THE COUNT: A tale of gothic horror by Arnor Hermannsson

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Into a small village where the winter brings unspeakable horrors a woman of a sort not often encountered rides a gray mare carrying only the sword her father died holding and the pistol her father died shooting.
The beast in the castle ruins sits in his cavernous lair and waits.

Submitted: July 03, 2012

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Submitted: July 03, 2012

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It’s one of those villages where there’s a crucifix on every wall. Where people cower with fear at the whistling of the winter wind or the lonely, hollow howl of the hungry wolf. Myths and old wives' tales are very much alive here under the dark green forests and drab and blackened mountain peaks. The terror that the dark of winter brings is whispered about in the safety of the candlelit rooms of the homes. When a young virgin comes of age and she bleeds for the first time her room is covered in mirrors and her bed is strewn with garlic. Crucifix and pendant are hung on her and prayers murmured over her.

He smells the fresh and iron perfume of a virgin’s first blood. And when he does he’s gripped with a violent hunger that knows no equal in any beast or man. He flies as a shapeless mist. Twisting and thrashing on the wind. Whipping and wheeling over the ground. His talons dig furrows in the ground as he drags his limbs behind him. His nostrils quiver at the sweet beckoning from between a young girl’s thighs. All the animals and beasts of the forest scatter and skip in panic and confusion as he rushes around the trees. He’s a lonely creature this lord of night. This abomination and curse whose very features mock the likeness of man. He’s the last of his kind. The last in the line of the twisted, inbred litter that sprang from the cursed loins of Vlad the Impaler. Of all the women he’s raped only a few have been impregnated and all have they died giving agonizing birth to his stillborn freaks. And every time has he cried and shrieked in sorrow, disappointment and rage.

Through the eyes of blackbirds and wolves he watches the village from his castle ruins. He watches young girls as they grow. He watches and waits for them to come of age. He sharpens his talons on the castle rocks. He sharpens his teeth on the bones of poor critters that happen in his path. His thick saliva trickles down his chin. In summer he sleeps at day in an old sarcophagus and hardly ventures out at night. His powers are weak in the summer time and he feeds of rabbits and occasional deer. In the winter his powers return with full force and he loses his need to sleep. In the winter he can feast on sweet and sickeningly succulent human blood. In the summer time his hunger burns and when winter comes he’s ravenous.

At first sight he’s hauntingly beautiful. Full and curly locks. Pale and smooth his skin. His face long and handsome with high cheekbones and a powerful nose. He’s immaculately dressed in the peacock and gold tailcoats of royalty. But when he comes so close that the smell of fresh blood overtakes him he loses his beauty and his true form comes peaking through his guise. His stringy hair teeming with lice. His armpits and groin alive with ticks. His tailcoat torn and grey and faded. His dark eyes completely black and dead and soulless as the eyes of a great white shark.

He does not fear the crucifix since he does not fear a god. How can a god exist in the world of such a creature? He scoffs at the villagers silly superstitions. He does not fear garlic. He actually quite enjoys the smell of it since to him it’s synonymous with a young virgin’s room. However he loathes mirrors. Mere mortal eyes cannot see his twisted reflection in a mirror. But he can. He sees himself in all his revolting and inhuman reality. His yellow parchment skin, his arms so long they’re more like forelegs. His wings all cracked and mangled. He draws back from the sight of himself. It’s more disturbing to him than ever to a human. It rattles his very existence to look upon the unholy visage of himself.

He lays a spell upon the young girl so that she lies asleep while still awake and then proceeds to crack all the mirrors. He bolts the door from the inside and proceeds to feast on the unspoiled blood with the girl’s family hacking away at the door to stop him. Sometimes the family arrives on time and he flees defeated through the window. But sometimes the family is too late and their dear young girl is nothing but a pile of skin and bones to be stuffed with garlic and buried in the crowded graveyard to much crying, praying and pounding of chests and gnashing of teeth.

