11 NOVEMBER 1896
(translated from Dutch)
If this document is being read then it is upon my death and I depend on the reader to take the proper actions to resolve the plight I have created. To make the reader aware of the dangers I am writing the following account of the circumstances that led to the quandary you will find yourself confronting. I cannot stress enough how great the jeopardy one will face in correcting what might have been a great blunder on my part. I apologize. But failure would imperil not only the brave soul who deigns to embark upon this task but likely hazard the entire world. Please do not take this as an exaggeration. The entire world.
After our astounding final encounter with the Vampire I was not content that we had ended the affair satisfactorily. In fact I was haunted by the thought that we had not even accomplished what we had set out to do. I believed we had been so relieved and intoxicated by our monumental achievement and the release of Madam Mina’s entrancement by the vile Creature that I was afraid we had neglected to make certain that the Beast was indeed destroyed. I dwelled upon this while the other participants were making the arrangements for the transportation of poor deceased Quincey Morris back to his family, and themselves back to England. As for myself I decided to remain in this mysterious country for a few months of research and inquiry.
After checking on Madam Mina and assuring myself as to her continued recuperation, I stole away from the commotion and ventured into the village where I rented a horse drawn carriage, an enclosed transport wagon, used by the local milliner to haul perishables. I was also able to engage four burly fellows to assist me. These men were recruited at a tavern servicing the peasantry. A familiar type of rough rustic to do most anything for lucre. Still they drove a dear bargain for a day and night’s work.
Despite their rough countenance they did show some misgivings when they witnessed my purchase of a casket at the local undertakers. I suppose any sort of container would have sufficed but after searching I discovered that the ideal vessel for transporting a body is indeed one from the mortuary. A simple pine box was my preference but there were none at hand, or so said the daunting proprietor. He offered one to be built but I was not willing to wait the two, possibly three days. I knew this to be a sales tactic but I was in no mood to wait or haggle and purchased a black lacquered affair (for far more than it was worth, I am sure.) The dastardly man prattled on about the craftsmanship of the casket, the lush satin interior, hand rubbed brass handles and so on until I felt like I was being fitted for a new suit.
Finally we were on our way, I guiding from the open driver’s perch with two of my hirelings, the other pair inside the wagon with the casket as there was no other place for them to ride. They were not happy with the arrangement, all insisting on drawing straws for the berths. Only I knew that they would be even less content when they discovered exactly what was going into the coffin.
Finding the spot where we had finally confronted and defeated the Vampire was quite easy, the place burnt into my mind like a silver photoengrave. We traveled on the rough road, for a road of an ancient and imperfect kind it was.
The box containing our Un-Dead foe had been pushed into the river and I had only to follow the course of the current for a few hundred meters and finally spied the box caught up in a tangle of flood debris piled near the bank. The container was in the grasp of tree limbs, their claw-like branches gripping it firmly.
One of my henchmen waded out into the rapid eddies with a rope tied to his waist for security. His fellows held the other end as he struggled against the fierce current but he was able to tie another rope, brought for these purposes, to the box.
It took all five of us to pull the box from the water and up the muddy bank. When these stalwart men saw what was inside this box they withdrew with the timidity of a maiden spying a snake in the rose garden. Even the horses began to scream and tore at their tethers till I came to them and quieted the beasts. When they did feel my hands on them, they whinnied low as in joy, and licked my hands and were quiet for a time.
I left the soothed beasts and examined the condition of the corpse. There was no evidence of the decay often found with water immersion but this was not surprising, the weather being quite cold and the subsequent icy waters most likely acting as a cold storage preservative. What was surprising, most remarkable in fact, is that I found the Vampire’s throat halfway healed. Despite the deep slash delivered by Harker’s kukri blade, the wound had closed and new tissue was forming. I should have taken this as a warning.
The other wound, was by the late Quincey Morris’s bowie knife. Being nearly the length of a Roman short sword the blade had been thrust into the Vampire’s chest with such force that it had pinned the creature to the bottom of the box, very much like a mounted insect. We discovered this while transferring the body into the casket. It was my decision to leave the Bowie knife in situ, assuming that this was the reason for the Creature’s demise. Assumed in error, to my later regret.
