Playing Stories — Chapter 24: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

Chapter 24: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
from the 1983 album “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics
posted at 22:06, 11 April 2019

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?

“So, Ms. Harker, how does it feel to be immortal?”

The camera zoomed in on Mina. She stared at it for a cool five seconds before she spoke. “Well, it’s definitely more challenging than we thought it’d be. You wake up each day without having to wonder whether you will die today, or tomorrow, or a month from now. And it gives you no small pleasure to tell your story to people who haven’t heard of it before. And yet…” she faltered for the briefest of moments, trying to find the right words. “Yet you live in fear that Count Dracula will come into your house, and find yourself at his mercy and at his breast once more.”

Perfectly uttered, immaculately sentenced, and yet a ripple of giggles ran out through the room. Mina stared at them disapprovingly, like an owner might look at a dog who has just disobeyed her orders and done a poo in the middle of the living room. But of course she couldn’t call these reporters out. The survival of all her friends — her family’s, Dr. Seward’s, Abraham’s — all of them depended on these journalists. She continued with a wan smile, “And of course, you have to face every day countless questions on how it is that fictional characters from a book can have leapt onto the pages of real life.”

Indeed, every single person in the room was now thinking that exact same question. The prospect was strange — ridiculous, even. It just didn’t happen. Nobody in fiction became a person in real life. Yes, life sometimes imitated art, but that was it: imitation, not a complete copy. So when Wilhelmina Harker exploded into the spotlight in the summer of 1972 with husband Jonathan in tow, she was merely dismissed as a second Princess Anastasia, an imposter who simply happened to have read “Dracula” from cover to cover and thought that she would make a tidy sum by claiming the most outrageous things.

Yet as time went by, people started to waver. For there had to be some truth in her words: she had not aged one bit since her first appearance in Fleet Street. It was whispered that this was simply a trick of the light and of makeup, that she looked much older in person and that no photos of her from beyond the Thatcher years existed, or that this was the imposter’s daughter, heavily made up to look like her. But surely deception could not go that far, surely that the ruse would have been discovered by now, in this day and age? Then there was the matter of the Count’s castle. A complete fabrication, no doubt coinciding with the numerous ruins of Wallachian castles strewn across the Romanian countryside? But when people went to check, there was the castle — somehow, Dracula’s castle had appeared during the years of the Ceausescu regime. Out of nowhere, almost as if by magic. Jonathan — normally a softie who paled at the mere mention of Transylvania — had even been brave enough to show them around his former prison, taking special care to point out every single detail to make their case. (He then huddled in a blanket for two days in Brasov, refusing to see anyone until the smell of ciorbă convinced him that his stomach was a higher calling than his fear of vampires.)

But none of these were able to completely convince the public, who still found places to doubt and disbelieve at every turn. One of them now stood to needle Mina, “Ms. Harker, you say that you experienced every thing that is written in Bram Stoker’s book — every single bit of it is true?”

Mina rolled her eyes, but indulged the man. “Yes, I did indeed.”

“Even the bit where the Count force-fed you his blood?” The man’s eyes was stern, unforgiving. “That seems very difficult. Almost too horrible to happen to any person, I’m sure everyone will agree…”

“Yes, so you can imagine the horror of finding yourself at the mercy of a maddened vampire, pressing his breast against yours in the dark while your husband and his friends try their damnedest to force the door open…” Mina said, trying not to clench her teeth. Everyone was so intent on demolishing her story: how hard was it to believe that these things had happened to her? Was it because of her gender, or was it because people were just idiots?

The reporter, too, knew a wall when he’d come up against one. So he changed tack: “of course, of course, the readers of the Daily Messenger will all sympathize with your situation, Mina…”

“Ms. Harker,” she clipped.

“Ms. Harker. But don’t you fear the vampiric blood that is still in you? Surely there is still a lot of… well, vampire venom coursing through your veins. And if the Count is also alive, well then doesn’t that open you up to…” The reporter paused, trying to find the right word — maybe for that one word that could break her. “To manipulation, then?”

She stared straight back at the man. “Interesting question, but no. As I have explained many times in the past forty-something years, Count Dracula is, thank God, no longer an active entity. The Count’s ruined castle is proof enough that he no longer has any power over me — over any of us, in fact. It is his brethren that we need to be worried about: the lady Jonathan met in Munich, and so on.”

The reporter had reached his allotted quota, but somehow nobody stopped him from continuing to speak. “Thank you, Miss Harker, but that is not the connection that I am speaking of. Is there a part of you who feels for the Count: pity, compassion? Surely, having been able to see inside his brain, you must have a certain bond with him. Perhaps even intimacy.”

