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A GOTHIC ADVENTURE • by Paul A. Freeman

Nathan Harker was propping up the bar at the Carfax Arms public house. He was on his third pint of lager and had been complaining about his wife incessantly since midway through his first.

“I don’t know why I ever married that stupid cow,” he told anyone who cared to listen. “She’s done nothing but drag me down.” This was his most often repeated matrimonial observation, followed closely by, “If only the fat pig would get run over by a bus.”

This latter statement, which was also subject to much slurred repetition, did however vary as to which form of transportation Nathan preferred in bringing about Mona Harker’s demise. Alternately he imagined a bus, a lorry, a train — even a stricken airliner — freeing him of his troublesome spouse.

Reading between the lines of his increasingly irrational arguments, it became clear that the main cause of Nathan Harker’s ill-will towards his wife was her unbridled passion for shopping. Apparently Mona had maxed out a number of credit cards and now, what with the deepening recession, several bank managers were calling in the couple’s ‘markers’.

“She’s a bleedin’ shopoholic!” Nathan told his less-than-wrapt audience before ordering a fourth drink. “That’s her real problem. If only she was dead.”

At this moment in proceedings a stranger who had been sitting in a dimly lit corner of the saloon bar sidled up to Nathan. He was an odd-looking little man, wearing old-fashioned, round-rimmed glasses, and with a nervous tic tugging at his left eyelid.

“The name’s Renfield,” said the stranger, and followed up this disclosure with a high-pitched giggle. “I believe that I and my master might be able to solve your marital predicament.”

“Renfield?” said Nathan. “You’re not related to that nutter my dad and granddad told me about.”

“I am indeed, sir. Our great, great grandparents were acquainted through those unfortunate events chronicled by Mr. Bram Stoker in 1897.”

“Then your master’s…”

“Count Vlad Dracula,” Renfield affirmed, lowering his voice.

Nathan Harker took a long swig of beer. “So all those whacky old stories were true. Well, I never. And there I was thinking the Harkers were inherently loopy.” He signalled to the barman to fetch Renfield a drink. “So what exactly do you want with me?”

Once his gin and tonic had arrived, Renfield explained. “I’m an emissary of the resurrected Count Dracula. More than a century ago, your great-great-grandmother, Mina, helped track him down to his lair in Castle Alucard, in the Carpathian Mountains. Since then, my Master has sworn a vendetta against the Harkers — a blood feud.”

Nathan frowned, worriedly.

“Fear not, sir. My Master’s quarrel is with the females of the Harker family. The males have always been rather weak and ineffectual. And since the Harker family’s lineage features no direct female descendants, your wife, Mona Harker, will just have to do.”

“‘Just have to do’ for what exactly?”

Renfield giggled nervously. “For Count Dracula’s vengeance, of course. He’s already disposed of one of those tittle-tattling Stokers for their ancestor’s unflattering portrayal of him. And as for the Van Helsings, who mercilessly hunted my Master down, their bloodline has been severed.”

Nathan gulped and loosened his collar. “So, er, what exactly does the Count want with Mona?”

“That’s between the Master and her.” Renfield reached into his pocket. He took out a business card touting a travel agency called Transylvania Tours. “Bring your wife to Castle Alucard any day during this summer, just before sunset, and your marital troubles will be over.”

“How can I trust you not to hurt me?” asked Nathan, accepting the card.

“You have the Count’s word on it that he won’t harm you — and the Count’s word is sacrosanct.”

In spite of a certain amount of incredulity and trepidation, Nathan found himself grinning at the prospect of ridding himself of Mona.

***

That summer, Nathan and a reluctant, overweight Mona Harker took a hiking holiday in Transylvania.

“You’re bleedin’ killing me with all this walking,” Mona complained, red-faced and out of breath.

Nathan consulted his map. “Castle Alucard’s just over the next ridge, so quit complaining. Anyhow, don’t you want to see where my great-great-grandparents dispatched Count Dracula.”

“Those stories are a load of old twaddle,” Mona scoffed. “Anyhow, if your descendents did do in Count Dracula, how come he’s in so many films and programmes on TV?”

Nathan gritted his teeth against his wife’s ridicule. “Come along, dear. Not far now.”

Towards nightfall the couple arrived at the austere, many-turreted Castle Alucard. On the castle side of the open portcullis, Renfield awaited them.

Melodramatically he asked, “Do you cross the threshold of Count Dracula’s abode of your own free will?” — but spoiled the effect with his trademark giggle.

“Course I bloody well do!” Mona replied tersely, pushing past the Count’s lackey. “Now get us some nosh and a pint of beer, chummy.”

Yet when Mona Harker stepped through the castle gateway, the portcullis slid down, leaving Mona on the inside and Nathan stranded on the outside in the gathering, Transylvanian darkness.

Suddenly the figure of a tall, birdlike man materialised out of the gloom, grabbed hold of Mona and bit savagely into her neck. She managed a single scream before succumbing to unconsciousness.

The Count bit down harder, tearing into Mona’s throat, gorging himself, emptying her like a punctured tube.

When he’d sated his thirst, he threw the lifeless corpse to the ground and licked his lips clean of blood. Then, through glaring red eyes, he stared at the trembling man on the other side of the portcullis.

Renfield said, “My Master will dispose of your wife’s body over the parapet.”

“What about me?” Nathan asked, nervously. “What’s going to happen to me?”

“I’m an honourable nobleman,” said Count Dracula. “And you received my solemn promise that I wouldn’t harm you.”

Nathan sighed with relief. Then, in the distance, a howling started up.

