely, emitting only the faintest imitation of a voice. Then finally, after what seemed like hours, she spoke.

“Who are you? What are you doing?”

“Vuhhhh…I’m… I’m va doctor.”

“Then why are you dressed like a janitor?”

“Oh. Ves. I’m a janitor. I’m very sarry. I thought I svaw something on ver face. I vas vorried.”

“What are you German or something?”

“No. I’m vrom Romania. Transylvania, actually.”

“Like Dracula?”

“Vuhh, yes… Like Dracula,” he sighed.

“Cool.”

“Cool?”

“Yeah. Have you ever been there? Like to the castle?”

“Of course, I lived there… or close to it I mean. I verked there… as a guide.”

“That’s so cool.”

“Veally?”

“Yeah Vampires are totally cool.”

“Veally, vy?”

“I don’t know. They’re dark and menacing. They’re mysterious. It’s macabre, you know, like Edgar Allen Poe, or those true crime stories you see on television.”

“Oh. Vell… I used to have vangs, you know…”

“No way! That’s awesome.”

“Yes vay. I vas born vith them.”

“Why don’t you have them now?”

“They scare people.”

“Right, but isn’t that the point? To scare people and freak them out?”

“Vell yes but it gets lonely.”

“Well it doesn’t have to be. You just have to find other people like you. You’re not the only person who has fangs you know. Other people have them, too.”

“There are other vampires?”

“What? No. Not vampires, just people that have fangs put in. You know, like piercings and tattoos. I saw a guy on TV that had these, like, horns in his head. And another guy had his tongue forked.”

Dracula couldn’t help but snicker a bit.

“Va va va,” he chuckled. “That sounds vidiculous.”

“Well, maybe, but that’s just who they are. You should always be yourself. If other people can’t deal, fuck’em.”

“Is that veally how you live?”

Sarah thought about the question.

“Maybe not,” she said, looking down at her bandages.

“Vut happened to ver arms?”

Sarah remained quiet, and was sullen, like she’d just been reminded of something terrible. And she was.

“I… I cut myself,” she said sniffling.

“Vy?” Dracula asked.

“I don’t know, I guess, I’m not real happy with myself either.”

“But vu vould take ver own life?”

“I guess, I don’t know,” she said, now crying. “It’s not just me, you know? My stepdad hits me a lot and my mom is a total bitch. I hate them both. And then I go to school and they make fun of me there for being punk or goth or whatever. Just because I don’t fit into any of their nice little groups.”

“Vat’s terrible. I’m sarry to hear such tings.”

Sara sat crying. Dracula stepped closer to her bed and pushed the tissue box towards her.”

“Thanks,” she said looking down at his hand. “Wow, you’re kinda goth yourself aren’t you?”

“Goth?”

“Yeah, you know, like with the paleness, and those rings on your fingers.”

“Oh, ves. Goth. I’m very… punk.”

“Did you get picked on a lot when you were a kid?”

“I… I don’t vemember.”

“You’re lucky. Tommy Donovan, this kid at school, he picks on me all the time. He spread this rumor that we had sex in a bathroom stall and that he put my head in the toilet bowl. Now people call me Septic Slut. They say and do awful things to me all the time. They throw things at me. They hid my stuff.”

“Ugh, vat’s terrible.”

“I have no friends,” Sara said, again breaking into a wet, sniffly sob.

Dracula sat down on the bed and comforted her.

“I don’t have any friends either,” he said.

“You’re so cold.”

“I know. I’m sarry.”

Then the light came on and there was an orderly standing in the doorway.

“What are you doing in here? You’re not a doctor.”

“It’s okay,” said Sara. “He’s my friend.”

“Well, he can’t be here. Visiting hours are over. Besides he has work to do. Now if you don’t mind.”

“Of course,” said Dracula getting up and moving toward the door. He looked back at Sara, who with tears in her eyes managed a smile.

Dracula retrieved his bucket and mop and made his way toward the elevator with the orderly watching. Then he went down to the lobby and left the building without finishing his shift. Dracula returned to his mansion with a new sense of purpose. He called Dr. Finklestein’s office and left a message saying he’d be in the next day. Then he used the online directory to look up all of the Taylors in the area.

About one week later, Sarah returned home. She lay down in her bed, fell asleep and had a strange dream. She was in a graveyard but she wasn’t scared. The janitor from the hospital was digging a grave but it wasn’t hers. He looked up from his work and flashed her a sinister smile. She could see on his hand the gold ruby ring he’d worn at the hospital. She woke to the sound of something hitting her window.  She got up to inspect it and saw something on the window sill outside. She opened the window and picked it up. It was the same glittering gold band and blood red ruby she’d seen in the dream. Then she gasped and looked up to see the shape of a bat flying off into the distance.

The bat flapped its wings gracefully and faded out of sight. It flew with purpose to another house not very far from Sarah’s. About the same time a young man was returning home drunk from a party. He lifted his keys to unlock the front door but he dropped them. He bent over to pick them up and as he rose he came face to face with a dark shadowy figure wearing a cape and sporting a pair of fangs.

“Var you Tommy Donovan?” the figure asked.

“Yeah. Who the fuck are you?”

 

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