DENN DIE TODTEN REITEN SCHNELL

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“I stopped, for there was a sudden stillness. The storm had passed; and, perhaps in sympathy with nature`s silence, my heart seemed to cease to beat. But this was only momentarily; for suddenly the moonlight broke through the clouds showing me that I was in a graveyard and that the square object before me was a great massive tomb of marble, as white as the snow that lay on and all around it. With the moonlight there came a fierce sigh of the storm which appeared to resume it`s course with a long, low howl, as of many dogs or wolves. I was awed and shocked, and I felt the cold perceptively grow upon me til it seemed to grip me by the heart. Then while the flood of moonlight still fell on the marble tomb, the storm gave further evidence of renewing, as though it were returning on it`s track. Impelled by some sort of fascination, I approached the sepulchre to see what it was and why such a thing stood alone in such a place. I walked around it and read, over the Doric door, in German–

COUNTESS DOLINGEN OF GRATZ

IN STYRIA

SOUGHT AND FOUND DEATH

1801

On the top of the tomb, seemingly driven through the solid marble–for the structure was composed of a few vast blocks of stone–was a great iron spike or stake. On going to the back I saw, graven in great Russian letters: “The Dead Travel Fast.”

walpurgisnacht_by_xatiav-d47w3r6And so, in Bram Stoker`s short story, Dracula`s Guest, we are introduced to one of the most interesting and fleetingly ephemeral of all of his creations from his vampiric universe. It is generally thought that Dracula`s Guest was part of Stoker`s original manuscript for Dracula, but due to an insistence from his publishers that the book was too long, he removed it along with perhaps as many as two or three other chapters.

Although stylistically slightly at odds with the remainder of the book we now know, it is drenched in a gloomy, unnerving atmosphere which, I think, would have added significantly to the beginning of the novel.

Here we have all the prerequisites of the Gothic novel of the supernatural that we now know by heart; a lone warrior being led into the snapping jaws of unsuspecting danger despite the protestations and dire warnings by a reluctant driver of a horse drawn carriage, in the midst of a vast, dark forested alien landscape lit by crashing claps of thunder and lightning–all on Walpurgis Night, when the dead rise from their place of unrest. In a short respite from the windy rain lashed storm there emerges a long forgotten and isolated cemetery; an overgrown city populated by the long dead and shunned by the living.

Although the narrator of the tale is unnamed, it seems certain that we are following Jonathan Harker on a sightseeing field trip as he journeys to meet Count Dracula, but finds another vampiric predator instead……

“And now a perfect tornado burst upon me. The ground shook as though thousands of horses thundered across it; and this time the storm bore on it`s icy wings, not snow, but great hailstones which drove with such violence that they might have come from the thongs of Balearic slingers…….At first I had rushed to the nearest tree, ; but I was soon fain to leave it and seek the only spot which seemed to afford refuge, the deep Doric doorway of the marble tomb…..I leaned against the door, it moved slightly and opened inwards. The shelter of even a tomb was welcome in that pitiless tempest and I was about to enter it when there came a flash of forked lightning that lit up the whole expanse of the heavens. In the instant, as I am a living man, I saw, as my eyes turned into the darkness of the tomb, a beautiful woman with rounded cheeks and red lips, seemingly sleeping on a bier…………”

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A massive fork of lightning strikes the great bolt which pierces the tomb and utterly destroys it, releasing it`s demonic captive who writhes and screams like a rag-doll amidst the flames which envelope her. With this apocalyptic vision of hell on earth, our hero appears to momentarily lose his senses before coming awake, pinned down by a huge wolf with red flamed eyes greedily licking his neck.

Stoker was never one to idly throw away rejected scraps; this discarded prologue to Dracula was kept, dusted down, and reincarnated as a short story in it`s own right. Indeed, short though it may be, it probably contains more pungent, forceful,  descriptively atmospheric and evocative action than the whole of the novel it was removed from. It remains a wonderful piece of writing which continues to punch well above it`s weight, and perhaps it also needs, and deserves someone out there to write a story about the lady who “Sought and found death.”

Nadja

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