Around these shadowy edges, we watch as the darkness evaporates. Everything here in the laboratory is lurid black and white. Beakers full of chemicals bubble next to rows of test tubes. Sparks of electrical energy arc between looped antennae. At the center of all this is Doctor Frankenstein, his white lab smock soaked to the chest and elbows and thick with blood and gore. He looms, gazing down at the mutilated mess which lay on his operating table, a headless corpse.
“If the range of my desire and ambitions were not so far outside the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable research,” the Doctor mumbles as he stitches, “I would not have to endeavor alone with only my own two hands to perform every task. Creation may take me ages at this pace, and my predilection is to make life now! Although I possess the capacity of bestowing animation, preparing a frame for the reception of it, with all its intricacies of fibres, muscles, and veins, still remains a work of inconceivable difficulty and labor. It’s quite frustrating!”
Suddenly the door across the room opens, and a bizarre figure stands framed in silhouette by the entrance. A misshapen and stooped figure, who slowly limps and lumbers into the laboratory…
“There you are, Igor!” the Doctor exclaims. “My only associate. How I wish you could assist me in these surgeries! One day, through the miracle of the brain transplant, you just may! In a more able body, who knows what you might accomplish. And with a better brain even your body could do such wonders! You know, it may seem impossible just now my friend, but never give up hope. You’ve witnessed some of my greatest triumphs here, and rest assured that other great minds are working toward similar goals. It has been the dream of every scientist to unravel the mysteries of God. I shall create life in this lab! I shall succeed, or someone someplace must. My colleagues called me a lunatic. My wife took our son and left me. But the barriers that will fall because of the work I do shall be my just reward! I realize that to the uneducated and superstitious, my concepts and experiments may seem quite distasteful, but many of the greatest advancements of science have shocked the common people at first! History will vindicate me!”
Igor drools and stares somewhat blankly as the Doctor lectures him. Finally he interrupts, yet only timidly. “Doctor Frankenstein, I have brought the item you requested, and it’s very fresh! Perhaps we should preserve it somehow?”
The Doctor takes a step back as Igor holds out a sack to him. A look of unease crosses his face as he notes that there is much blood on the sack, and also on Igor’s clothes.
“Yes Igor, preparations have been made. Show me what you have!”
Igor dumps the contents onto the tabletop to reveal a freshly severed human head! The hair is matted with blood, and the stump of a neck still oozes.
“It’s the bishop!” the Doctor is aghast.
“Yes Doctor!” Igor proudly explains. “A pure mind was specified. Thoughtful, and wise! This man is thoughtful and wise and pure beyond others. I worked much harder to get this one, Doctor! It was more difficult than if I had taken someone from the tavern! You have no idea how much it took to get this man. I’m sorry if I’ve displeased you. Is the experiment ruined?”
“No Igor, you’ve done very well. The experiment will be better now because of your help. I had hoped to use the whole head, but this face is too recognizable. We will have to find another one. For now though you are absolutely right. This is the perfect brain. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better selection myself.”
They squeeze the bishop’s head snug in a vice and saw open his skull. Then they remove the brain to a jar of preservative fluid. Lightning crashes outside and it makes the bishop’s eyes appear to move in his head. The brain, in its jar, is placed on ice.
“Igor,” Doctor Frankenstein pontificates, “Now it falls upon you to find us a suitable head while I finish final operations on the body. You must travel a good distance to get us this new face, which must be unrecognizable. One day the time may come for me to reveal my creation to the scientific community at large. It could cause trouble for my creation to wear the face of a missing man… I should not expect you back for some time.”
Igor hands Doctor Frankenstein a drink.
“Some grog before I go, Doctor?” he says. “Preserving the bishop’s brain was exhausting work. I know it’s unpleasant for you to hear about, but he fought me for some time before I could subdue him and take his head. He hit me with his cane! I’m nearly worn out. Have a drink with me before I go to get the perfect face for your creation.”
He swigs his drink and froth drips from his ugly mouth.
“You can leave in the morning Igor,” Frankenstein says. “First you should rest up. I imagine the day was awfully trying for you.”
“It would be much easier for me if there was some kind of potion I could give them to make them sleep, Doctor.” says the fiendish assistant. “It’s difficult to get them without damaging what you need. A drink perhaps, that would put them to sleep, so that I could get what you want without a fight.”