As we loaded the coffin into the wagon a chill wind began to blow and a scattering of snow began to pelt us. As the horses trotted away. I gave the site one last mournful look, in remembrance of our companion, the brave Quincey Morris. The somber clouds overhead matched my dark mood.
A thaw and the rain from the night before had turned the roads into muddy bogs, then the cold temperature had frozen this mud into a turgid crenellation most difficult to traverse. Our wheels bounced and jolted and the wagon was tossed about like a ship on a rough sea. It became slow going to say the least, a bitter wind in our faces. The two men riding up front with me were probably wishing they had done better on the straw draw.
The further we traveled the more ragged and difficult the road presented itself and our progress slowed more than I desired. My consternation increased as night loomed before us, the dim light behind the low ceiling of bruised clouds diminishing by the moment. I knew that the night was the Vampire’s dominion and even though he seemed to be without power at this moment a deep antediluvian dread haunted me.
Our passage led us through desolate rural areas, tiny houses, with small tilled plots now scoured of any fall crop, the orchards naked of leaves. These small farms were often walled with stone harvested from the fields and these walls hemmed in our route.
The muddied road became rougher, our jostling more violent to the point where we were almost thrown from our seats more than once. I heard an occasional curse from within the wagon as those men were tossed about. Despite the threat of night falling upon us I had to order my driver to slow his horses before we lost a wheel or broke an axle.
Suddenly, as if the turning off of a gas jet, night was upon us.
I do not know if one of the men inside the wagon, out of innate curiosity, or thinking to steal the Bowie knife, opened the Vampire’s casket and removed it or if the constant bounding and bucking of the carriage simply loosened then displanted the blade. Either way our first indication that something had gone awry was a sharp scream from inside the wagon. Followed by a great commotion from therein, a knocking and pounding to rival the wagon’s outside agitation.
Another horrible scream, this one clearer and louder as the rear door of the wagon flew open and a man was propelled out that door and tumbled onto the road behind us. It was one of my hirelings. The body rolled in that familiar limp and loose tumble as only the dead perform. There was more thrashing and yelling from the open door, then another scream from the depths of hell, this one abruptly truncated mid-note, quickly followed by the appearance of the second man’s body, obviously thrown from the carriage open back doors. There was something peculiar about the fall of this body but I had no time to ponder. My other two hirelings looked at me in consternation.
Then a hand appeared over the wagon roof just above the open rear door. We all craned our heads to watch as a face rose into view, like a pale moon over a dark horizon.
The Vampire. His red eyes burned like two hot coals, a matching scarlet smeared his mouth. His smile was depraved, the gruesome fangs shining brightly.
The two men on either side of me, so full of bravado and manful bluster when I engaged them, at this sight of the Un-Dead, blanched and leapt from the wagon. I do not blame them. My first instinct was the same.
But I felt the debt owed to Morris and the lady Mina, how brave they had been in crisis, and so I reached down to retrieve the reins so that I could regain control of the horses before they ran us off a cliff or into one of those stone walls.
The Vampire rose and stepped upon the carriage roof. He clutched something in his left hand. I could not make out the object, the darkness and a sudden ceiling of overhanging trees plunging my view into a complete penumbra. He threw this object at me. It struck me in the chest and by reflex I let loose of the reins to catch it, clutched it to my breast. When I once again had enough light I saw that I was cradling the dismembered head of my hireling. I have to admit that, even with all of my experience at the dissection table and my familiarity with the human anatomy, I was momentarily paralyzed with shock.
I quickly tossed the repulsive visage into the night and rousing myself from my stupor regained my senses in time to see the Vampire stride across the wagon’s turbulently rocking roof as easily as if he was on a stroll down a park path. I turned just in time to see his foot rise to kick me in the chest and send me flying off the wagon. I bounced off one horse and fell between the pair, catching myself on the braces. Not a conscious act at all, I assure you, but some kind of desperate survival instinct.