It was winter when I arrived in the village. My gray mare was exhausted from the long winding walk up the mountain roads. I was hungry and tired and cold to the bone. You had to know me to recognize me as a woman. My face marred with age. My steely gray hair cut short and covered by a broad hat. On my left hip hung the sword my father died holding. On my right hip hung the pistol my father died shooting. I had heard of the myths and the tales of the village. The nightmarish stories of the creature that lived in the castle ruins. I glanced up to the withered old rocks of that once glorious castle perched high in the sharp and twisted peaks. No light. No life. The moon was cold and snowy white as it illuminated the tiny, frightened houses in the village. I needed not fear the beast in the castle. My virginity was long gone. My barren womb a dried up husk. He could not smell me. He could not sense me. And if he could he would have scarcely cared. I did not fear him. I knew that I was already dying. All was not right with my blood and sometimes I coughed it up. Black and thick and smelly.

In the village only the inn was alive with light. I tied my horse outside and entered. A gray and mousy man turned swiftly around with a look of dread in his eyes. He soon calmed himself and smiled at me.

‘What can I do for you, sir?’ he said in a high little voice, more through his nose than his mouth.

‘I need food and a room to sleep in.’ I said. ‘And my horse will need seeing to as well.’

Even though my voice had coarsened and sunk with age and countless nights of drink and tobacco I clearly still kept the sweet timbre of a woman for I could see the familiar look on the small man’s face as he realized his mistake.

‘I’m so sorry madam.’ He bustled and blushed. ‘It’s the light in here. I can hardly see my own hands in this dark.’

‘You’re forgiven.’ I said. It was a common mistake. Raised by a widower soldier I had always been more of a boy than a girl. My physical strength could rival most men and my skill with sword and pistol where hitherto unmatched. In my youth I had had some beauty of sorts and I had twice married. I never bore either of my husbands any children. The first one left me for a woman that could and the other I crippled and abandoned when he beat me.

The simple dinner of unhappy meat and bright yellow potatoes I had been served had been a happy change from the jerky and dry bread I had had with me on my journey. Sleep came slowly that night and was fleeting and unsatisfactory. Many times did I wake. The whole house wailed and groaned with the merciless winter wind.

The next day was dark and colorless. I tried to interview the townspeople about the alleged terror in the castle ruins but few would stop and talk to me. In the end I found an old woman, a crazy toothless crone that cooed and bragged that she did not fear the dark lord of the mountains.

‘A coward he is.’ She said. ‘A ravenous beast that flees like a beaten dog if confronted.’ She laughed and spat. ‘He’s supposed to have the strength of many men, yet he only preys on little girls.’ She hollered and sung. ‘I do not fear him.’ She added. ‘I do not fear him since I’m old and my virginity is long gone. He does not want me. He does not even see me. To him I am dead. As dead as he is.’

I gazed up to the ruins and clasped the hilt of my sword. I caressed the handle of my gun. The old crone cackled with delight when she saw my face.

‘Don’t you think others have tried?’ she shrieked. ‘Twenty men can go up there and none will ever come back down. That is where his power is strongest. In the cavernous labyrinth of his castle ruins he is overlord. Many men have tried. Many men have died.’

‘I am no man.’ I said. The old woman flung herself at my legs and clasped her misshapen hands around my thigh.

‘Do not go up there.’ She spat and gargled. ‘If life is you even slightly dear, do not go up there.’

I kicked the old woman and she sat confused in the snow.

‘I am no man.’ I said. ‘Nor is my life even slightly dear.’

I walked swiftly away and into the inn to wait out the rest of that day.

At dusk I asked the innkeeper for a tall glass of wine. I emptied it in one gulp and turned to face the door.

‘I know what you’re thinking.’ The innkeeper said behind me. ‘But it’s useless. You may be the bravest and strongest woman I’ve ever seen but that won’t save you up there. Strength does not help against the beast.’

I slammed the door on his voice and entered the dark blue still of the night. Somewhere a blackbird cawed. Somewhere a wolf howled. A sound that chills the marrow of your spine and makes your shoulders painfully cringe. I could not let mere animals scare me now. The sword my father died holding in one hand and the pistol my father died shooting in the other I made my way to the forest path that led to the castle ruins.

The path was pitch black but my eyes were used to darkness and I never slowed my step. On either side of me could I see eyes shine in the thick dark. His corrupted and twisted blackbirds and wolves.

The forest was eerily silent. Hardly a rustle of hoot or howl. My boots crackled in the heavy snow. My breath was sharp and determined.

