The early 1800s...
This time, I settled in Paris, adopting the French derivative of my name — Vincent. With its dense population, narrow streets, and dark crevices, Paris suited my needs perfectly, allowing one such as myself a myriad of places to lurk during these unsettled times.
I had grown bored of occupying my time with philosophy and the arts of the Renaissance centuries before. And being what I was, proper affections for ladies could not last long. Would you fall in love if you knew your time with her could only end unnaturally? It was never long before she would notice that your face never wrinkled; your hair never grayed. Questions would arise, and then, sadly, I would be forced to take my leave.
To keep my life uncomplicated, I turned my attention to the fleshy indulgences of the many prostitutes of Paris. I had discovered something to rival my thirst for blood — a thirst for sex. Yes, sex was moderately successful at distracting me from my other craving. And as someone who had all the time in the world, I learned to take my time with this indulgence, too – as tonight's prostitute would soon see. Smiling smugly to myself, I imagined my night’s activities, planning how I would draw out her pleasure in an almost painful manner.
Indeed, the prostitutes served me exceedingly well in satisfying my lust. They were easy to spot, for they tried to imitate the upper-middle-class, yet fell short with their dirty white muslins and cheap silks. Also missing were their bonnets and shawls, which put their made-up faces and décolletage on full display. Typically, their hair hung loose. After all, their purpose was to incite arousal in men.
The best brothels were those catering to the elite. I had made a private little study, and on this particular night I sought out one particular brothel that I knew of. On entering I was immediately surrounded by a gaggle of lascivious prostitutes seeking my attention. My scent unknowingly drew them towards me, leaving the other gentlemen waiting in frustration for the leftovers. I carefully selected a particularly pretty tart that caught my eye and accompanied her to her room. Such a lovely young thing! Her hair was light brown and cascaded in loose waves around her creamy shoulders.
By the time we shut the door, she was mine — completely under my control. She would have serviced me willingly without the coin at this point, but I wouldn't dream of cheating her. After all, as an alchemist, I could make more gold than I would ever need! For centuries, others had whispered jealously about the source of my great wealth but, not surprisingly, I had never shared that little secret.
This lucky young whore received my undivided attention to all of her delicacies. Our lovemaking was anything but her usual brush with a selfish customer. After some time, however, my thirst returned with a deadly vengeance. I had vowed never to feed on those I pleasured, so I quickly took my leave of her.
I now had to address my lust for blood which raged within me. I hoped I was not too late! I rapidly began to stalk the nearby dark streets, my keen eyes searching for a suitable opportunity. Then, I spied her — a lady elegantly dressed, walking a street soon to be near a darkened alley. With undetectable movements, I was swiftly upon her, my fangs descending, ready to harvest what I needed.
Oh God no! My thirst was too much! Almost immediately, I realized that I was losing control. I had left it too long! Unable to stop myself, I greedily sucked, drinking her body dry, her succulent blood filling me, making me moan with pleasure.
I stood over her ... watching. As the life slowly drained from her body, her accusing eyes never closed. It was as if she wanted me to remember that moment when she realized what I was — a monster. Terror. Disgust. Her face painfully contorted, revealing all those feelings in her final moments. I was horrified! I wouldn’t ever forget the sight of her in my arms like this. I had been too careless! Her lifeless body would forever tug at my heart — if I had one, that is…
Shamefully, I finally managed to tear my eyes from her — only to glimpse another pair upon me — a very recognizable pair. The prostitute I had so recently lain with! She stood frozen at the entrance to the alley with her mouth agape in shock and horror. She had seen the monster within me. Finally gathering herself, she turned on her heels and fled, screaming for the police as she ran.
Having no heartbeat, I knew the police would think me dead when they found me. As such, I was buried in a plain wooden box with no pomp and circumstance — entirely fitting for a man of my despicable crime. I surely deserved no velvet lining. Forever damned, I accepted my fate; I was weary and tired of the constant struggle. I closed my eyes and slept.
75 years later…
I awoke from my long slumber with a fresh outlook, clawing my way out from the ground. This time my life would be different — or so I hoped. It didn't take long, however, for the all-too-familiar burn to course through my veins...