“Yes Igor,” the Doctor says, lost in his own thoughts. “That would have come in handy, but we are almost there. The head is all that is left. There’s no time to develop an elixir now… But that’s a very good idea. You know Igor, you’re not the idiot these villagers mistake you for. A good man indeed, and a loyal friend.”
He drinks deeply and pats Igor on the back.
“…This drink,” he muses, “You know… It would have to be terribly fast-acting…”
Doctor Frankenstein drops his glass and sinks down to the floor. Igor straightens up his posture and strides over to the Doctor’s collapsed body without any trace of a limp. He takes a long drink and spits on the scientist.
“Arrogant asshole,” he says.
Doctor Frankenstein awakens gagged and tied to a chair in a strange, darkened room. The only light is from a single bulb hanging above his head. The only sound is his strained breathing. He trembles.
From out of the shadows, a voice:
“I have lived for a very long time,” says the mysterious stranger. “And I had to lose many things along the way. One of the first and least regretful of those lost things was my fear. There is no time for it, even in eternity. The thing that you are afraid of is death, and there is nothing at all to death. All of life is pain, and yet you fear death, which is the end of suffering. When you welcome death, you will not be afraid. I would have thought an intelligent man of science would suspect this, especially a surgeon, but great revelations take time. With such short, busy lifetimes, some have no occasion to seek enlightenment. Illumination evades them. Please, allow me to introduce myself…”
A dark figure unfolds from shadows. A young man, but with very old eyes and a strange demeanor.
“Doctor Heinrich Von Dracula is my name,” he states. “I have studied the works of all the greats. I’ve read the most respected journals, and taken many correspondence courses. I’m a respectable scientific intellect, but my means are somewhat limited. I’m unable to travel much or to work under certain conditions. My special diet makes it difficult to work outside my home. That’s why I’ve had my assistant Mister Renfeld, who you’ve known as Igor, bring you here to my castle. I think you will find it very accommodating. You should stay as long as you like.
“I have studied your diary, your journals, and your notes. I know almost everything there is to know about your life, your research, and your experiments. Mister Renfeld has provided me with all your information. I have been observing you for quite some time, Frankenstein. You’re brilliant. You’ve faced persecution from your peers, but they are the fools! Your research is quite valid. In fact, the most outstanding I have seen in all my years of studying science! Now I can see you’re struggling to speak, but we’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other, Doctor. Plenty of time. For now my own experiments require that I must be brief. You and I are both expected elsewhere. We shall converse more later. I am pleased to meet you, Viktor Frankenstein. Very pleased indeed.”
Dracula then rests an ice cold hand on Doctor Frankenstein’s shoulder, and with his other hand he injects the terrified Doctor in the neck with a bright green fluid.
“Renfeld!” Dracula shouts.
The full lights come on and reveal a huge, gleaming laboratory that puts Doctor Frankenstein’s to piteous shame. Dracula winces as the bright lights fire up. He begins to put on surgical garb. Mister Renfeld comes in and straps Doctor Frankenstein’s unconscious body down to the operating table. Dracula wheels another table in and brings it to rest beside Doctor Frankenstein. There is something on the new table under a sheet.
Dracula throws back this sheet to reveal a cadaver, sewn together from pieces of dead men. Its cranium is open and there is no brain.
Renfeld is already shaving Doctor Frankenstein’s head. Dracula and Renfeld go to work on him in a bloody surgery. The storm yet rages outside.
“My own experiments are years beyond those of Frankenstein,” Dracula muses. “He was on the right track, but I shall succeed. I have conquered death through vampirism and now I will conquer life by animating this lifeless meat!”
Doctor Frankenstein’s brain is transplanted into the skull of Dracula’s own patchwork cadaver. Renfeld begins to attach wires and electrodes to the corpse. Electricity surges and explodes in sparks. It flows through wires and into the jigsaw man, whose limbs twitch and jerk with the current. The body writhes and contorts.
“Tonight I conquer life!” The vampire shouts.
The current is shut off and the wires are removed.
Renfeld gasps as the cadaver sits up straight!
“I am the master of death and life.” Dracula says, triumphantly. “Now I am God!”
