At age twenty-one, Rhode Island’s most famous master of the macabre, H. P. Lovecraft, was a high school drop-out; an awkward and emotionally crippled shut-in who wrote all night and slept by day.  His only pleasures came from weaving his own bizarre, fledgling stories and composing his science column for The Providence Journal.  A request to edit a U.S. edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula emboldens him to investigate Rhode Island’s own vampire legend, Mercy Brown, resulting in a showdown that would forever change the literature of horror!

s he reversed the car, I couldn’t help but look back at the pitch black graveyard.  There was a round, blue orb of light hovering over the area where Mercy Brown was buried.  I didn’t bother alerting Bernie to its presence.  I knew it was there expressly for me.

*     *     *

On the ride home, even after I’d calmed, I could not shake the distinct feeling that we were being followed.  There wasn’t another soul on the road, and I felt silly as I looked behind us for the fifth time.

“Howard, what is it that you think you will find back there?”  Bernie finally asked.

“Am I that obvious?  I know that I’m letting my imagination play havoc again.  I think Stoker’s vile creations will get me.”

“You don’t have much faith in God, do you Howard?”

The question was forward, but I answered honestly.

“No Bernie, I don’t,” I stated emphatically.  “I’m content to live and serve as best I can, without reward at the end of the day.  After all, we floated in the ether of oblivion before entering this world; I look forward to returning there, free of desires which may be unrequited.  No, I would not relish immortality at all.”

“But faith can be a great comfort in troubled times.  The characters in your Mister Stoker’s story were certainly lucky to have God on their side.”

“But they are just that, Bernie; characters in a story.  This is real life.”

*     *     *

When I was safe and sound at home, back in robe and slippers, the Damoclean dread remained palpable.   I got some leftover soup from the icebox and heated it on the stove.  The cat was decidedly anxious and pulled one of his disappearing acts after he got his supper.

The house and indeed the whole neighborhood was deathly silent.  I usually consider Mother’s time away to be an oasis, but on this occasion I’d have been grateful for the company.  After cleaning my dishes, I retired to my favorite easy chair to work on my essay for Dracula; the sooner to be rid of the foul tome.  I thought of the anguish of those nineteenth century inhabitants of Exeter.  It must have been inexorable for those Godly people to give in to their medieval fears and desecrate the graves of the Brown family.  I also thought of the suffering of each of the Browns, as a spreading affliction rapidly devoured the health of each in turn.

There was the tinkling of glass just outside and I knew from the change in light through the window, that a street lamp had been damaged.

I further knew deep in my heart, that I had been foolhardy in continuing to ruminate on the Browns in my parlor that evening.  I had called them forth.

Whispering voices began.  I sat quaking in silence.  I could hear women calling “Howard” to me in a most sensual manner, interspersed with a masculine “Lovecraft” at intervals.  Only the events of the early part of the evening kept me from succumbing to the notion that I was insane.  The languid calls were hypnotic.  They unquestionably came from outside the house, yet had the illusory quality of swimming in my consciousness.

The next sound of breaking glass was shattering and came from very near me.  A large rock was thrown through a pane to my right.  The shock of it hurtled me from my seat.  I knew I had to act to retain any hope of survival, and found myself spurred forward by this instinct.

I turned off the few lights I had been using.  I ran swiftly about, bolting every door in the large house and locking every window.  It took some time, as I covered two floors and the cellar bulkhead.  As I neared windows, I’d catch the occasional wisp of a face on the other side, and the hushed sound of “Howard” quite near.  On one occasion, when I approached a window in the kitchen, a young male face was right there, hands against the glass, shouting “Lovey”, a childhood nickname.  It was so jarring that I jumped violently in reaction.  It stood leering as I locked the window.

I also got a good look at my otherworldly adversary.  His stark pallor was even dimmer than my own, yet his lips were blood red and full.  Most horrifying, I caught sight of the long and protruding canines as he railed at me.  They filled me with horror.  I imagined them capable of unutterable damage to human flesh.

Beyond that I didn’t know what more I could do.  I was surrounded.

There was a knock at the door, which again caused a spasmodic full body flinch.  Any attempt I made at bravery was counteracted by my reactionary nerves.  The banging became louder.  I tried to ignore it, but it persisted.

I moved to the front door.

“I say, please go away,” I began timidly.  “I’m terribly sorry to have disturbed you, and you can count on my leaving you in peace from now on.”  Did the Un-dead react favorably to polite entreaty?  I hoped as much.

“Open the door, Howard,” came an impatient voice.  “Howard, for heavens sake. It’s Bernie.  Open up, quickly.”

I was unconvinced for a moment.  Could they disguise their voices?  I tried to remember from the book.

“Open the God-damned door!”  The brogue was unmistakable.

I turned or unbolted several locks on the solid oak then opened it a crack to peer out.  Father Reilly was standing there with his arms full.  I opened it further to allow him passage, and then quickly began bolting it.

“No,” he said, stopping me from finishing the fortification.  “I’ll be of more use to you out there.  I may be able to turn them away before they can get to you.”

He moved quickly to the kitchen table, where he unburdened himself.  He lay down two large milk bottles filled with water and a metal, covered bowl.  He pulled several small crucifixes from his pockets and put them on the table as well.

“These bottles are filled with Holy Water,” he said.  “I blessed it myself.  My housemates will have to go without milk for the weekend.”