“Intimacy, sir?” Mina was trying very hard to keep her voice down. How could this man even dare to suggest such a thing?

“Yes, Miss Harker. As most of us with some knowledge of literature will know, the exchange of blood is… a highly intimate activity. Would you suggest that you still have some affection for the Count, maybe?”

In the seat beside her, Jonathan Harker noticeably stiffened. She reached out to gently grab his hand: she had expected this question to come one day or another, with all the stubbornness she was getting from the press. But even so, it was hard to stop herself from clenching her teeth. “Sir, with all due respect, I think you have been watching too many dramatic adaptations: Mr. Coppola and Mr. Herzog’s works may be wonderful to look at, but they are heinous interpolations upon our experiences. I particularly detest the idea that I could look like the Count’s lover: a mere fantasy, concocted to prove that all monsters are redeemable. He was a man without love, without remorse, and the idea that I could have fallen in love with him, even consented to his advances, is an injustice on my character which both puzzles and angers me to no end.”

“So you deny it?” The reporter stared at her, daring her to suggest otherwise.

“I don’t know how I can deny it even stronger, so that you all can finally accept it.”

The briefest of silences fell within the room. Even the pens had stopped scratching on the notepads. But it didn’t last, as another reporter stood.

“Thank you, Miss Harker, those were heavy words.” Her voice had a slight lilt to them, and her face was partially obscured by one of the cameras. “I’m sure that we will need time to understand what you have gone through, but I assure you that we are only interested in learning about you and your friends, and all the experiences you have gone through…”

Mina let out a heavy sigh. “Thank you, but the best thing you could do is listen and report what we have said. Me, my husband, Professor Van Helsing, all of us want nothing more than someone who believes.”

“Of course, Miss Harker… just a few questions from the Munich Express: does your husband feel strongly about the events that happened in Munich? It must have been a terrifying incident for him.”

“Indeed it was, but we are trying to retrace his steps and figure out where it was that his first glimpse of Dracula took place. We are actually trying to find out whether it was really the Count, or just one of his minions.”

“Indeed, we have heard of many candidates about the place. But since the Countess Dolingen has such a recognizable face — as Mr. Stoker’s notes say, a rounded face and red lips and sharp teeth — surely it cannot be hard to find her?”

Wait. The account had never spoken of her sharp teeth. Mina felt the dread rising in her heart. “Well… being from Munich, where would Fraulein suggest we start?”

“I am not at liberty to suggest any convenient spot, but I am sure she is dead…” the reporter replied, and as she said that the camera moved aside, and Mina saw her smirking mouth.

In a flash, Mina had vaulted over the table and was at the reporter’s side. Before anyone could say a word, she had pinned the woman to the floor and the bullet had gone through her heart. Then she threw the silver gun to the ground and jumped away, her breast heaving heavily.

The chaotic tangle of voices, of outrage surrounded Mina as she turned to look at Jonathan. He had become as white as the imposter, lying dead on the floor in front of them both. She felt herself being pulled to her feet, held against the wall. But then the voices grew louder as the miracle happened: the Countess began to crumble, her body dissolving into the finest dust — and in a few seconds nothing remained of the Countess Dolingen.

Mina lifted her head. The reporters all stared at her, speechless, and she looked them all in the eye. “Well?” she said. “Do you believe now?”

Then, to her surprise, the room burst into spontaneous applause. They had never seen anything like this. It was like a movie. And in the midst of it all was Mina Harker, her face beaming with triumph. She knew even then, of course, that the journalists would not be changing tack. There would be inquiries, interrogations, refusals of the truth. She would not be credited for saving them from a vampire — rather, she would be harassed for killing a woman, probably even a person of their trade. But as she walked back to the table, the fact that she had just saved them all from a vampire still buzzed through her mind. She felt happy, and nothing they said could convince her otherwise. She stepped up to the microphone.

“That will be all for today,” she said.


I’m sorry that you feel that way, and I’m sorry that the café isn’t doing well. Everybody knows that it’s hard these days, and I know you’ve having it hard. I’ll come over and help if you need it.

That said, it’s not my job to mother you while you sit there repressing all those thoughts within you. If you want to be understood, you should tell me — I can’t be expected to just read your mind and get everything from it.

Your choice to respond.

Emily

 

(sent at 22:30)

Oh God I’m so sorry about what I just said… you’re a good person and I haven’t been a good friend… please still be there. I’m know I’m too harsh sometimes, but

 

Just write back.

 

(sent at 22:37)

Quentin?

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