Renfeld hands him a crying baby and Dracula sinks his fangs into its soft fontanel. Blood squirts everywhere and the infant’s screaming wavers in pitch as it is stilled. Dracula feeds.
“Innocent blood Doctor,” Renfeld says. “You deserve it!”
He watches as Dracula drinks deeply. From the table, Frankenstein moans. Renfeld pushes him back and straps him down to the table. He begins to take Frankenstein’s vital signs. Soon Dracula rises and wipes his mouth. He tosses the shriveled, bloodless child to the ground with a dry plop, and licks his fingers.
“I have denied myself for so long!” he says. “Now I have fed and I am reborn with innocent blood, the purest of all! Now we must care for my creation.
“Frankenstein! Can you hear me in there you stupid bastard? I have succeeded where you failed. I have given life to the dead, and I have given the dead your brain! It may seem twisted, but I think I’ve been kind to allow you to see your work realized! How proud you will be when you awaken in your new body! It will take time for you to grasp it, yet mark my words, soon you will understand… And when you do, we will have much to discuss.
“Together we have realized your dreams! Rest Frankenstein. Rest, and think. After all, your thinking is what makes you so essential to me.”
He leans in close to Frankenstein’s brow.
“Now you will work with me to cure my bloodlust,” Dracula whispers. “I shall be free of the cursed thirst, but I will retain my immortality. Only then can I truly be free. Together our minds will devise a cure!”
He gestures to his assistant.
“Renfeld, take Doctor Frankenstein’s old body back to his laboratory and burn the place down to cinders. Play the part of Igor and alert the authorities of the Doctor’s demise in a catastrophic accident caused by an experiment gone terribly wrong. That will be the final chapter of his old life.”
“Do you think his brain was damaged during the transplant,” inquires Renfeld. “His intellect?”
They begin to shift now and lose focus. They change gently. Lightning cracks across the sky and thunders roar. Deep within the castle somewhere, a wolf howls. Sepia-tone creeps in around the edges of this black and white world. The nightmare dissolves and the dreamer awakens in darkness.
Footsteps approach. A door swings open, upward, into a dim room. The door is the lid of a coffin. Dracula’s eyes snap wide. Now everything is in color.
Renfeld, more real somehow than in the dream, holds up the lid of the casket, which rests on a dirt floor in a dark room, otherwise empty save for a short, small table beside the coffin. Renfeld lights a candle on the table with the one he holds, and a pale hand reaches from the casket. Renfeld helps Dracula up and out. The vampire sits down on the coffin, wearily. He also looks differently than in the dream, more defined. Renfeld hands him a glass of blood. Dracula takes the glass to his lips and swallows hard, spilling some.
“My cup runneth over,” Dracula says, wiping his chin and chuckling. “Thank you, Renfeld.”
Renfeld clears his throat.
“Doctor,” he says. “Your experiments were a great exertion for you. Your slumber was a long one. Your guest has awakened and he is quite remarkably despondent, considering his prior experience and extensive research in this field. I must apologize, Doctor, but I find myself unable to deal with him any longer in this state. Forgive my impatience in waking you early. If more rest is required, then please pardon my intrusion.”
“No Renfeld,” Dracula says groggily. “You did the right thing. I’m not cross with you. Just prepare me a child. I’ll need to have a word with our new friend. I’m sorry if he’s been a bother to you. I feel I take great advantage of your loyalty. If only my condition was not such a limitation, I could do more for myself in the outside world. Perhaps the solution is nearer to me now. In any case, you’ve been of invaluable assistance to me. I appreciate you.”
“Doctor, the work you do… You’re breaking the barriers… Reality falls away before you.” Renfeld says.
Dracula holds up his hands.
“Give me a chance to wake up,” he says. “I need a pure child. Nothing but innocent blood will satiate my hunger, and innocent blood is hard to come by. I must rid myself of this burden, but until then I must feed. Not an infant, but a pure child. Save the youngest for special occasions.”
“At once, Doctor.” He nods and is on his way.
In the hallway, Dracula adjusts his outfit in a full length mirror, though he has no reflection. He descends a long winding staircase that fades into darkness.
