Counting Souls

I never Dreamed my life as this, but this is what it has become, and now I must except my fate. I will tell you my story, of horrific monsters, and the souls within them. Of pain, redemption, love, and horror. You must now forget all you know of the creatures that lurk in the night.

Lightly based off classic horror novels, such as Dracula, by Bram Stoker; The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux; Frankenstein, by Mary Shelly; and The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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2. The Castle

Graciously he extended a gloved hand, which I took. Still, I could not see the man's face, covered by his wide, drooping, brimmed hat.  The coach was very nice, all a shiny black with trim and two matching black stallions. I sat down onto a cushioned leather seat, dropping my carpet bag to the floor. Slowly we embarked down long, wet roads in the pouring rain and loud thunder. I shivered in my wet clothes and shoes.

Some time passed before I recognized that we were on the far outskirts of town, and soon enough, the road we traveled became surrounded by a large and dense forrest. It was certainly not well traveled, for it was overgrown in parts, badly maintained, and sticks littered the path. More that once I felt the coach give a lurch as the horses stumbled over some obstruction. At the end of the long road, the path forked off, one end overgrown by shrubs and the other blocked by a wrought iron gate. I watched the driver decend from his perch and handle the gate, which soon swung open. He regained his post and traveled up the winding road, still surrounded by the nightmare like trees. I had not the slightest inclination what our destination was to be, but at the time, I lacked such hope to care. I did not recognize where I was. Up the steep incline we continued as the storm raged on. Lighting lit up the moonless sky, guiding us onward through the dark night, until eventually, the driver slowed the pace of the horses and we came to rest in front of a stone mansion, resting on the peak of the high incline. It was not really so much a mansion, so much as it was a small castle, greatly decorated with turrets, peaked gables, flying buttresses, gargoyles, and other assesories. In the beating storm, the structure looked rather frightening, a huge jagged shape cutting a shadow into the lit night sky. The driver came and opened my door and beckoned me to step down. 

"We are going to stop here for the night, as the storm rages too greatly onward," He said, his voice smooth and precise. With no other explanations, I took his leather gloved hand and he lead me to the door. He did not take the knocker in hand, but rather pulled a key from his pocket, unlocking the door, and letting us in. We stepped into a vast hall, decorated in all the fashions of the previous century. Everything was dark and shadows danced across the walls and ceilings. Only when the lighting struck could I see, the mere let light being let in by tall, narrow arched widows on the opposite wall, alike those in nice churches. Thus, in I walked, removing my shoes and stockings, fearing I would dirty this great castle with my muddy things. 

"You must stay right here. Go no where. I must stable the horses, and in the meantime, my friend will come to meet you," At those words, the man sped out the door with a grand gesture of his long, black coat. There I stood, not daring to sit down on anything, for I was certain my wet clothes would spoil all they touched. I continued to wait for what I guessed about ten minutes, my feet becoming numb, and my mind dulling to everything around me. Suddenly, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck bristle, a cold draft entering the hall. From down a ways, I saw a figure, tall and gaunt. He approached quickly and soon enough, he stood before me. He was tall, fair, and had slicked back, neck-lengthed, black, wavy hair. His eyes were that of a grey blue, he had high cheekbones and all around very chiseled features. He was striking, but in a way I had never seen before. His gaunt frame wore a dark fashionable suit with dark grey vest and dark red cravat. He seemed amused by me, and cracked a slight smile. That's when I saw his perfectly white, shiny teeth, with overly extended canines.

"I see that you have come here for shelter from the storm, no?" He said. He stooped about a foot over me, and yet again smirked at me. "So young you are girl,".

"I'm nineteen years of age! You for that matter do not look yourself over twenty-five!" I said boldly, though it was not my place to say any such thing. With my outburst, he looked at me quizzically and gave a great laugh.

"My girl, you know nothing of me!" He laughed again, showing his great white canines. "Now it is time that you stay a little while and relax yourself. I will show you to a room that may be able to provide you with some suitable, clean clothes. Now come," with that, I grabbed my worn carpet bag and followed him up a large, stone grand staircase. I had no reason to trust that man, and to this day I question myself why I ever did.

Alas, we were in a long hallway, decorated with dusty painted portraits, candle sconces, and other ancient decor. Soon we came to great mahogany door and he led me inside, beginning to speak, "I propose you'll find this suitable to your liking. Feel free to rest yourself, you seem to be very worn by the day," At that, he disappeared, shutting the door behind him. I had no mind to think straightly at the time, so I continued into the room, coming up to a large, exqisitly carved mahogany wardrobe. I opened the doors, revealing many beautiful and well preserved old fashioned dresses. I rummaged about quickly, not paying much mind to the fine clothes until I found a silk night shift.