“However,” continued Count Dracula, “you didn’t receive such a promise from the wolves.”


Paul A. Freeman lives and works in Abu Dhabi. He is the author of Rumours of Ophir, a crime novel set in Zimbabwe, and a children’s book, Kimberly Smith and the Pyramid Game. He has had several short stories published in anthologies, newspapers and magazines.

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A GOTHIC ADVENTURE • by Paul A. Freeman, 3.3 out of 5 based on 4 ratings
Posted on July 20, 2009 in Humour/Satire, Stories
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  • Mandy Pannett

    A well structured story with a neat and chilling twist. I like the elements of black humour as well.

  • http://www.jonathanpinnock.com Jonathan Pinnock

    Nice one, Paul! 5* from me.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/catherineedmunds/ Cathy Edmunds

    A most satisfactory ending for a singularly revolting couple.

  • Vicky Daddo

    Great tale, Paul. Loved it.

  • Bob

    The Harkers are almost too stereotypically a distasteful pair, but in a short piece you don’t get a lot of room for nuance, so no harm there. Really liked the ending – a fun 4.

  • http://jfjuzwik.blogspot.com Joyce

    Clever. LIked this one.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    The battle of the sexes, (c. 1918 – c. 2007), the colorful dialects, the familiar supernatural characters in newish situations, the punishments meted out by omnipotent powers, these all are equally interesting.

  • bc

    The “there is never a good deal with the devil” plot.

    Well executed.

    I still wish it carried a more original end realization or event.

  • DougP

    I thought it was an almost ‘Carry On …’ setting to start with, but that was skilfully avoided and a decently humorous finish achieved. Good stuff!

  • http://www.cocktailfiction.workpress.com Cathryn Grant

    I love how the line in the 2nd paragraph – “she’s done nothing but drag me down” – is played out in the end. He thinks too soon that he’s free.

  • Patricia McCormack

    There’s a clever twist in the tail of this humorous, well told tale. I like the mixture of the familiar pub scene with its everyday conversation and the imaginary, legendary character of Count Dracula.

  • Jen

    Funny story, but it’s too bad the wife didn’t get free.

  • Margie

    Oh Poot!

    I giggled all the way through the story expecting the Count to get his revenge by turning the “loving couple” into eternal mates. . .

    Only a “3″ from me. :~(

  • Bob

    Margie, your ending would have presented a logical problem: what’s to keep the eternal mates from simply parting ways? I much preferred the karmic justice of Paul’s ending.

  • bc

    How about instead of Count Dracula, they meet Mr. Wise and he solves their problems by changing their bodies. He gets to be his wife and she gets to be him. Add in horror, followed by growth of characters, and Voila: much better people, parters, everyone gets to dance…

    Okay, okay, sucker for happy endings.

    They could meet Mr. Stupid first, of course…

    How about they meet for a dance-off?

  • QBall

    I like this kind of tale. Very well done.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    bc – But if he becomes his wife and she becomes him, his wife(now husband) would be out in restaurants shrugging off the husband, and the husband(now wife)would become obese and not able to run from the wolves. Suppose they meet us and we purchase a protective leather collar for her neck, tie the leash to his money belt, and set him on a sled. This would confuse the wolves who might think the wife was related to their own kind and they would become delightedly obedient when she hollered at them “down boy.” But someone would have to order a meal for Dracula. Since the husband is still with his wife, he might balk at this.

  • Brian Freeman

    Oncs again starting in dingy surroundings with the smell of murder! However the smell of beer is turned into the smell of blood needs a good plan and here it is by using the feel of words. Do readers realize this is a good way to forfeit debts? Well crafted – but left to nature

  • bc

    Roberta,
    the plot thickens, eh?

  • http://patsy-collins.blogspot.com Phot’s

    Good story, but why on earth do these people never just get a divorce?

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Phot – There are no children. It must be because she owns half the house.

  • http://teenangel.netfirms.com Jim Hartley

    Loved it, it gets five fang marks. I knew Nathan was going to get it in the end (you just always know that on this kind of story), but a good twist on HOW he was going to get it!

  • Sharon

    Shoot. I wanted Mona to escape somehow and her wretch of a drunken souse husband to get the axe…uh, fangs. I usually hate vampire stories, but this one made me smile up until the predictable ending. Still, a 4.

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Great story, Paul. Dark and with a twist.

    ;) scar

  • J.C. Towler

    I didn’t think the ending was predictable though once the gates slammed shut on Nathan I had an inking where it was headed.

    I know short stories, and particularly flash, let you get away with some shortcuts, but I’d have liked something a little more original than an overweight shopaholic as the impetus for Nathan’s deadly disgust with his wife.

    Overall I enjoyed this and always applaud efforts to combine humor and horror.

    –John

  • jennifer walmsley

    I enjoyed this. It made me smile. It was like a mental comedy sktech.

  • Lesley Strasser

    Well done, I love a story that keeps me glued till the end

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Thanks for reading folks – and for the instructive comments.

  • Martin J. Parsons

    A very neat little story, strong 4 leaning towards 5. Great work!

  • Scribbler

    Good story Paul. Enjoyed it.

  • Iain

    Nice one Paul. Like the attention to detail in the limited ‘time’ you have. Dialogues rings very strong! “Come along, dear. Not far now.” WONDERFUL! Chilling – can still hear it. We do meet couples like this, don`t we, and of course they would never consider divorce – what WOULD the neighbours say!
    Only change: too mnay adverbs. Good metaphors.

  • joanna b.

    i just came across this story, thought it was terrific. funny horror, a tough combo to pull off. 5 stars.

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