At the very bottom and down a long hallway lies Dracula’s magnificent laboratory, dimmed now. Off in the far corner is an observation chamber. Inside, in darkness, curled into a ball and shivering is the jigsaw cadaver with Frankenstein’s brain. He sobs, naked and shaking. The suit Renfeld bought him torn to shreds. The walls scratched and bloody from useless pounding. Dracula gazes at Frankenstein through a slot in the door. Presently he opens it and steps through.
“I won’t eat it! I won’t!” Frankenstein says, though he doesn’t look up, assuming it’s Renfeld.
“I apologize that I have left you here for so long without further explanation.” Dracula says.
“YOU!” Frankenstein shouts, and lunges towards Dracula, but the vampire’s eyes glow red and Frankenstein stands frozen, unable to attack.
“Relax, Frankenstein. You will have your chance to kill, but you cannot do harm to me. Nothing can harm me but hunger now, and I have not been hungry for a long time. Not truly hungry. Not desperately hungry. In fact, I live in great comfort. I have every amenity here at the castle and I have all the time I need for my research and for my experiments. My life is easy. You could also live in comfort, but you’ve chosen not to. You insist on wallowing in misery. What’s done is done, Frankenstein. You yourself wrote that you would do anything to accelerate your research. Now you have your grandest desire. Your work has been validated and you have been validated through your work.
“Years ago you chose this path and gave up everything to achieve it. Your wife has been gone for twenty years. Your son is grown, yet you don’t even know him. Your work had consumed you, and now you are your work… But there is work yet to do. We have opened the door, but very soon we must step through.
“Frankenstein, the secrets of God are for us to unravel! I have lived for longer than you would believe, and I have studied for ages. Education has provided me skill, but you are a genius with inborn, natural talent and a well of intellect. Together we can sever His Gordian Knot!”
Frankenstein sinks to the floor and buries his new face in his new hands.
“This is insane!” Frankenstein sobs. “This is a nightmare! It’s not true! This isn’t reality!”
“Reality, you will find, is relative.” says Dracula. “Indeed do many surprises await you. Come with me.”
They enter the dining room. A huge feast is set before a single plate at one end of the table, at the other end is only a napkin. Frankenstein sits at the empty end.
“My friend,” Dracula intones, “Why don’t you eat? You must be hungry.”
“I assumed it was for you.” Frankenstein admits. “It’s barely been weeks. My organs won’t be stable enough for that. I shouldn’t be eating solid foods for some time yet.”
“Doctor, I mean you no disrespect,” says the vampire, “But my interest in your research was mainly to confirm my own. My experiments were well in advance of yours. Your digestion is just fine. All of your parts are from excellent specimens. You would have approved of the selections, I assure you!”
Renfeld holds out the chair for Frankenstein but the monster refuses to sit until the servant leaves. Seated before the feast, he begins to pick at first, but soon he is gobbling the delicious meal in a frenzy. Presently he slows to a reasonable enough pace. He looks up at Dracula.
“I know your name,” he says. “You’ve told me it. You’re a scientist. You’ve proven that. But what is all of this? Who are you people?”
Dracula seats himself at the other end of the table in front of the empty placemat. He pauses, as if remembering, and for a long moment he does not speak.
“One day the sunlight blinded me,” he begins. “I hid inside and could not hold down food despite a great hunger. When I thought I would starve I went into the night and tore out the throat of an old woman with my teeth and drank deeply of her sour, filthy blood. I had no idea what was happening. I felt amazing. My hunger had left me. I was whole for the first time since the light had rejected me.
“That was how it began. I am a vampire. You may have heard folk tales and discounted them as superstition. The folk tales are true. I suppose I must have been bitten, or otherwise infected, but I cannot remember it. Just the terrible light and the oily taste of that grimy hag’s blood. It was a long time ago in a land far, far away.”
Renfeld wheels out a tray and sets a great platter before Dracula. He lifts off the lid to reveal a small boy, bound and gagged and trembling on the plate.
“Adult blood is impure. Spoiled.” Dracula explains. “It’s lost all its flavor, and provides very little sustenance. Pure blood is the most filling and satisfying, and innocent blood is the purest. Children, babies, virgins… All fine vintages.”
Dracula suddenly sinks his fangs into the child and slurps and sucks his blood in a ravenous frenzy.
Frankenstein stands as if to help the boy but it’s much too late. He vomits up everything he’s eaten instead.
Dracula looks up from his meal.