In the midst of the crowd, I saw her — a true vision of loveliness who dulled the glamorous attempts of the other ladies. Her essence stole my attention away from the writer who was speaking with me.
I politely nodded in her direction. To my pleasure, she blushed, and nodded back; her bidding smile encouraging me.
"Excuse me, Mr Stoker," I said politely and wove my way through the other guests to reach her side. Blonde ringlets were pinned atop her head, held in place with diamond-encrusted combs. Flawless skin highlighted a petite nose and rosy curvaceous lips. Her crimson gown perfectly framed her delicate body.
But it was her eyes that drew me to her. They shone like sapphires and sparkled with passion and intelligence. There was, however, a sadness in them too. I had to discover the treasures hiding behind her eyes.
“Welcome. I am Count Vincent von Hohenberg.” I bowed my head, reached for her dainty hand, and brought it to my lips. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Lady —?”
“Lady Evelyn Elizabeth Willoughby,” she said. Her voice was low and sultry, not befitting her tiny, delicate frame.
I held her small hand to my lips a little longer than was the custom and delighted in hearing her heart race. Her attraction to me was apparent. A tryst, however, would be far too easy — tempting though it was. This lovely morsel deserved more respect from me than that. I quieted the voice inside my head that reminded me I hadn’t come here for this.
It was almost a year to the day since I’d journeyed to London. I had made plans for my new life as I travelled. Regretfully, my long rest had failed to dull the memory of my last night in Paris. Her dying eyes still pierced whatever semblance of a soul resided within me. I had lost control that fateful night; her blood had tasted so astoundingly good - like cool spring water to a man who had not drunk for a hundred years. How could any human ever possibly understand what it was like to crave something so badly that your entire being burned with desire?
Yes — London had seemed to be the best choice for me to start over — again. Money wasn’t — and never would be — an issue. So I decided that the best course of action would be to hide in plain sight, amongst the privileged and wealthy. I smiled ruefully to myself. Maybe they would somehow hold me to their high standards. I would no doubt be found eccentric. The rich, however, were often found eccentric, were they not? London had a dark, sinister side too. Its secret underworld would be the perfect place to feed without the worry of rumours reaching the wrong ears. Yes, this time would be different.
And so, I, now the Count Vincent von Hohenberg, had acquired a lavish Victorian home on one of London’s wealthiest streets, living amid the highest class of society. Come nightfall, however, I descended upon the likes of Whitechapel, feeding on the lecherous and wicked. Dorset was my street of choice when I learned that even the police avoided it. I convinced myself I wasn’t hurting society by feeding on the filthy vermin of London’s soft underbelly. I left every one of them alive — minus a good deal of blood, but alive. Maybe, when they awoke, they would reflect on their experience and repent. I could only hope. But, was I deceiving myself? Did I belong more with the excrement stinking up the streets on the East End than the elite occupying the West?
Once I had secured suitable premises, it was time for me to introduce myself to high society. I began by hosting a formal party at my lavish new home, inviting all of the London upper class. They were a curious lot, easily impressed by my obvious wealth, fine furnishings, artwork, food, and entertainment. Holding the attention of my prestigious guests proved incredibly easy, as I could speak intelligently on any subject. I entertained my guests with talk of events hundreds of years prior, and spoke with details as if I was there — because I was there!
I never expected to meet the captivating Lady Willoughby at my party. She had not been part of my original intent in London. After kissing the lovely Lady Willoughby’s hand, I asked if she would honour me with a dance. She paused and glanced around the room, but then graciously accepted my invitation. I noticed many eyes upon us as we danced. My heightened senses were useful as I heard the whispers from the corners, gossiping about Lady Willoughby's seemingly well-known unhappy marriage. I also overheard comments about her being barren. It was apparent that her husband spent most of his time at their country home, while she preferred the city. Their marriage had become one of convenience only — if the gossip was accurate. This was a welcome bit of knowledge indeed.
After our dance, I asked permission to call upon her on the morrow. To my pleasure, she granted my request. Feeling protective of her already, I reluctantly tore myself from her side, hoping to quiet her name on others’ lips. I resumed making polite rounds amongst the rest of my guests. Never once, however, did my eyes lose sight of the beautiful Lady Willoughby. Over the course of the evening, I made my way back to her side on several occasions, engaging her in conversation, drawing out little nuggets of personal information.