The horses, sensing some atavistic threat above them, no doubt, became wild with fear. I was barely holding on to the leather straps, flying hooves inches from my face, my hands. I knew I was but millimeters from being trampled to death or struck a blow from an iron clad hoof that would likely cripple or even kill me. My back hung low enough to scrape and bump against the rock hard pinnacles of mud protruding from the road. Each stab and abradement a vicious blow that almost knocked me loose.
The Vampire leaned down from the driver’s seat and planted a foot on my chest. He said something to me but I heard it not as the clatter of the horses hooves drowned out all sound. With a sardonic sneer he applied pressure with his boot until I had no choice but to release my grip. I fell onto the harsh road, horse hooves pounding so close that I felt the wind of their passing on my face.
I bounced a few times, my forehead striking the under carriage with a brutal blow. The spinning wheels missed my limbs by a hairs breadth. I do not know what prompted me but once more some primal survival instinct caused my hands to desperately reach out and I found purchase on the rear axle.
I was instantly suffering a beating as I was dragged behind the wagon at full gallop. If only to escape further battering I painfully hoisted myself up and into the wagon interior. The inside walls were painted with blood. I could see that the casket had been flung open. Slinging one of the ropes over my shoulder I proceeded to climb to the wagon roof as had the Vampire before me. I confess that my short trek across the jittering roof was not as sure footed as my foe.
But I had the advantage: he was unaware of my approach as he urged the horse on at a breakneck speed. When I was a pace behind him I three a loop of the rope around his neck and hauled him out of the driver’s seat. With all the strength within me I twisted tight the rope.
He fought the improvised noose, clawing at the rope that bit into his neck. The struggle was so vigorous that it caused us both to roll around on our precarious perch. I held on, knowing my life was forfeit if I failed. I knew I could not strangle the Vampire, he did not breathe. My hope was to haul it off the carriage and, if the Almighty was smiling upon my efforts, under the wheels. I think that the Creature’s previous battle, days before, had weakened it, if not the wounds and submersion in freezing water, because otherwise I would have had no success against his prodigious strength.
Meanwhile the horses had gone wild, mad with fear. Unfettered by the reins they raced in a fright-fueled frenzy, straying from the road, scraping rough hewn walls, sparks spitting where steel wheels struck stone. The Vampire was getting the better of me and I tried to concentrate on the task at hand but my pummeling beneath the carriage had taken a toll on me. I never saw the great oak ahead of us.
I did feel the collision as the carriage struck. The impact was tremendous. A great smashing that sent the Vampire and I sailing through the air. I struck the ground so hard that I was rendered insensible for a brief moment. Regrettably, the Vampire recovered immediately and was instantly at my throat, one hand on the crown of my head, pushing it aside to bare my neck. I came to my senses, finding his face inches above me, mouth open and fangs displayed in a manner at once both evil and horrifying. I kicked out with my legs, knocking his out from under him, causing him to sprawl and simultaneously freeing me from his deadly embrace.
I rose to my feet and so did the Creature. We rushed at each other and collided like two battling elk. We grappled and even in his current weakness the Vampire was able to overcome me. I struck him a few blows that had no effect upon him. He struck at me and those clouts did indeed have a disabling result upon my own vigor. I could not continue for long in this sort of combat.
A strike at my head caused a bit of vertigo and I began desperately to search for some source of salvation, any sort of deliverance. I spied behind the Vampire the wagon, listing to one side where a wheel had broken. The rim and steel clad wheel was gone, the hub sprouting only a few naked and shattered spokes splayed out like the fingers of an opened hand.
“Now I will be rid of you once and forever,” said Dracula as he approached me with dire intent.
Once again he grasped the top of my head with one hand, the other pressed upon my shoulder to bare my throat.
I ducked my head, freeing it, and pressed my shoulder into his mid-section. Digging my feet in I charged ahead, propelling the Vampire backwards. I gave it all my remaining strength to this drive until we came to a sudden stop.
I backed away and saw that the Vampire had become impaled by one of the wheel spokes. His eyes glared at me in fiery rage and emitted a horrid screeching, and then that malefic light faded and his writhing body went slack as if he had died. I was not fooled, after all he was the exemplar of the Un-Dead.
I watched the Vampire until I could catch my breath again. He did not move.
