This is the dark tale of Count Dracula, told through chilling journal entries. It starts with Jonathan Harker’s visit to the Count’s castle.
May 5th (continued),
I must have been asleep, for sure. If I had been fully awake, I would have noticed such a remarkable place approaching.
In the gloom of the night, the courtyard looked huge. Several dark paths winded under big, round arches. Maybe the courtyard simply looks bigger than it really is. I haven’t seen it in daylight yet.
When the carriage stopped, the driver jumped down and held out his hand to assist me. Again, I couldn’t help but notice his strength. His hand actually seemed like a steel vice that could have crushed mine if he tried. Then, he took my luggage and placed them on the ground beside me.
We were standing in front of a great door. It was old and studded with a large iron nail under a stone doorway. In the dim light, I could see that the stone was intricately carved, but that the carving had been worn down by time and weather. As I stood there, the driver jumped up into his seat again and shook the reins. The horses trotted forward, and the carriage and the driver and all disappeared into the night.
I stood in silence for a while because I did not know what to do. There was no bell or knocker on the door, and surely no one would hear me if I shouted out. I waited for an unknown amount of time as my fears and doubts crowded inside me. What sort of place had I come to, and what kind of people lived here? What sort of grim adventure was I on? Was this normal? Was it normal for a solicitor to visit a client like this and explain the purchase of a London estate?
I’m a solicitor! Mina won’t like that. Yes, it’s true. Just before I left London, I received my certificate that stated I passed my exam. I am officially a solicitor now.
I began to rub my eyes and pinch myself to see if I was really awake. It all seemed like a horrible nightmare to me, and that I would suddenly wake up in my own bed in London with the morning light streaming through my windows.
But I felt the pain from my pinching test. This wasn’t a dream. I was awake and among the Carpathians. The only thing for me to do now is to be patient.
Just as I had decided to be patient, I heard heavy footsteps behind the great door. There was a sound of rattling chains and the clank of bolts being unlocked. A key was turned with a loud grating noise (how long has the door been unused!) and the large door swung open.
Within, a tall old man stood. He was clean shaven except for a long white mustache, and he was wearing black from head to toe. He held an antique silver lamp in his hand, and the flame seemed to be burning without any oil. The old man motioned for me to come inside. He said in excellent English, but with a strange intonation:
“Welcome to my house! Enter freely! Enter of your own will!” He made no movement to shake my hand or greet me, and he stood still like a statue.
However, the instant that I had stepped through the door, he moved impulsively forward, and held out his hand. His handshake was so powerful that I winced with pain. On top of that, his hand was as cold as ice—more like the hand of a dead man than a living man. Again, he said:
“Welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely. And leave some of the happiness that you bring!” The strength of his handshake reminded me of the driver, whose face I had never seen. For a moment, I wondered if I was talking to the same person. So to make sure, I asked:
He bowed politely. “I am Dracula, and I welcome you, Mr. Harker, to my house. Come in! The night air is chilly, and you must be hungry and tired.” As he was speaking, he hung the lamp on the wall, stepped out to pick up my luggage and carried it inside. I insisted on carrying my bags myself, but he said:
“No, sir, you are my guest. It is late, and my servants aren’t available. Let me take care of you myself.” He was persistent. He carried my luggage as we walked down a long hall, and then up a winding staircase, and along another great hall. Our footsteps echoed heavily on the stone floors and walls. At the end of the passage, he threw open a heavy door. I rejoiced to see a well-lit room with a table that was set for dinner. The room had a large fireplace with a roaring fire.
The Count stopped, closed the door, crossed the room, and opened another door, which led to a small window-less octagonal room that was lit by a single lamp. He passed through this room, opened another door, and motioned for me to follow.
It was a welcome sight! In that room, there was a great bedroom which was well lighted and warmed by another log fire under a wide chimney. The Count placed my bags in the room and turned to leave.
Just before closing the door, he said, “You will need to freshen up after your journey. I think you will find everything you need here. When you are ready, come into the other room where the dinner is prepared.”
The warmth and light, and the Count’s courteous welcome, seemed to have erased all my doubts and fears. Coming back to my normal senses, I realized that I was starving. I cleaned up quickly, and went into the other room.
The dinner was already laid out. My host, who stood on one side of the great fireplace, made a graceful wave of his hand towards the table.
He said, “Please sit down. I hope you’ll enjoy the feast. Forgive me for not joining you, because I have already eaten dinner.”
I handed him the sealed letter which Mr. Hawkins had entrusted to me. He opened it and read it gravely. Then, with a charming smile, he handed it to me to read. One part of the letter made me happy.
“Unfortunately, because of illness, I cannot travel for some time. But I am happy to say that I can send a sufficient substitute that I have absolute confidence in. Johnathon Harker is a young man who is full of energy and talent, and he has a faithful disposition. He is discreet and silent and has grown up in my service. During his stay, he will be ready to take care of you when you need, and he will follow your instructions in all matters.”
The Count came forward and took off the cover of a dish. My eyes fell on an excellent roast chicken. This, with some cheese and a salad and two glasses of old Tokay Whiskey, was my dinner. While I was eating, the Count asked me a lot of questions about my journey. I told him about everything that I had experienced.
By this time, I had finished eating, and my host drew up a chair by the fire. He offered me a cigar, which I accepted. However, he apologized for not smoking with me because he was not a smoker.
It was then that I had an opportunity to observe him. He had very strange facial features. His face was strong—very strong—with a high bridge on his thin nose and arched nostrils. It looked almost like the nose of a lizard or bat. He had a large forehead. His hair was thick and his hairline made a ‘V’ shape down his forehead. His eyebrows were also thick and almost formed a unibrow. His mouth—as much as I could see through his mustache—was thin and tight, and he had sharp white teeth that stuck out over his lips. His ears were pale and pointed at the top. His chin was broad and strong, and his checks looked firm.
He put his hands over his knees as he sat by the fireplace, and I couldn’t help but to notice that his hands were white. They were broad, with squat fingers. It was strange—so strange that I doubted my eyes—but he seemed to have hair in the center of his palms. His nails were long and cut into sharp points.
The Count leaned over towards me and his hands touched me. I couldn’t stop myself from shuddering. His breath was so bad that I felt a horrible wave of nausea. I tried, but I couldn’t conceal my emotion. The Count, who seemed to notice, drew back. He had a dark smile, which showed even more of his strange teeth, and he sat back in his seat.
We were both silent for a while, and as I looked out the window, I saw the first dim streak of dawn. There was a strange stillness over the land, but as I listened, I heard the howling of many wolves.
The Count’s eye’s gleamed, and he said, “Listen to them! The children of the night. What beautiful music they make!”
I’m not sure what kind of expression I had on my face, but when he looked at me, he added, “Ah, sir, you city people wouldn’t understand the feelings of a hunter.” Then he stood up and said, “But you must be tired. Your bedroom is all ready and tomorrow you can sleep as late as you like. I’ll be away until the afternoon, so please sleep well and dream well!”
With a courteous bow, he opened the door to the bedroom for me, and I entered.
He left me alone and I felt a wave of emotions. Doubt. Fear. I thought of all the strange things that I didn’t even want to remember.
God, please protect me.