He put his thumb and forefinger on the knob atop the metal dish, and lifted.  It was full of small white cookies.

“Communion wafers,” he said.  “These, the water and crosses will only slow them down.  We need some stakes.”

I winced as he turned over one of Mother’s kitchen chairs, took hold of a leg and began to put all his weight into kicking at it.  He managed to break off all the legs.  He left three lying on the floor and stuffed one in his belt.

“Oh,” he said, as he pulled two folded purple stoles from his pocket.  He put one around his neck and one around mine, saying, “In nomini Patri, et Fili, et Spiritus Sancti, amen,” as he waved his hand about.

He then took out one of the wafers, and held it up before me.

“Corpus Christi,” he said.  When I opened my mouth to ask what to do, he shoved it in.

“Eat it all,” he said, “but don’t touch it with your teeth.”

The brood outside began to call his name along with mine.

“Oh, Father, Fatheeer” they taunted, rather more hatefully than they had summoned me.  The voices were so prominent in my head I became dizzy.  I thought for a moment I may faint.

“Howard.  Howard, listen to me!” Bernie reprimanded.  He took me by both shoulders and shook me roughly.  “You’re going to have to bear up.  I’m going to need you to dredge up any courage which may be in you and help me, do you understand?”

“Yes, of course, Bernie,” I replied politely.  “Many from my Philips ancestry gave all in defense of the Empire.  Our Teutonic strain is the very foundation of the able warrior.”

I felt nearly drunk, so enmeshed was I in a rapture of fright.  I barely knew what I was saying.

“Oh Bernie,” I said, pointing to the objects on the table, “I’m sorry, but I don’t believe in any of these things.”

“Well, for lack of better ideas, Howard, let’s just give Stoker the benefit of the doubt, shall we?”

As if in response to that battle plan, several windows suddenly crashed in at once.  A rock from over the sink hit Bernie solidly in the back.

“Aaaarrrgh,” he cried, bending his arm back there as he twirled, sucking in air.

“Bernie,” I yelled, grabbing his elbow.

“I’m fine, Howard,” he said quietly.  “Now I want you to let me out.  Then go upstairs and throw on all the lights, to illuminate them.  Stay away from the windows, all right.  These demons despise Christ the Risen Lord.  I’m going out there and drive them away.”

“You’re a brave man, Father,” I said.  “I’ll try not to let you down.”

“I know you won’t Howard.  I have faith in you.”  He locked my arm as I opened

the door for him.  I never went in for sentiment but I felt a twinge at that moment.

He ran out, praying aloud.

I ran in the opposite direction, going upstairs to cast light upon them as Bernie had instructed.  The man had a great deal in him for a son of Erin, I had to give him that.

As more windows broke, I noticed the night was getting windy.  Dirt and leaves were flying into the house.  It surprised me that no neighbors were reacting to this disturbance.  Grandfather’s grounds are extensive, however, and they are surrounded by the world-evading hedges he took such pride in.

Returning to the first floor, I looked out the front windows, and finally could see what we were dealing with.  Father Reilly stood with his back to the house as he recited in a clear, commanding voice.

“I cast thee out, unclean spirits,” he repeated over and over.  He held a book in front of him with one hand, and the jagged chair leg behind his back with the other.

A thick fog was beginning to encircle the estate, as if the phantoms had brought it with them.

Before him on the lawn four people faced him.  They laughed and sneered from a few yards away, held back by his words.  They were dressed as they had been at the cemetery and the personalities were very distinct to me now.

I could recognize the mother, Mary Brown, by her weathered face, and her older daughter Mary Olive, nearly the spitting image but hanging back a bit, taking it all in.  Young brother Edwin was the most hostile and animated, stepping forward toward Bernie with each taunt, then retreating a few steps to laugh with his sisters.  Lastly there was Mercy, the youngest and prettiest, but with a fire in her eyes that told me she was in charge, and the most dangerous.  Without question, the roles in the family hierarchy had changed in these new incarnations.

I freely took the opportunity to gaze out the window.  After all, I was hidden in darkness and they were distracted by the good Father.  It occurred to me that one of them was staring directly into my eyes, as if seeing me in the clear light of day.  Her eyes were glowing, penetrating mine, and an alluring smile curled on her lips.  It was Mercy.  A shudder passed through my very being, as if the shadow of death had fallen over me.

She nodded to the older Mary, who charged at Bernie.  He dropped the book and met her surge by pushing his spear into her.  I could hear the wet gush as the wood cut through her rampaging body.  As if by magic, Bernie was instantly holding not a middle-aged woman, but a dusty skeleton, which crumpled at his feet as he dropped it.

The other three were on him within seconds, and he couldn’t brace himself to rear the weapon.  I saw it fall to the ground as they bit into his neck at different places.  I shall never forget the pathetic screams that came from him.

Something came over me as I watched the man who came to my aid getting mauled.  There was a protective notion, and a rage that flushed over me, the like of which I’d never experienced.

“No, no,” I screamed.  “Over here, take me.  Come in here and get me!”

“No, Howard, not that, anything but that, Howard,” Bernie managed to cry out, and it dawned on me immediately what he meant.  I’d forgotten Stoker’s codicil that they had to be invited in.  God-damn.

© Richard Alan Scott