“I can assure you that your reaction is purely psychological. Your digestion is sound,” he says, gesturing to his assistant. “Renfeld, take Frankenstein to his quarters and let him get some rest.”
Renfeld approaches Frankenstein, but the monster snarls at him.
“Keep him away from me,” he warns.
Renfeld holds his hands up and moves back a step.
“No hard feelings Doctor Frankenstein,” he says, “I live to serve the will of Dracula. My employer ordered me to spy on you, and eventually to bring you here. It was nothing personal. Just following orders. If you can forgive my deception, I can serve you again. For Dracula.”
He nods to his true master.
“Renfeld is such a great help to me.” Dracula tells Frankenstein. “He’s preserved my existence so many times. He has found children for me when I was at the very brink of starvation. I truly owe him a great deal. He risks so much in service to me and his reward is so very small. Thank you Renfeld, that will be all.”
Renfeld clears away the dishes and closes the huge doors to the dining room behind him. The sunken eyes of the boy stare up unseeing from Dracula’s plate as the tray is wheeled out.
“In time, Frankenstein, you will grow accustomed to elements of our lifestyle that you find extreme just yet. Patience will correct your misperception.”
“Please excuse me.” Frankenstein says, standing to leave. He begins to walk away, but before he leaves the room, Dracula speaks:
“We are not monsters, Frankenstein. Not you or I, nor even Renfeld. Humanity is capable of carnage and insanity on levels I myself can only estimate. They penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her hiding-places. They ascend into the heavens! They have discovered how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breathe. They acquire new and almost unlimited powers, and soon they will command the thunders of Heaven.
“History proves this, and the future shall bear it out. As the sciences advance, so will man’s ability to take lives on grander and more epic scales. As a scientist you realize that peace and happiness are only myths, daydreams for the young and hopeful. Reality is hard, unforgiving. The struggle of life makes monsters of everyone, eventually. It’s why innocent blood tastes the best. Rest well, there is much to think about.”
In his room, Frankenstein lays in bed, but he doesn’t feel well at all and sleep eludes him. He is awake in the dim light of a single candle. From the dark, deep corners of the room come slowly three pale, wispy women in flowing gowns. They don’t get too close.
“He sleeps, sisters,” one whispers.
“Don’t get too close Agnes,” says another.
“You’ll wake him, Karin,” the last one says.
“Our lord has made a man,” Agnes says. “He is as God now. I told you, Maria, but you’ve never believed. Our condition is divinity. Our lord is the Lord.”
“Agnes, you’re wrong,” says Maria. “If anything he’s the Morningstar. The opposite!”
Both of the other Maidens of Dracula recoil at this and hiss in fright.
“Maria, he can hear you!” Karin reminds her.
They begin to cry and pray for her. Frankenstein sits up.
“Who are you?” he asks them.
“He wakes!” Maria says.
“Sisters, he wakes!” Agnes chimes in.
They dissolve into the darkness as seamlessly as they arrived, and after they leave Frankenstein finally collapses back, exhausted.
Renfeld leads Frankenstein into the laboratory.
“It’s been weeks since I last saw Dracula,” Frankenstein tells him. “I’ve barely seen you. Is this how it will be? Dracula has moved on to his next experiment, and I am cast aside?”
“The Doctor is prone to long slumbers,” Renfeld explains. “Especially when he comes to the end of a project. He drives himself so hard, he tends to collapse. He means you no disrespect, and neither do I.
“In fact, I’ve been working hard to stay out of your way. In any case, the Doctor has instructed me to insure you have complete access in the castle… And to this lab. Through that door is the gymnasium, and you are free to use the equipment there also. You are encouraged to use them. I think you’ll agree that the nature of your new body requires that it be carefully maintained lest problems arise.
“These labs are far in advance of your own. You’ll recognize that everything is of the highest standard of quality, the best that money can buy. The Doctor prides himself on his facilities. You will surely enjoy working here.”
Frankenstein is left alone in the lab. At first, he stands mute, disinterested in the equipment. Not allowing himself to let on that he is excited by the thought of the work he can do there. He imagines Dracula is watching him somehow, and he tries to deny the vampire whatever reaction he might expect.