When she came to bid me goodbye, I walked her to her carriage and raised her hand to my lips. Her cheeks and the top of her bosom flushed red. It took all my strength not to take her right there. I knew, however, that patience was essential in this matter of the heart.
After the remaining guests left, I set out to find the home of Lady Willoughby. Not surprisingly, it was an elegant house with a balcony extending from what I deduced was the master bedroom. I watched from the darkness as flickering light highlighted her body through the glass. I leapt to her balcony in time to see the enchanting Elizabeth undress.
Lurking in the shadows, I should have felt shame watching her, invading her most private moments. I knew I should turn my gaze, but I could not. As each inch of her creamy flesh was revealed to me, I had to pride myself on holding my position, for I wanted to burst through the doors and bed her.
Her body was not naked for long before she covered it in a white, sheer nightdress. It did nothing to hide her sensual form from me though. She sat at her night table and released her ringlets from their clips. Watching her brush out her silky hair heightened my arousal. I imagined running my fingers through her tendrils, then, wrapping my fingers in them as I kissed her.
Like my thirst for blood, I now had a thirst for Elizabeth, and could not will my feet to move from their spot. She eventually moved to her bed, sliding underneath her covers. The overwhelming scent of her blood flared my nostrils. A smile crossed her beautiful face before she rolled over out of view. Who or what was she thinking about? I could only hope it was me.
"Soon, Elizabeth, soon. I will give you what you deserve," I whispered in the darkness before forcing myself to leave.
The next day, I called upon her. Her housekeeper took my calling card and returned shortly after to lead me to the parlour. She announced my entry and I was welcomed by the captivating Miss Elizabeth Willoughby.
Conversation with Elizabeth, as she soon asked me to call her, flowed effortlessly. We both enjoyed music, literature, and the theatre. She had outfitted her library with an impressive collection of books, which I enjoyed perusing. It became obvious that she used her time alone to educate herself on a great many topics.
I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a lady’s company this much. When she grew excited, she became very animated, speaking with her hands. Her laugh was intoxicating. It seems she had discarded the boring, reserved society mannerisms expected by ladies of this class
The next few idyllic weeks became the most treasured since my arrival in London. As always, there were numerous social events to attend, which we arrived at separately in order to avoid rumours. Yet we found ways to steal time and enjoy being together. Elizabeth rarely mentioned her husband, and his existence only occasionally entered my mind. Should he discover our relationship, I feared for her, not myself. One advantage of being immortal was that I had no reason to fear anyone. Nobody human, that is.
I tried to keep my heart protected, knowing that if I allowed myself to fall in love it could not last. I was thirty-nine years old when I stopped ageing. To be truthful, I did still age, but so gradually no one in their lifetime would notice. Sweet Elizabeth could take my heart though. She was everything I could want in a mate and more; I ached when I was in her presence.
Through my friend Mr Stoker, I arranged tickets one evening to a production at the Lyceum Theatre, with Elizabeth as my guest. Throughout the performance, her arm remained draped over mine with my hand cupping hers. My fingers danced along the top of her hand, fingertips circling and then caressing her soft skin. I was delighted by the erratic fluttering and beating of her heart as our skin touched. We both shifted in our seats, becoming heated with desire. Our eyes told one another what our bodies wanted. Tonight, I would make her mine.
No words were needed as we climbed into the carriage; we both knew she was coming home with me.
Upon entering my home, I swept Elizabeth up into my arms. She rested her head on my shoulder as I ascended the spiral staircase to my bedroom. Kicking the door open, I carried her to my bed…
The next morning, we were sitting together in the parlour, her enjoying her morning tea. I was seated in the armchair reading a new book; she was seated on the sofa reading the London Daily Post. This scene with her felt so normal — as if I had a true companion in my life for once.
“Oh Vincent, it is perfectly dreadful!” She dropped the paper onto the floor, then, wrung her hands in despair.
“What darling? What is dreadful?” I rushed to sit beside her on the sofa, holding her hands in mine.
“These killings. There has been a fifth killing... A Mary Jane Kelly. Oh my, when will they catch this… This… This monster!”
