MISSIVES TO MINA
Carpathian mountains - Wiki commons
4 May, 1897
My profoundest apologies for not committing myself to paper to you before this day but the long and arduous journey has been decidedly hectic, more of which anon, and it has taken me all my time to maintain my journal in short-hand.
I hope this missive finds you well. As I write I am ensconced in a cubicle constructed of ancient black oak, near to a crackling fire at one end of this old hostelry, The Golden Krone Hotel. But a moment ago I looked up, to perceive the embers of a ravaged log, and I could have sworn therein was an image of your dear friend Lucy. Whimsical, I know! I must strongly resist a tendency towards journalism when writing to my family, friends and loved ones!
Since leaving hearth and home I have had no communication from my prospective host, but I have managed to follow his travel instructions to the letter. It has been quite an adventure!
The journey began in earnest when I embarked upon the packet steamer 'Dark Star' bound for Dubrovnik. The cabin appointments left a great deal to be desired, with coal-dust from the boiler-room seeming to cover everything.
That first evening, after an atrocious greasy meal, I had settled myself to write to you, but alas there blew up out of nowhere one of the fiercest storms ever encountered by our bluff but likeable captain Conrad. Much to my shame, I retired to my uncompromisingly hard bunk where, feeling awfully sorry for myself, I lay for the entire crossing.
As you know, I have crossed the Atlantic to my cousins in New York on several occasions, and visited Uncle Silas in Eire, but I have never succumbed to 'mal de mer' before.
You can be assured that it is not a pleasant experience! It is not simply an out-of-sorts sensation in one's stomach: one's head swims, as if it too is adrift in the very storm that belabours the vessel, and there is a disorienting muzziness engulfing the brain so that any cohesive thought is tantamount to being impossible to accomplish. A weariness encompasses the limbs, and a shivering weakness pervades the very soul. Sacrilegious to remark, but at one's lowest ebb one almost wishes for the Great Adventure, death, itself!
Happily, on our approach to the port, the sea calmed and these varied ailments deserted me, though I confess to being left like a piece of damp cloth, wrung through.
The carriage my host promised to provide was indeed awaiting me at the quayside. It was a splendid affair, most resembling a landau, with four strong black horses, all caparisoned in shining leather and brass livery.
A rather cadaverous pair of men perched on its high seat, fancifully reminding me of those crows we used to stone in farmer Bayliss's field! My host's two retainers were taciturn to the point of rudeness, yet they speedily progressed me through the official formalities and, once my baggage was installed in the luggage compartment, we were on our way.
If you believe our coaches are unpleasant contrivances, with the ubiquitous dust and bone-jarring springs, do not ever consider journeying in these continental contraptions! Within the hour I seemed to be bruised all over.
At the outset, the plush upholstery had smelled of luxurious leather, but in no time at all the interior was clogged with a russet-coloured dust.
I shall complete this epistle to you later. I am assured there is a post office at our next place of call for we must journey on this very night before the storm breaks.
Your loving Jonathan.
5 May, 1897
Disaster struck! Last night, while our coachman drove our poor beasts pell-mell through a violent rainstorm, a wheel sheered from the vehicle. He was catapulted off the mountainside to an awful certain death, while I myself barely escaped with a bruised jaw and a sprained ankle.
Fortunately, the surviving retainer, Arpad, knows the mountains well. He called some mediaeval curse upon the driver who had lost his life for his impetuousness, then directed me to follow him up through a winding overgrown defile. Rainwater sluiced down the rocks from above, and I was very soon drenched. I abandoned my portmanteau but struggled manfully with the carpetbag. Arpad deigned not to assist me.
Eventually, Arpad found this shelter. It is an old ruined fortress, the walls long ago dismantled to supply the local populace with dry-stone walls and low-ceilinged hovels.
The rain has ceased. I must confess to an uneasiness in the presence of Arpad. He is a great hulking fellow, with a low brow, beady black eyes and enormous hands. He hardly ever speaks, and when he does it is in guttural fractured Serbo-Croat.
But as I gaze out the slit window, across these mountains, irrational worry departs.
If only you could share this view with me, dearest Mina!
The condensation from the night's rain has now become a romantic mist, half-clouding the mauve and grey peaks, with the rays of the rising sun glinting on outcrops of unblemished snow and twinkling ice. And the air is so fresh. This land must surely be blessed!
I broke off writing for a moment as Arpad explained we must be getting on. He even gave me two swigs of his slivovice, a rather tart plum brandy, which perked me up considerably.
I hope to write again soon, my dear. But I must close and slip this letter into its envelope. According to Arpad, his master will endeavour to send this on to you from his ancestral demesne.
Strangely, I feel a trifle light-headed, probably on account of that liquor - a little sleepy. I am sure that Arpad will look after me, as his master has expressed a great interest in my writing style.
Yes, indeed, I am greatly looking forward to meeting Count Dracula in his Transylvanian castle.
Note: If you haven’t read Dracula by Bram Stoker, I recommend it.
Even though you know the evil count, thanks to many films, you’re still bound to read with dread anticipation the epistolary story of Jonathan Harker, his family and friends.
This was written as an exercise under 1,000 words with the subject ‘Letters’.
Previously published in Costa TV Times, 2010. Copyright 2014, Nik Morton
My vampire novel is Death is Another Life (writing as Robert Morton) and is available only until May from Amazon com e-book here
and from Amazon UK paperback from here
Two other books that may be of interest are:
The Fluttering by David Whitehead and Curtains of Blood by Robert J Randisi
I have both on my Kindle but haven’t read them yet!
Something terrifying has started happening in Eggerton. People are turning up drained of blood and very, very dead. Have vampire bats started attacking humans? If so, then who’s delivering the hammer-blow that finally kills the victims?
For Detective Inspector Jack Sears it’s a mystery that not even virologist Doctor Christopher Deacon can help fathom. But then the police get lucky. Against all the odds, one of the victims survives. But strangely enough, that’s when things go from bad to worse …Show more Show less
Curtains of Blood
In another part of London, the reign of terror has touched a young writer and theatre manager named Bram Stoker. The police have closed his theatre's production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and suspect its star of being Jack the Ripper. His livelihood endangered, Stoker sets out on his own to find the real killer. But Jack wants just as badly to find Stoker. When the madman and the author meet face to face, a new chapter will be written in the annals of horror.