But before long he begins inspecting the equipment. Unable to hide his enthusiasm for the place, he slices his finger with a scalpel and dabs a drop of blood onto a freshly sterilized glass slide. He places it under a microscope and studies it intently.
‘I suspect that much more of my own research has gone into Dracula’s work than his pride will allow him to admit,’ Frankenstein thinks.
Much later, Frankenstein endeavors in the lab with real enthusiasm. Dracula observes from the shadows, and seems quite pleased. Eventually he approaches Frankenstein and speaks.
“Frankenstein,” he says, “Tonight is a special one. Please come with me. I have things to show you, and there is much for us to discuss.”
They walk deep into a side wing off from the main laboratory. At the end of the hallway is a large, round room with glass cases inset along its walls, all darkened.
Dracula leads Frankenstein to the first of them.
“What is this?” Frankenstein asks.
The light in the first case does not come on. Instead, those in the room dim. In near darkness now, a soft light does seem to glow inside of the case, which is actually a very small room. A man shivers there on the floor. He seems to be praying in some foreign tongue.
“I acquired this creature in Latvia.” The vampire points. “We tried for months to capture him!”
The prisoner looks toward them for a second. Dracula throws a switch, and suddenly the room inside the case explodes with brilliant, blinding light.
“Moonlight,” Dracula explains. “Reflected from outside and intensified. Watch.”
The vampire steps back from the light, shading himself with his cloak. Inside the small room the man writhes and contorts, and long hair sprouts all over him. He snarls and howls and scratches. His limbs stretch and change. Soon, he has become a wolf, and the animal howls and licks his snout, cowering in the corner.
“I am interested in this,” Dracula tells Frankenstein. “There was a female, but Renfeld and I dissected her. We made extensive studies. However, we could not isolate what causes his condition. One day I shall. He has amazing ability to bend and transform.”
“Can’t you turn into a bat?” Frankenstein asks.
“Why would I want to do that?” Dracula snorts. “When I close mine, I can see through the eyes of the creatures of the night, which is almost the same thing. I might transform one day though, if I can learn what makes this wolf work.”
The lights go out in the case, but they stay very dim in the room Frankenstein and Dracula are in. They move on to the next window. Light splashes inside a huge aquarium filled with greenish water.
“This hybrid is from South America. I financed its capture and had it shipped here. At times I wanted to dissect it, but I haven’t yet. He’s lucky I have plenty to do.” Dracula gestures into the water.
In the aquarium stands a man, but with gills and fins like a fish. His hands and feet are webbed, and his big blank black eyes stare out at Dracula and Frankenstein.
“Magnificent,” says Frankenstein.
“Such wonders exist,” Dracula marvels. “One day I will have seen them all. That will be a terrible day. I have seen much. There is much for you to see.”
The creature walks towards the glass slowly and begins to raise his hands. The light in his aquarium goes out, and they move to the next case. When the light comes on, no great beasts are revealed. It’s simply an exhibit.
An Egyptian mummy.
“The Egyptians were closing in on reanimation of the dead, centuries ago. The ancient teachers of this science promised impossibilities and performed nothing. The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted and that the elixir of life is a chimera but these philosophers, whose hands seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes never to pore over the microscope or crucible, had indeed performed miracles. Their work also helped show me the way.”
Frankenstein leans in closely and looks into the case, studying the mummified remains.
“My God, it’s… Is it moving? It’s twitching! You–” he stammers.
“I brought him back as a trial run.” Dracula confirms. “I didn’t build him though, and his preservation was quite primitive. Can’t hardly get around. He lives, but he does not function. You function.”
The light goes out on the mummy. A spotlight comes on and shines on a huge anatomical drawing of the female form.
“When God had created Adam, God and Adam together created woman,” Dracula tells Frankenstein. “You will achieve your dream. I have shown it can be done. Together we will perfect the process. We’ll make her flawless. She will be the ultimate personification of both our lives’ work…
“And when she lives, you can have her! She’ll be an amusement for you while our research continues even beyond her! Your companion. Your counterpart. You worked to give life to dead flesh and now you will. You will give life to her flesh, and she will live for you!”
Frankenstein stares up silently at the drawing for what seems like a very long time.
Flesh & Blood vol. I, II, & III contents ©2007, 2013 Brian Jackson
Categorised in: Horror Books
This post was written by Nadia Vella