After exploring the wardrobe, I decided the room itself deserved a little exploring of the same kind. Soon I discovered a private lavatory adjoined to the room by a narrow door. Inside I found towels which I used to dry my damp and dirty body, and I thus changed into the vintage shift. The material was the softest thing I had ever felt, and being only bedclothes at that! I looked about the room a little more, discovering the view through the two tall, narrow peaked windows, alike those in the entrance hall, which faced out over the cliff on which the castle rested. Below me, my eyes came to rest on the outline of beautiful Transylvanian forests, only slightly visible in the dark night and occasional lightning. It was rather frightening, how the castle just rested on the edge of the high precipice. Soon, I found myself becoming very tired and I came to rest my body upon the soft matress, pillows, and blankets of the great four poster mahogany bed, soon succuming to the enticing sleep that pulled at my body, the pounding rain my lullaby.

 

A selection of the diary of Marrissia Di Martello:

October the 24th in the year of our Lord, 1880.

It is so strange that one day I find myself kicked out of a small cottage, labeled a thief, and the next day I'm sleeping in a great castle in fine bed attire. How frightening it all is! There is such strange man living here. I assume he owns the place, but I also hold my suspicions that my host is in fact the very same who brought me here in a coach. He is quite striking, in a very strange way, but he frightens me too much. Also, I fear he has locked me alone in this room, for when I woke and stood up, I tried to open the door, and it stood firm in place. It has given me a good time to ponder things as well as further explore the ancient wardrobe. It is quite wonderful! All the fashions are made with rich, dark fabrics in elegant and detailed designs. Fearing I might catch a cold from my still wet and dirty clothes which lay in a heap on the lavatory floor, I took to one of the costumes. I have picked a long, midnight blue dress with a ruffled neckline that runs across the shoulders. The bodice is decorated with glass beads in similar tones as the dress and sports a high, old fashioned waist line. I fear there is nothing simple to pick from so I must make do with what I have. I have cleaned myself with the wash basin, brushed, and pinned back some of my hair with the accessories I found in the wardrobe. I suppose, despite my strange and improper situation, I must still uphold proper etiquette and standards for a woman as myself, for feel I will see the strange man again today. It all seems so indecent, staying the night at the strange estate of a man I don't even know! I do not even know his name! I fear I have made a grave mistake excepting the ride from midnight carriage driver. I am so scared. What will become of me here? Alas I will try to write again, but now I hear steps from down below. I believe he is coming for me. I have no idea as to what I am supposed to feel about this.

 

I waited in anticipation, for I knew he was coming. I heard it so suddenly. A key in the lock. Slowly the door creaked open. I cautiously moved from my resting spot at a desk near the windows, where I had been writing in my diary. I stepped out into the hall to find no one. Retracing my steps, I worked my way down the hall and descended the great stairs, until I came upon the great place I had entered into last night. There was no one to be seen. I worked my way to the edge of the room where the man had entered last night. There was a rather large opening into which I followed to find a sitting room with one great window facing out towards the great forests beyond the precipice. In front of the window stood the tall man, looking out intently at the vast landscape before him. It seemed he had heard me coming, but still, he faced out the window, ignoring me.

"I do not mean to interrupt, but I have had not the honor to make your proper acquaintance yet, and seeing as you are my host, it seems only proper," at my statement, he slowly turned about to face me. 

"Ah, That dress. It's rather lovely, isn't it?" he spoke softly.

"It is indeed. I hope you rather don't mind my borrowing it?"

"No, not at all. You are my guest, are you not? You must also know there are no need for extreme decorum here," He said. 

"I can see that, as you locked me in my room last night. I don't know if that would make me your guest, or your prisoner," I cut in, finally losing my temper.

"No. You are my guest, though I would love you to stay a while. I haven't seen much of people in quite some time... Ah, but I suppose what sort of hostess could I be without introducing myself? I am The Count Dracula, at your service, and this..." He gestured about him with his hands gracefully, "... is Castle Dracula. It was been in my family for generations. Now if you are to know something of me, I am to know something of you. Who do I have the pleasure to address this day?"

"I am Marrissia Di Martello, and now I must ask you why I am here," I said, no longer wanting to play games of propriety with this strange man. "I know you were the man driving the coach last night. It's your voice. It is rather distinct,"

"I do hope that is a compliment on my part," He made a curt bow, "You are quite smart, are you not, Miss Di Martello! As for why you are here is no accident, but only that I saw you passing by, alone on the road without a care in the world. You seemed lonely as I, dear Marrissia. Am I wrong in saying as such?"

"No, but in what right do you have to take me here?" I said firmly.

"Is not this grand castle a much better place for you than the muddy runts of lonely streets? Girl, there are more powerful things of this world than you could possibly imagine! You have no idea! If I were you, I would take what you have been given, and be thankful!" He sneered, flashing his white fangs. From what he had just told me, I knew I was a prisoner, but for what reason, I knew none the better. The Count began to walk away from me, into another adjoining corridor, but paused for a moment, looking back. "You should know that no harm will come to you here. You are safe," He said softly, and with that, he disappeared.

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