I could not help but flinch at the word ‘monster.’ She regarded him as vile — that was obvious. Was I any different? For I, too, had killed. This was the third and fourth killing by this unknown monster. I, too, was following him in the papers. He was once regarded as ‘A phantom.’ I had to wonder about him. Some things rang familiar…
Yes, this was my opportunity to make amends. Was it not? I could not bring back the unfortunate soul I had killed, but if I were to save others from the same fate, surely that would be some atonement for my sin?
It took me three nights. Three nights away from my new love. During those nights I searched, wandering the streets where the monster’s victims had been found, letting my mind, and my other finely tuned senses work. I finally found him in the early hours when most were already abed. It was the evil I sensed first. The foul corruption of his mind. A cesspit of torrid thoughts washing through the dour gas-lit streets as he explored the depraved London underworld for his next victim.
I paused, the doubts crowding in. Was I so very different? Was I also evil? Surely not? At least that was what I fervently hoped. For a moment, I wondered what Elizabeth’s reaction would be if she knew what I really was.
I sighed. The answer to that was obvious. I, too, was a monster.
I pushed the thought away and vowed to concentrate on ridding the world of the loathsome creature currently terrorising these dark streets.
As I followed, I began to learn the pattern of his movements. He was searching, actively searching for his next potential victim. Hidden by the shadows, I crossed the street, anticipating his direction; I was getting the sense of him now. I watched as he approached a lady of the night; a streetwalker whose figure-revealing gown gave away her profession. That, and the lateness of the hour.
“Awl right, darlin’? Fancy a bit of rough and tumble, do ya?” Her smile was coquettish, inviting; yet her eyes conveyed a different message; tired and worn from the ravages of her miserable life.
“How much?” He spoke in a low timbre, his voice educated, but rough as a freshly hewn log.
I listened to them haggle over the price before they ventured down a nearby alleyway — undoubtedly her usual place of business from the sounds that started to emanate from it.
She wasn’t in danger; not yet. I was beginning to know him. This was a reconnaissance. He was preparing the ground for later; working out how to hide his hideous crime. I recognised what he was doing because it was what I did myself.
We had a lot in common, he and I.
But I couldn’t allow him to continue. Not with these poor, down-trodden creatures as his victims. I thought of Elizabeth and resolved to finish this business tonight before the dawn forced me into hiding.
I listened from a distance, the uncouth grunts and moans a clear indication of their business. He didn’t take long to finish; wasn’t really all that interested. It wasn’t his motivation, this sexual coupling; he was turned on by other things. Grosse things. Things that needed to be stopped.
When they’d finished they emerged, both seemingly in good spirits, despite the obviously contrived performances.
“After a tumble like that, I might return for another round tomorrow,” he leered.
“You’ll be welcome, a big man like you!” she giggled in reply. I sighed once more. She must really be in dire straits to carry on in such a manner, hopeful of another visit from this vile fiend. A visit that would be her last if ever allowed to happen.
I followed him once more. This time he headed towards the river, his step jaunty, his business for the night completed. He was content, having found what he had sought; a dalliance. Something to amuse his foul mind the next day. As we walked, he and I, I noticed that the smog was unusually heavy along the Thames — not really a time to be out, if you were a mere mortal. Death would be coming to more than one on a night like tonight.
The quiet was almost total. Now, I perceived, was the time. As I moved in I felt him pause for a moment as he belatedly sensed my presence. But he was far too slow, and I dispatched him quickly. For the sake of silence, I gave him something he had not had the decency to give his poor victims — a mostly painless end. The only sound was the snapping of the vertebrae, a brief squeal of protest, and then nothing.
Afterward, I studied him. I didn’t want to feed on such a soulless being. He was relatively new to this existence, and still weak in comparison. Whoever had created this creature had done a poor job. I had undoubtedly done the world a service. To ensure his end was complete, I dismembered the corpse, finishing with the removal of his head; you could never be too careful with a beast such as this.
There was a feeling of relief as I disposed of the remains. I was still a monster — I knew that. But I had done some good for a change, I thought. I could return to my Elizabeth now, and perhaps feel just a hint of redemption.