When I had recovered sufficiently I went in search of my hirelings. The two survivors had reunited and were sitting under a great pine, smoking and huddled against the cold. I spied the flare of their cigarettes before seeing them. We backtracked in a search for the bodies of their compatriots. Both of those men were quite dead, the neck broken on one, who had also been drained of his blood, the other dead from multiple injuries, his entire rib cage stove in like a busted crate. It took us another hour to locate and reunite the poor fellow with his head.
We marked the road where they lay with hastily created crosses, something to poke out of the gathering snow so that we could collect them on our return. The wind came now in fierce bursts and the snow was driven with fury as it swept upon us in circling eddies.
The two men still living seemed not overly affected by the death of their companions, a statement toward the hard life in these lands, I suppose.
They were more skittish when we came upon the Vampire. Even in his deathly repose Dracula had a viperous air. We set about removing the broken wheel, carefully making sure that the impaling spoke remained in his body as I was confident that this was the cause of his demise and immobility- such as it might be – temporary or otherwise.
Mounting the spare wheel was a dirty, strenuous affair. That done we went in search of the horses. They had broken free but not wandered far and did not resist being hitched back into harness. Dracula was restored to his coffin, this time the lid secured by multiple turns of our rope.
And we returned to our journey. The snow was now falling heavily and swirled about fiercely, for a high wind was beginning to blow. I advised the driver to go slow for fear of the jostling that might have freed the Vampire before. We actually had no choice in the matter as one of our other wheels and perhaps an axle were impaired from the collision.
Finally we passed through the tiny village that was my destination.
The hamlet had been abandoned after a series of floods, the houses buried up to their hollow eyed windows with sand and rock, bush and saplings thrusting out of roof and open room. A solemn and sad sight, what was once so full of life and hope now a monument to the fragility of man and his feeble efforts to create some permanence.
A distance further from this sad, empty town was a hill where a church once lorded over the land, safe from the raging waters below but not protected from the parishioners. There was something wild and uncanny about the place. It is told that the priest, after a succession of plagues that had ravaged his flock, had lost his faith in God and in a scheme to prove His existence attempted to raise the Devil: the priest’s perverted logic that if Satan existed so too must his God. To summon the Dark Prince the priest performed sacrifices in some black rite, human sacrifices, infants, stolen from the surrounding villages. He became a wolf preying on his own flock.
Suspicions led to action by the townspeople and the skeletons of his victims were discovered in an old hideaway dug under the rectory. The villagers set fire to the church with the blasphemous priest trapped within.
The burnt out husk of the house of God was now overgrown with weeds and inhabited by bats that flew up in a ghostly flutter as we approached. The church itself was of no interest or purpose to my aims. It was the adjacent cemetery I needed. In my research to find the home of my enemy, the Creature in the casket, I had come across this profane site and a certain tomb related to the Dracula family.
We found it without difficulty, huge it was and nobly proportioned, the structure surpassing all other vaults in size and bearing. A large mausoleum of black stone dominating the graves clustered around it like chicks to their hen.
The casket was manhandled with some bother and hardship, from the wagon into the tomb, there being just the three of us, I injured from my battle, one of the other men with a useless arm and us hampered by the loss of the two others who had helped load the coffin. But we managed and then secured the door from the outside. My hope is that this desolate and cursed place will serve as security until I can return and seal it even further. I might find a way to also bind the coffin in a more impenetrable manner.
Why do I go to these lengths instead of destroying the King-Vampire? I am not sure. I tell myself that it is pure scientific curiosity, the why and how of such a being, that we could learn things that might be of immense value to humankind. I do hope this justification is not some vain glorious enterprise. It could be the doom of me – and the world.
We return home, to gather our dead and proceed with our lives. My own future is a mystery to me, as it should be, I suppose.
So, it is now upon the shoulders of you, dear reader, to decide what is to be done with this creature. The future, if my own era is any exemplar, I am sure will be witness to scientific miracles. It will no doubt be a better world and I hope that those better times an people will be able to solve the rebus I have left you.
Good luck and God help you.
Abraham Van Helsing
11 November 1896