The moon was high upon the tapestry of the sky when I entered the castle ruins. Its sick white beams shone through the cracks and illuminated the cavernous building. A strange, colorless light. He did not make me search for him. I found him immediately, standing in a large room amongst rotten furniture. He looked at me with a crooked smile. So breathtakingly, impossibly beautiful. But I knew it to be only a trick. I knew not to let such a monster use his cheap magic on me.

‘Welcome.’ He said, with a powerful voice. A pleasing baritone that caressed my ears. All lies. Lies and tricks. ‘Do stay.’ He continued. ‘I hardly ever have the company of a lady.’

For a second I almost pulled up a chair. How charming, I thought. What a gentleman. Then I shook his lies and tricks away and lunged for him. But his lies and tricks were far more cunning than I had first thought. To my eyes he had been standing in the middle of the room but in reality he was but a foot from the back wall. So when he swiftly bolted to the side my blade hit the wall with a surprising force and the sword was impossibly stuck embedded in the rock. As I pulled at it with all my might his giant talons crashed into my chest and sent me flying onto my back. In my hand nothing but the handle and hilt of the sword my father died holding. Taking advantage of my surprise the monstrous count was on top of me in a second. No attempt to hide his twisted form. His hair teeming with lice. His armpits and groin alive with ticks. His yellow parchment skin. His long arms more like forelegs. His eyes black and soulless as the eyes of a great white shark. He sunk his gruesome fangs into my shoulder and proceeded to suck out my blood. But then he recoiled in horror and pain and threw up black blood on the floor.

‘Your blood!’ he screamed with a shrieking, disgusting voice. ‘Your blood is poison!’

I stood up and looked at him. He gazed at me with surprise and disgust in his eyes.

‘My blood is poison.’ I said. ‘Since it’s killing me I can’t imagine that it will do you any good.’

The look of horror soon left his face and he smiled at me with that beautiful mouth he had had when first I saw him.

‘Your blood is poison.’ He said, again with that pleasing baritone. ’Your blood is killing you. It can’t do me any good. So I will let you leave here alive if you wish.’

I looked him up and down with a grim look on my face.

‘I came here to kill you.’ I said. He laughed a wonderful trickling laugh.

‘Yes.’ He said. ‘Indeed you did. But I don’t believe you can. You’re a special woman. A woman of a sort I have never before encountered. You are a precious gem in this world and it’s an evil sin that you own blood is killing you.’

I could not help it but my eyes softened. His voice was so full of compassion and love. He seemed to care more about me than ever my two husbands. He seemed to care more about me than even my own father had. He came over to me and caressed my face. They were warm fingers. Not talons. His eyes were emerald green. Not soulless black pits. His breath so sweet and warm. Not cold and cadaverous. His skin so soft and white. Not yellow and dry and shriveled. I felt he truly loved me. I gazed into his lovely green eyes and could see my reflection there. A sweet young virgin. An innocent and beautiful girl. So happy and pretty and loved. It was so darling and good in his warm embrace that I think it surprised us both when I pulled out the pistol my father died shooting and shot him straight through the heart. His spell snapped away like a candlelight blown and he bellowed and shrieked and he shook. His blood cascaded from his wounds and he sunk to his knees on the cold stone floor. He tried to stop the blood from gushing but it spurted out from between his fingers.

‘How?’ he demanded with a shrill and disgusting voice. ‘How?!’

I looked at him and I grimaced with loathing. What a pathetic and evil creature he was.

‘How?’ I echoed. ‘You vain and stupid beast. Your lies are far too sweet. Your embrace is much too warm.’

He stared at me in disbelief, his eyes again black and dead, as I walked over to him where he knelt pathetically on the floor and delivered a bullet straight through his head.

I stumbled into the town. The wound on my shoulder sent pangs of throbbing pain through my entire body. Finally I collapsed on the floor of the inn. After days of gibbering fever my body finally gave up. My black and poisonous blood ran no more.

In my grave in the cemetery I open my black eyes. Soulless like the eyes of a great white shark. I vomit the garlic they’ve stuffed down my throat. With my talons I dig myself free.


© Copyright 2017 arnorhermannsson. All rights reserved.

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